Tommy James performs at Cache Creek

Tommy James
Tommy James Courtesy of the artist

It is rare indeed for a major presidential candidate to write liner notes for an album, but that is what Hubert Humphrey did for Tommy James’s “Crimson and Clover” back in 1968. It was a gesture of appreciation for James and his group, the Shondells, playing for Humphrey during the campaign. The song practically epitomized the psychedelic music movement of the decade and was the major landmark in James’s career away from what was then called “bubblegum” rock.

James, who brings his group to Cache Creek Saturday, started in Michigan when he was but 12 years old. His band was first named the Echoes, then Tommy and the Tornadoes, then the Shondells, then the Koachmen, and then the Shondells again. His 1964 Shondells recorded “Hanky Panky” but it did well only in the Midwest until it was discovered by a promoter in Pittsburgh. It began selling and prompted James to go to that city and hire a new band on the fly.

That set him off and the hits followed. A Mutual of New York sign inspired “Mony, Mony” (later covered and going to Number One by Billy Idol). “Sweet Cherry Wine,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “I Think We’re Alone Now” (later covered by Tiffany), and “Ball of Fire” all additionally scored.

Since then, Tommy James and the Shondells have been mostly a nostalgia act and it’s easy to forget the impact they had. But the fans of “Breaking Bad” know him. “Crystal Blue Persuasion” famously plays in a scene where Walter White’s powerful blue methamphetamine is created. (7:30 p.m.; $49-$75; cachecreek.com)

The MontBleu continues to bring in performers not frequently seen elsewhere and Friday they add to that list with Railroad Earth, the bluegrass-roots band that debuted in 2001 and recorded “Seven Story Mountain,” “Head,” and of course their title song. That title, by the way, comes from a Jack Kerouac short story, “October in the Railroad Earth.” (7 p.m.; $30; Ticketmaster)

Although it certainly wasn’t impossible for the members of Led Zeppelin to imagine they would one day find their music performed by tribute bands, it was probably impossible to imagine one of those bands would be all female. But, there it is, in the form of Lez Zeppelin, and they’ve nailed the music and grabbed a big following. They play at Jackson Rancheria Saturday. (7 p.m.; $15; jacksoncasino.com)


“Kryptonite,” “Away from the Sun,” “Here Without You” – all songs by 3 Doors Down who bring their “Back Porch Jam” all-acoustic show to the Silver Legacy in Reno Saturday (8 p.m.; $52-$68; silverlegacy.com);

Harrah’s Tahoe brings in a decade’s worth of music Saturday with “Saved by the ’90s” (7:30 p.m.; $24; Ticketmaster);

Michael Carbonaro teaches us how to milk an almond among other things, as he’s done in his “Carbonaro Effect” on television, at Reno’s Grand Sierra Saturday (7 p.m.; $22-$68; grandsierraresort.com);

And the ladies can scream all they want at those Australian male strippers, Thunder from Down Under, at Thunder Valley on Friday and Saturday (7:30 p.m.; $34.95-$49.95; thundervalleyresort.com).