Johnny Angel Wendell

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Johnny Angel Wendell
Angel in Los Angeles in October 2012
Angel in Los Angeles in October 2012
Background information
Born (1956-06-24) June 24, 1956 (age 65)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
GenresHardcore punk, Hard rock, Parody, Americana
Occupation(s)Writer, journalist, actor, radio host, and musician
InstrumentsVocalist, guitar
Years active1978–present
LabelsX & Z Records

Johnny Angel Wendell is an American writer, musician, and radio talk show host. He is married and lives in Los Angeles with his two sons. Once a resident of Massachusetts, he is now a Los Angeles Weekly columnist, Wendell is the host of KTLK-AM 1150's "Southern California Live with Johnny Wendell". Wendell is also a regular on KFI-AM640.[1]

Early life[edit]

Wendell received a Series 7 stockbroker's license in 1977, and was employed by his father. He did not like it and the family business ended in 1984, when he refused to keep it going. With the onset of punk rock in the 1970s in Boston, Massachusetts, Wendell was the guitarist, singer, leader of the Thrills, and relocated to New York City in 1982. He returned to Boston in 1983 to form the Blackjacks, a more guitar oriented hard rock/punk band. Later he formed the comical performance/parody act, The Swinging Erudites. After six years of ups and downs, he relocated to California and has been in Los Angeles ever since.[2]

Music career[edit]


In Boston, during the late 1970s through 1982 he was the guitarist-singer-leader of Thrills (later City Thrills) and included band members Barb Kitson (died 2005) on vocals, Wendell on guitar and vocals, Merle Allin on bass and vocals, Michael Collins on drums and Sean McDonough on guitar was added in 1980. City Thrills relocated to New York in 1982, but things did not gel in the Big Apple. Wendell went back to Boston in 1983 to form the BlackJacks.[2]

They had their first gig in December 1977 and drew 36 people. The set was 15 songs and 29 minutes long.[3]

They released one single on Decibel Records in 1979, "I'll Be the Heartbreaker" with "Hey (Not Another Face in the Crowd)" on the B-side. Their single "Don't Come Back" was off the compilation album, N.A.F.I.T.C. Original Boston Punk 1977-1981, which was recorded live at the Metro Theatre in 1981. They recorded the EP "City Thrills" in 1981 on Star Rhythm Records.

Thrills toured throughout New England with the likes of The Ramones, Johnny Thunders, The Cars and U2.


After City Thrills broke up in 1983, Wendell returned to Boston and formed the Blackjacks with Whitey and drummer, Jeff Erna (original drummer, Dropkick Murphys).[4] The band then hired their roadie, Rafe Mabry, to play guitar.

The Blackjacks were more a rock band, with influences from 1950s rock and roll, 1960s pop and psych, 1970s punk, blues and garage rock.[3] The band released "Basic Blackjacks" in June 1984, and "Dreaming of Saturday Again" was a local hit. “Dressed In Black" made #1 on WBCN's local countdown, and a top 20 college radio track in the rest of the nation. This, with a video of "Dreaming of Saturday Again" got moderate play on local music video channel V-66.

In July 1989, the band played its last gig at The Rat. After the break up of The Blackjacks, Wendell became a standup comic with a guitar, which he said "shot his credibility to pieces".[5]

Swinging Erudites[edit]

Swinging Erudites, was a side novelty project Johnny formed with Sonny Columbus (James Ryan of Boston's Rat’s Hoodoo BBQ). The band was made up of Suzie Sasumi (Suzie Kerr-Wright Suzie Kerr Wright ) vocals, Meg A. Bux (Meg Lyons) vocals, Greg Yourbassist (Greg Urbaitis) on Bass, Pterry Dactyl (Garry Cook) on drums, Brother Cleve (Bob Toomey) on keyboards/accordion (1st ½), Sandy Beach (Sandy Grant) on keyboards (2nd ½). Swinging Erudites "Walk with an Erection" became a hit and was also heard and liked by Susanna Hoffs.


In 1984 and 85, Wendell produced all songs (except “Saturday Night Again” and “Thayer Street”, produced by Jonathan Paley) on both Boston's own Dogmatics LP’s Thayer Street and Everybody Does It.

Johnny Angel Wendell[edit]

Johnny and Boo Burns in 2010, formed the two alumni of the Imminent Disaster Blues Band (and more than 50 other bands between them) recruited ace guitarist Jordan Shapiro (Eddie Spaghetti) drummer Dave Bach (The Afflicted, Adam Sandler) and musical director Paul Ill (Linda Perry, Wayne Kramer, Juliette Lewis). The band tracked four originals and the singer's own solo effort "Shut Up Already". Among The Imminent Disaster Blues Band and The Wasted Knights. In 2013 he also formed and fronted and formed “JOHNNY ANGEL WENDELL AND THE FABULOUS KNUCKERHOLES” and now perform Mr AW's songs. The group's philosophy is that they aren't a group and whoever shows up to play is in fact a group member. Hence their former name "The Ramshackle Orchestra". The core of what passes for the band is percussionist Brock Avery (Marshall Crenshaw, Wayne Kramer), occasionally joined by Danny Frankel (Lou Reed). Bass is generally the ubiquitous Robbie Rist (legendary child actor and prodigy). Guitars are Mark Pritchard (Possum Dixon, El Vez), Chris Lawrence (Mike Ness) and horns are Scott Gilman (Foreigner).

