Meet the Del Mar Men Behind Indie Label Pacific Records
Brian Witkin’s childhood might have looked like a traditional Del Mar upbringing, as the son of a successful emergency-room physician. But that tepid description belies a rockin’ backstory. Dad Joe Witkin was also a music legend who shot to fame in 1969 at the granddaddy of all music festivals, Woodstock. Filling the slot just before Jimi Hendrix, he and his bandmates were the only unsigned act in the festival. Made up of members of The King’s Men, Columbia University’s acapella crew, their doo-wop group named Sha Na Na would go on to release numerous albums, star in an eponymous syndicated TV show, act in the film Grease, and record six songs on the movie’s soundtrack. Joe, however, didn’t stay for that whole ride. Soon after Woodstock he left the band to finish medical school, then complete a residency in San Diego, and finally settle down in Del Mar. With his wife, Carol, though, Joe continued making music. For twenty years the two performed as part of a ‘50s and ‘60s cover band called The Corvettes. Those artistic roots helped their son Brian to find his own musical calling at an age when many still struggle to find their car keys, and to found the indie label Pacific Records while he was still in high school.
Brian says his parents gave him a love of music, and brought him up surrounded by it. When he made his desire to work in the industry known, Joe gave him some good advice and a bit of practical know-how.
“I encouraged him to follow his passion, as he was doing,” says Joe. “I also helped him learn some of the business, like setting up financial databases and computer networks.”
“I started my label when I was still at Torrey Pines High School,” Brian says. “I was in a bunch of different bands, and I wanted to get signed to a label and become a rock star. When I wasn’t getting traction from any of my demos, I decided to self-produce some CDs and slapped a record label name on the back.”
The label evolved, temporarily, into a retail record store, before finding its current niche. Along the way, CEO Brian brought Patricio A. Pickslay on as president. The two had known each other for ten years, and Brian was looking to Pickslay’s production ability and knowledge of running a recording studio to fill a huge void in the organization.
A Family of Artists
Today, the label’s all grown up, with a roster that includes such artists as: rock-based acoustic duo Ottopilot, Billboard Hot 100’s Sprung Monkey, singer-songwriter Benton Blount, of America’s Got Talent fame, MTV’s O-Town and surfer-singer-songwriter Lindsay Perry. And Pacific Records takes pride in putting all of their artists first.
“Our relationship with artists is much more of a joint venture mentality than a vertical hierarchy,” says Pickslay.
Dug in in Del Mar
With folk, pop, country, jazz and hip-hop all represented, it’s easy to miss the unifying thread. But Pacific Records’ diverse roster is a major strength, Pickslay says.
“I like to think of our label as ‘lifestyle specific’,” says Brian. “We all live in coastal communities, surf, skate and enjoy a laid-back lifestyle, and I think our name, brand, image, etc. all echo that beach lifestyle. There’s a reason we’re not headquartered in L.A…I’m proud to say I was born and raised in Del Mar…I still live near the coast in North County and surf 15th street on the regular.”
As for Joe, who was a Teenager in Love on the first Sha Na Na album, today he’s a jubilant dad with serious love for his son. What’s been most rewarding about being involved in Pacific Records is “seeing Brian follow his dream, and carrying on my love of music,” he says.
“There’s a reason we’re not headquartered in L.A…I’m proud to say I was born and raised in Del Mar…I still live near the coast in North County and surf 15th street on the regular.” -Brian Witkin