Bonnie Hayes

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Bonnie Hayes
Bonnie Hayes at Great American Music Hall.jpg
Background information
Origin San Francisco California, USA
Genres Rock, new wave
Years active 1982–present
Labels Slash Records,
Bondage Records
Website Official site

Bonnie Hayes is an American singer/songwriter, musician and record producer from San Francisco, CA.

Early Years[edit]

Bonnie Hayes is the eldest of seven children, four of whom are noted professional musicians. She is the sister of Chris Hayes, former lead guitarist of Huey Lewis and the News, and Kevin Hayes, drummer with the Robert Cray Band.[1] The family moved to San Francisco from the San Joaquin Valley in 1970 and immediately began to play locally in the jazz fusion band Sweetmeat. During the mid and late 70's, she attended Washington High School and San Francisco State University. She also began her long relationship with Blue Bear School of Music as a teacher of piano and theory/composition.

In the early 1980s, she founded a new wave band called The Punts, who released a 45 RPM single, "Shelly's Boyfriend" (a song inspired by her sister), b/w "Rochambeau", which received considerable airplay in the SF market. In 1982, the band was signed by Slash Records and at the behest of Bob Biggs, the band changed their name to "Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo" and released their first album entitled Good Clean Fun, a new wave/rock offering. The Good Clean Fun album was finally released on CD in September 2007 by Wounded Bird records, a subsidiary of Rhino Records. The song "Girls Like Me" from that album was used in the opening credits for the 1983 movie Valley Girl. Perhaps because of the label's (Slash) limited distribution muscle, and the fact that Warner Bros. Records refused to distribute the record, Good Clean Fun enjoyed only moderate regional sales.

1984 brought the release of Brave New Girl, on Hayes's and producer Steve Savage's Bondage Records. Recorded in the basement of Savage's home in San Francisco, this sophomore effort expands even further the broad musical range of Good Clean Fun, ratcheting up the sophistication of the earlier release, in the material as well as the production. "After Hours" is a soaring ballad, while "Night Baseball" and "Brave New Girl" bring a distinctive power pop tilt to its new wave core and hint at things to come in Hayes' writing.

The Wild Combo enjoyed a rabid local following in San Francisco through the 1980s, and toured opening for Huey Lewis as well as other new wave acts during this time.

Career 1980s[edit]

After being signed by Huey Lewis and the News publishing company, Hayes signed with Chrysalis Records and, in 1987 released Bonnie Hayes, produced by Stewart Levine (UB40). This album, recorded and mixed in Los Angeles, favors Bonnie's pop sensibility and, with layered horns, sheets of keyboards, dense backing vocals, and lots of processed reverb, the production colors of choice in the L.A. pop scene at the time. The record was not a commercial success. "Some Guys", the first single from the Chrysalis record, was later released by Cher, and was Hayes's first commercial cover.

In 1988, Hayes and Savage, having signed a deal with Muscle Records and Miles Copeland, went into Soma Sync Studios in San Francisco. The duo was joined by Bonnie's brother Chris (HLN) and Wild Combo member Paul Davis on guitars, Benny Reitveld (Santana, Miles Davis) on bass and Dennis Chambers (Parliament, John Scofield, Santana) on drums. Due to difficulties between Muscle and Copeland, the album was never released.

Later that year Hayes joined the traveling band of former Go-Go Belinda Carlisle for a world tour.

In 1989, Bonnie Raitt heard Hayes' catalog through the auspices of their publisher, Bob Brown of Bob-A-Lew music, and chose "Love Letter" and "Have a Heart" for her comeback release Nick of Time. The album was a smash hit, selling over 6 million copies in the US alone, and winning the Grammy for Record of the Year. The Hayes-penned "Have a Heart" was the top charting song on the album, rising to number 3 on the Adult Contemporary Chart. Hayes was known in the business from that point on as a songwriter, to the detriment of her career as a performer. Hayes went on to place many songs with other artists, including Cher, Bette Midler, Natalie Cole, Robert Cray, David Crosby, Adam Ant and Booker T and the MGs.

Career 1990s and beyond[edit]

In 1991–2, Hayes joined Billy Idol on the road for almost two years in support of his record Cradle of Love. In 1996, Hayes was signed to Fuel records and recorded Empty Sky in Los Angeles, with Savage again in the producer's chair. Drawing on session players Keith Brown (bass), Alvino Bennett (drums), brother Chris (guitar), and a guest appearance by Huey Lewis playing harmonica on a version of Bobby Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe", this release is a toned-down, jazzier follow-up to the stillborn IRS project. Bottomless, written for Hayes' daughter was later covered by Bette Midler.

