Keep Swingin’ – The continuing crooning career of Johnny Boyd

Eric Hooten Photos
Eric Hooten Photos

Johnny Boyd croons in a high voice not unlike Georgie Fame, has left his heart in San Francisco (or at least his cell phone number), and wants to put some romance back in your life. And he does it with a small combo, a new album of originals, “Never Been Blue,” and a Sunday evening performance at Goleta Valley Community Center. The stop is part of a tour he’s been waiting several years to undertake.

“Never Been Blue” came out in August and is his first in an 11-year stretch. “When that amount of time goes by, you don’t know what’s gonna happen,” he says. “Every time you turn around something has dropped out and shifted. Used to be the record company would help with the shift. But seeing as record companies don’t do that anymore . . . it makes it challenging to get to your audience.”

Apart from streaming options, viral videos, and social networking, the best way to get it out there is to “get in the van and take it to the people,” he says.

He’s kept his Bay Area area code, but he’s currently living in Portland, where he moved two years ago. He was raised in Phoenix, went to college in Tucson, and moved after graduating back to San Francisco, where he was born. And that’s where he turned to singing.

His parents played Tony Bennett and Bing Crosby in the house, so the swing and American Songbook era comes from those times. But he didn’t really come around to singing until returning to Frisco.

“I discovered Frank Sinatra, and I had a group of friends there, and we became our own little Rat Pack,” he says. “I was singing in my car on my way to work every day. I decided to make a run at it and get a band.”

Mr. Boyd says he doesn’t think his voice is suited for rock. “It’s always been suited for crooning . . . I’ve never been interested in those other styles.”

He left a career in sales, put an ad for band members in BAM magazine, gathered a group, and set out playing covers. But by the time he gathered the group that would become Indigo Swing, the group he fronted in the mid-1990s, he was writing his own songs. At their height, the band was playing eight times a week, maybe more, sometimes just in San Francisco.

They got grouped in with the other swing revival bands, like Royal Crown Revue, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, but Indigo Swing was never like those guys, with their extensive horn sections. The surviving bands also tend to play ska, rockabilly, and rock. When Johnny Boyd went solo, he wanted to focus on the crooning.

Sunday’s performance features swing dance lessons and The Golden West Trio opening for Mr. Boyd.

The Swing Revival may revive again, but for Mr. Boyd it doesn’t matter. He says he feels that initially it helps but in the end it may lock you into a style, where really crooning is not dependent on a scene.

“I’m very happy with the style that I’m in,” he says. “There’s always an influx, large or small, of people who are into it, and it’s my job to keep them interested.”

Johnny Boyd
When: 7 p.m. Sun.
Where: Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Avenue, Santa Barbara
Cost: $15/$20
Information: 967-1237 or

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