Northwest Songwriters: A Straw Poll


Karl Blau

Laura Viers

Kurt Bloch

Wayne Horvitz

Clyde Petersen

Al Larsen

Calvin Johnson

Mark Arm

Tad Doyle

Mike Refuzor

Sean Tollefson

Chris Cornell

Eric Apoe

Dan Bonow

Jeff Simmons

Rich Riggins

Sam Mickens

Jherek Bischoff

Gerry Roslie

Mike Scheidt

Tom Price

Willy Vlautin

John Ramberg

Jim Page

Layne Staley

Kurt Block

Chris Eckman

Jesse Lortz





James Marshall Hendrix, Paratrooper, 101st Airborne Division 1960-1961

Recently I took a straw poll of friends asking:

Who do you think is the most important songwriter to come out of the Northwest? This is not a quiz and there are no wrong answers.

Some of the responses were obvious, many were downright baffling and others were very close to what my personal belief of what a songwriter truly is.  I left my question open-ended as an experiment to find out what others might give their explanation of what and whom constitutes an important songwriter.  I made sure to tell those I polled  there were no wrong answers, allowing them to offer up names without spending too much time or offering up suggestions simply because they thought the person they chose was based on others’ (especially critics’) dubbing that artist as “most important”  Several people went on to ask what I defined as “important”.  My reply was that I did not want to define the term.  Everyone uses different criteria of what is “important”; besides I was more interested in others’ opinions, than my own.  I asked people to decide what was important to them because this was also an exercise was for me to understand what other people considered worthy.  I wanted to learn about how others saw things and challenge myself a bit in what I personally feel is important in a songwriting. I saw this as just as much a lesson for me.  It was by no means a popularity contest.

So here I’ll take my natural tendency to digress.

I am a fan of good songwriting.  I cannot put my finger on what it is exactly but I have certain criteria.  I think when a song’s lyric is written in a way that it may be interpreted universally by listeners is a good start. This is probably why so many songs deal in lyrics about the many states of love; from it’s stirrings, it’s longings, it’s attainment and it’s loss. I believe original, creative lyrics are important, but I know they are not always crucial to good songwriting.  They don’t need to be about love…but they usually speak to the human condition.  Beyond the universality of lyrics, the actual music is just as important.  I think sometimes people put more emphasis on lyrics rather than their combination with melody or arrangement. … Read more›

The Bird


Most of these were done by Frank Edie



The Avengers

The Cheaters




The Dils


The Enemy

The Feelings

Fast Food

Formica & The Bitches


The Telepaths

Ice Nine

The Invaders

The Lewd


Macs Band

The Mentors

Missing Persons

The Moberlys

Negative Trend


The Offs

The Ratts


The Refuzors

Eric Schmidt



Teeth Like Crazy

The Telepaths

The Tu Tu Band


Violent World



Writing the history of a band or a venue can be a daunting task; especially when the author knows far less on the subject than many of his or her readers.  It’s with this trepidation that I approach writing about The Bird.  In most cases the music histories I write rely on research, articles, written or oral histories and scholarly reports..  One-on-one interviews and original documentation also helps; but in the case of The Bird, there is not much documentation or  written histories.  Online blogs and books that mention The Bird often repeat the same exact entries word-for-word. This, in my view is a very poor practice and plagiarism.  However this is the internet age where people recycle all kinds of information they don’t need to be accountable for.

There are at least two authors I know that have done independent research on The Bird There are also others who have kept the memory of The Bird alive in their own individual ways.  I did not arrive in Seattle until 1979; almost a year after The Bird had ceased to exist.  Many of the musicians who had played at The Bird had left Seattle for greener pastures even before the advent of The Bird including The Mentors, The Lewd, The Screamers, Penelope Houston who would front The Avengers.  All were no longer on the scene by the time I’d arrived. Still, many of the fantastic friends I would make in Seattle had been involved or regulars of The Bird.

