Costa Mesa-Raised Jonny Wickersham Plays Tribute to SoCal With a Solo Record

“The record turned out better than I thought it was going to.” —Jonny Wickersham, on “Salvation Town,” his first solo release as Jonny Two Bags

The songwriter and guitarist has been a sideman with Social Distortion for more than 15 years. He co-founded his first band, the Cadillac Tramps, in Costa Mesa in 1987. In 2014, he released a solo record as Jonny Two Bags, a nickname from his days working construction between gigs.

E7EW64 Chicago, Illinois, USA. 14th Sep, 2014. Guitarist JONNY WICKERSHAM of the band Social Distortion performs live at 2014 Riot Fest music festival at Humboldt Park in Chicago, Illinois © Daniel DeSlover/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News
E7EW64 Chicago, Illinois, USA. 14th Sep, 2014. Guitarist JONNY WICKERSHAM of the band Social Distortion performs live at 2014 Riot Fest music festival at Humboldt Park in Chicago, Illinois © Daniel DeSlover/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News

After nearly 30 years as a musician, Wickersham has great stories. Social Distortion’s opening for Neil Young at the Forum last year was a high point, as was joining that band in the first place: “They were my favorite band as a kid.” He also counts releasing his solo record, “Salvation Town,” as a highlight.

He always wanted to do a solo album and has been writing songs since his days with the Cadillac Tramps, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that he fi nally sat down with producer David Kalish and started recording. “Between the two of us and a lot of really great musicians, we got the record done. It turned out better than I thought it was going to.”

He calls “Salvation Town” a “Southern California record.” Some songs are about L.A. and his childhood in Orange County, and the area played a big part in the album’s vibe—a mix of country, folk, and rock ’n’ roll, influenced by California icons such
as the Eagles and Jackson Browne. Browne, who went to Sunny Hills High in Fullerton, wound up being more than an influence: “I commented one day how ‘Then You Stand Alone’ sounded like a Jackson Browne song. And I was like ‘Why don’t you ask Jackson to come sing harmony on it?’ As if. The next morning Kalish calls me and says, ‘Hey, dude, Jackson’s in!’ ”

Although he lives in L.A., he frequently plays O.C. shows with Social Distortion and the Cadillac Tramps. On Aug. 28, he’ll play at Dana Point’s new two-day Ohana Music Festival, sharing the bill with Eddie Vedder, Lana Del Rey, and Elvis Costello.

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