An Interview With Joseph Arkeder
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Joseph Arkeder (JA): My mom played guitar. Watching Ricky Nelson and Elvis on TV hooked me. Then when The Beatles played on Ed Sullivan I wanted to join a band.
60s: Was Somebody's Children your first band?
JA: I joined The What Four in high school in 1965. We played mostly surf music and instrumentals. The lineup was John Ruiz on lead; me, Joe Arkeder, on rhythm guitar; Kurt Newport on bass; and Paul Pavon on drums. When my brother John joined us as the singer we changed our name to Somebody's Children. We had a lineup change around the same time and changed bass player and drummer.
60s: Where and when was Somebody's Children?
JA: We were given the name Somebody's Children by Jon Green from The Baytovens. He was a classmate of my brother, John. Our lead guitarist John Ruiz and I formed Somebody's Children in 1966.
Our line-up was: John Arkeder, lead vocals; Joe Arkeder, rhythm guitar and vocals; John Ruiz, lead guitar; Kurt Newport (and later Lex Silva on bass); and Danny Gonsalves on drums.
60s: How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?
JA: We were a cover band. We played songs by The Byrds, Stones, Kinks and some R&B.
60s: What was the Oakland rock and roll scene like in the '60s?
JA: (There wasn’t much happening) in Oakland. The big venue was the Rollerena in San Leandro. The promoter Bill Quarry brought in the San Francisco bands like The Jefferson Airplane, as well as Los Angeles bands including The Byrds, Love and others. Mostly the acts were the local bands like The Baytovens, Harbinger Complex and Tom Thumb and The Hitchhikers.
60s: Where did Somebody’s Children typically play?
JA: We played dances mostly at the local Catholic schools. We did some frat parties in Berkeley as well.
60s: Did you play any of the local teen clubs?
JA: The local Catholic schools had teen club dances every Friday night.
60s: How far was the band's "touring" territory?
JA: We played in San Francisco at The Cow Palace in a battle of the bands but mostly played the East Bay.
We played in a battle of the bands at the Alameda County Fair in 1966 with a substitute lead guitar player and drummer and won. Bill Quarry, the Rollerena promoter, and The Harbinger Complex were the judges. The winner was supposed to get to open for Love at the Rollerena, but somehow the second place band, Tom Thumb and The Hitchhikers, that Bill Quarry managed got the gig instead. We played the following week but not as the headliner.
60s: What other local groups of the era do you especially recall?
JA: The Checques were another cover band from Skyline High in Oakland. I also remember The Staton Brothers from San Leandro.
60s: Did Somebody's Children have a manager?
JA: John Galyen, John's friend, was our manager. I think he was more interested in meeting girls at our shows than in promoting the band.
60s: How popular locally did Somebody's Children become?
JA: We had a following, mostly our classmates, but girls screamed and that was a rush for a 15-year old.
60s: Why didn't Somebody's Children record?
JA: We didn't do any original material.
60s: Did the band make any local TV appearances?
60s: What year and why did the band break up?
JA: In 1967. John joined the National Guard to avoid going to Vietnam. Then he got married. John Ruiz changed schools and the band stopped playing.
60s: Did you join or form any bands after Somebody's Children?
JA: No. Our bass player, Lex Silva, played with John Lee Hooker for a while. I recorded some demos with Henry Lewy (Joni Mitchell, Flying Burrito Brothers) and won a Billboard National Songwriting award in 1993.
60s: What about today? What keeps you busy?
JA: I own a sign company, do design work, and do not play professionally. I did make an appearance at a club last December and did a Bob Dylan song.
60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with Somebody's Children?
JA: It was a lot of fun. It was a magical time to be in a band especially in the Bay Area with the music scene being so influential. I had the opportunity to see most of my heroes play the Fillmore and Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. (I signed) autographs, and had groupies before groupies had a name. I was a "star" at 15. Our last appearance was at The Cow Palace, which was the night of The Beatles last appearance at Candlestick Park. We went over to Candlestick after our show and the show had ended and was empty. We went up onstage where The Beatles had performed and we could still feel the electricity.