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And to Topper it all off

Musician has playing since 1961. He recounts his work, including setting himself on fire.

July 15, 2010|By Candice Baker, Special to the Daily Pilot
  • Greg Topper
Greg Topper (Daily Pilot )

COSTA MESA — The Rock 'N' Roll King of Orange County wants the world to know that after 50 years of alcohol and cigarettes, 10 years of cocaine, five wives, three heart surgeries and a fight with cancer, he's still rocking.

Greg Topper, the man who may be O.C.'s longest-running resident musician, is set to start a new gig Saturday at the Pierce Street Annex in Costa Mesa. His mix of more than 500 1950s, '60s and '70s oldies has packed dance floors since the Bay of Pigs invasion 49 years ago.

"If I can make it to 2011, I would have played half of a century in Orange County," Topper said. "I started in 1961 at the Tamasha Club in Anaheim in 1961 with the Crescents. I've been so blessed throughout these 50 years with great audiences, great musicians, and some of the acts I've played with have been just incredible. I've performed with Little Richard, Roy Orbison, the Turtles, the Righteous Brothers. … I've been dubbed by the local media the Rock 'N' Roll King of Orange County.

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"That's not a self-proclamation — K-RTH and the OC Weekly have been dubbing me that for ages, so the title just kind of stuck. It's to the point where I can call Bill Medley or Dick Dale and say, 'Hello, this is the Rock 'N' Roll King of Orange County,' and they'll say, 'Hey, Topper!'"

Topper spent more than 10 years performing at the Village Inn on Balboa Island.

"I've been such a fixture at the Village Inn that it's almost been like a mini culture shock at the Pierce Street Annex. This place has dancing, which the Village Inn doesn't, and a lot more parking. But I had some great times and great memories of the Village Inn over 11 years," Topper said.

"But when I think back on 50 years, I don't even know where to begin. I was really good friends with Ricky Nelson and Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino. I've had so many great artists [perform] with me. Charlie Daniels sat in one night; I had the Righteous Brothers sit in with me probably 50 times."

Over the years, Topper has been a resident of countless bars, lounges and bistros. Perhaps Topper's most famous (or infamous) incident, he said, is when he lit himself and his piano on fire.

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