Set to appear at the Kona Kai Resort’s Vessels restaurant on March 13 as part of the duo Jenny & Doug, Booth is a virtuoso instrumentalist, skilled at bass, guitar and piano as well as flute. The gig is a natural fit for the musical pair, as they were introduced by the venue's general manager, Shauna Aguirre.
“She had hired Jenn and her guitarist in the past,” Booth said. “When Jenn and her guitarist stopped playing together, Shauna recommended to both of us that we pair up. So I guess she is the matchmaker of our duo. It is an awesome fit.” While the occasional original is included, the focus in the pair’s sets is covers. “I will play an original solo guitar piece every so often, but our bread and butter are songs that people know and like,” he said. “I would hope most of our songs are crowd pleasers. If they don’t appeal to anyone, then we drop them, unless we love them.”
Born and raised in Palo Alto, Calif., Booth arrived in San Diego circa 1984 to finish up his degree at SDSU. “I was a guitarist but came here with a bass guitar so I could hopefully get some work,” he explained. “In Northern California at that time, if you could play bass, sing and show up on time, you pretty much had a gig. I auditioned and got in several different bands that had gigs on the books so I could make some money to live on as I went to SDSU.”
By this point, Booth had been performing for over a decade.
“I started playing guitar when I was in the fourth grade,” he recalled. “My mom was a South Dakota State award-winning baritone horn player. She had the music gene in the family. She played piano and guitar as well, so I got interested in guitar because she played. She used to say she taught me everything she knew in one week.”
Soon after, he began taking lessons and was learning Beatles songs with instructor Jack Conway in Menlo Park. “He slowly started introducing me to jazz chords and voicings using Beatles songs as the format and then one day pulled out a jazz standard, and that was the beginning of me becoming a jazz guitarist. I guess you could say he tricked me into playing jazz, but it was a trick I appreciate,” Booth said.
While his parents were generally supportive of his musical path, they did have slight reservations.
“I did hear some warnings from them about having options in life and work,” he explains, ”so that if I needed to I would be employable in other fields. I decided not to pursue music in college and instead got a bachelor's in arts and sciences in recreation administration from SDSU. That’s what brought me from Palo Alto to San Diego. I ran a summer camp for a couple of years while simultaneously teaching guitar and gigging back in the late '80s.”
Booth has since gone on to be a mainstay of San Diego’s music, spending over two decades with Rockola. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. He was a member of Drop Control alongside legendary guitarist Mike Keneally and was a part of a group called Ars Nova. “It was comprised of some of the music faculty members at Grossmont College,” he said. “This was back over 20 years ago. The band members were Steve Baker, Fred Benedetti, James Morton, Robert Williams and myself. We played all original jazz pieces that we all wrote separately and recorded a CD.”
Since his Rockola days ended, he has been playing with different duos, including with Dan Ratcliffe, Jennifer Hecht and Matt Heinecke. “I play bass with Laguna when it works out and just fit in whatever makes sense when I get a call to sub,” Booth said. “I have also recorded through the years on various artists’ albums and commercials as a hired gun. I’m sure I could compile a large list, but when you play an instrument, you also just end up recording a lot,” he mused.”
Booth is happy with the decades he has put into performing, but he considers it just the beginning. “It’s such a part of my life that it’s hard to say what my favorite thing about music is,” he said.” I wouldn’t be me without music. It is so much of who I am and what I do. Some of my best times playing is when I’m at home just trying out new things or practicing a song or technique I haven’t mastered. It’s all about learning and getting better. There is always someone better and someone to learn from. I think all of that is good. I have a lifelong project and passion.”