Featured LEISURE

Back to The Garden to perform in June

Back to the Garden will perform live at Hoyt Park in the Scripps Ranch Symphony in the Park summer concert series on June 9. (courtesy photo)

Back to The Garden to perform in June

By Jill Alexander

If you love music from yesteryear, get ready for the tunes of rock band Back to the Garden on June 9 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

The band will be performing as part of the Scripps Ranch Symphony in the Park summer concert series in Hoyt Park at the corner of Canyon Lake Drive and Aviary Drive. This performance is presented by The Glen.

Back to the Garden will be playing “music from California” such as classics from The Mamas & the Papas; The Byrds; Linda Ronstadt; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Santana; Doobie Brothers; and the Eagles.

Band members include “Cactus” Jim Soldi (guitar), Sharon Whyte (vocals), Rick Nash “El Magnifico” (bass), Larry Grano (drummer) and Marc “Twang” Intravaia (guitar).

Back to The Garden has performed at top venues including Abbey Road Studios, Royal Albert Hall and was featured on the “The Tonight Show.”

Its specialty? Kicking out rock tunes from the 1960s and early 1970s, including The Doors, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Eagles, music from Woodstock and The Last Waltz, to name a few.

Early days

The band was started by Eve Selis and named after a place in Laurel Canyon where some of the original musicians of the 1960s and 1970s gathered to hang out and play music, Soldi said.

“We’ve played together for 24 years but started doing our own thing as Back to The Garden 15 to 16 years ago,” he said.

Back to The Garden is also known for its themed shows often including some great musicians, Soldi added.

“Some are more high profile than others, and many are San Diego award winners, and sometimes Grammy winners,” he said.

Back to The Garden has played with the likes of Albert Lee, a legendary guitarist known far and wide for playing with the Everly Brothers, Eric Clapton, and Emmylou Harris.

“We consider ourselves timeless because the music we do is from the ‘Love era’ – from when we were growing up,” Soldi said. “A themed show may be an entire evening of maybe Eric Clapton, or all music from Woodstock, or all music from Laurel Canyon … We try to provide the audience with a whole bunch of opportunities to sing along and that’s what we love the most – when audiences respond to us by singing along with us.”

Soldi said the June 9 show will be “based around 1969” and there will be “a horn section with us and it will be a good show.” 

A full-time Job

Back to The Garden plays all over San Diego and isn’t just a hobby but “a real job for all of us and we all make our livings from making music,” Soldi said.

“I started early on as a young boy … Everyone in the band has had their own path,” he said.

Soldi knows a lot about music as he grew up with parents who were musicians. His dad was a violinist for a few country swing bands. His mom was a singer.

For him the fascination with music is simple: “Music is life. People who play music stay younger than other people … we don’t focus on age but on having fun, playing music, entertaining folks, and doing what we do,” he said.

Many of the band members, including Soldi, teach music when they aren’t performing, and have busy schedules in the studio and on stage.

Over the years, the band has played alongside artists such as Johnny Cash, Chaka Kahn, Kenny Loggins, Kim Carnes, Ricky Skaggs and many more.

Back to The Garden presently tours with Richie Furay of Buffalo Springfield and Poco.

Events on June 9 will be starting a little early. The Scripps Ranch Old Pros and the Women’s Athletic Club will be presenting their annual scholarships to several dozen deserving graduating seniors from local high schools.

Those attending may bring picnic baskets, cloth blankets and low-back chairs so everyone can see the band. No pets are allowed, and no plastic tarps are allowed since they kill the park’s grass. 

Upcoming concerts:

July 14 –DSB (a Journey tribute band); sponsored by U. S. Bank.

Aug. 11 – The Heroes (rock ’n’ roll from then and now); sponsored by Collins Family Jewelers.

Sept. 8 – Full Strength (funk and current hits); sponsored by San Diego Castles Realty.

December – Holiday Concert; presented by Greg Wisniew, certified financial planner.

Visit symphonyinthepark.org.