Rich Sheldon is a busy musician who plays about 230 gigs a year, including the “Songwriters Jam Night,” which takes place Tuesday nights at The Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach.
At the event, several singer/songwriters get 30 minute sets while Sheldon's Rolodex Band, featuring a rotating roster of his musician friends, jam in between sets, beginning at 9 p.m. From midnight to 1 a.m., Sheldon says he encourages the earlier performers to jam with his band
“We're encouraging the songwriters to play your own original music and maybe save a song at the end to play with the band," Sheldon said, "or if they want to bring in their own musicians, they can play their set and we'll have a back line set up for them."
Sheldon's band features a “rolodex” of musicians that can back him up at a moment's notice, including bass players, keyboard players and drummers.
“I've developed these relationships over 20-plus years playing in L.A. and meeting all these musicians,” said Sheldon, who created the event along with General Manager Steven Grehl.
Life in music
Originally from Pittsburgh, Sheldon moved to California in 1996 after attending Florida State University. He originally worked in the film industry as a production assistant for director James Cameron on the blockbuster film “Titanic,” as well as on other films. He also studied acting but he was drawn to the “power of music” and the “social consciousness about it.”
Sheldon, who lives in Santa Monica, was drawn to Venice and the westside because that's where The Doors' founding members Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek originally met in the mid 1960s. With the beach and music he “found my place.”
For about 15 years, Sheldon has played at local clubs owned by Paul Hennessey, including Hennessey's Tavern, H.T. Grill and Mickie Finnz, as well as The Lighthouse which Hennessey purchased in 1989. He's also performed at Mickie Finnz in Las Vegas and Hennessey's locations from La Jolla to Las Vegas.
'Moments of Magic'
Sheldon said Hennessey is “keeping music alive in the community,” but he's reaching out to South Bay musicians to “bring some life and original music to The Lighthouse.”
“There's a huge contingency of South Bay musicians that I don't even know and I’ve heard about,” Sheldon said.
For the jam night, Sheldon acts as musician, stage manager, band leader and promoter, where he gives exposure to the performers through social media including Facebook Live or YouTube. He said he finds this aspect of the jam night rewarding.
“You're doing something that's helping other people,” Sheldon said. “After having played as much as I have, it's bringing other people into the fold and pushing them and promoting them. They're getting a chance to play and we're opening up the stage for them.”
Sheldon also finds the jam night a networking opportunity for musicians.
“I like bringing together some songwriters that might not have as much experience, but are still talented and putting them with people who are seasoned veterans. It's kind of like pushing them into a situation where they can meet each other and create together,” Sheldon said.
Sheldon said he hopes to create unexpected “moments of magic” with the jam.
“(When) something is good, you just know it,” Sheldon said. “It does not matter if it's a cover or not. There are people putting their heart and soul into a song and you can feel it.”
Sheldon will next be performing at The Lighthouse, located at 30 Pier Ave., on Tuesday, Dec. 17.