Many of us have foggy memories of our past, and very little ephemera to document The Bird exists, so I have had to rely on incomplete information and small bits I have learned from friends about The Bird over the years. It is in this spirit that I ask you read this story, keeping in mind that what I am trying is to build a history of The Bird…a history that has been seriously overlooked.  I hope what I write here is accurate, but I know I cannot live up to that hope throughout this story.  This is meant to be the basic outline of a realistic, accurate and detailed portrait of one of Seattle’s most important cultural touchstones.  I welcome corrections, additions, suggestions, photos, posters and most of all, memories.  As I’ve said, the history of The Bird has never been properly recorded..  What I have … Read more›

Mildred Bailey

Years Active

1925 -1950

Associated Artists

Tommy Dorsey

Jimmy Dorsey

Paul Whiteman

Benny Goodman

Eddie Lang

Hoagy Carmichael

Coleman Hawkins

Bing Crosby

Al Rinker

Red Norvo

Selected Discography

The Complete Columbia Recordings Of Mildred Bailey  (Mosaic, 2001)

At Her Rare of All Rarest Performances – Mildred Bailey (Kings of Jazz, 1981)

Red Norvo Featuring Mildred Bailey – Red Norvo & Mildred Bailey (Portrait Masters, 1989)

The Blue Angel Years 1945-1947 – Mildred Bailey with Ellis Arkins Trio  (Baldwin St. Music, 2000)


She was a superstar in the 1930’s and 40’s.  She introduced Bing Crosby to the music of Louis Armstrong  and Bessie Smith.  She worked with the most famous big bands of the era.  Tony Bennett said

“From 16 to 20 years old  the only thing I listened to was Mildred Bailey. I just said  I want to sing like her”  She provided the template for the “girl singers” from Ella Fitzgerald to Anita O’Day.  She introduced Billie Holiday to the famous producer John Hammond.  She started from the speakeasies of Spokane and Seattle and made her way to Los Angeles and then to The Savoy Ballroom and Stork Club in New York City. Yet Mildred Bailey and her contributions to jazz and pop music have all but been disregarded.  She is the most famous jazz singer of the 1930s and ‘40s that you’ve never heard of.

Over the years there’s been attempts to replace her to the stature she once had, but she still remains a cult figure who is absolutely loved by her fans.  Every one of her recordings have been available for years-most of them have been in continual release since 1951 when she died.  Her entire Columbia Records catalogue has been lavishly presented as boxed sets in both LP and CD formats for decades.   So it must be asked-in the words of jazz critic Michael Steinman; “Who Erased Mildred Bailey?”  It certainly wasn’t singers like Tony Bennett,mentioned above.  It wasn’t Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra who helped her out at the end of her life.  It wasn’t a change in taste; The Big Band sound and jazz/pop singers were in their heyday when she quit the music industry.   It wasn’t for a lack of exposure on the new media of television…she even had her own television program at one time.

The fact is that there doesn’t seem to be a simple answer to why Mildred Bailey has been erased from our collective musical consciousness, and the answer remains elusive to this day.

Mildred Bailey was born Mildred Rinker on February 27, 1903 in Tekoa Washington, a small farming community about an hour southeast of Spokane Washington. Mildred’s mother, Josephine had been deeded land there and created a farm on the land she owned.  Josephine was one quarter Native American.  Her ancestors were what became known as the Coeur d’Alene tribe. Owners of valuable property by tribal members … Read more›

Tomata du Plenty: Part Two

Years Active


Associated Artists

The Lewd

The Tupperwares

Ze Whiz Kidz

The Telepaths


The Cockettes


Selected Discography

In a Better World – The Screamers [Mostly live recordings] (Extravertigo Recordings/Xeroid Records. 2001)

The Screamers ‎– Live In San Francisco: Sept 2nd 1978 [ video] Target Video, 2004

122 Hours of Fear- The Screamers; Rvng Presents JD Twitch [Unofficial Release], (Rvng International, 2008)

Screamers Demos 1977-1978; The Screamers (Sob Records, 2013)


