Let's rock let's roll | May 2, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Living - May 2, 2008

Let's rock let's roll

Guitarists to resurrect renowned concerts in Danville

by Meghan Neal

Most if not all of the 55 local guitar students performing in this month's Rock 'n' Roll Recital X have never met the legendary man behind it.

But if you were a teenager here in the '70s you probably know Chester Farrow, a retired Monte Vista High School electronics teacher who at the time some people called the most famous person in Danville.

The annual recital is returning to its birthplace in Danville this year. Students will showcase their work at the Village Theatre on May 14.

"It's like coming home," said Farrow, who attended high school locally and went on to teach at Monte Vista for 32 years. In '67 he began putting on monthly mini-concerts so his class could practice sound and video recording and editing.

The shows started out small, slapdash even. The classrooms at the school were separated by accordion-like moveable walls, and on show nights Farrow's class would turn the English department into a concert venue. Over time the audiences grew bigger and bigger and Farrow was able to attract better and better bands.

In 1972 the school built a theater that could hold 800 people and the shows grew enormously popular, attracting big names like Huey Lewis and the News, the Doobie Brothers and Journey.

"We became known as rock 'n' roll high school," said Farrow. "Monte Vista High School was known more than all around town - all around the Bay Area."

At that time teens didn't have easy access to Berkeley or San Francisco where the good clubs were, Farrow said. So bringing big names to suburban Danville was a unique opportunity, and people jumped at it.

"For a long time we had an exclusivity thing, in that we had the hottest shows around on this side of the Caldecutt Tunnel," he said.

"We kind of took that whole San Francisco Haight-Ashbury scene and brought it to Danville," said Michael Coats, a former student of Farrow's who credits the teacher with his successful career in music PR.

"At that time we were light years ahead of what was going on, getting a tremendous amount of recognition in the media," he continued. "To the point where Chester was constantly getting written up in the pop music column of the San Francisco Chronicle."

Any money the concerts raised went toward equipment for Farrow's electronics program. A believer in hands-on learning, he transformed his classroom into a recording studio.

It was called "Rainbow Studio" for the thousands of multicolored square carpet samples lining the walls to improve the acoustics in the room. Farrow hung all the shades of red together, then orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

But nothing lasts forever, and by the early '90s the Rainbow Studio's glory days were fading. Farrow noticed turnout dwindling at the shows.

"I said, 'This is it,'" he recalled. "It's real easy for me to observe a trend. I get it. I see it."

Farrow stopped putting on the concerts, and not too long afterward announced his retirement.

The Rock 'n' Roll Recital started in '99, another brainchild of charismatic teacher. The idea came when Farrow was talking to a friend whose son was taking guitar lessons from Bruce Hock, a popular instructor with a studio on Hartz Avenue in Danville.

Farrow and Hock had become friends in the heyday of "rock 'n' roll high school." Hock was a struggling musician giving lessons on the side to pay the rent; now he has a long waitlist of prospective students and names like the Counting Crows and Black Eyed Peas on his resume.

The annual recital, which will be Webcast for the first time this year, gives students a chance to perform on a real stage with state of the art equipment, and gives their friends and families a chance to hear them play.

Making the event even more nostalgic, the staff is made up almost entirely of Farrow's former students from Monte Vista High, many of whom went on to have successful careers in the industry.

"Chester allowed us all to blossom, he allowed us to create. Which was rare in that era to find," said Coats.

"We're very unique," remembered Farrow fondly. "I do believe it's a uniqueness, if I may say, worldwide."

Time again to Rock 'n' Roll

What: Rock 'n' Roll Recital X

Who: Guitar students of instructor Bruce Hock

Where: Village Theatre, 233 Front St. in Danville

When: 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 14; doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: $30 ($20 for seniors and children 18 and under); purchase at www.villagetheatreshows.com; call 314-3400; or from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday at Danville Community Center, 420 Front St.

Webcast: www.rockandrollrecital.com


Like this comment
Posted by Keith Willis
a resident of Danville
on May 4, 2008 at 4:50 pm

I so much enjoyed the story about "rock and roll" high school. What a great story. I applaude you!

Like this comment
Posted by Paul Woolley
a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2009 at 7:58 pm

I remember the days of the 'ol "Rock n Roll Highschool". Farrow was a great teacher, he gave the students ownership of their education. I credit Monte Vista and many of their teachers and counselors with my eventual choice of career in the motion picture industry as Sr. VP of MGM International... In my opinion, Monte Vista was the best High School in the country in the 70's!

Like this comment
Posted by Matt Ginn
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on Jan 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Can anyone tell me the years Journey (et al) played??

Like this comment
Posted by Petra Leuver
a resident of Danville
on Jul 31, 2009 at 8:10 am

Journey played a couple of times betweem 1973 and 1976. It was a great time!

Like this comment
Posted by Eric Edward
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on May 15, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Happy to say I still see Chet and some of his students... what an influence!

Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer (Edwards) Abernethy
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on May 15, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Credit goes to Chet Farrow for putting me in front of the TV at the Rainbow Studio at MV in 80/81. Last week I did a spot for ABC with GMA's Tory Johnson..everyone said I was a natural..I smiled and remembered my days at MVHS! Thanks Chet!!

Like this comment
Posted by Steve Heyer
a resident of Danville
on Aug 25, 2014 at 11:54 pm

I was a student of Monte Vista, and took guitar lessons from Bruce Hock in the mid 70s. He and his band played at my wedding in 1982 at the sycamore clubhouse in Danville. 1972 I saw Journey play in the MV theater I was the long haired skinny guy at the front of the stage that was practically sitting in the right side speaker watching Neal Schon in his green jumpsuit playing a black Les Paul. I could not take my eyes off of him as his fingers ripped up and down the neck. That night changed my life forever. I went to my freinds house and bought his brothers black Les Paul copy and have never been without a guitar since. In 1984 I went to Hollywood and took a engineering course at The Institute of Audio Engineering. I am now a Camera Director For the CLUB in Las Vegas a music venue at the Cannery Casino. The acts are mostly bands that I grew up listening to in the 70s. I would love to Talk with Bruce if I can get in touch with him.

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a resident of San Ramon Valley High School

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