Gin Blossoms

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Gin Blossoms
Gin Blossoms in 2018
Gin Blossoms in 2018
Background information
OriginTempe, Arizona, U.S.
Years active
  • 1987–1997
  • 2001–present
LabelsA&M, Hybrid, 429[1]
SpinoffsGas Giants
MembersBill Leen
Jesse Valenzuela
Robin Wilson
Scott "Scotty" Johnson
Scott Hessel
Past membersDoug Hopkins
Richard Taylor
Chris McCann
Steven Severson
Dan Henzerling
Phillip "Phil" Rhodes
Phil Leavitt
Gary Smith
Scott Kusmirek
John Richardson

Gin Blossoms is an American alternative rock band formed in 1987 in Tempe, Arizona. They rose to prominence following the 1992 release of their first major label album, New Miserable Experience, and the first single released from that album, "Hey Jealousy". "Hey Jealousy" became a Top 25 hit and went gold, and New Miserable Experience eventually went quadruple platinum; four other charting singles were released from the album. The band's follow-up album, Congratulations I'm Sorry (1996), went platinum and the single "As Long as It Matters" was nominated for a Grammy Award. Gin Blossoms broke up in 1997. Since reuniting in 2001, the band has released Major Lodge Victory in 2006, No Chocolate Cake in 2010, and Mixed Reality in 2018.


Early years[edit]

During the band's early years, its members included lead guitarist and songwriter Doug Hopkins, bass guitarist Bill Leen, Jesse Valenzuela (lead vocalist at first, later rhythm guitarist and backing vocals), rhythm guitarist Richard Taylor, Taylor's replacement Steven Severson, drummer Chris McCann, McCann's replacement Dan Henzerling, and Severson's replacement Robin Wilson (rhythm guitarist at first, later lead vocalist).[2] The band's name comes from a photo of W.C. Fields in Kenneth Anger's book Hollywood Babylon, which bore the caption "W.C. Fields with gin blossoms", referring to the actor's telangiectasia-spotted face and rhinophymic nose by the slang term for the skin condition known as rosacea.[3]

Gin Blossoms became well known around the band's hometown of Phoenix. The band's frequent touring resulted in an increase in popularity. They independently recorded their first full-length album, Dusted, which was released in December 1989.[4]

By the early 1990s, Wilson and Valenzuela had switched roles, with Wilson taking on lead vocal duties and Valenzuela concentrating on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Along with Leen on bass and Hopkins on lead guitar, Phillip Rhodes became the new drummer. After being signed to A&M Records, the band began to work on their first major-label album. Initial attempts faltered and the band released an EP, Up and Crumbling, instead.[5]

Mainstream success[edit]

Gin Blossoms named their second album New Miserable Experience. In February 1992, while still working to complete it, founding member and lead guitarist/songwriter Hopkins drank heavily and grew increasingly depressed. With the other members hesitant to fire Hopkins, A&M forcefully removed him from the band and withheld $15,000 owed to Hopkins until he agreed to sign over half of his publishing royalties and relinquish his mechanical royalties. Hopkins reluctantly agreed to these demands because of his dire financial situation.[6] Scott Johnson was chosen by the band in December 1992 as Hopkins' stand-in on tour, and became a permanent member in 1994.[7]

New Miserable Experience became the band's breakthrough album.[8] The first single released from the album was "Hey Jealousy", which had been written by Hopkins. The song reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks and later went gold,[9] largely fueling the success of New Miserable Experience. Estranged from the band, Hopkins died by suicide on December 5, 1993, after a reported five previous attempts (including one for which he was hospitalized two weeks prior to his death).[10] The following year, another song by Hopkins, "Found Out About You", also reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and climbed to No. 1 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks. New Miserable Experience eventually reached quadruple platinum status.[9]

Between their first and second albums, Gin Blossoms contributed the single "Til I Hear It from You" for the soundtrack of the 1995 film Empire Records. It reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their second major album, Congratulations I'm Sorry, was released in 1996. Yielding one top-ten hit ("Follow You Down", which peaked at No. 9 Billboard Hot 100), the album went platinum.[11] The song "As Long as It Matters" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.[12]

With chart success came opportunities to appear as musical guests on late-night television. Between 1992 and 1996, Gin Blossoms appeared on shows such as Late Show with David Letterman (many times between 1992 and 1996), The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1993, 1994, 1996), The Jon Stewart Show (1993), Late Night with Conan O'Brien (1996), and as a featured musical act on Saturday Night Live (1996). One appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman featured a joint performance with Gin Blossoms and the members of Kiss, performing the latter's "Christine Sixteen". Gin Blossoms became a favorite of Late Show musical director Paul Shaffer, and their music was often featured as the show cut to and from commercials. The band was also a featured performer in the closing credits of the movie Wayne's World 2 (1993), performing "Idiot Summer" on-screen as part of the fictional concert "Waynestock".