In 1976 Three guerrilla-drag performers turned punk rockers left Seattle for Los Angeles. The trio was Rio de Janeiro (David Gulbransen) Melba Toast (who would later take the name Tommy Gear) and Tomata du Plenty (David Xavier Harrigan). The three had been part of the loose-knit theater, cabaret and street performing troupe Ze Whiz Kidz. When the three split from Ze Whiz Kidz they had also gone on to form a band called The Tupperwares. The Tupperwares had created a bit of a stir in Seattle, but were left without bookings and many venues to play. Clubs, taverns and bars were the province of cover bands and any other (inexpensive) local outfit that was a sure draw that would bring in crowds. Seattle nightlife in the mid-70s also consisted of disco’s-like most American cities; not only because it had become fashionable, but because it was cheaper to pay one person-the DJ- to pump out recorded hits that kept people dancing and drinking. The advent of the disco craze had ruined the careers of hundreds of thousands of local bands across the US and stifled the creativity of working musicians.

The antidote for a small number of artists, musicians and fans of original music was a startling reaction to the state of things with a new form of do-it-yourself, makeshift clubs that would pop-up and just as soon disappear. It would also foster a movement that was coming out of New York City and London; punk rock Punk rock itself was a do-it-yourself artform created by young, discontented artists, musicians and impresarios. It was out of that milieu that The Tupperwares arose. Los Angeles had become a hot-spot for a newer form of punk that differed from the movements in NYC or London. It was angrier, more passionate and closer to assaults on audiences rather than pure entertainment. Whereas bands like The Ramones, The Talking Heads, Blondie and Television relied on conventional melodies, precision and musicality the west coast version of punk rock was more free-form and relied on the outrageousness of characters like Darby Crash of the Germs, Alice Bag of The Bags, and the provocation of bands like Black Flag. There were notable exceptions, including the political ethos of The Dead Kennedys and the American-roots rock based band X.

The Tupperwares decided to take a chance on L.A.,but either out of legal necessity or pure creativity changed the name … Read more›

Tomata du Plenty: Part One

Years Active


Associated Artists

Ze Whiz Kidz

The Cockettes

The Tupperwares

The Screamers

Ze Fabulous Pickle Sisters

The Telepaths


Selected Discography

In a Better World – The Screamers [Mostly live recordings] (Extravertigo Recordings/Xeroid Records. 2001)

The Screamers ‎– Live In San Francisco: Sept 2nd 1978 [ video] Target Video, 2004

122 Hours of Fear- The Screamers; Rvng Presents JD Twitch [Unofficial Release], (Rvng International, 2008)

Screamers Demos 1977-1978; The Screamers (Sob Records, 2013)


It’s difficult to tell the story of much of alternative West Coast art, performance, painting and punk rock without recognizing the genius of Tomata du Plenty.  His troupe, Ze Whiz Kidz are also an important element in the evolution of the Seattle alternative social and arts scene…but they deserve to have their complete story told, so we will leave their history for another post.

Tomata du Plenty (David Xavier Harrigan) was born, depending on who you choose to believe, in New York State, in Queens NYC, in Brooklyn near Coney Island or in Coney Island”). The facts seem to point to Queens, but  I prefer to think he was born in Coney Island simply because it conjures up delightful, weird entertainments, a certain amount of artiface and slightly tattered around the edges.  It reminds me of the jumbled construction that improbably holds up the famous Cyclone Roller Coaster and zillions of uncovered treasures that are, in fact, nothing more than metaphoric “glad-rags”.  These were all the wonderful characteristics I associate with the singer/performance artist/painter Tomata du Plenty.

Wherever he was actually born he was brought up in Montebello, California where his Irish-American parents moved when young David was nine years old.  Tomata claims he ran away to Hollywood at age 15-not as daring as it may seem since Montebello is adjacent to Los Angeles and only about 15 miles to Hollywood and Vine.   It’s unclear if he kept in contact during that period with his parents, but there’s nothing that points to him being thrown out of his parents’ home because he was gay.  If his parents were welcoming it would have made a convenient escape from the streets of Hollywood.

