Inductee Biography for GIN BLOSSOMS
The Gin Blossoms are about as synonymous with Arizona rock as any band could be. Maybe it’s because they peopled their songs with local characters like “Mrs. Rita” (a psychic in downtown Tempe) or because they played relentlessly in their late 1980s heyday in the Tempe/Mill Avenue scene.
Formed in 1987, the Gin Blossoms was a local band through and through. Bass player Bill Leen and guitarist-songwriter Doug Hopkins had gone to McClintock High School in Tempe. They formed the band with Jesse Valenzuela as lead vocalist in the original lineup. By mid-1988, the group solidified its lineup with Valenzuela on guitar, Phil Rhodes on drums and Robin Wilson, another McClintock alumnus, as vocalist.
Early on, the ambitious group, which sought to play its own music while club owners (and most audiences, truth be told) were looking for cover bands to fill their dance floors, adopted a not-so-secret identity as the Del Montes, which was originally intended to play nothing but covers and keep them solvent while they worked out their original Gin Blossoms music. These identities blurred pretty quickly and covers of sitcom themes, like “Movin’ On Up” from “The Jeffersons,” showed up in the set regardless of whether they were the Blossoms, Del Montes or both on any given night.
The strategy kept them working. The Gins could easily play 10 nights out of every 14 at all the top clubs in Tempe and the wider Valley – from Long Wong’s (their home base) to the Sun Club to Edcel’s Attic to Chuy’s to the Mason Jar (in Phoenix, where the original lineup played their first gig on Dec. 25, 1987).
Phoenix New Times named the band Best of Phoenix in 1988 and 1989, and the newspaper signed them up for a showcase at the 1989 South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. That year, the band also recorded the 12-song “Dusted” for San Jacinto Records in Tucson, with Rich Hopkins (of the Sidewinders/Sand Rubies) in the producer’s seat. “Dusted” proved the band’s songwriting chops. The Del Montes were fun, but the Gin Blossoms already were the jangly, rocking real thing. The songs on “Dusted” were so strong, the band would re-record six of them when they got a national deal with A&M Records, including their big hits “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You.”
While they readied their national debut “New Miserable Experience,” the band parted ways with Doug Hopkins and Scott Johnson of the Feedbags was brought in on lead guitar.
Becoming a million-selling recording act didn’t diminish the Gin Blossoms’ connection with their Arizona home. They shared the spotlight, bringing Tempe acts like Dead Hot Workshop and The Refreshments out on tour with them. Since the release of a 25th anniversary edition of “New Miserable Experience” this year, it is more than appropriate that the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame inducted the band. The music forged right here from the band’s Arizona experiences has stood the test of time.