Fresno Beehive

Tesla has long been Central Valley’s hometown rock heroes

Jeff Keith, seen here performing with his band Tesla in 2009, remembers the early days of playing in the Central Valley and specifically in Fresno. The band is in town June 12 opening for Def Leppard at the Save Mart Center.
Jeff Keith, seen here performing with his band Tesla in 2009, remembers the early days of playing in the Central Valley and specifically in Fresno. The band is in town June 12 opening for Def Leppard at the Save Mart Center. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

The guys in Tesla are hometown heroes.

Or, close enough for us to count it anyway. The rock band, which opens for Def Leppard tonight at the Save Mart Center, formed in Sacramento in 1984 and had a series of radio hits (its version of “Signs,” in particular, was on all the time). And the band still operates out of the city. It’s where they recorded a soon to be released album, which was produced by Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen.

Technically, Sacramento in the Central Valley and close enough to Fresno that one could totally get away with claiming the band as “local.” But, if you need more of a connection, there’s this: the band’s guitarist Dave Rude had a solo project (the Dave Rube Band) that released an album (“the Key”) that was produced by Marc Kapetan. Kapetan is a longtime Fresno musician who plays in the Appletones and was in a band with Jessie Farnsworth and Jesus Mendez, who (in keeping with the theme of Fresno connections) went on to play with Jason Newsted.

Tesla certainly played Fresno often enough in its earliest days, says vocalist Jeff Keith. This was when Tesla was just a club band, doing the circuit. Everywhere in Los Angeles was pay-to-play and band’s played the Top 40 just to survive. Fresno was the stop in between Los Angeles and home and home and Keith clearly remembers playing show at the Star Palace – a scene he says “was awesome.”

His memories of touring with Def Leppard during the 1980s (’88-’89, specifically) might be slightly less accurate.

“There might be some things I might have forgotten, some thing we’d like to forget,” he says.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

  Comments