Rob Moitoza played bass for a local band that Huey Lewis grew up listening to when he was a Mill Valley teenager. And if you were an attendee at one of Marin’s many sock hops during the late ‘50s to mid ’60s you probably saw Moitoza too, rocking out on stage with the The Chord Lords, The Opposite Six, The Thunderbirds, The Invaders, The Swingin’ Deacons, and The Sons of Champlin.
He was in them ALL — some of the most popular Marin rock bands of the day. While only in high school, Moitoza and The Chord Lords opened for The Ventures. The Opposite played backup for The Righteous Brothers at the Corte Madera Rec Center and other major touring acts like The Dovells, Jan and Dean, Dick and Dee Dee, and The Coasters.
While many rockers of Moitoza’s generation threw in the towel or gave up “the dream” long ago, Moitoza never stopped. He has appeared on over 100 record albums as bassist, vocalist or writer and has written over a thousand original songs. He’s also an experienced recording engineer and producer of pop music, soundtracks, and radio and television advertising.
Moitoza Shares His Marin Memories
MOITOZA: Mill Valley was completely different when I grew up there. No boutiques, no coffee shops, and the only places to play music were The Outdoor Art Club, The American Legion Hall, Corte Madera Recreation Center, and Brown’s Hall. Brown’s Hall became a rug store for a while and is now some kind of Buddhist Temple or religious temple of some sort.
The Chord Lords mostly played at Brown’s Hall, Corte Madera Rec Center and some private parties. Browns Hall was the first real rock venue I remember. My mom used to drive me there when I was 15 to play with John Cipollina, Adam Fourman, and the “Deacons“. Then she’d come back and pick me up after the gig.
In those days we used to dream of going to L.A. to “hit the big time”. After Huey Lewis made it, people started coming from L.A. to Mill Valley to make it! Ha ha ha! That’s when I knew times had changed. — Rob Moitoza
I lived way up on hill in a house on Cushing Drive. John Cipollina lived just under me on Shady Lane, but you had to drive down onto Eldridge Ave. to get there. When I joined up with Danny NuDelman and Barry Ott years later I became “Eldridge Fletcher”. Barry became “Jerome Fletcher”, and Danny became “Rufus Fletcher”… “The Fletcher Brothers”.
Bill Champlin also lived down on East Blithedale right in amongst the redwood trees. The bus depot was just that… a bus depot.
There was no big hardware box store, just a hardware store called Varney’s where there was always someone there to help you find what you were looking for. The Sweetwater music club was not there yet, and none of the other bars had music. They were just bars to drink in! We had one little record store called Village Music, or it may have been called Mill Valley Music at that time. It was a few doors up from the movie theater and was owned by a woman whose name escapes me now. She sold it to John Goddard who then moved the location about a block up the street onto Blithedale and started the famous Village Music we all knew and loved.
In those days we used to dream of going to L.A. to “hit the big time”. After Huey Lewis made it, people started coming from L.A. to Mill Valley to make it! Ha, ha! That’s when I knew times had changed. The one thing that hasn’t changed in all these years is the two lane road coming into Mill Valley. That’s all we needed in those days. Very few cars were on it. Now, it’s 24 hour gridlock just getting in and out of the place. Nobody owned a Mercedes or BMW either… just our ’56 Chevy’s. I think we had the best of Mill Valley. It was really just a little country town. Now, it’s a rich man’s paradise. Most of us had to sell our parent’s homes and move out. We couldn’t afford to live there anymore. I moved to Seattle. My sisters moved to the East Bay.
Some of the Mill Valley changes are nice. El Paseo, in my day, was just a brick passageway with one Italian restaurant, and pretty dark and dingy. Now there are little places to sit and chat. It’s quite nice actually. But, overall, it’s way too upscale for most of us old timers.
On Mill Valley Dances…
Occasionally a fight would break out at dances, but the press always made it out to be much worse than it was. The press has always loved that kind of thing. They turned every little scuffle into a “big bloody riot”. We were continually fighting the “rock and roll attracts bad elements” rhetoric. The town was always trying to shut us down. The Notorius B.I.G. probably wouldn’t have gone over in those days. Ha, ha! Just shaking your hips was “scandalous!”. However, we usually only had one off duty hired cop for security at dances. Rarely did we even need
A nice bass solo with Rob Moitoza, playing with Nick Vigarino, Susan Orfield, Fishbone, at the Triple Door in Seattle.
him. It saddens me that kids going anywhere nowadays, including the new Sweetwater, are surrounded by security people searching and patting them down, etc. I think kids are getting a bum rap these days. ” I’m always amazed that they are so tolerant of all this. My generation would have been really pissed! Then again, we were taught to “be polite”. We didn’t have this gun thing to worry about either.
I feel for kids these days. We also got to see several big acts for a couple of bucks in those days. Wages have not gone up all that much to support today’s ticket prices. Prince was charging over $200 a ticket last time he came through. I love Prince, but I wouldn’t pay $200 to see God! I got to see James Brown, Aretha Franklin, The Coasters, Patti LaBelle, and Pig Meat Markum all on the same bill for five bucks. Of course, we didn’t have lasers and pyrotechnics, but I’ll go to the free Fourth of July celebrations for that. We got a heck of a show for the money. — Robert Moitoza
Did you grow up with Rob Moitoza? Share your memories of The Chord Lords and Mill Valley: