The Monroes (American band)

For the Norwegian rock duo, see The Monroes (Norwegian band).
The Monroes
Origin San Diego, California, U.S.
Genres New wave, power pop
Years active Early 1980s–1988
Labels Alfa
Past members Eric Denton
Bob "Monroe" Davis
Jesus "Tony" Ortiz
Rusty Jones
Jonnie Gilstrap

The Monroes[1] were a new wave band from San Diego active throughout most of the 1980s.

They are best known for their single "What Do All the People Know".


For Keyboardist Eric Denton, forming the Monroes fulfilled his early fantasies of becoming a rock star. Born in Lansing, Michigan, Denton moved to Ventura, California with his family at a young age, at which point he began immersing himself in piano studies. By the late 1970s, Denton had already performed at several high school dances, when his family moved to San Diego. In addition to his musical talents, by this point, he had also become very savvy on the business and organizational aspects of the music world, an attribute that would serve him well during the Monroes years. Before long, he was playing in the band Peter Rabbitt. However, after touring with this band for a while, Denton returned to San Diego, where he bought a recording studio with the goal of creating a group that played all original material.

While working in the recording studio (Accusound), Denton had brushes with other budding musicians, one of whom was bassist Bob Davis (a.k.a. "Bob Monroe"), with whom he was especially impressed. Before long the two had joined together, forming the nucleus of what would become The Monroes. Another musician who regularly visited the studio was guitarist Rusty Jones, who had previously played with Davis in the Ken Dixon Band (an all-covers band), and he became the next to join this fledgling group. Denton's former Peter Rabbitt bandmate, drummer Jonnie Gilstrap came on board, and the search was then on for a lead singer. The band ultimately decided on Jesus "Tony" Ortiz (a.k.a. "Tony Monroe"), who Denton described as having the ability to "make any song, good or bad, sound great", to fill this capacity.[2]

According to Ortiz, the band's name, "The Monroes" was derived from a band Bob Davis was originally in with the now well-known singer-songwriter Rick Elias called "Rick Elias and the Monroes". In this context, the "Monroes" part of the name was a direct reference to the fact that Elias was originally from Monroe, Louisiana. Once Elias left for a solo career, he allowed Davis to keep the name.[3]

Getting signed/success

The band began recording demos of early tracks at Accusound, and they began shopping them around the Los Angeles area. They soon recruited John Deverian as their manager, who signed them to a small Japanese label, Alfa Records. Before long, the band was recording what would become their debut EP at Chateau Studios. One of the most recent songs they had written was called "What Do All the People Know?", for which Bob Monroe had come up with the basic melody.

"What Do All the People Know?" generated a local buzz around the San Diego area, and it was selected as the first single released from the group's self-titled EP, completed in 1982. They then toured with the likes of Toto, Greg Kihn, and Rick Springfield while their single climbed the charts. However, as the band was pondering ideas for their first music video, they found out that their Japan-based record label Alfa was abandoning its U.S. market. Without the backing of a label, they were left with no promotion, and the band's single and mini-album quickly fell off the charts.


The band attempted to continue, signing with CBS, but any new musical projects were shelved. Individual band members gradually quit the group over the next several years. The remaining members would continue until the band eventually broke up in 1988.

After the breakup, bassist Bob Davis formed the band Street Heart.[4]

Recent Activity

Keyboardist Eric Denton owned Guitar Trader in San Diego, California, which closed, after being a long-time pillar of the San Diego music scene, in December of 2014. Guitarist Rusty Jones returned from a long musical hiatus in 2005, and began writing and performing again in the San Diego area. Drummer Jonnie Gilstrap returned to San Diego in 2006 and is currently studying tribal fusion and Middle Eastern drumming.

Lead singer Jesus "Tony" Ortiz had left the band in 1986 and, disillusioned with the music business, moved to Minneapolis shortly thereafter. He would remain there for the next twenty years. Then, in 2006, Ortiz found himself inspired to create music again and returned to California after a long absence, where he reconnected with Jones. By 2007, the two were performing live and did not rule out the possibility of a complete Monroes reunion.[5] However, Ortiz later returned to Minnesota in order to be closer to his children and has continued performing on his own there.[3]

Although the band separated years ago, all members in one fashion or another are still involved in their passion for music. Three of the original five band members met in June 2009. Band members included Jonnie Gilstrap, Tony Ortiz and Eric Denton. The three musicians discussed seriously the possibility of reuniting and doing a USA tour.



(The Japanese version of the album (Alfa Records ULR-18001) features "Yamarock," the b-side of the "What Do All the People Know" single as a 6th track and a different cover from the U.S. edition.)

7-Inch Singles

"What Do All The People Know" / "Yamarock" (Alfa Records ALF-7119) 1982 U.S.


each includes the song "What Do All The People Know"


  1. The Monroes (The San Diego Band) (1980-1988) was based out of San Diego, CA and not to be confused with "The Monroes (The Norwegian Rock Duo), with the same name that held significant popularity in Norway in the 1980s
  2. "Jim McInnes: The Last DJ, Busted at Boomer's, plus the Monroes Story".
  3. 1 2 Ortiz, Jesus (Tony). "90 Minutes with Tony Ortiz from the Monroes (November 4, 2011)". Crap from the Past (host: Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber). KFAI-FM: 90.3, Minneapolis; 106.7, St. Paul. 4 Nov. 2011. Link to interview Retrieved 4-8-2012.
  4. Street Heart- "What Do All the People Know" Retrieved 4-8-2012.
  5. Article about Ortiz and Jones' recent activities Trageser, Jim. "Former Monroes singer back home, back singing". North County Times. 26 Sept. 2007.
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