In 1968 he hitchhiked to San Francisco and wound up in the Haight-Ashbury.  The twenty-year-old David Harrigan met George Harris and became a member of the psychedelic gender-fuck  troupe, The Cockettes.  The Cockettes were founded by the transplanted New Yorker  Harris (1949-1982) and were influential in helping to usher in not just the modern Gay Liberation movement, but Glam Rock as well.  When Harris moved to San Francisco he’d undergone a metamorphosis. He changed his name to Hibiscus and fell in with a vanguard circle of flamboyant, LSD dropping, hippie drag queens that performed gender-bending free theater on the streets. Hibiscus would eventually organize the entourage into The Cockettes. The Cockettes would later make silent films, … Read more›

Jimmie Rodgers: Corrupt Cops, The Mob and Not Knowing How To Quit

Years Active


Associated Artists

Buddy Holly

Little Richard

Tommy James

Frankie Avalon

Bobby Darrin

Selected Discography

The Number One Ballads – Jimmie Rodgers (Roulette,1959

The Best of Jimmie Rodgers Folk Songs – Jimmie Rodgers (Roulette, 1961)

Town and Country – Jimmie Rodgers (Dot, 1964)

It’s Over – Jimmie Rodgers (Dot 1966)

Child of Clay – Jimmie Rodgers (A&M. 1967)

The Best of Jimmie Rodgers – Jimmie Rodgers (Rhino, 1990)

Sweeter Than Wine: The Very Best of Jimmie Rodgers 1957-1962 (Westside 1998)


 It sounds like the plot of a 1950’s film noir movie.  It’s December 1st, 1967.  A man leaves a party.  As he drives down the San Diego Freeway in the San Fernando Valley he sees a bright light in his rear view mirror.  The light gets brighter so he pulls over on a side road.  He thinks maybe it’s a friend who’s also left the same party.  The  man in the car following him walks toward the driver’s car and the driver  rolls down his  window.  As soon as he does, the man in the following car begins to beat him with something hard-probably a tire iron. He is left unconscious with a broken arm and a severely fractured skull.  But the story isn’t the plot of a movie. The man who was beaten was Jimmie Rodgers, a fading star from the early days of rock and roll. A man that was one of the pioneers of early pop, rockabilly and electric folk music.

A few days later the attacker comes forward.  He’is an off-duty policeman named Michael Duffy.  Later Duffy would claim he pulled Rodgers over for “erratic driving”.  Rodgers remembers the light was “real bright. Like a train light. I pulled over to stop. I thought it was Eddie Samuels who was my conductor. He was staying at my house at the time. Rodgers says that once he rolled down the window he was struck by a tire iron.  “He hit me in the side of the head so hard, the left side of the skull, that it split the skull on the right side”.

The off-duty policeman says once Rodgers pulled over he got out of the car and during his arrest, Rodgers fell over (backward) resulting in a fractured skull and a badly broken arm and knocking him out.   Duffy says he then drove to the nearest telephone and called two of his LAPD friends that were on duty, Raymond Whisman and Ronald Wagner.

Duffy says they all converged on Rodgers’ car and his unconscious body laying on the side of the road rather than inside. They decide to pull Rodgers’ body back into his Cadillac,and take off.  No calls for medical assistance.  No report of the incident.  No mention  in any of their daily log reports. No test for intoxication. No record of Duffy attempting to book Rodgers for a crime.

It was Eddie … Read more›

Rob Morgan and The Squirrels

Years Active

1984- 2009/  2017-Present

Band Members

Rob Morgan – Vocals and Mayhem

Joey Kline – Guitar and Vocals

Keith Lowe -Bass

Jimmy Thomas (J.T.) – Guitar

Bruce Laven – Keyboards

Bill Ray – Drums

Mary K – Slinky



Associated Bands

The Fishsticks

The Pudz

Pamona Boners

Ernest Anyway

New Age Urban Squirrels

Crosby, Squirrels, and Nate

The Young Fresh Fellows

Selected Discography

“Take a letter Maria” b/w “Take me to your (leader)” – The Pudz, (Teenie Wompum 1981)

