Northwest Music History: Psychedelic

EVERYTHING’S GONE GREEN
The Green Pajamas: Part One

In 2012 music critic Nathan Ford wrote: “It’s doubtful whether there are any other acts out there who have amassed as impressive a body of work while reaching so few as Seattle’s long-running Green Pajamas. This seems to be a common theme – you’ve either never heard of the Green Pajamas, or you’re an obsessive, devotional fan. Ford, who was writing for New Zealand’s web’zine The Active Listener concluded “They seem to be the type of band that brooks no middle ground.”

In theory, this might be true, but it also might be valid on a more pragmatic level. The Green Pajamas were active from 1984 until 2018, with a few hiatus along the way. It’s hard to imagine any other group of Seattle musicians putting out more recorded material, either as a band or in one of its many permutations. Since 1984 the band has released 22 albums (not including domestic and international re-issues) 15 singles and EPs, five compilations of their music, and included on another 40. Their music has appeared on labels as far-flung as Greece, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, The U.K., Germany, and at least a dozen U.S. Labels. None of this includes the solo or side projects recorded by band members.

It’s hard to imagine a more prolific songwriter than the band’s leader Jeff Kelly, or the consistent quality of his output. The other members that have come and gone over the years have also been exceptional, though not as prolific. One might have to be an obsessive, devotional fan to follow The Green Pajamas in places as diverse as New Zealand, Greece, or elsewhere. Still, over the course of 34 years, The Green Pajamas were practically ignored by all but the most obsessive, devotional fans in their hometown of Seattle. While many Seattle music fans followed, then moved on to newer trends, the Green Pajamas continued to do one thing; write, create and record music that holds together thematically and musically. The quality of their work has made many worldwide fans consider them reliably engaging, without treading the same waters. Each song is like a small, unique gift. Every album is a jewel to be examined over and over-each time with as much joy as the last.

THEY MET AT A PARTY

The band that would become The Green Pajamas formed on July 13th, 1983, when two young guys from West Seattle, Jeff Kelly, and Joe Ross, met at a party through a mutual friend. The friend was Kirsten Wilhelm, who Jeff was dating at the time. Joe Ross knew Kirsten from high school. “Joe and I had a mutual love of The Beatles, especially for their song “Rain,” Jeff says. “Joe had a rehearsal room upstairs in his parent’s house so the next evening, July 14th, Jeff, Joe, and drummer Karl Wilhelm (older brother of Kirsten, Jeff’s girlfriend) got together to jam. The following night, Friday, July 15th, the trio played at a party held by Nancy Thompson, an acquaintance of both Joe and Kirsten. The genesis of the band- from meeting to playing- had taken place within three days.

Illustration: Joe Ross

Jeff had a 4-track TEAC A-3340 reel-to-reel at the time. “I’d been recording stuff at home all my life, so this was a natural progression.” according to Jeff. “When I met Joe, we just started fooling around. We just got together and started jamming.” Jeff says most of the stuff was made up very spontaneously. “We’d think, “that section sounds good, so then we decided maybe we could make some songs out of that single part.” 

Both Jeff and Joe had been listening to the Rain Parade, the Three O’Clock, Green on Red, and other artists in the neo-psychedelic scene dubbed The Paisley Underground. “We just kind of liked that sound, I guess,” Jeff tells me. “It was kind of our psychedelic thing. We’d turn out the lights, light candles, burn incense and drink beer. Since it was at my parent’s house, they’d be in bed downstairs, so we’d turn the volume really low, make up songs, let the tapes roll while we noodled around, and then listen.” Two cassette tapes arose out of these jams that were designated Gothic Funk with Incense: One, and Gothic Funk with Incense: Two.

