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San Diego Music Hall of Fame gets six new inductees in Ocean Beach ceremony

Jefferson Jay and his band are (from left) L. Cole Roussos, John Martinez, Jay, Michael James and Dylan Farrell.
(Jacalyn Eleftheriou)

Veteran OB singer-songwriter Jefferson Jay oversees the Hall of Fame, honoring musical artists with San Diego ties since 2018.

Jefferson Jay has written more than 1,500 songs.

The Ocean Beach musician challenged himself to post three song videos a day, including one original, on YouTube for an entire year in 2011 — and he repeated that feat in 2016.

He organized a free 24-hour concert in 2008 for which he coordinated nearly 40 local bands, solo artists, DJs and special performances. The following year, he released the recording of it as a two-DVD set.

“I like to do things no one’s done before,” he said. “I like to push the boundaries.”

With that goal in mind, he created the San Diego Music Hall of Fame in 2018. Its first induction ceremony included Grammy-winning artist Jason Mraz; hit songwriter Jack Tempchin, who had two songs on the Eagles’ “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” album; Sue Palmer, known as the “Queen of Boogie Woogie”; and other local music VIPs.

Every fall since, with the exception of pandemic-plagued 2020, six musical artists with San Diego ties have been inducted into the local Music Hall of Fame.

The stable swelled to 24 members Nov. 11 as six 2022 honorees were inducted in a ceremony at Newbreak Church in Ocean Beach.

This year’s honorees are the Cheathams (late jazz trombonist Jimmy Cheatham and his pianist-vocalist wife, Jeannie, 95); fiddling virtuoso Alex DePue, who was killed in a car accident in Mexico in January; Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Chris Hillman, an original member of the Byrds; Marine Band San Diego; concert pianist Gustavo Romero, a Chula Vista native; and longtime Point Loma High School teacher Larry Zeiger, who has co-written and produced 33 musicals.

“I like to think of our event as a community event first and music event second,” Jay said. “It’s a celebration of our music and our culture.”

Every year, Jay focuses at least one induction on a different segment of the local music community. Last year, inductees included the Deering family, who for four decades have produced banjos revered in the industry, along with the co-founders of Taylor Guitars, the instrument of choice of several top musicians.

This year, because the event fell on Veterans Day, honorees included the local Marine Band, which is nearly a century old and books as many as 350 performances each year nationwide.

The emphasis also was on educators, as personified by Zeiger, whose coaching has launched the musical careers of numerous San Diego youths. Jimmy Cheatham also was an instructor who led UC San Diego jazz programs until he retired in 2005. Romero is a professor at the University of North Texas College of Music.

“As long as there is music in San Diego, there should be a Music Hall of Fame.”

— Jefferson Jay

Jay, a New Jersey native, moved to San Diego in 2000 to pursue his master’s degree in history at San Diego State University.

“Very early on, I met a lot of people doing charity-related work in fine arts and the visual arts,” he said. “I was moved by the way they all supported each other and the way patrons supported the arts.”

Jay vowed to replicate that camaraderie in the music world, both to help lift up musicians and to cultivate appreciation for music throughout the San Diego community.

He was so enthralled by the concept that he wrote his history thesis in 2008 about La Jolla’s Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, which started as the La Jolla Reading Club in 1894. The Athenaeum is a nonprofit membership library that incorporates exhibits, live concerts and art classes with its treasure trove of books and reference materials.

Since then, Jay has collaborated with the Athenaeum on producing an acoustic concert series there each fall. Jay and one of his Jefferson Jay and the Diggers band members were among the performers at the Oct. 21 concert.

“All my projects are tied to the idea of people lifting each other up,” Jay told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2009.

With that philosophy in mind, he named his company The Good Vibe (thegoodvibe.com).

Currently he is producing an animated TV series starring actors with disabilities and neurological differences such as ADHD, Asperger syndrome and autism spectrum disorders. He calls the 24-episode project “The Hunt for the Holiday Spirit” and is looking for financial backers to bring it to viewers.

Though Jay is the face and hands behind the S.D. Music Hall of Fame, many other independent contractors, donors, partners and volunteers play a helping role. It’s a big production to manage, but “I’m used to shows with lots of moving parts,” said Jay, who hosted open mic nights for 17 years in town before the pandemic.

In addition to inductees, a Dawn Steel Award is presented to someone in the music community who shows strength in the face of adversity. This year it goes to Aria Noelle Curzon-DePue, the widow of Alex DePue (they married only months before his death).

Though the Music Hall of Fame has no physical location yet, biographies, photos and research exist on its website, sdmusichalloffame.com.

“I don’t intend to bow out,” said Jay, 48. “As long as there is music in San Diego, there should be a Music Hall of Fame.”


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