Donnie Jupiter

Posted on November 3, 2011 – 9:52 PM | by Admin
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By Ed Hunter  Photo by Scott Duncan

Musician and Artist Donald Marquez, AKA Donnie Jupiter, has been on the Sacramento creative scene for nearly four decades. These days he avoids the spotlight, quietly producing sci-fi and fantasy comics from his home in Gold River, but he first came to attention in 1977 as the leader of The Twinkeyz, a pioneering Sacramento punk band that is revered for their three 45s and one LP, all of which have since been reissued on CD.   He spoke to MidMo recently about his days in The Twinkeys.

Tell me about the Twinkeyz.

Twinkeyz formed about ’76. It was the first real band that I was in that stayed together long enough to play a gig. Most of the time we would form and play and learn about half of a set and fall apart.  It was formed by myself and Walter Smith and we started practicing original songs and then we decided to go more mainstream and started picking out a bunch of cover tunes. We learned those, lost focus and the idea died.

Later we got back together again to do original songs. We’d get The first cover set list was album tracks off T Rex and Dave Bowie and Lou Reed and that kinda stuff. Then we thought,  ‘Nobody’s gonna be able to relate to that because nobody’s even heard any of these songs.’ So we started picking out songs off the radio. There was “Diamond Dogs”, that was a good one. That was easy to learn and [it was] on the radio.

Who would book you?

Nobody would book us. We’d practice and learn those sets and then we’d never really get polished enough to go try to get a gig.

When you did play out, though, were there any venues that would book you?

 There was a place called Slick Willie’s, off of Fulton. The Ramones played there. It was two sets and there were like 50 people in the building. No one gave a shit. That was punk rock in Sacramento. It was their first album. They were good too…

You didn’t try to sound like them, but was that an inspiration?

Yeah. About exactly right. Most of the bands like the Ramones, and the New York bands Television and Blondie, I read about ’em way before I heard ’em. The legendary New York scene that was going on. The albums would come out and it was all larger than life before I even heard any of it. They were supposed to be so great and they lived up to it to a
certain extent. …when I heard the first Blondie record, it was a letdown. ‘Wow. This doesn’t
sound like the band I read about.’ But I had to check it out after I read about it. Those first bands, the Ramones and Television, Blondie and Tom Petty figured in there too. He played the same places on the same circuit. None of these bands really sound like punk rock.

How many people passed through the Twinkeyz?

Walter Smith quit pretty early on. It was me, Walter and Tom Darling and that was a big brainstorming session. Tom was totally into it. He was a guitarist and he just wanted to be in it. Walter quit right after Tom joined. They couldn’t get along. No fistfights, just phone calls. 
Oh, Steve Bateman, that was Monty’s dad. Steve didn’t play anything. He was a songwriter, a singer and he wanted to have a band. He was at our first recording session and sang backups and wrote some stuff. When we recorded, we recruited Keith McKee to play drums and he was pretty much in the band. Now he plays country music.

You guys used an 8 track, right?

Yeah, 8-track. 20 bucks an hour. A friend who Walter and I went to school with, Dave Houston… Dave had a legitimate recording studio in his house, just a separate building in the backyard, sound proofed and everything. He used to do some commercial work like the Denio’s jingle type stuff…one thing I’d like to add or stress is that Dave Houston was a real important part, because the Twinkeyz were more about recording than playing live and Dave was always there recording and he played on the records. He didn’t play on every song. He’d play synthesizer, bass parts or something on some of the tracks. Dave had a lot of ideas. He knew his way around the studio, which helped a lot. The thing is, our recording style was: go in and, two takes and you wouldn’t axe them for anything.

Were you happy with the records?

I dig the records. At a certain point, I could always see it was just a starting point for me. I had tons of ideas, but we never really got it.

How did audiences react to the Twinkeyz? Were you supported by the people who did show up?

I think so. About half the people liked us and would come up and say, ‘cool stuff.’ Obviously, they got it, that it was different than what was being offered. Other people were just baffled.

Was there much camaraderie or much of a scene, or did everybody kind of stay insular?

There wasn’t much of a scene that I knew of. The scene revolved around record collecting. There was a lot of good stuff, but none of it got played on the radio and you had to order it special or find a shop that carried the imports or singles or small labels.

Are you aware of how highly-regarded the Twinkeyz are in certain circles?

No. It’s gratifying. Everybody wants to be remembered and get noticed, so shit, if anybody’s getting anything out of it, I’m relieved because there’s so much entertainment to choose from and spend dollars on.

  1. 4 Responses to “Donnie Jupiter”

  2. avatar

    By Beerzie on Nov 4, 2011 | Reply

    I saw them back in the day at the Coffee House in Davis, opening for someone…Tom spazzed out over something mid-set and they only play a couple of songs. In high school I used to hang out at Markee Records occasionally and knew Keith and Donnie vaguely; good to know they are still hanging in there!

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    By Dane Henas on Nov 8, 2011 | Reply

    Good to see Donnie’s doing well! He’s a very nice guy. Tom and Walter not getting along–“just phone calls!”.. I can relate. I went to high school with Tom and Walter was a friend of my sister’s. Tom was a very creative guy and an amazing musician. He could pick up any instrument and be playing it in literally minutes. Walter was a real character and when I got back from a trip to Europe (I did some A&R work for the Twinkeyz while I was over there–mainly shlepping records around to alternative record stores). When I got back, they had split up and I sorta had the choice of playing keyboards in either band–the Twinkeyz or Walter’s new band he was forming. I had a little falling out with Tom and didn’t really know Donnie as well as Walter, so I went with Walter’s new band and we called ourselves Permanent Wave, which turned out to be a mistake…

  4. avatar

    By Charles Barnes on Dec 14, 2011 | Reply

    I am five months behind at work, and four months behind in my non-work reading — but glad I came across this piece. Remember shopping in more carefree days at Markee records… thanks for the mem’ries, Ed. Nice work.

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