In the early days, Jeff and Joe relied on both Karl Wilhelm and Joe Bauer as drummers. Karl was the brother of Jeff’s girlfriend at the time. Joe Bauer was a drummer Joe Ross had been working with for about a year. In the end, it was Karl who became the drummer by default. “We never auditioned our drummer,” Joe Ross tells me. “It was really a matter of Joe Bauer becoming less available, and Karl getting divorced, leaving him much more time to devote to the band. ”

“I’m a self-taught drummer,” Karl says. “When I got out of high school, I jammed with friends. It was basically for fun. Usually, with a trio, but sometimes an extra person would come in. That’s where I got my start playing.

“Joe Bauer did some recording and gigging with Jeff and Joe Ross, but I ended up being the main drummer,” Wilhelm says. He also says he had to learn the parts Joe Bauer had laid down on previous recordings to play them live. “Jeff and Joe also had a number of people they knew that would sit in with them. There were different things that they were willing to play with us,” Karl continues. “One guy we worked with was an orchestral violinist. A lot of classically trained people can’t improvise, but he could, and he was good at it. We’d play a song, and he’d think something up. It was always a pleasure to work with him.”

“Jeff didn’t like to keep very many songs in the loop,” Karl says. “He was always creating new stuff. He’s such a consummate musician. If you write a song, it’s ingrained in your memory already, so he’d want to get it recorded almost immediately. The rest of us needed to practice it more so we could play a little better, but he was always rotating new songs into the setlist. That was a challenge, but it was also fun.” 

Both Jeff and Joe claim The Green Pajamas “weren’t a thing yet” when they started rehearsing, but by the spring of 1984, the trio of Jeff Kelly, Joe Ross, and Joe Bauer started playing casual gigs. They tried out several band names during this period.  A poster from March 2nd, 1984, shows they opened for The Eagertones at South Seattle Community College as Felix The Cat Explodes!

Their first gig-a house party at Nancy Thompson’s.
August 20, 1983. L to R: Joe Ross, Joe Bauer, Jeff Kelly

On April 20th, 1984 (Joe’s 20th birthday), the band played a party under the name Spanking Naughty Teens. The gig was taped and still exists, Joe says. He also explains that Spanking Naughty Teens was much more refined than Felix the Cat Explodes! Spanking Naughty Teens consisted of Jeff and Joe along with Joe Bauer on drums and Dan Gossard, an old friend of Jeff’s, on vocals. Even though Jeff and Joe were writing and rehearsing original material, Felix the Cat Explodes! was primarily a cover band.

Jeff and I put some thought into naming the band,” Joe tells me. “We’d considered The Flying Nun and The Pigeon-Toed Orange Peels but finally settled on The Green Pajamas.  The band name was based on a song that was already in our repertoire. We liked the idea that we would have a theme song.”

THANKS TO EVERYONE  WHO SANG AT THE PAJAMA PARTY

The song and band name were derived from the ‘Pajama Parties’ Joe and Jeff held in the summer of 1984- also known as ‘The Summer of Lust’ to band members for reasons that should be obvious. The ‘Pajama Parties’ were held in places like Seattle’s popular Alki Beach, Lincoln Park, or in Joe’s backyard where they held barbecues. Later in the evening, they brought out their guitars for sing-alongs. The credits of their debut album, Summer of Lust, include thanks to ‘All who participated in the Pajama Party’ In this case, the ‘Pajama Party’ referred to the last song recorded for their debut album, Summer of Lust. 

“We wanted a room full of voices for the chorus of the song “Green Pajamas”, so we had a party upstairs in my jam room,” Joe explains. “We got everyone there to participate in the live recording of the song.” One of the girls who had “participated in the Pajama Party” was Julie Lawrence. “She was always talking about her brother Steve,” Joe tells me.” She’d say ‘He’s coming out of the Army. You would love him so much. He’s a big fan of The Beatles and The Byrds.’ For months she kept telling us about him,” Joe says, “and she told him about us for months.”

Summer of Lust Poster, 1984. Illustration by Joe Ross

Basic tracks for Summer of Lust consisted of guitar, bass, and drums for eight songs that were recorded on Jeff’s TEAC 4-track reel-to-reel. Four were recorded in Joe’s attic with a single microphone hanging in the middle of the room. The other four songs had been recorded entirely at Jeff’s house. 

