Tacoma’s Ventures. They’ve lasted almost 60 years in one form or another. They’ve released over 250 albums. They’ve sold over 120 million records….more than any other instrumental band in history. Those records are unlikely to ever be topped by an instrumental band of any genre. During their career they’ve covered just about every kind of music there is. Most of their albums are largely covers of popular songs, but surprisingly they write about one third of their music. They helped develop the “surf sound” although they point out they didn’t invent it, and don’t consider themselves a “surf band” at all. In a 2015 interview with Forbes magazine co-founder Don Wilson told interviewer Jim Clash;
“One of our biggest sellers was a surfing album. I guess we got tagged with that – Pipeline and Wipe Out we are associated with – so suddenly we are a surf rock band! I see that written a lot. But I don’t care. I’m used to it. We’re not just surf”.
Band members have always denied their music being founded in the surf sound, but it’s certain The Ventures had a profound affect on it. It could be they’ve always refused to be labeled surf just as much out of deference to the artists who truly are surf bands as much as the facts. It’s also true that The Ventures went far beyond any one genre-expect being instrumental. They’ve also maintained keeping current with putting their sound to current music. Aside from their top-knotch playing it is these two other factors that have kept them in the world’ public eye for decades.
The story of The Ventures goes back to the day that Bob Bogle first met Don Wilson in 1958. Bogle was looking to buy a used car from a dealership in Seattle. The car lot was owned by Wilson’s father. Don was the salesman. During their conversation, they found out they both had an interest in music. They became fast friends, and soon Wilson began working with Bogle in the masonry field. Obviously carrying mortar and bricks was more lucrative than hawking used cars for small commissions. In 2009 Bob Bogle told The Seattle Times:
“And then we found out that we each knew a few chords on the guitar, you know, and we had a lot of free time on our hands. But neither of us … Read more›
By the time the mid-60s had come around The Northwest Sound has pretty much wound down. Many former teen-dance bands were moving closer to rock and the new psychedelic sounds coming out of L.A. and San Francisco. In some ways many local artists had begun to see Seattle as a northern outpost of San Francisco.
One of the bands that emerged in the mid-60s was Blues Interchange. David Lanz (future star of “new age” music) had been one of the band’s first members. The band began making the rounds of Seattle venues and became very popular with the tripped-out psychedelic crowd. Due to some of the members being drafted local boy Jeff Simmons signed on as bassist in 1967. Simmons was already an accomplished player with a gregarious, often comedic air about him Other members included Al Malosky on drums and guitarists Peter Larson (later replaced by Burke Wallace), and Danny Hoefer. Danny Hoefer would later go on to play in Tower of Power.
After the change of personnel, Blues Interchange found even more favor with Northwest audiences. One result of the changes was re-naming the band to Easy Chair. The transformation caught the eye of Seattle’s emerging rock scene as well as other pockets of psychedelic blues around the country
In 2014 the website Clear Spot would look back on Easy Chair, writing;
“Their epic West Coast blues features the unique chemistry of psychedelic guitar leads, fluid lines and hypnotic chording”.
Around this time the band was emerging they met up with notorious San Francisco manager Matthew Katz. Katz had been the first manager of Jefferson Airplane and had ben fired even before the release of their first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. Seattle native Signe Anderson (September 15, 1941-January 28, 2016) did vocals, but soon left the band, handing over the task to Grace Slick. The firing of Katz would result in ongoing litigation over the release of original or licensed material by Jefferson Airplane. The litigation between Katz and Jefferson Airplane was not settled until 1987.
Katz was also involved in a dispute with Moby Grape beginning in 1968. Katz had sold the group members’ rights to their songs as well as their own name were signed away in 1973 to manager/producer David Rubinson without the band members knowing it. He retained rights to the name Moby Grape and a large part … Read more›
Since it’s formation in 1973 the Total Experience Gospel Choir has travelled the nation and across the globe, from the Far East to Europe to Russia and a lot of places in between. Under the tutelage of Pastor Pat Wright, the Total Experience Gospel Choir has journeyed to Japan where they not only presented their ministry through song, but also delivered supplies to victims of the Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami who had taken refuge in Ishinomaki, Japan. In 2006 the Total Experience Gospel Choir also travelled to Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and to rebuild and refurbish homes for hurricane victims in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Pat Wright was honored for her and the choir’s efforts by ABC News World News Tonight. In May of 2007 she was named one of that month’s Person of the Week, and later in a broadcast on December 27 2007, Pat was declared one of 2007’s “Persons of the Year”. It’s clear that the choir is not only one of the Northwest’s greatest musical assets, they spread their ministry through music, and actual, on-the-ground help.
Aside from performing for President Bill Clinton and President Obama, the Total Experience Gospel Choir have been featured at prestigious venues from the Sydney Opera House to The Mormon Tabernacle. Even though they’ve been ambassadors around the world, and won many prestigious awards, it’s clear the Pastor Wright’s greatest mission is to the uplifting of her own community, here in Seattle.