Take me to your (leader) – The Pudz (The Seattle Syndrome Volume One [Compilation] Engram Records, 1982)

Beautiful Sunday / Seasons in the Sun / The Hustle”; split 7-inch EP with Show Business Giants (Blobs, Vol. 2), Way Out! Records [Canada] 1991)

Harsh Toke of Reality [CD] (Popllama, 1993)

Let It Be – The Squirrels, The Exotic Beatles [Compilation]. Exotica Records [UK] 1994)

The Squirrels, Scrapin’ For Hits – The Squirrels [27 song “Best Of” CD],  Poplust Audio, 1996)

Not So-Bright Side of The Moon – The Squirrels (Popllama, 2000)

Live Bootleg Volume One – The Squirrels [limited edition CD-R & Booklet] (Poplust Audio Archival Series 2001)

Oz on 45 b/w Alone Again (Naturally) (PopLlama, 1988)

Take Me To Your Leader (with Iggy Pop commentary)
The Pudz

On September 21 2017 Iggy Pop was hosting his “Iggy Confidential” show that’s become  semi-regular Friday night fare on the UKs BBC 6.  About three quarters through his show he dropped the needle on a song almost everyone familiar with the early 80’s Seattle music scene.  It was The Pudz doing “Take Me To Your (Leader)”.  More than a few Seattle listeners ears pricked up immediately and hopefully a few others’ around the world.  After the song finished Iggy related what a horrible year 1981 was-the year The Pudz single was releasedIggy  mentioned pooping out” Zombie Birdhouse and how he’d been relegated to opening for A Flock of Seagulls at New York’s Peppermint Lounge; he was so humiliated he built himself a cross to drag onto stage with him.  Then he went on to tell his audience what a great little band out of Seattle The Pudz were, and that they were a high point for him during that awful year.  One person who heard the broadcast (via the quick thinking of a friend who was streaming it.) was Rob Morgan… the genius behind The Pudz, and for the last four decades one of most visible guys on Seattle’s music scene…25 of which were spent leading The Squirrels-or one of the many iterations of the band. First he tells me about Iggy  playing one of his Pudz records;

“That was mind-blowing”says Rob. “Being a bright shining spot for him in a shitty year. I just about had a heart attack, then when he actually starts singing R.B Greaves’ ‘Take A Letter, Maria’ (the flip side of Take Me To Your ( Leader) and cracking himself up I felt like ‘that kind of validates my entire career; of all the people who  gave me shit for being a quote-unquote “cover band”-which we’re not.  If we were a cover band we’d be doing songs people actually wanted to hear, and playing in Holiday Inns for real money.  We wouldn’t be taking Terry Jacks’ Seasons In The Sun and speeding it up faster and faster before it becomes Van McCoys’ Do The Hustle.

What Rob didn’t mention is that he has at least one other important and influential fan; or he did have until he died in 2004: The great British DJ, John Peel.  Peel kept a box of records near his … Read more›


Years Active


Band Members

Phil Otto – Guitar/Bass/Vocals

Dave Ford – Guitar/Bass/Vocals

Jerry Frink – Percussion

Terry Pollard – Drums

Associated Bands

Raw Meat


Beat Pagodas

Selected Discography

New Style – rapid-i, 5-song EP, online only (dadastic! sounds, 2013)

New Style

The first thing the former members of rapid-i want to make clear is that their name pre-dates the wide success of R.E.M. Their name evolved out of the same expression (Rapid Eye Movement) but it was coined in 1980, about three years before the debut of R.E.M.s album, Murmer on I.R.S. Records. The point isn’t really that important except to point out that the small “i” in the name is a reference to Prince-Far-I, the dubbiest of the deep-dub artists to come out of 1970’s Jamaica…go through the used records racks and find a copy of one of the the tuffest records of all time; “Prince Far I & King Tubby “‘In The House Of Vocal & Dub”.  rapid-i was not a reggae band, but their respect for a wide range of artists brings up accomplished and experimental pop artists and music figures. They name artists like Mark Smith and The Maffia as well as Smith’s former band The Pop Group. Linton Kwesi Johnson,  James Chance and the Contortions, James Blood Ulmer, Adrian Sherwood, King Crimson and The Sex Pistols among the jazz greats.