Jeff had written a new song called “I Feel Like A Murder.” It was about a recent experience he’d had on a date. He wanted to record the song right away, so he and Joe grabbed a boombox, an acoustic 12-string guitar, a snare drum, and Julie Lawrence and Nancy Thompson. On July 15th, 1984, they piled into Jeff’s champagne-colored mid-60s, Dodge Dart. He drove to a big amphitheater-shaped basin near Meyers Way in the Seattle neighborhood of White Center. “I think we assumed it would be a fun place to do a demo of the song, but it became the official version,” Joe says. “We never did make another recording of it. Just that one take. In the liner notes for Summer of Lust, it’s written’ “I Feel Like A Murder” was recorded ‘in a field featuring Julie on “wastebasket.” Julie confirms this by saying she picked up the tossed-away basket on their march from the car into the basin that day.

After recording the rest of the songs at Joe’s, the two took the basic tracks to Jeff’s house to do overdubs in his bedroom. The songs “Lost in a World” and “Anna Maria” had been recorded earlier but were included with the new recordings. Jeff and Joe spent a week mixing. The day after mixing was completed the two had 25 cassette tapes duplicated. As soon as the duplicates returned, Summer of Lust was in the Seattle record stores Cellophane Square and Fallout Records, the newly opened shop run by Russ Battaglia, his wife Janet, and Bruce Pavitt. Pavitt left the store about a year after its opening and went on to co-found SubPop Records in 1986. Fallout Records later became a large part of Seattle’s punk and skate culture.

Many discographies mistakenly state that Summer of Lust was first released by Tom Dyer’s Green Monkey Records. A few others claim the original cassette of Summer of Lust was self-released, and for the most part, it was- but Summer of Lust was also the first cassette released on Joe Ross’s label, Endgame Records. It would not be the only Green Pajamas record released on Joe’s label. Endgame would, in the future, release records by various other artists, including Jack Endino, Larry Wilhelm, Crypt Kicker 5, 64 Spiders, as well as Joe Ross’s solo output.

Summer of Lust cassette. One of the original Green Monkey releases.

Upon its release, Summer of Lust did not prove to be a milestone in Seattle music history. Only a few copies were made, and friends and family bought most of them. Like many other fantastic bands with fantastic songs, The Green Pajamas debut went mostly unnoticed, if for no other reason than a lack of proper distribution. The tape was released at what was probably the height of what was known as cassette culture.  This movement didn’t center around the commercial music scene, even though the major labels were pouring out more cassettes than the vinyl they’d produced in the past. The long-playing 12″ record hadn’t disappeared, but tapes were outselling them and it proved to be the beginning of vinyl’s demise.

The cassette was an inexpensive way for independent labels and artists to release or distribute their music affordably. Cassettes became the norm for soliciting labels, managers, or promoters who might be interested in any particular band’s music.  Tom Dyer relied exclusively on cassette tapes during the early years of Green Monkey Records. He admits he didn’t release them because they were trendy at the time. He relied on them because he could have small runs duplicated without laying out much cash. If any particular album sold out, he’d have more cassettes made. “I did it because it was cheap,” he says. Tom wasn’t alone, and neither was The Green Pajamas in copying and distributing tapes among family and friends…and sometimes even selling them,

The cassette tape became indispensable because for the first time individuals had both the hardware and software to control their music or even their favorite music by any other artist. It’s hard for people who weren’t there at the time to understand, but the cassette revolution was even more profound than the next two great leaps; when the CD overcame the cassette as the preferred format, and later when file-sharing online came into existence.

Green Monkey Logo                Design: Vicki Dyer.

