From La Jolla beauty queen to Nashville rock scene

A former La Jolla beauty queen has moved on to a life of rock n’ roll, and now she’s ready to take her band to America’s Music City of Nashville.

Julia Garlington was certainly comfortable on stage during her youth in the Jewel, performing in musical theater and even winning the Miss La Jolla contest. Now her band, Married by Elvis, has released its first CD of what it calls “California Country Rock” and will soon relocate to Nashville to pursue their rock n’ roll dreams.

Married by Elvis’ band name refers to Garlington’s real-life nuptuals with her bass player Dan Herzberg at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel. Their first album, “Better Late than Never,” features 10 original songs written by Garlington. The band held a CD release party at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach that was a big success – in addition to putting on a rocking show, the event helped collect more than 500 toys for the Toys for Tots charity.

The album will be on sale soon at the band’s Web site,

Garlington said that after graduating from La Jolla High, she found that she missed performing.

“And I like the idea of being in a band, because it was something you could build on,” she said, “not like musical theater, where you get cast and put on the show and then it’s done.”

She joined a blues/swing band and they called themselves Miss Julia and the Blue Cats. But Garlington felt her own musical inclinations pulling in a different direction.

“Even when I was singing the blues, I liked a more rocking edge,” she said.

In 2001, she married Herzberg, and with musicians they found through the San Diego Reader, they formed Married by Elvis.

“The running joke is that he married me to be in the band,” she said.

With guitarist Jeff Houck and mandolin player Mick Chegwidden, they honed their own distinct sound, which they describe as a blend of country and rock n’ roll with a peppering of SoCal flavor.

“Our guitar player started playing more twanging licks,” she said. “And the mandolin, you think of it as being kind of ethereal and airy and light, but (Chegwidden) actually attacks his mandolin very much like a guitar player.”

Garlington only began seriously writing songs earlier this year, but she has already found a writing style that ranges from what she calls “fun, tongue-in-cheek chick empowerment songs” to straightforward love songs and a memorial tune for her father, who committed suicide when Garlington was in third grade.

One of the tongue-in-cheek tunes, “My Inlaws Should Be Outlawed,” is based on real-life experience, Garlington said.

“You win some and you lose some, and in the inlaw department I got a loss,” she said. “It’s funny, that’s the one my husband messes up on the most when we play live – it hits a little close to home.”

Garlington quit her job in corporate marketing earlier this year to devote her energy full-time to Married by Elvis. Now the band is planning on relocating to Nashville in January, hoping to find a better market for its country-rock sound. But their ties to San Diego will remain.

“Nashville will be a better place to have a hub, to base some bigger tours out of,” she said. “But we’ll always have our families and friends here. We’ve done well building up our name out here, so we’ll try to come out once and a while to play.”

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