It might seem these guys were all over the map musically, but it’s clear they were more interested in musical execution and innovation than any particular genre. This interest showed up in their own music, whilw doing a ripping version of the funky Barney Miller theme song-written by Jack Miller and Allyn Ferguson with the killer bass line performed by Chuck Berghofer. The rapid-i version is practically note for note-not because they were anything near a “cover band”, but because, hell…why mess with something near-prefect?

The changes in keys and difficult rhythm patterns of their original compositions were clever moves for them to share onstage. One might not understand exactly what they were up to but audiences weren’t left out as if their musicianship was an “inside joke”. The bands joy and exuberance in pulling off a slick musical move never cane off as intellectual and snobbish. The audience could see their open enthusiasm and glee. The band didn’t care if it’s audience was classically trained, musically illiterate or astute jazz and classical musicians. They openly invited them to enjoy what they were doing. In fact, one of the apparent “inside jokes” they shared with the audience was covering the Barney Miller theme…It proved finding brilliance in the most mundane, unexpected places.… Read more›

The Black And White Affair

Years Active

1967 – 1972

Band Members

Calvin Law – Hammond C3, Vocals

George Horton – Guitar

Greg Barnes – Bass

Lester MacFarland – Bass, Saxophone, Hammond B3

Manuel Stanton – Bass

James Adams – Drums

Wayne Bibb – Drums

Robbie Hill – Drums

Dave Domineck -Drums

Associated Artists

Mr. Clean and The Cleansers

The Black and Black Affair

The Family Affair

Mr. Lee and The Exotics

The Black On White Affair

Cold, Bold and Together

Cookin’ Bag

Selected Discography

Until The Real Thing Comes Along 7″ b/w Sweet Soul Lady (Topaz Records, 1968)

Bold Soul Sister, Bold Soul Brother 7″ b/w A Bunch of Changes (Topaz Records, 1970)

“Auld Lang Syne”/”A Bunch of Changes”/”Sweet Soul Sister, Sweet Soul Brother” – The Black and White Affair, “Wheedle’s Groove; Seattle’s Finest In Funk & Soul, 1965-75” Compilation (Light In the Attic Records, 2004)

“Funky Manuel” – The Black on White Affair, Quantic Presents the World’s Rarest Funk 45’s” Compilation (Jazzman Records, 2009)

Sweet Soul Lady
The Black and White Affair

Ask a Seattle music fan what were the great periods of Seattle music. Most would quickly name “Grunge” and The Seattle Sound of the late 80s until the mid-90s.  (Pearl Jam, TAD, Soundgarden, etc.)  Some would recall the first successful era I Seattle music-the days of the 50/60s teen-dances that spawned The Northwest Sound; The Wailers, The KIngsmen, Don and The Good Times, The Sonics, among others.  To many there’s not much worthwhile in between The Northwest Sound and The Seattle Sound except for a smattering of arena acts like Heart, a handful of great psychedelic outfits, a few rock festivals or the inventive punk and post punk of bands like the U-Men, The Blackouts or Student Nurse.

Then ask the same fan to name the great black and African American artists the Northwest has produced. Inevitably the first name that will come up is Jimi Hendrix.  Then maybe silence…a few folks might mention Ray Charles or Quincy Jones; but to be honest, Ray Charles was a Florida import biding his time in the Jackson Street clubs before chasing real fame elsewhere.  Charles had been born in Albany Georgia, but spent most of his formative years in St. Augustine, Orlando, Jacksonville and Tampa…not Seattle.