On August 19th, 1984, the band played a show at Tonight’s The Night Discotheque on Mercer Island. Joe Ross says he remembers the date specifically because this was, again,  the eve of his 21st birthday. It was also the first gig which the band billed themselves as The Green Pajamas. Joe seems to have been a little disappointed because, for months, he’d imagined he would wait outside a bar to get “carded” at midnight to enter and have a drink. These hopes were dashed. “When the opportunity to play a gig came up, I had to take it, even though it meant wasting my 21st birthday in an all-ages club,” according to Joe.

“About four months after releasing Summer of Lust, I got a phone call from Tom Dyer,” Joe says. “He had just bought a copy of our tape and was writing a review of it for the influential alternative music magazine, Option. Tom admits it took a while to track the band down. Jeff and Joe had released the cassette without any contact information, and it was only by calling the company that had duplicated copies of the cassette that he was given a phone number for Joe. During their initial conversation, Tom mentioned to Joe that he ran Green Monkey Records and had an 8-track studio in his basement.” 

In 1983, Tom had set up Green Monkey Records in his apartment in Seattle’s Fremont District. His first studio consisted of a TEAC four-track reel-to-reel and a TAPCO 6200B mixer. According to Tom, he bought the equipment “from a guy in a parking garage downtown.” It was in 1983 Tom recorded and released his debut album, Truth or Consequences on Green Monkey Records, Later in 1983 Green Monkey released, the first of many compilations. This one was called Local Product

Tom says he knew the first time he heard Summer of Lust he wanted to work with the Green Pajamas. Once meeting them, and agreeing to re-release Summer of Lust on his label, Dyer says he “devised a master plan-how we were going to conquer the world.” The “master plan” ended up with Tom as the head of the band’s record label, their booking agent, manager, and producer, as well as shopping for licensing to labels outside the United States. Later Tom said he would never have guessed he and his label would be ‘pajamafied’.

Jeff had also given Tom cassettes tapes of songs that pre-dated Summer of Lust. He’d recorded them on his 4-track TEAC reel to reel. Tom says he picked out the songs he liked, and along with three additional Jeff Kelly songs, they created an album Jeff named  Baroquen Hearts. “Jeff has always thought some of this stuff was not up to snuff,” Tom says. In 1999, when  Melancholy Sun, a four-CD boxed set of Jeff’s home recordings was released it didn’t include a single song from Baroqen Hearts even though there is, as Tom Dyer claims, “a tremendous charm in the young Jeff Kelly’s work.”

Tom goes on to say that he had already assembled a press list, and Green Monkey Records was becoming more experienced at getting people to write about the label. “We sent Baroquen Hearts out to all the usual suspects,” he says. “Green Monkey then re-released Summer of Lust along with a couple of added songs. 

“I was amused by the fact that Jeff would write about people using their real names,” Tom tells me. One song was “Stephanie Barber,” and another was “Mike Brown”. The song “Mike Brown” was recorded during the Summer of Lust sessions but pulled from its original release. Mike Brown was the boyfriend of Kirsten Wilhelm. She had dumped Jeff for Mike. Jeff didn’t want to ruin the chance of a reconciliation with Kirsten. He thought he’d have better prospects by excluding the song on Summer of Lust.

“Anna Maria” was recorded in October of 1984, so it didn’t appear on the original version of Summer of Lust. It was added to the 1995 Green Monkey re-release of the album. Joe feels the song, “Stephanie Barber” didn’t fit with the rest of the songs on Summer of Lust. “Mike Brown” made it onto the 1989 vinyl version of Summer of Lust that was released by Ubik Records in England, but “Stephanie Barber” didn’t. Because of vinyl’s time constraints, “I Feel Like A Murder” was also cut from the Ubik Records release.

ANOTHER “ANOTHER PORKY PRIME CUT”

Summer of Lust. 1989 Ubik Records 12″ vinyl re-issue. Also used for all subsequent releases. Photo: Kari Dunn.

