Featured Artist


Nancy Nevins Nancy
Nevins
"Sweetwater: A True Rock Story" airing August 15th 1999 on VH-1. Meanwhile, Cyberlabel Rhino Handmade.com is offering a CD debuting at the same time, a compilation of Sweetwater music, old and new.

I woke her up at 4 in the afternoon on a hot day in July. Los Angeles does that to you, like a smashed head and you lose consciousness while the rest of the world burns daylight.

Nancy Nevins is the lead singer of the latest lineup of the 60's rock group Sweetwater. She was also there at the beginning, when Sweetwater was one of the few rock bands with a female lead singer. At the time, Janis Joplin sang with Big Brother & the Holding Company, Grace Slick with the Jefferson Airplane.

“We do contemporary music,” she says. Sweetwater today is made up of old and new members, Nancy Nevins herself on lead vocals, Fred Herrera, bassist and one of the original founding members, along with Alex Del Zoppo. Sweetwater was founded in 1968 at a little coffee house near Los Angeles City College called the Scarab. At the time, a loose group was jamming there,  Jaywalker and the Pedestrians. Nancy walked in and began to sing, a traditional blues “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” Something clicked.

Nancy was a 17-year-old senior at Glendale High School at the time, she graduated and went on to Cal Arts, where she had a partial scholarship in music, intending to major in classical guitar. Before her first semester was over, the music called. Alex Del Zoppo, another Sweetwater founding member found Nancy. They decided “we really want to do this rock ‘n’ roll thing,"

Nancy and Sweetwater made their headquarters in Silver Lake, on Griffith Park Boulevard  near Effie, the Del Zoppo family house, where they worked on music and “how to be a band.” Sweetwater became one of the first bands to have a female lead singer, incidentally the first multi-cultural group. Their sound did not include electric guitars; instead they had  a cello and flute as an integral part of the music, not mere sweetening. Sweetwater was one of the first groups to use Latin Percussion -- congas before Carlos Santana. They sang a Gregorian chant before their version of “Motherless Child,” a musical mix rare for its time, but an entire genre today.

Then Sweetwater was chosen as the opening act for Big Brother & the Holding Company atone of the most popular clubs in Los Angeles, the Whisky a Go-Go on the strip. At the time Janis Joplin’s group  had just signed a record deal. Sweetwater found themselves in a comfortable position with record labels bid for them. Warner Bros. got the deal and Sweetwater put out its eponymous first album Then they played the music festivals, starting with Miami, in the magic music year of 1968, along with the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Richie Havens, and Janis.

Sweetwater was the first band to take the stage at Woodstock, not exactly the catbird seat, according to Nancy, “We were definitely the sound check!”

Performers were helicoptered to the backstage area at Woodstock as if it were the Berlin Airlift. From above, Yasgur’s farm looked like a field of color. As they approached Woodstock, Alex  asked the pilot, “what kind of crop is that?”  “It's not a crop,” said the pilot, “it's people.”

Four months after Woodstock, Nancy was on the Ventura Freeway driving to Silver Lake. The weather that day was unusual for L.A., misty rain. Pileups and fender-benders dotted the slick roads, since Los Angeles drivers have little experience with driving in wet conditions. Trouble ensues every time there’s drizzle, and Nancy got into it. The freeway was snarled up with a number of small accidents. She had just pulled over to avoid a pile up, turned to her passenger and said, “Phew, we made it!” when a drunk driver slammed into her car.

Nancy was in a coma and suffered the consequences of brain damage for the next 12 years. She permanently lost the use of one vocal cord. As she underwent six throat operations, Nancy and Sweetwater struggled to stay together, pieced together two more albums and then broke up.

Nancy went solo, working with a voice coach and a doctor. Tom Cat Records (RCA) signed her, but the label went under. Nancy went off on her own, did some drinking and drugs, and eventually quit the  music business. “I went off to take care of myself.” She married, lived in Laguna Beach, and Orange County for awhile,  the marriage ended. Eventually made a living cleaning houses; but found this was not lucrative, since she was not very good at it.

She enrolled at Saddleback college, then Cal State Fullerton, eventually got an undergraduate degree in American Studies, a Masters in English. Then she began teaching, English Composition part-time, at Cal State University, Northridge  and Fullerton. Nevertheless, as she says, the music wasn’t finished with her.

One day someone wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times, wondering whatever happened To Nancy Nevins; and Sweetwater; she saw the letter and wrote a reply  --  I’m here. When the Times published her letter, Fred Herrera saw Nancy’s letter and called her. They met, caught up over a cup of coffee that lasted four hours. “It was as though we had never been apart.” They got a band together, then played the Roxy, the Whisky.

Not long after Nancy moved back to Los Angeles she got hold of an old friend, screenwriter Joe Graves and together they wrote a treatment and sold it to VH1:  "Sweetwater: A True Rock Story" airing August 15th 1999. Meanwhile, Cyberlabel Rhino Handmade.com is offering a CD debuting at the same time, a compilation of Sweetwater music, old and new. This is a new beginning for Sweetwater and for Nancy, who hopes that the group will continue to evolve musically and also, “find the love and acceptance that I dream for us.”

Article by: Aida Pavletich
Aida Pavletich is a Los Angeles writer and videographer.

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Week of August 8
TV Guide Cover story by Janet Weeks on "Sweetwater" movie.
Includes interviews with Nancy Nevins.

Cable Guide Cover story on "Sweetwater" movie.
Includes interviews with Nancy Nevins.

Entertainment Tonight segment on "Sweetwater" movie.
Includes interviews with Nancy on movie set.

CNN SHOW BIZ TODAY segment on "Sweetwater" movie.
Includes interviews with original band members:
Nancy Nevins, Alex Del Zoppo, Fred Herrera.

New York Times story by Ben Sorcesis on "Sweetwater" movie.
Includes interview with Nancy Nevins.

Tribune News Service syndicated to run in 3000 newspapers.
Includes Kate O'Hare interview with Nancy Nevins.

Wireless Flash News Service, San Diego
David Moye interview with Nancy Nevins.
Feature article on "Sweetwater" movie.
Goes out to 800 TV, radio Stations and print.

People Magazine story on "Sweetwater" movie and on
Amy Jo Johnson who plays Nancy Nevins.
Includes interview with Nancy Nevins.

USA Today story on "Sweetwater" movie.
Includes interview with Nancy Nevins.

MS NBC Currently in development for this airing this week.
To include background material on original band.

...... and things are being added daily.
 

AIR DATES FOR SHOWS ON VH-1
(times are EDT)

Sun 8/8
12:30 PM -  Where Are They Now - Woodstock
4:30 PM - Behind the Movie - Sweetwater
8:00 PM - Where Are They Now - Woodstock

Mon 8/9
6:00 PM - Behind the Movie - Sweetwater

Thurs 8/12
10:00 PM - Where Are They Now - Woodstock

Fri 8/13
1:30 AM - Behind the Movie - Sweetwater
1:00 PM - Where Are They Now - Woodstock
7:30 PM - Behind the Movie - Sweetwater

Sat 8/14
12:30 PM - Behind the Movie - Sweetwater
4:00 PM - Where Are They Now - Woodstock

Sun 8/15
4:30 PM - Where Are They Now - Woodstock
9:00 PM - "Sweetwater" Movie
11:00 PM - "Sweetwater" Movie

Mon 8/16
7:00 PM - "Sweetwater" Movie

Wed 8/18
12:00 PM - "Sweetwater" Movie

Thurs 8/19
10:00 PM - "Sweetwater" Movie