Mike and Debbie Sierras - The store of Us
By John Rezell
Original sax player in Mike and Debbie's cover band Bottomline
It just as easily could have been a scene in any '80s coming of age Hollywood script than a true life love story.
Imagine a crazy Friday night house party circa 1989 in the suburbs of San Diego. A band crammed into the corner of a tiny living room jamming at ear-piercing levels with a mass of young, sweating bodies exorcising the demons of their mundane work week to the beat.
The drummer and party host drives the backbone rhythm section while a bright unassuming youngster shreds out front on lead guitar. The music as well as the throng of partiers spills into the kitchen, bedrooms, then out the front and back doors. A true bacchanal.
The band takes a break while I spin some tunes. The drummer, Pop, finds the hottest single woman in the house, a bank teller by the name of Debbie who is new to our scene, and dances like a banshee. Then, uncharacteristically, the young lead guitar player, Mike, finds the huevos to cut in. Stunned, Pop obliges.
The rest, my friends, is history. Mike and Debbie connect on that beer-stained carpet and have been together ever since. They Belong.
At the outset, music connected them in the way it has brought couples together for ages. Shear energy and emotion creating head-spinning magic. But this song didn't end on that note.
Very soon Mike learned that Debbie could sing. Boy, could she sing. Debbie sat in with Mike's band: her first eye-popping song none other than Pat Benatar's "Hit Me with Your Best Shot." That first time I heard her, I felt chills run up my spine. It was a hellava shot.
In short order Mike put together a new band with Debbie up front, right at his side. Lucky enough to come along for the ride, I got to play sax with them. Performing together they unleashed perfect chemistry.
They quickly outgrew my garage band roots, and Bottomline became a regular act on the San Diego music scene with Pop still drumming away. Mike and Debbie married in 1992, again with me spinning the tunes, and rocked America's Finest City with a driving sound heavily influenced by Pat Benatar, one of Debbie's idols as she grew up on the East Coast in Portland, Maine.
In fact, Pat Benatar's bluesy 1991 album "True Love" meshed perfectly with Debbie's powerful blues vocals and Mike's silky guitar creating the true foundation for Bottomline's long reign on the San Diego scene.
Mike and Debbie could never ignore the uncanny parallels between their relationship and that of Pat and her husband/guitar player Neil Giraldo, and eventually led to the creation of We Belong, Mike and Debbie's Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo tribute band.
Just how striking are the connections? Listen to Mike, whose nickname was Spidey back in Tacoma, Washington when he was in middle school and first picked up a guitar at age 14.
"Well, Neil's nickname is Spyder," Mike says with his trademark blast of a laugh. "We both play a number of instruments, we compose, and we produce. But most of all, we provide a driving force to support our wives beautiful voices. We're obsessed with music while our wives like cooking and being moms. It creates a peaceful balance."
As for Debbie and Pat, well, both are former bank tellers from the East Coast who married, then divorced before finding their true soul mates. Both have two daughters that are nine years apart and both are two years older than their husbands -- you could say "Payin' the Cost to Be the Boss!"
The two couples come very close to being exactly 10 years apart with the Giraldos first playing together in 1979 and the Sierras' in 1989 and while the Giraldos married in 1982 the Sierras' tied the knot in 1992.
Mike and Debbie tap into that deep-rooted connection with the Giraldos every time they step on a stage and share their unrelenting passion and message -- We Belong -- while gazing out at the crowd wondering who might be the next to step forward and cut in.
[Raz is an author living in Eugene, Oregon. Visit his website ConquerMountains.com]