Ubik Records was an indie label in London run by Los Angeles transplant Greg Shaw, one of the co-founders of Bomp! magazine and later, Bomp! Records. Unfortunately, his British excursion ended when the Ubik label became defunct with the closing of the near-legendary distributor “the Cartel” One distinction of Ubik’s vinyl release of Summer of Lust is that it was re-mastered by George Peckham who also cut the lacquer. Peckham is one of the most exceptional mastering engineers and lacquer cutters in music history. He famously signed his projects with a number of clever monikers, his most famous being “Another Porky prime cut”. His “signature” in various forms is found in the runout of the records he cut. The mark of his mastering and lacquer cutting is found in one form or another on many of the most iconic albums begining in the late 60s into the early 2000’s. From John Lennon’s Imagine and Electric Warrior by T. Rex to Blondie’s Plastic Letters and almost everything ever released by The Buzzcocks and Cabaret Voltaire. Other albums as diverse as Paul McCartney and Wings’ Venus and Mars

George “Porky” Peckham in his studio.

to Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp! and Led Zeppelin’s Houses of The Holy. Peckham cut albums for Pink Floyd, Traffic, Joy Division, P.I.L., The Jam, Supergrass, Stone Roses, The Stranglers, Badfinger, Nurse With Wound, Colin Newman, The Beatles Happy Mondays, and literally thousands of other well-known albums by well-known artists. During the 1970s and ’80 having the words “Another Porky prime cut” etched into the dead wax of a record was a badge or honor and put any artist in some very heady company.badge of honor for any artist and put them into some

 

“WE ALWAYS HAD THIS JOKE…”

In October 1984, Steve Lawrence, the brother of Julie Lawrence, who felt he and the Green Pajamas would be an excellent fit, returned to Seattle. The band met Steve shortly after his arrival. They all seemed to get along well enough, and of course, Julie had been recommending him for months. When Steve went into the Army, he had a taste for hardcore punk rock. He developed a kinship with another soldier, Tim Canny, who, along with Steve, dreamed of starting a punk band after the military. The plan was to meet up in Tim’s hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio, and find others to fill out a group. Even after being assigned to different military facilities, Steve and Tim remained friends, but their plan never came to fruition, possibly because of a change in Steve’s musical interests. Steve had joined the Army with a love for punk rock, but by the time of his leaving the Army in 1983, Tim Canny says Steve’s real passion was rockabilly.  It’s possible this came about because of a short friendship and correspondence with Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats. After being discharged, Steve headed to Tim’s hometown, Cincinnati, and the two wrote a few songs together.  Nothing came of the writing partnership, save one song, “I Hate (Everything)”, that was recorded by Musical Suicide, a local Cincinnati band.

Steve played electric bass, double-bass, and tenor saxophone. While he was in Cincinnati, he briefly joined a few rockabilly bands. Then he began backing an old Jump R&B singer called Billy Nelson- also known as Billy “Turban” Nelson, because of his usual head attire. Nelson was a Cincinnati native that had made a favorable impression on the mighty Savoy Records in the 1950s.  Nelson and the three remaining members of the Five Wings recorded four songs for the label, but Savoy only released two of them as the1955 single “Pack, Shack And Stack Your Blues Away” b/w “Walk Along”. Later Billy Nelson became the featured vocalist with the Boots Johnson Combo who released 1968’s “Hold Me Baby” b /w “If I Had The Chance (To Love You)” on King Records. King was a prestigious label based in Cincinnati. It had been the home of James Brown, Ralph Stanley, Redd Foxx, Little Willie John, Hank Ballard Arthur Prysock, and a host of famous C&W and R&B artists-an odd pairing of genres and musicians that would become the founders of Soul music.

Steve Lawrence. Date unknown
Photo courtesy of Julie Lawrence.

Tim Skidmore, an important figure on the Cincinnati alternative scene, was trying to help Billy make a comeback as Billy Nelson and the Skid Row Blues Band.  Skidmore recruited Steve as a member of Billy Nelson’s band. Shortly afterward, Nelson unexpectedly died of a stomach ailment. Friends say Steve was devastated, and with no gig in sight, he followed his sister’s advice and returned to Seattle.

