A Brief His/Herstory
The Imperial Crowns sprang from the hearts, souls and brains of Jimmie Wood and J.J. Holiday way back in 1992. But their friendship goes back to the mid 80’s when Jimmie was booking the iconic LA nightclub Madame Wongs and fronting his own blues n’ soul / rock n’ roll band, Jimmie Wood and the Immortals while J.J. was playing guitar in a deep underground delta/ punk meets The Beatles outfit called Black Patti. They shared a love of electric and country blues as well as soul, rock n’ roll, swamp pop, psychedelic, rockabilly, jubilee and quartet gospel music. Anybody who’s seen The Imperial Crowns knows…
“Jimmie was born to preach, and J.J. lets his guitar do the preaching for him!” That’s a quote from Clarence Fountain of The Five Blind Boys of Alabama talking about Jimmie and J.J. in 1996.
In 1993, the duo started recording music in the garage studio of Billy Sullivan, who also served as the drummer/engineer for many years (three of the four studio albums were recorded in his North Hollywood studio). They officially became The Imperial Crowns in 1994, playing clubs around the city and, at the same time Wood and Holiday officially became founding members of The Sacred Hearts. The LA, House of Blues house band. So, while they were recording the first album (Imperial Crowns), they were playing with people like Bruce Springsteen, Buddy Guy, Greg Allman, Taj Mahal, Gatemouth Brown, The Blind Boys, Chaka Kahn, Ann Peebles, etc. every Monday night at The House of Blues on the Sunset Strip! Wood and Holiday still work regularly with The Sacred Hearts backing The Blues Brothers (with Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi) and have shared the stage with The Rolling Stones, James Brown, AC/DC, Bob Dylan, Sam Moore, and Wilson Pickett, among others since ‘94.
The Crowns started touring the European continent in 2002 and steadily grew a dedicated following of younger folks as well as older blues fans and have been celebrated at pop festivals like BosPop as enthusiastically as they were at The Moulin Blues in Ospel, Netherlands and The Peer Rhythm and Blues Festival, Belgium. As far North as Norway’s Bergen Blues and Rn’B Festival and as far south as The Byron Bay Blues Festival in Australia. The Imperial Crowns naturally shook up the fans and co- performers alike! They took a break in 2008, which ended up lasting ‘til 2015 when they went back into the studio together to record “The Calling” and later 25 LIVE for DixieFrog Records. They returned to Europe in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
To friends in the U.S., keep your ear to the ground, we’ll be in your town! To the good folks throughout Europe, hold on! We’re gonna make it back to ya! With endless love in their hearts, 6 original albums and more where that came from, they’ll be Preachin’, Teachin’, and Reachin’ for the stars! Laying down their own brand of psyche-delta, rock n’ soul that cannot be duplicated by anybody, living or dead!
Current band line up:
Since he was a kid in the 50’s, and 60’s Jimmie was attracted to R n’ B and Rock n’ Roll. From Little Richard, The Coasters to, ? and the Mysterians and The Count 5. But when he witnessed Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny and Brownie and Skip James at age twelve, his fate was sealed. Somehow a harmonica fell into his hands (and mouth)! Within a few years he got to play harp with Lightnin’ Hopkins at LA’s Ash Grove. “That joint was the center of the universe to me. I saw and got to hang with, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Albert King, Freddie King and a whole bunch more musical giants!”
In the late 70’s he put together an outfit known as Jimmie Wood and the Immortals. From the mid 80’s to the early 90’s they played all over the US serving as the opening act on tour with Johnny Winter, Elvin Bishop, John Mayall and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Also working as Mick Taylors’ band (’89 through ’93) playing all over the US, Europe and Asia with Jimmie as the frontman.
As a harmonica player and singer Jimmie can be heard on records by Bruce Springsteen, Etta James, Boy George, Ofra Haza, Gladys Knight, Zucchero, Cheap Trick and literally hundreds of others, known and unknown artists.
“I’ve been three times blessed to have played on stage, on records and movie sound tracks with so many truly talented artists but NOTHING has brought me more pleasure and joy than playing live on stage with The Imperial Crowns! And that’s the natural facts!”
Born in the San Fernando Valley, next door to the ancestral home of Ritchie Valens, J.J. first heard rock n’ roll music filtering through his bedroom door from the “twist parties” his parents threw on weekends. Before he was twelve, his parents twisted up the West Coast to Seattle in search of better jobs and cheaper rent. There was a booming folk and folk blues scene and the lad was smitten by the music. He got himself a guitar and learned how to play! He studied the styles of all the blues guitar icons with the first name, “Blind.” Second name, Boy, Willie, Blake, Lemon, etc. Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic blues spirit still hung heavy in the Northwest air he breathed. The Sonics and The Wailers’ raunchy sound infiltrated his psyche. When he reached college age, J.J. threw a guitar in the backseat of his car and lit out to Cleveland, Ohio to hang with Robert Jr. Lockwood. Then on to Memphis to sit at the feet of Gus Cannon and Furry Lewis. And down to New Orleans to share a bottle with Roosevelt Sykes. He didn’t waste his education. He made it back to the city of his birth, Hollywood on his mind in the early 80’s with the blistering Seattle rockabilly band, The 88’s.
