For many people, church is a place to celebrate religion and all of the things that come with it. When you think of music that comes from a place of worship, rockabilly would probably far down the list of things to emanate from it. Yet, this is how local duo Johnny and Jaalene met and have a sound that the Lord would approve of.
Though only 19, Johnny Ramos has a pedigree that many musicians would be jealous of. His father, Kid Ramos, is a local blues legend whose legacy needs no introduction. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the younger Ramos is just as talented as his old man. After his father was diagnosed with cancer when he was 14, Ramos picked guitar more intently and got into punk music in the process.
As for his counterpart, the 16-year-old Jaalene Deleon, she’s been singing her church choir for years, so it ultimately made sense that when they decided to join forces and form a band in 2017 at the behest of Kid Ramos, who introduced her to rockabilly as opposed to the traditional music she’d performing before.
“We’d been going to the same church together for almost 10 years — since 2009,” Deleon says. “We didn’t talk but our parents have known each other for a long time — longer than we’ve been in church together. Johnny’s parents said that I should come sing with him. It started off with me singing for his birthday and after that, we created a band and an album.”
“She’s a great singer and we ended up connecting with each other musically,” Ramos adds. It’s been really cool since then.”
That self-titled album, released in September, came out on Rip Cat Records and features Kid Ramos (who is also on the label), Tommy Harkenrider (Memphis Kings), and Social Distortion’s bassist Brent Harding.
“I would have been shocked if someone told me a year ago that you’re going to do an album and the bassist from Social Distortion is going to be on it,” Ramos says. “We didn’t really know what was going to happen, we just started playing and didn’t have any plans.”
The duo performed in front of thousands of people on Thanksgiving outside the Honda Center as part of the We Give Thanks and are slated to star in Journey to Christmas, a play put on by Musical Theatre Orange County. The duo will be playing Joseph and Mary respectively.
As for what’s next, Johnny and Jaalene aren’t ready to rest behind their dazzling debut. Even though they can’t yet drink, they are planning on playing out more, and beginning to work on their second album.
“We’d love to go on tour,” Deleon says. “We want to get around and play for people.”
“We want to spread and make art,” Ramos continues. “We want to do and make what we want and make it different and interesting than whatever is out in the world right. And, of course, have fun.”