Gin Blossoms' Jesse Valenzuela

Jesse Valenzuela became a rock star as lead guitarist/singer for the Gin Blossoms, the Arizona jangle-rock group that had a huge smash LP with New Miserable Experience in the early '90s.

Born May 22, 1962, Valenzuela helped form the Gin Blossoms in Tempe, Ariz., in 1987. He was initially the lead singer, but by the time the lineup stabilized, Valenzuela was lead guitarist and mandolin player. The rest of the band was Robin Wilson (vocals/acoustic guitar), Phillip Rhodes (drums), Bill Leen (bass) and Doug Hopkins (guitar).

The Gin Blossoms developed a loyal local following. In 1989, they cut their first LP, the indie release Dusted. The album whet the appetite of major labels, and the Gin Blossoms signed to A&M in 1990.

After a few aborted recording sessions, they released New Miserable Experience in 1992. The LP was a true sleeper. It was more than a year before the album finally took off. Eventually it went on to sell more than 4 million copies on the strength of tracks such as the hit single "Hey Jealousy," "Until I Fall Away," "Allison Road" and "Found Out About You." The album showcased the band's R.E.M./Byrds–like rock.

But just as the LP was breaking, Hopkins left the band and then committed suicide, leaving the band's future uncertain. The remaining members of the Gin Blossoms regrouped for Congratulations, I'm Sorry (1996) which made the top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart and spawned the top-10 single "Follow You Down" (RealAudio excerpt).

The Gin Blossoms split two years later. Valenzuela formed the Low Watts, who have yet to issue an album. He has also played guitar on Stevie Nicks' Enchanted (1998) and Judy Collins' Forever.

Last year, A&M released Outside Looking In — The Best of the Gin

Blossoms.

Other birthdays Monday: Charles Aznavour, 76; Bernie Taupin, 50; Jerry Dammers (Specials), 46; Morrissey, 41; and Dan Roberts (Crash Test Dummies), 33.