J.J. was a member of Bob Dylan’s lean, three-piece rock n’ roll band in the mid 80’s. Check out Bob Dylan / Late Night with David Letterman on YouTube. Played with a young Beck. He worked with and for Johnny Depp for a decade on both film projects (Chocolat, Mortdecai, The Rum Diary) and music, as a guitar instructor and musical director for the JD Blues band; that featured Keith Richards on occasion. He drafted Jimmie to sing and play harp too. Again, check YouTube and dig Johnny Depp / Keith Richards NYC. He has toured and recorded extensively with France’s legendary rocker and friend Little Bob. He’s been playing with L.A. legend Chuck E. Weiss for over three decades. He is loved and respected in the L.A. musical community!
“Jimmie and I are songwriting and producing partners. We made that pact long ago & we do it well together. Above any other musical callings we may have, The Imperial Crowns remains on top as our own one-of-a-kind vehicle to fully express these Blues and Rock ‘n Roll spirits that have lived in our hearts since we were both young kids. Nothing can beat the pure joy & love felt as we record a new song or hit the stage to entertain as The Imperial Crowns!”
“Doctor” James Carter
Originally out of Pasadena, “Doctor” Carter straddled many musical scenes as a live performer and studio musician. From thrash to metal to blues-rock to whatever the producer would throw at him, The Doctor was always in! Able to fluidly move and groove with whatever style was called for. He also became acquainted with Jimmie in the 80’s club scene, when he was playing with Louisiana born singer songwriter, Jerry Geddins.
His most notable musical associations were in Jon Butcher and Gary Hoey’s power blues road and recording bands. More recently with The Mutaytor, whose percussion, low end heavy, dance and performance art style fanned the flames at The Burning Man Festival year after year.
The Imperial Crowns have always had heavy musicians playing the bass guitar but the Doctor has the goods, the groove and the voice that everyone considers to be absolutely perfect for the mix!
“I wanna thank my brother-in-law, John Avila for putting me together with Jimmie and J.J. when he couldn’t go out on the road with them. I always dug Jimmie Wood and the Immortals back in the 80’s and now, thirty plus years later with The Imperial Crowns, when we’re on stage together, we’re a handful of aces!”
Ryan “Samson” Dean
Ryan grew up in a house full of music. His father had a massive LP collection with music from hillbilly to hard rock. From classical to classic blues to Coltrane. As he says, “From Elvin Jones to The Rolling Stones and everything in between” There’s a long story that involves The Rolling Stones appearance at The Dessert Trip Festival (Oct. 2016) and how, coincidentally(?) Ryan and Rachel C. Wood (see below) crossed paths became enchanted with each other and how, ultimately, he became The Imperial Crowns’ drummer. That you’ll find in a longer bio!
Before graduating with honors from Cal State Northridge’s prestigious music program, Ryan played, co-wrote and co-produced music with The Hammerheads, fronted by childhood friend, the late Anton Yelchin, playing lowdown rock n’ roll, punk and roots-ish reggae. Before an almost crippling car accident Ryan was drumming with The Atomic Sherpa’s, a soulful free form jazz/blues racket that raises and praises the spirits of Zappa, Sun Ra and Beefheart. Thank God he recovered and came back better than ever! He currently plays with Color Vision. An LA based four- piece soulful, progressively psychedelic rock band.
He was invited to audition for The Crowns when the drum chair opened up. Ryan was inducted into the band after playing just one song! Then he played twenty-three more like he was born to it just to seal the deal. His knowledge, soul and style fits with The Imperial Crowns like a hand in a glove. You’ll see.
“I jumped on my chopper (“Mescalito”) and rode out to the dessert to see Dylan and The Stones. Now I’m playing with The Imperial Crowns of Los Angeles, CA. A band that was born out of the same spirit that infected those cats!”
Rachel C. Wood
Rachel C. Wood, Jimmie’s youngest offspring was born three years after The Imperial Crowns came on the scene. So, obviously she spent many an hour in her mama’s womb being nourished by music of all varieties. Especially funky music!! She came out of the womb singing the blues. Usually between the hours of 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM. That gave Jimmie and (his beautiful but tired) wife, Laura the blues! She hid out in many a green room being too young to get into the club as her father and band wailed.
Yes, Miz Wood always sang. In her early teens with the Oakwood school chorus (one of the best in LA) on American Idol, singing “School’s Out” with Alice Cooper. Adding her voice to the then teen heartthrob boy band, the Jonas Brothers on their 2009 3D Experience. She’s all over Kent Burnside’s 2014 release “My World Is So Cold,” produced by Jimmie. Then did a west coast tour with Burnside.
“The Baby Gayta” as her dad calls her, was welcomed into the band in 2015. She sang on the majority of “The Calling” and when she made comments the other members listened. Her father said in a European interview, “I love my daughter and without a doubt, would take a bullet, stand in front of a train or walk into a burning house for her. But if she didn’t have the talent and soul as a singer and performer, she wouldn’t be onstage with the Imperial Crowns!” There it is. Plain and simple. With The Imperial Crowns, it always was a family affair but when Rachel jumped in, the love that jumps off the stage is undeniably increased one hundred percent!
The Imperial Crowns