Ultimate Jam Night Turns A Landmark 100 – An Interview with founder Chuck Wright
Ultimate Jam Night takes places every Tuesday night at the world famous Whisky A Go-Go on the Sunset Strip, and is about to celebrate its milestone 100th Edition of rocking the greater Los Angeles area. Founded by Chuck Wright of Quiet Riot in 2015, Ultimate Jam Night has definitely been on the cutting edge of revitalizing our local music scene. Not only does each week showcase esteemed musicians and solo artists from various well known national and local acts, Ultimate Jam Night also features the award winning House Band consisting of Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot), Mitch Perry (MSG), Matt Starr (Mr. Big) and Walter Ino (Survivor). The upcoming Episode 100 is nothing short of landmark achievement, and there is certain to be a lot of celebrating on the evening of March 14th when Ultimate Jam Night becomes a centenarian within the hallowed walls of The Whisky.
We recently caught up with Ultimate Jam Night mastermind Chuck Wright to discuss his thoughts on the first 100 shows, the impact the Jam and the JamFam has made upon the local Los Angeles music scene and beyond, plans for the future, and a whole lot more! Read on…
How did Ulitmate Jam Night come about and what were the first few shows like?
Ultimate Jam Night came about because there was a hole in the Los Angeles music community. Eminating from a more informal weekly gathering that took place at a small club in Toluca Lake that closed its doors, there was a void for players and the community to gather.
I spent the better part of many months looking for a venue that provided the opportunity for a bigger production of what we were able to do at that small club – particularly since we were really starting to build momentum just before it closed.
I always had the vision of creating a true “rock and roll circus” that could be a gathering spot – where players could just perform with each other, music friends could just hang out, and a night that everyone could just count on to be there.
I stumbled on a venue that no one really knew about through a series of introductions. In January 2015 right during NAMM week we did our first show. It was more like what was done in Toluca Lake. A bit more informal, lead by myself – alongside Gilby Clarke and Matt Starr. The first shows were a bit more chaotic as we played with the format, but fairly quickly the night started to take off – and the crowds grew bigger and bigger and bigger.
What were some of your favorite theme nights taking place at Ultimate Jam Night?
We’ve done some amazing nights of music. Musically, our tributes to Pink Floyd and David Bowie were some of the finest impromptu music moments that any audience could expect. Certainly having Robin Zander show up on the night of his Hall Of Fame election was sweet. He found out backstage just before joining us on stage for “Dream Police“. Drop in’s like Dee Snider and Jason Bonham are always a nice surprise. We’ve had nights that have created a scene in themselves such as “Metal Night” that packed The Whisky with Metal fans, and certainly our “Rocky Horror Picture Jam” lead by our phenomenal show host Paulie Z. is a proud achievement. To do a complete show like that – with Broadway-like production unrehearsed is unprecedented, and something that I really don’t believe any other group of people could do. Throw in our community-service nights like our fund raiser for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, that our team put together in three days, and had full bands fly in from across the country on their own dime, is a proud moment.
Ultimate Jam Night has made such an impact on our Local LA music scene. What are you impressions of the music scene here in LA?
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I guess we’ve gotten very flattered in the past couple of years. Actually we set out with a simple goal – bring the community together through live music, and make live music relevant again. It’s pretty easy to forget that coming into 2015 all everyone spoke about was EDM – the “push play” DJ scene. We think we’ve been a big part of bringing people back to live music – and we’re very proud of the fact that Ultimate Jam Night literally created a vibrancy mid-week, on what was historically an off-night for live music.
The Los Angeles live music scene now seems to be flourishing. People are going out to shows all over town, and the trend seems to have picked up throughout the world. It’s still amazing to me to go out somewhere in this country for a tour – and people everywhere come up and talk about Ultimate Jam Night.
What goes through your mind as Ultimate Jam Night now hits its 100 Episode?
The first thing is incredible pride. There’s no doubt that doing a show of this type takes an incredible amount of energy. But it honestly couldn’t be done without the incredible team of people we have pulling this show together on a weekly basis. Certainly the amount of time and energy I personally put into this is arduous. Trust me, there’s many a day that I want to pull my hair out. But I think our collection of people that help put together each show, promote it, market it, produce it, and run it is arguably one of the finest ever assembled for something like this. Add that team to our loyal JamFam and it really makes everything special. I also feel fortunate to have the finest musicians in this town as my house band players, Mitch Perry (MSG), Matt Starr (Mr. Big) and Walter Ino (Survivor).
Are you ready to do the next 100 UJN shows and what can we look forward to as UJN passes its 100 episode milestone?
The next 100? I think it’s best to do as we always do – just think about the next ONE. Seriously, when you do a weekly show, it’s best to not think too far ahead because with up to 70 performers in any given week things change all the time.
For us, our next step is continuing to expand our core idea of helping grow live music, the music community, and make life a little better for musicians. We’ve added weekly live broadcasts to our show with Zinna.tv, we’ve created the first direct to artist pay program through our partner Bravo Tip or Pay. We’ve now expanded our brand into helping young bands throughout our “Break at the Beach” program to help those bands get into the industry. Soon you will be hearing about new efforts that we will launch that will continue to make the live music scene fresh and interesting. We will keep focused on keeping the caliber of our show at the highest level we can deliver each week, while always inventing, innovating, and looking for what’s next. As long as the JamFam continues to grow, we all continue to prove that Rock and Roll isn’t dead.
(Interview by Ken Morton – Photos by Jack Lue)