Pat Wright was born Patrinell Staten in Odessa Texas as one of eight children. Her father was a Baptist preacher and her mother taught school. Both parents urged her to pursue a career in gospel music. Having started to sing at an early age, Pat performed her first solo at the age of 3 and by the time she was 14 Pat had taught herself to play piano and was directing two choirs in her father’s church. Her parents saw to it Pat grew up in the church, but education also played an important part in her upbringing. Pat graduated as valedictorian of her high school class (Turner High School, 1961) and later attended Prairie View A&M College just north of Houston TX.
Pat first arrived in Seattle in October of 1964 to help her sister, who was then going through a divorce. Her intention was to be of assistance to … Read more›
Any live-music lover who’s lived in Seattle long enough has seen Red Dress. In fact, it’s likely their parents-or grandparents have seen the band play. Red Dress might be the longest-running show in the Northwest. Throughout their career they’ve attracted punk rockers, hippies, drunks, blues aficionados, art-rockers, probably a few metal heads and everyone in between. Despite their long-running history, the band are still one of the most creative and relevant bands working the clubs, bars and festivals in and around Seattle. They do what they do better than anyone else; they always have. Red Dress infuse absurdity with the pure joy of funk, jazz and R&B. The result is far from what one would expect from looking at it on paper. This isn’t a retread of the typical whitebread tribute to a style long out of date. This isn’t a goofy pastiche of kitsch and nostalgia. This is as real and original as things get. Producer Conrad Uno Producer Conrad Uno (Love Battery, Young Fresh Fellows, The Presidents of the United States of America, etc.) hit the nail on the head when he described Red Dress as “Captain Beefheart meets James Brown.” Minkler himself confirms that when he heard Captain Beefheart’s seminal Trout Mask Replica everything changed
Red Dress has always been a band of solid, professional musicians. Orignally formed with Minkler’s high school friend Rich Riggins in 1976. The duo explored jazz, contemporary classical music, and of course the blossoming punk rock scene. Eventually Riggins left the band-taking with him the poet/singer/performance artist Cynthia Genser. Minkler would man the more and more funky and soulful Red Dress, while Riggins and Genser went on to found Chinas Comidas, a band that also found an important place within the city’s alternative music community. In fact, it wasn’t unusual to find Red Dress and Chinas Comidas on the same bills in the late 1970s and early 80s. The stylistic, musical and lyrical content of those on the punk/alternative scene meant little in those days. Seattle had a very tight-knit community that was too interested in innovation to face off in differing camps.
Over the years more than a few have wandered in and out of the band. But the songwriting has been consistently impeccable and the players pitch-perfect. But there’s no getting around it. This is a band dominated by the talent and presence of vocalist Gary Minkler, and … Read more›
Gary Heffern began his career the late 70’s singing with San Diego punk band The Penetrators alongside Country Dick Montana. Heffern’s done poetry readings with everyone from John Doe, to Nina Hagen, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Henry Rollins. His first two solo albums ‘Bald Tires in the Rain’ and ‘Painful Days’ have featured some of the incredible cadre of his admirers. John Doe, Mojo Nixon, Country Dick Montana, The Walkabouts, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Mark Arm of Mudhoney.
Heffern spent a good part of his career as part of the Seattle music scene, but his muse has taken him to Finland, living near the Arctic Circle where an incredible video of his song ‘La La Land’ was shot in 2008. It’s an epic, sad, beautiful, and reflective observation of the fading away of a parent…It’s touching without ever slipping into the sentimentality one would expect.
His album “Consolation” featured a who’s who of American roots music; Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedo, Peter Case, Mark Lanegan, Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows/R.E.M.) Chris and Carla of The Walkabouts, Jim Roth from ‘Built to Spill‘, and on and on. The depth and breadth of Heffern’s friends and admirers who join him on Consolation and currently as “Gary Heffern And The Beautiful People” and is a continuing testament to his position as an important songwriter whose work rises to the top of the heap.
Seattle rock critic and well-known author Charles R. Cross writes:”In Heffern’s own songs there is a constant struggle between darkness and light, between failed dreams and reckless prayer, between a world where all hope is lost and one where a consoling friend offers a sliver of deliverance. Even on a song as haunting as “(I Am Your) Destroyer” from the album “Consulation” sounds like Iggy Pop could have written it. There is still a core of sweetness among the ruins. “That’s the Beauty (Of the Little Things in Life)” truly rings with a ghost: It was written in Seattle’s Comet Tavern on the very night that Gits’ singer Mia Zapata went missing (and later turned up murdered). Not only a remarkable timepiece, “That’s the Beauty” demonstrates Heffern’s skill at creating a story arc that celebrates the fragility of life at the same time it bemoans it. It’s the kind of re-framing that is uniquely Gary Heffern”.
Aside from his songwriting, albums. online music and … Read more›