Dave Alvin was born in Los Angeles on November 11, 1955, and he grew up in the blue-collar inner suburb of Downey. Like many Californians, his father Cass came from somewhere else; he rode the rails from Indiana and became a union organizer in California mining camps. But Dave's mother Nana was a third-generation Californian, and she imbued her son with a pride in his home turf. As Dave recounts in the liner notes, it was Nana who lit up when they heard John Stewart singing about the High Sierras she could see from her childhood window. Dave's brother Phil, older by two years, was a blues fanatic who allowed his kid brother to tag along to the Ashgrove nightclub to hear such blues greats as Big Joe Turner, Lee Allen and T-Bone Walker. They all came from somewhere else, too, but they were Californians by the time the Alvin boys befriended them.
Dave, Phil, drummer Bill Bateman and bassist John Bazz formed the Blasters in 1979. Before long, the group expanded to include pianist Gene Taylor and saxophonists Steve Berlin and Lee Allen. The Blasters released four of the best rock'n'roll albums of the '80s with Phil singing the lead vocals and Dave writing the songs and playing the lead guitar. They were the Kings of California until tensions between the two brothers drove them apart. Dave, by now living in Los Angeles itself, left the band in 1986 and briefly joined X and The Knitters, two bands led by his L.A. pal John Doe.
Dave launched his solo career with the 1987 album, Romeo's Escape, and except for such side projects as The Knitters, The Pleasure Barons and a Blasters reunion, has been a solo artist ever since. Dave's solo albums have ranged from the twangy roots-rock of Blue Blvd. to the storytelling country-folk of King of California to the muscular blues of Ashgrove. He won the Best Traditional Folk Grammy Award for his 2000 album, Public Domain: Songs from the Wild Land. During the 1990s, he produced albums for artists as different as rockabilly legend Sonny Burgess, Western swing revivalist Big Sandy & the Fly-Rite Boys, singer-songwriter Tom Russell, ex-burlesque queen Candye Kane, alt-country heroes The Derailers and pop-rock siren Christy McWilson. Dave's songs have been recorded by artists as varied as Dwight Yoakam, Los Lobos, Buckwheat Zydeco, X, Joe Ely, Little Milton, James McMurtry, Johnny Rodriguez, Jo-El Sonnier, Robert Earl Keen, Barrence Whitfield and Robbie Fulks.