Without Doug and his songwriting, we never could have signed a record deal.

—Robin Wilson (People, 1994)[13]


Gin Blossoms broke up in early 1997. Wilson and Rhodes launched the Gas Giants while Leen formed a band called Rai and then retired from music to operate a rare book store. Valenzuela fronted a short-lived outfit called the Low Watts, released a solo album, and kept busy writing and producing. Johnson joined another Tempe-based band, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Wilson ventured into producing as well, at his Mayberry Studios in Tempe, Arizona (now called Uranus Studios).[14]

Lead singer Robin Wilson


The Gas Giants announced an "indefinite hiatus" in June 2001. On December 4, 2001, it was announced that Scott was leaving Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers to rejoin Gin Blossoms. The band regrouped and began playing together again in earnest in 2002, having done a couple of one-off shows in the interim. In Wilson's words, "We always said our breakup wasn't forever and right now we're all feeling like we want to be Gin Blossoms again. We make a noise together that we can't make otherwise. We respect and appreciate that we need each other to create that sound. This time we hope to avoid being swallowed by the chaos."[15]

Lead guitarist Scotty Johnson
Rhythm guitarist Jesse Valenzuela

In preparation for the band's official reunion show, Rhodes suffered a breakdown due to his ongoing battle with alcohol. Shortly after entering rehab, he was formally dismissed from the band.[16] Phil Leavitt of Dada originally took Rhodes's place in the line up, and then Gary Smith (of The Pistoleros, another Tempe band) did. Scott Kusmirek took over drumming for the band from 2002 to 2004. In January 2005, it was announced that Rhodes, who had been sober for over two years, would rejoin the band. The re-entry of Rhodes was short-lived, however. Kusmirek returned to the band, taking Rhodes's place until September 30, 2008, when a press release issued by the band explained that he and the group had parted ways. John Richardson joined as the new drummer.[17]

Bass guitarist Bill Leen

The band's fourth album, Major Lodge Victory, was originally recorded at Wilson's Mayberry Studios in Tempe. However, the album was re-recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, where the band had recorded all of their previous albums. Major Lodge Victory was released by Hybrid Recordings on August 8, 2006, and "Learning the Hard Way" was the first single. Major Lodge Victory entered the Billboard 200 album chart at number 159.[18]

Drummer Scott Hessel

Gin Blossoms released a live album, Live In Concert, on May 15, 2009. This album contains live recordings of the band's hits such as "Hey Jealousy" and "Follow You Down", as well as more recent singles such as "Learning the Hard Way" and "Long Time Gone", and a live cover version of Elton John's "Rocket Man". The band's fifth studio album, No Chocolate Cake, was released on September 28, 2010. The first single, "Miss Disarray" was released to radio stations on August 2, 2010. Over the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday the band traveled to Iraq and played a series of shows for American troops stationed there.[19]

The band announced on its website on March 4, 2012, that Richardson had left the band to pursue other recording and performing projects.[20] The band stated in its news release, "John is a great drummer and all of us support his passion for recording. We all wish him the very best and thank him for all his hard work and dedication." The band also announced that Scott Hessel would be its road drummer. Hessel had been a member of another Tempe band, Let Go. Gin Blossoms joined Everclear, Sugar Ray, Lit, and Marcy Playground on the Summerland Tour 2012, a 31-date nationwide tour that began on June 28 in Saratoga, California and ended on August 11 in Laughlin, Nevada.[21]

From July 24, 2012, through October 13, 2012, Doug Swartz filled in for Scott Hessel during the Summerland Tour and other performances through the months into the middle of October.[22]

In 2016, Johnson announced in an interview that the band was expected to begin recording its sixth studio album with producer Mitch Easter in the fall.[23] Two years later, Mixed Reality was released on Cleopatra Records on June 15, 2018. The album was produced by Don Dixon.[24]

The band toured in the summer of 2019 with Collective Soul.[25]

In January 2022 the band announced a tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of New Miserable Experience.[26] The tour was cut short in March 2022 due to an accident in which bassist Bill Leen broke his arm.[27]

Musical style[edit]

Gin Blossoms has been described as an alternative rock,[28][29][30] jangle pop,[31][9] power pop,[32][33] and post-grunge band.[34] According to Rolling Stone, the band excels at "marrying world-weary lyrics with ebullient melodies."[8] In 2017, the Salina Journal described Gin Blossoms as a "Tempe, Ariz.-based indie band [acclaimed] by critics and fans alike for its chiming guitars, introspective lyrics and catchy pop-rock melodies," adding that "Gin Blossoms has maintained its longevity by being mostly a road band."[31] The group is known for the "Mill Avenue sound", or "southwestern sound", similar to other bands from Arizona such as The Sidewinders, The Refreshments, The Meat Puppets, and Dead Hot Workshop.[35]

Band members[edit]




  1. ^ Kusmirek performed drums on all tracks of the 2006 album Major Lodge Victory except "California Sun", and was credited as a session musician, while session musician Dorian Crozier performed drums on "California Sun". Kusmirek also performed drums on the track "Go Crybaby" from the 2010 album No Chocolate Cake, credited as an additional musician.
  2. ^ Richardson performed drums on all tracks of the 2010 album No Chocolate Cake except "I'm Ready" and "Go Crybaby", and was credited as a session musician, while session musician Chase Duddy performed drums on "I'm Ready", and session musician Scott "Scotty" Kusmirek performed drums on "Go Crybaby".