In 1993, she played briefly with Bruce Springsteen.

In 1999, Hayes moved back to the Bay Area from Los Angeles and embarked on a production career. She continues to record at various Marin County studios, including her own Tone Palace, with mostly singer-songwriter clients, and plays with her bands Mystery Dance and the Superbonbons, as well as the Marin County guitarist Danny Click.

In 2004 she released the CD "Love in the Ruins", written after Hayes learned to play the guitar. The record features the strong songwriting for which she's known and a capricious rough-edged quality evocative of her first record with a rootsier, Americana sound.

She continues to teach songwriting at Blue Bear, including designing and implementing the youth summer camp program there. She also serves as a trustee on the Blue Bear board. She has also taught at the Berklee College of Music, the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the REO Songwriting Retreat outside of Vancouver B.C, the ASCAP workshops in Los Angeles, and at the WCS Conference at Foothill College. Students of hers have won various songwriting prizes, such as:[2]

In 2013 Bonnie announced that she had accepted the position as chair of the songwriting department at the Berklee College of Music and moved to Boston, Mass.


Good Clean Fun
Studio album by Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo
Released 1982
Genre Pop rock, new wave
Label Slash Records

Good Clean Fun (1982)[edit]

This album was released on CD on September 18, 2007.

  • Label: Slash Records
  • Label record ID: SR-112

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Girls Like Me" (B. Hayes)
  2. "Shelly's Boyfriend" (B. Hayes/Savage)
  3. "Separating" (B. Hayes/Savage)
  4. "Dum Fun" (B. Hayes/Savage)
  5. "Coverage (B. Hayes)
  6. "Inside Doubt" (B. Hayes/Savage)
  7. "Joyride (B. Hayes)
  8. "Loverboy (B. Hayes)
  9. "Raylene" (B. Hayes)
  10. "The Last Word" (B. Hayes)


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars link
Robert Christgau A- link

Allmusic said that Good Clean Fun is "probably the finest album of the entire early-'80s California girl pop scene... the songs on Good Clean Fun are almost embarrassingly catchy. The first two tracks... are three-minute classics with more vocal and musical hooks than many whole albums... Good Clean Fun works brilliantly on every level, and only Slash Records' limited distribution muscle—and possibly the unfortunately cheesy cover art—kept it from being a hit. As it stands, Good Clean Fun is a neglected '80s pop masterpiece."[3]

Robert Christgau said that on Good Clean Fun, Hayes "comes off smarter, surer, and more sisterly than just about any new rock and roll woman I can think of."[4]

Brave New Girl (1984)[edit]

(With the Wild Combo)[5]

Bonnie Hayes (1987)[edit]

  • Label: EMI Distribution
  • ASIN: B00000EEA9

Track Listing

  1. Some Guys (Golde, Hayes) 3:40
  2. To See You Again (Davis, Golde, Hayes, Sitkin) 2:59
  3. The Real Thing (Hayes) 3:46
  4. Coax Me, Chad (Golde, Hayes) 4:04
  5. Time Stands Still (Hayes) 5:36
  6. Soul Love (Hayes, Hayes, Rietveld) 4:17
  7. Skeletons Dancing (Safan) 4:42
  8. Chance on You (Hayes) 3:45
  9. Whole Wide World (Davis, Hayes) 3:51
  10. Joyful Noise (Hayes) 4:23

Empty Sky (1996)[edit]

  • Label: Beacon
  • ASIN: B00000DPGU

Track Listing

  1. My Brave Face
  2. Hieroglyphics
  3. Too Far To Fall
  4. Things You Left Behind
  5. Ode To Billie Joe
  6. Love Letter
  7. Out Of The Loop
  8. Learning To Fly
  9. Bottomless
  10. Freedom Calling
  11. The Moment Of True Feeling
  12. Bed Of Roses

Love In the Ruins (2003)[edit]

  • Label: Bondage Records
  • ASIN: B00008US5V

Track listing[edit]

  1. Beautiful Ideal
  2. I Can't Stop
  3. Greener Grass
  4. Keeping the Hum Going
  5. Still Wild
  6. Stealing Roses
  7. Everybody Wins
  8. Turn Down Love
  9. Vintage People
  10. Money Makes You Stupid


  1. ^ "Huey Lewis and the News Biographies, "Chris Hayes (Former guitar, vocals)"". 
  2. ^ [1] Bonnie Hayes, "teaching", home page
  3. ^ Good Clean Fun review at
  4. ^ Good Clean Fun review by Robert Christgau
  5. ^ Allmusic guide

External links[edit]