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High Country Journal LOCAL NEWS • LOCAL SOURCE


May 17, 2013


Presorted Standard US Postage Paid Anza CA Permit No. 4


Let’s hear it for the Barnyard Boyz! New CD and a film soundtrack forthcoming By Steve Manseau Interesting things can happen when you decide to change things up a bit. Just ask John Knori, the leader of the Barnyard Boyz, a country rock band that has been entertaining listeners throughout the Anza Valley and in neighboring cities for over 21 years now. Knori had a wild hair. He was remembering a batch of songs he had written several years ago, way before the fifty year old moved to the Anza Valley. “These were all songs I penned when I was real young and living in Baldwin Park, between 17 and 21 years old,” Knori told us during an interview at his Terwilliger home. “I’ve always been too chicken to record them until recently.” But this last year he did record them, enlisting the help of two friends, former Barnyard Boy Craig Downey and Jimmy Hilzman at MCS Studios. “Both those guys made significant contributions to the sound of the tunes,” Knori points out. “The result is a very diverse batch of songs, everything from heavy metal blues to bluegrass.”

With a new CD and film project in the works, Barnyard Boyz leader John Knori has a reason to feel good! The CD that emerged from this collaboration between Knori, Downey, Hilzman and the Barnyard Boyz, will be released soon under the title “About Time.” But it gets even more interesting. “I loaned a disc of these tunes to a horse dentist I know from working at Santa Anita,” said Knori, who earns a living as a third generation horse shoer at race tracks in Southern California. “He gave them to a jockey’s agent and aspiring film producer/director who listened to them and gave me a call.” The upshot is that the songs on the CD will be finding their way onto the soundtrack of an independent film currently in post-production entitled “The Bar Where the People Are the Mixer.” The film will put Knori’s eclectic mix of styles at the forefront. “He’s going to use the metal blues tunes for a scene where some bikers come rumbling into the bar,” Knori explained. “One of the things he liked is the variation that my album provided, so he can pick songs that fit a variety of scenes.” Knori is unsure of how the film will be distributed. “I suppose they’re working on that now,” he said. “Heck, it might just end up going straight to DVD– I’m just thankful for the opportunity to get my first soundtrack and for the Boyz to be able to release a CD of my original music.” (cont. on page 16)

Dave Farkas named new HHS principal Cottonwood K-8 Principal Dave Farkas will be moving up a few grades in the fall of 2013. He has been named as the new principal at Hamilton High School, replacing the retiring Jim Allured. During his tenure at Cottonwood the school in Aguanga earned some prestigious honors, including being named a Title I School and a California Distinguished School. In 2012 his school met all the criteria for National Blue Ribbon status. That same year Farkas was named HUSD’s Principal of the Year. A graduate of Youngstown State University with a Masters of Education from National University, Farkas has been a principal or assistant principal in the Hemet Unified School District for the last eight years. Prior to coming to California, Farkas was a middle school teacher in Orlando, Florida. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the people and wonderful programs first,” Farkas said of his move to Hamilton High School. “I’m also excited about hearing the team’s ideas for future success. You know you are excited when you do not need an alarm clock to wake up.” “Not only have I witnessed it with my own eyes, but I have also heard wonderful things about Hamilton High School, Anza and the K 8 school,” he added. “The most exciting piece of this news is that it comes from so many different people with various positions and perspectives. It is a wonderful place for young people and has unlimited potential for growth in so many ways! I can’t wait to learn and lead.” At the same time, Farkas knows he’s leaving something special behind at Cottonwood K-8. “Leaving Cottonwood is bittersweet because the team is like family and we have had so many (cont. on page 4)


Raul Ruiz at Loyalty Day event see page 8

Silly send off! see page 18

Sowing seeds of learning... see page 19

Valley Life 17

Knori & the Boyz... (cont from page 16) supportive wife of thirty years, Diana, put her foot down. “I got tired of being a band widow and I asked John to choose me or choose staying on the road,” she said. “I’m so happy he made the choice he did.” Diana had been spending a lot of time in Anza with her family and it wasn’t long before she and John moved out to the Valley. But the music certainly didn’t die in the transition to rural life, it just took on a different character. In 1989 Knori found some like-minded musicians and began rehearsing country and rock covers. Their first gig was rather inauspicious. “I remember it was in Aguanga and they had us set up in a little chicken coop,” John says with a laugh. “And it made sense because we played for a crowd of real hillbillies that night!” “We had decided to call ourselves the Boneyard Boys, but one of the good old boys preferred to call us the Barnyard Boyz,” he explained. “So we decided to go with that and that’s been the name ever since.” The opening lineup for that night was Knori on vocals and bass guitar, Jeff Johnson on lead guitar, Robbie Flame on drums, Bud McCormack on harmonica, Duck Wagner on rhythm guitar and vocals and Bud Eckelberry on guitar and vocals. “Over the years we’ve probably had about 40 different Barnyard Boyz,” Knori added., “most of them very talented musicians.” “I had one guy who was just an incredible harmony singer and I had to have him in my band,” Knori adds with a grin. “But he also wanted to play rhythm guitar. The only problem was that he had absolutely no sense of rhythm, so we came up with a solution. He would hold the guitar and play it to his heart’s content, but the guitar’s cord was connected to his back pocket.” “Other musicians knew exactly what we were doing,” he said. “But 90% of the audience had no idea!” THE BOYZ TODAY None of the current Barnyard Boyz have cords running to their back pockets. “I just love this band, they are a great bunch of guys,” Knori says. “We don’t rehearse. We don’t even have a set list for our gigs. These guys have such solid chops that they just adjust to what I want to play, based on how I gauge the audience.” The current lineup joining Knori is Duck Wagner (rhythm guitar and vocals), Harry Lieberman (drums), Lou Tully (lead guitar) and Emory Slocum (harmonica). Knori says that the Boyz have a repertoire of about 300 songs. They play locally as much as they can, things like weddings, special events and several benefits throughout the year. But most of their best paying gigs are off the hill, in places like Willie Boys in Yucca Valley, the Ponderosa in Sun City and the Branding Iron in Riverside. Both John and Diana recall a time in the 1990s when the music scene was much more alive in the Anza Valley. “We had a standing gig at the old Copper Still,” Knori says, referring to the restaurant and bar off of Barhman Road in Anza (soon to reopen as a restaurant/bar/ music venue called the Whiskey River Tavern and Pizzeria). “Back then there were many more bars to play in and the Cahuilla Creek Casino used to sponsor some rock shows. We opened for bands like Canned Heat and Eric Burdon and the Animals.” Those halcyon days are in remission now, so the Barnyard Boyz have become weekend road warriors again. To that end Knori has purchased a monster-looking black RV, dubbed “The Batmobile,” that will carry the band to many gigs in style.