  1. ^ "429 Records". 429 Records. Archived from the original on October 22, 2004. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
  2. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Biography: Gin Blossoms". AllMusic. Retrieved June 3, 2013.
  3. ^ Brody, Jane E. (March 16, 2004). "Sometimes Rosy Cheeks Are Just Rosy Cheeks". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "Dusted – Gin Blossoms". Allmusic.
  5. ^ "Up & Crumbling – Gin Blossoms". Allmusic.
  6. ^ Baird, Robert (February 10, 1994), "Ex-Blossom dies". Rolling Stone. (675):15
  7. ^ "After 16 years, guitarist Scotty Johnson is singing again". East Valley Tribune. May 26, 2005.
  8. ^ a b Hudak, Joseph (March 29, 2017). "Gin Blossoms' 'New Miserable Experience': The Dark History of a Nineties Classic". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Masley, Ed (September 1, 2018). "Gin Blossoms' Robin Wilson on why 'Mixed Reality' is their best since 'Miserable' was new". Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  10. ^ "Rock guitarist Hopkins, 32, kills self". Variety. Associated Press. December 6, 1993.
  11. ^ "Gin Blossoms confirm breakup". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. January 1, 1998. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  12. ^ "Gin Blossoms". June 4, 2019.
  13. ^ Dougherty, Steve; Small, Michael (April 4, 1994). "Haunted by Success". People. Vol. 41, no. 12. p. 53.
  14. ^ "So you want to be a Rock 'n' Roll Star". Phoenix New Times.
  15. ^ Christian, Bruce (April 16, 2009). "Taking a Detour: Gin Blossoms Break Tour to Play Phoenix Pride". Digital Edition Online (Echo Magazine).
  16. ^ "'90s Survivors the Gin Blossoms: "There Won't Be Too Many Left Turns"". Houston Press.
  17. ^ "John Richardson". Gin Blossoms. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
  18. ^ "Major Lodge Victory – Gin Blossoms". Allmusic.
  19. ^ "Gin Blossoms to Rock Iraq". Antimusic.
  20. ^ "John Moves Forward, Scott Hessel Moves in!". Gin Blossoms. March 4, 2012. Archived from the original on April 14, 2012.
  21. ^ "Holy '90s Batman! Everclear, Gin Blossoms, Lit, Marcy Playground & Sugar Ray are Touring Together". Uproxx. April 24, 2012.
  22. ^ Breedon, Frederick (August 6, 2012). "Drummer Douglas Swartz of the Gin Blossoms Performs at..." Wire Image. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  23. ^ "Gin Blossoms are cutting their new album with the R.E.M. production team of Don Dixon and Mitch Easter". The Arizona Republic. June 16, 2016.
  24. ^ "Robin Wilson on New Gin Blossoms Album Mixed Reality, Celebrating New Miserable Experience on Tour". Forbes.
  25. ^ "Gin Blossoms: A veteran group 'at the top of its game'". Post Register. August 6, 2019.
  26. ^ "Gin Blossoms Announce Tour for 30th Anniversary of 'New Miserable Experience". Rolling Stone. January 14, 2022.
  27. ^ "Why Gin Blossoms were forced to cancel remaining dates on New Miserable Experience Tour". AZ Central.
  28. ^ Beach, Connor (June 7, 2018). "Gin Blossoms Come Full Circle With Latest Record". Long-Islander News. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  29. ^ "20 Questions: Gin Blossoms". PopMatters. February 4, 2011. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  30. ^ Barker, Emily (August 21, 2014). "50 Forgotten '90s Bands Who Prove '90s Indie Wasn't Just About Oasis And Blur". NME. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  31. ^ a b Meuth, Gary (April 27, 2017). "The Gin Blossoms define sound of jangle pop". Salina Journal. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  32. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Fireside. p. 332. ISBN 0-394-72107-1.
  33. ^ "Supremium: Tales". PopMatters. May 23, 2002. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  34. ^ Unterberger, Andrew (August 6, 2004). "Top Ten Mediocre Post-Grunge / Alternative Bands". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved April 30, 2022.
  35. ^ "Official Tickets and Your Source for Live Entertainment |".
  36. ^ "Gin Blossoms". Retrieved November 23, 2020.

External links[edit]