Solo career[edit]

In 2011, Wendell went back into the studio to record 12 songs for a new CD titled "IT!!". The topics and sound are not the same as his youth, but he remained true to himself while channeling the early 1960s artists (Moby Grape, The Left Banke, The Beatles and The Byrds).[5] He said "From out of nowhere, all of these ideas for tunes kept popping into my brain so, IT!! was born.[6] They're all little snapshots about stuff. I want to make this poetic statement. Lyrically the ideas came from every and anywhere - song by song".[2]

Wendell played all the stringed instruments except steel (Boo Burns). All the horns and most of the keys were by Scott Gilman, who also engineered and mixed. Brock Avery played drums, JG from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones played keyboards, while Mary Powers and Julie Christiansen sang.[7]



The Great Intervention (2011) - a Steve Moramarco film, in which Wendell played a club booker who goes off on musician Steve Moramarco, after he plays a show with zero attendees.


February 2015, Johnny released his first ever novel "Looking For Lady Dee", a punk rock mystery which tells his story juxtaposed against the disappearance of his band's fan, Lady Dee. March 2018, he released In This Darkness, I Disappear. This time a lot heavier on the mystery with a heaping helping of weirdness to boot. With a look back at the desolate state of the 1980s as part backdrop married to one of the more twisted murder mysteries yet penned. Both can be found on Amazon. He has also been a columnist for the Boston Phoenix, Bay Guardian and LA Weekly.


SFBG Online, launched a show on April 29, 2010, with Wendell appearing twice a week. He has also been a show host on KFI 640[8] in Los Angeles, KIFR-FM and Green960 in the Bay Area. A regular on Fox News Radio as fill in for the late Alan Colmes and for the recently retired John Gibson. He was a regular weekend host on the Air America affiliate KTLK in Los Angeles from 2004 to 2013. KTLK became KEIB where Wendell hosted "Southern California Live With Johnny Wendell from 2013 to April, 2019. /ref>[9]

Solo recording[edit]

IT!! was released for download on October 25, 2011, followed by a CD released on April 3, 2012. IT!! was produced by Wendell and Scott Gilman, mixed and engineered by Gilman.

Solo singles[edit]

His first solo single, "My Lesbian Friend" was released on January 20, 2013. It featured Brock Avery on drums. The B-side had "Vamanos A Panama" (with Dicky Barrett, JG and Scott Gilman)and "No Fun in the Modern World",(with Keith Morris and Ross The Boss) the latter dedicated to the late Jeff Sugarman. His second single released June 2013 “SHE” is a romping three song pop vinyl record about ecstasy, heartache and despair. Side A “She Wrecked Me”, is a Sour-pussed TEX MEX sound about the perils of Poison Roses, Bubonic Plague like wimmens and the "Horizontal Ballet." Side B “She Won’t Be Lonely For Long”, is a power pop tune with a sorta pre-punk intro features Brock Avery on drums again. All songs on the single were written by Wendell.


  • 1981 “N.A.F.I.T.C. Original Boston Punk, 1977-1981” Bacchus Archives
  • 1981 “City Thrills” Star Rhythm Records
  • 1984 “Basic Blackjacks” EP Homestead Records
  • 1984 “Dress in Black” LP Throbbing Lobster
  • 2011 “IT!!” CD and download X & Z Records
  • 2013 "SHE" vinyl record and download X & Z Records


  1. ^ "Johnny Angel Wendell - Echo Park-Silver-Lake, CA Patch". Archived from the original on 2013-09-03. Retrieved 2012-11-30.
  2. ^ a b c "Johnny Angel: Older, Wiser (?) Rocker Returns to Radio". 2012-07-07. Retrieved 2012-11-30.
  3. ^ a b "An Interview with Johnny Angel Wendell - Part 2". Retrieved 2012-11-30.
  4. ^ "Johnny Angel Talks about The Blackjacks Reunion". Retrieved 2012-11-30.
  5. ^ a b "Johnny Angel Wendell - Artist Of The Week - Part 1". 2011-10-12. Retrieved 2012-11-30.
  6. ^ "Boston Groupie News". Archived from the original on May 31, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  7. ^ "Boston Groupie News". Archived from the original on May 24, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  8. ^ "More Stimulating Talk Radio". KFI AM 640. Retrieved 2012-11-30.
  9. ^ "SFBG radio! Johnny Angel Wendell and Tim Redmond | SF Politics". Retrieved 2012-11-30.