Diana Knori, John Knori, and Brandon the Roadie lose it when the photographer mentions one of the colorful band names from the Barnyard Boyz leader’s past. “We’ll airbrush it with our logo and they’ll see us coming for miles,” Knori says with a laugh. “They may want to run.” They need not worry, however, because inside the van is a bunch of guys with hearts of gold. I asked Knori about the several benefit shows they play each year. “This is my hometown,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of family up here and it’s hard to say no when it’s for the kids or it’s a memorial show for a family that has lost a loved one. I call my band mates and they just find a way to get here and do the show.” “And you know what?” he says passionately. “It all comes back to us ten-fold.” I have to ask Knori one last question. I mention that one of my favorite covers that his band does is the John Fogerty/Creedence song “Lodi,” in which the singer says “If I only had a dollar for every song I’ve sung...” How much would you have? I ask. Knori ponders for a minute, flashes a quick smile, and says, “about a million dollars.” Who knows? With a new CD coming out and a soundtrack in the works, he might make it part of the way there. But in some ways John Knori is already a very rich man. Over the years he and the Boyz have probably been responsible for at least a million Anza Valley smiles. And to think it all began in some good old boy’s chicken coop.

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Loyal Barnyard Boyz fans (left to right) Diane Thiele, Betty Tomilson, and Vera Stogsdill wear the band’s colors at the 2013 HCR Spring Fling.

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16 Valley Life

Knori & the Boyz... (cont from page 1) So how does a young man between 17 and 21 come to write songs in as diverse styles as metal and bluegrass? To answer that question, we have to go back to Baldwin Hills and focus in on a 14-year old Knori. ORIGINS “My mom was from Mexico and when she heard me say that I wanted to learn to play guitar she immediately made me take flamenco lessons,” Knori explained. “She wanted me to start with something very expressive and a bit more challenging than three-chord rock and roll.” Flamenco lessons opened Knori up to a variety of styles and he was stricken with guitar fever. Soon he was playing and writing songs in all kinds of styles. He took to playing the bass guitar so that he could join a series of rock bands, some with colorful names (some we probably shouldn’t print in this family paper). One we can mention was Crosstown Traffic, a rock ensemble named after the legendary Jimi Hendrix song. Knori has a placard with the band’s name hanging in his outdoor cantina at home. “I played live rock shows as much as I could but I didn’t really learn how to be a professional musician until I had the great fortune to hook up with a country cover band called Second Time Around,” Knori recalled. “This was a group of guys all in their fifties who really knew what they were doing. I was just a kid in my twenties and for the first year I was nervous and just trying to keep up.” “We would be on stage five nights a week, playing gigs all around the Southwestern states,” Knori explained. “We were advertised as ‘Pure Country’ and we did a lot of Top 40 covers. We were really popular and got gigs at the Palomino in L. A. and the Crazy Horse Saloon in Orange County.” He recalls one situation with a steel guitar player in the band. “Steel guitar players are really talented, but they’re also crazy,” Knori said with a smile. “We used to do this one tune that had a lot of interesting changes in it and I had several pages of sheet music so that I could remember what to do. So this steel player decides he’s going to mess with me and he sent the sheet music flying off the stage. I had to play by ear and follow along, and I did just fine.” “I’m pretty sure that’s one of the moments when I realized that I had the chops to play with these old guys,” he adds. “I guess that steel player knew it before I did.” Knori continued playing with Second Time Around for nearly three years, but the heavy touring and gig schedule was taking a toll on family life. John’s super (cont. on page 17)


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Above: The Barnyard Boyz’ current lineup includes (left to right) Lou Tully, John Knori, Duck Wagner and Emory Slocum. Left: Give the drummer some! That’s Big Harry Lieberman layin’ down the back beat. Knori says the band knows 300 songs. They don’t rehearse. They don’t have a set list. They just sound great.

Let's Hear It for the Barnyard Boyz!  

Article in the High Country Journal, Anza, CA on May 17,2013