Quincy Jones is an (almost) native son, having been born in Chicago, then moving to Bremerton at age 10, and finally to Seattle. Jones left Seattle at a fairly early age after time at Seattle’s famous Garfield High.  It was here that Quincy Jones and Ray Charles first met. Neither would have imagined the mark they’d leave on American music.  Jones reminisced in a 2005 PBS American Masters episode focusing on his career: “When I was 14 years old and Ray Charles was 16, our average night went like this: We played from seven to 10 at a real pristine Seattle tennis club, the white coats and ties, [playing] ‘A Roomful of Roses’ . . . From 10 to about one o’clock, we’d go play the black clubs: The Black and Tan, The Rocking Chair, and The Washington Educational and Social Club-which is a funny name, funkiest club in the world. We’d play for strippers and comedians and play all the Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Roy Milton stuff, all that R&B. It was a vocal group. Then, at about 1:30 or 2 a.m., everybody got rid of their gigs and we went Read more›

Big Black at The Georgetown Steamplant Poster

August 9, 1987 was without a doubt one of the high water marks in Northwest music  history.  It was the “last blast” for Chicago’s Big Black, one of the most influential indie bands in the US back then.  The band was led by Steve Albini who would go on to be the engineer/producer of some great records, including ones by The Pixies, The Jesus Lizard, Cheap Trick, Nirvana and The Stooges.  In 2004 Albini estimated he has engineered or produced over 1500 albums.  He’s done scores since then.
The setting for Big Black’s Last Blast was a century-old nformer steam plant near Boeing field in south Seattle.  The steam plant had been abandoned so long ago that it no longer produced electricity-not even the facility itself was electrified. Generators had to be brought in to power the show. The audience stood on the large concrete floor in front of a large riser, or took to the catwalks high above the stage. James Husted and former member of The Blackouts Roland Barker-who would go on to play with Ministry -provided wafting, ethereal sounds as the crowd filed in.  The show itself began with Stephen Jesse Bernstein doing a reading that ended with one of his best lines ever.  The sound was set to echo his final words…This IS music, asshole…This IS music, asshole…This IS music, asshole.

Big Black played what woud (arguably) be it’s last show and they pulled no punches.  They meant to go out with the kind of blast they were known for. None of this improbable scenario at this improbable venue could have taken place without Larry Reid (CoCA’s program director and Administrative director Susan Purves pulling the strings.Larry had somehow finagled his way to become the program director of Seattle’s Center On Contemporary Art (CoCA).  Perhaps “finagle” isn’t the right term.  Larry had been involved in music and art for years.  He was an idea man…a BIG idea man.  With one foot squarely in the art world and the other in punk rock, he managed to bring both together a series of events that included everything from Lydia Lunch and Jim Thirwell leading a discussion on the artist’s responsibiity to society (“none” concluded Ms. Lunch) an early appearance of GWAR-in their full anime- monster gear, “Failure To Discriminate” an animalistic robotic destruction derby by Survival Research Laboratories, the German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten and … Read more›

Gail Harris, The Fabulous Wailers and Spanish Castle Magic

Years Active


Associated Artists

The Fabulous Wailers

Buck Owens

The Sonics

Arlin Harmon

Don Costa

Ike and Tina Turner

Etta James

Loretta Lynn


Selected Discography

The Fabulous Wailers at The Castle – (Etiquette, 1961)

Be My Baby  b/w “So Much – Gail Harris, (Etiquette, 1962)

They Never Taught That At School b/w “Don’t Make The Angels CryGayle Harris (Carlton 1962)

Here Come The Hurt” b/w Don’t You Love Me No More – Gayle Harris (Carlton, 1963)

Ain’t Gonna Let Me Down b/w Here I Go Again – Gayle Harris (DCP International, 1965)


Gail Harris was a seasoned pro by the time she first appeared with Tacoma’s Fabulous Wailers at the age of 13.  By 1959 Tacoma’s Fabulous Wailers had made it as a regional powerhouse as well as made their national mark.  Their first single, the instrumental “Tall Cool One” b/w Roadrunner (released in June of 1959) had made the Billboard charts at number 36. Shortly after “Long Cool One” fell off the charts the band released a second single, Mau-Mau b/w Dirty Robber. (August 1959). They’d made an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and on The Allen Freed Show, and done a tour of the East Coast.

