Treasury of Claremont Music

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Dennis Callaci

My brother Allen Callaci and I started the band Refrigerator in 1990 and are still active. The other current band members are Chris Jones, (a childhood friend and musical collaborator with Allen and I for over 30 years) on drums and additional instruments, and Daniel Brodo on bass. I have also been involved in other musical projects and hosted a radio program of underground music at KSPC from 1990 to 2000.


I founded and have operated Shrimper Records since it’s beginning in 1990. Shrimper started out as a cassette-only label with releases by Nothing Painted Blue, WCKR SPGT, The Mountain Goats, and Sentridoh prior to becoming a full service label. The artists featured on Shrimper own the rights and masters to their music; there are no contracts, just handshakes. Since 1988, my day job at Rhino Records/Video Paradiso has grown into the position of general manager and has allowed me to be a firsthand witness to a myriad of incredible music and so many thousands of wonderful films in my lifetime. That it is a wealth of embarrassment.


Being raised in Upland, Claremont to me, as a kid was a neighboring trust fund kid’s safe whose lock I slowly picked. Claremont’s local college station, KSPC 88.7 FM, is one of the best independent, non-commercial stations in the nation. Their airwaves transformed my musical youth along with Rhino Records in the Village where my brother, a couple of friends, and I would buy records weekly. Having access to a record store changed my life and I eventually moved to Claremont in 2002. I mention this, as the idea of artists in Claremont is a misnomer to me. Folks that were employed at the many “mom and pop” stores scattered across Claremont are/were not necessarily Claremont residents. Maybe they were folks on park benches, living out of vans, or renting a storage space out of an industrial unit that doubled as their home. Some of Claremont’s most storied musicians, in my mind, are for the most part artists that couldn’t afford to live here. The Claremont music scene, in many respects, is made up of brethren from neighboring cities that broke in like I did.


Claremont, for me and so many of the local artists whose music I have released over the years, acted in concert with Pomona. It does this now to an even greater degree as there are so many more music venues in both cities than there were in 1990 when I first started playing shows with my band, Refrigerator. One city praising and relishing your opinion, trying to find an outlet for the voice of youth; the other, grittier, diffident, devil may care, play by your own rules - just don’t get caught. I am humbled to be in the company of so many peers from the surrounding musical scenes from varying generations that have chosen to side-trip and not become cogs in a whirring music biz machine.


The Folk Music Center is running stronger than ever with knowledgeable employees, just as it was when I first visited it on a field trip. I was eight years old when the wizened Mr. Chase was just starting to grow into his role as father time. That there is once again a used bookstore in the Village via the Claremont Forum and an independent comic book store, to compliment the record and video store that I am part of, speaks to the incredible present and the possibility of what the future will bring. It would thrill me to no end if fifty years down the line, some scrappy kid digs up a record on my label at a 3 for $1.00 garage sale off Claremont and Harrison streets, then incrementally digs deeper week by week. 


Photography by Noah Ramos