In December of 1959 Golden Crest  released an album to capitalize on their success.  The album was simply named ‘The Fabulous Wailers”. Golden Crest was eager to have the band relocate to New York City, but the band declined (probably under orders of their parents) and returned to the Northwest.  Golden Crest soon lost interest in promoting them even though they were still under contract with the label. Golden Crest would eventually drop them but their contract would, for the immediate future create some problems.

Shortly after returning to the Northwest the band took on a new singer and frontman,”Rockin’ RobinRoberts (Lawrence Fewell Roberts II). Roberts had previously worked with another Tacoma band, ‘Little Bill and The Bluenotes”. Along with Rockin’ Robin” Roberts came dissension. Roberts had pushed for a souped-up version of a song written in 1956 by  Richard Berry. The song  Roberts was pushing  for, Louie Louie  was originally inspired by the song “El Loco Cha Cha” written by Cuban-American René Touzet.  It had been a popular song performed live in the 1950s by Ricky Rillera and the Rhythm Rockers in Southern California while Berry was sitting in with The Rhythm Rockers for some time before he created Louie Louie around the “El Loco’s” lead riff.  Berry later said;

“I took some Latin, some calypso, some pop, threw it all in and came up with ‘Louie Louie’.

It was decided in order to get by The Wailers’ contract with the now disinterested Golden Crest, Louie Louie would be released under the artist name “Rockin’ Robin” Roberts even though the recording would actually be recorded by The Wailers.  Buck Ormsby has claimed that Gail Harris also took part of The Wailers final … Read more›

Billy Tipton

Year Active


Band Members

Billy Tipton – Piano

Dick O’Neil – Drums

Kenny Richards – Bass

Ron Kilde – Bass


Associated Artists

Louvenie’s Western Swingbillies,

George Meyer

Ross Carlyle

Scott Cameron



Selected Discography

Billy Tipton Plays Hi-Fi On The Piano – Billy Tipton (Tops Records, 1957)

Sweet Geogia Brown – The Billy Tipton Trio (Topps Records, 1957)

Billy Tipton – Billy Tipton ( Calle Mayor [Spain] 2017)


When Billy Tipton died on January 21st 1989 he was penniless, living in a mobile home, and his ability to play piano or saxophone had been destroyed by years of  ravaging arthritis.  He led a very private life with only a small circle of friends in his adopted home-town, Spokane Washington.  He and his jazz trio had disbanded years earlier.  During their time they had played small joints, Fraternal Hall dances and cocktail lounges for little pay throughout the mid-west and west coast.  Billy had only two recordings to show for his almost 50 years in music.  Both albums had been released in 1957.  Essentially his passing would have gone unnoticed by anyone except his loved ones and a handful of professional friends.  The rest of us would never know a thing about him.

But as Billy lay on the floor of his kitchen dying of a hemorrhaged peptic ulcer a  paramedic called by Billy’s son William (against Billy’s wishes)  loosened Billy’s pajamas in order to try resuscitate him looked up at William and asked;

”Did your father ever have a sex change?”

That single question would make Billy Tipton one of the most talked-about jazz performers for the next few decades.  It would also lead to public debates, books, research papers  and magazine articles on gender, personal identity, transexualism, deception and an individual’s right to live as they wish.

Billy Tipton was pronounced dead when his body arrived at Valley General Hospital in Spokane Washington.  Later the Medical Examiner told Billy’s family what the paramedic seems to have confirmed-that Billy had been born a female. In an attempt to keep this from the public Billy’s estranged wife  Kitty arranged for his body to be cremated,  But before the cremation occurred the local press had discovered the story.  After financial offers from the media poured in Kitty and one of their sons went public with the story. The first newspaper article was published the day after Tipton’s funeral and it was quickly picked up by wire services.  The story went around the world immediately

Billy Tipton had presented as a man for over 50 years, had been “married” five times (all of them were “common law” marriages) travelled non-stop with his trio and adopted three boys with his final wife.  All of them, including Billy’s associates and friends swore they had no idea that Billy had been born female…not even … Read more›