Jeff Kelly, Joe Ross, and Karl Wilhelm met with Steve, and according to Joe, “We had kind of an awkward audition with him.” But they got along well enough that Steve ended up playing a couple of shows with them. One at the West Seattle Golf Course and one at Seattle University. “He was doing shows with us at the time, but he didn’t participate in any recordings,” Joe says. “He immediately liked the whole vibe. Steve loved whatever was trendy at the moment. He’d been in a rockabilly band, and he was a pretty exceptional rock guitarist. Steve loved the idea we were doing this new kind of psychedelic revival thing. We loved him right away because he knew what to do; what kind of songs we wanted to play. He went out and bought paisley shirts. He had the same references”.

“We always had this joke,” Jeff Kelly says.” You can’t be in our band unless you know the song “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight?” by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.”

Steve knew the song. It was a done deal. He was now a member of The Green Pajamas.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

In October of 1984, the band started recording a new project that would be called Happy Halloween! The album was a collection of eight songs Jeff and Joe recorded over a week. According to the credits, the basic tracks for six of the songs were recorded at the ‘Wilhelm Mansion Basement Studio.’ According to the cassette’s credits. Along with the songs recorded at Karl’s, two tracks previously recorded at Jeff Kelly’s house were added. Karl Wilhelm’s brother Larry had just bought a Casio MT-68 keyboard and it inspired Jeff and Joe to immediately buy one for use on their recordings. Larry Wilhelm is credited as playing guitar on two songs on Happy Halloween!,” Murder of Crows” and “Last Days Of Autumn”.  Julie Lawrence is credited as the drummer for the title track, “Happy Halloween!”. Jeff Kelly, an untrained cellist, had bought a used one earlier that fall. Despite not knowing how to play he added decent string parts to “All I Want To Do”,” Gothic Funk”, “Johnna Johnna”, “One Monday”, “Nearly Winter” and “Stephanie Barber”. The album was readied for a 1984 release. After copying only 10 cassettes, Jeff and Joe gave them to their closest friends and fans. The ten copies of the cassette of Happy Halloween were also initially released on Joe Ross’s Endgame Records.  

Happy Halloween! 1984.  One of the 10 original cassettes Design: Joe Ross

“Over the years people from England, Germany and all over the world would write to me asking me about Happy Halloween!,” Joe says. “I’ve made people copies on cassette, and later on CDRs. Happy Halloween! usually appears on Green Pajamas discographies even though virtually no one has heard it. Over the next 20 years, probably another ten copies were made and sent to inquisitive people around the world. This was in the pre-internet days,” Joe continues. “You know, it took a lot of energy for someone to write a letter from Germany and send it to a small label in 1984, but people did it. I always received stuff by letter. It was a great time for that kind of thing. It was really fun to exchange letters with people. It was fun to become pen pals. You would send a mix-tape of your rarest material just for being contacted. 

The Green Pajamas bio for the Happy Halloween! wider CD release in 2014 includes high praise from Paul Kerr of the webzine Americana U.K. Kerr called it “another welcome reissue from Seattle psych-popsters. If you dig the likes of Syd Barrett, The West Coast Experimental Pop Band, Robyn Hitchcock, Young Marble Giants, or The Bevis Frond then you might be well advised to check this out.”

THIS WINTER’S NIGHT

On December 19th,1984, The Green Pajamas recorded their first Christmas single, “This Winter’s Night”. “It was a big deal for us,” Joe says. “It was a big production-before we even knew Tom Dyer, so we recorded it at my house.” The song wasn’t released until 2009’s Green Monkey’s Christmas compilation Santa’s Not Dead; It’s a Green Monkey Christmas. The band also contributed “The Caroler’s Song” as well as their rendition of “O’Holy Night” to the 2009 Christmas album.

The 2010 Green Monkey Christmas album (with the less sinister title, It’s a Green Monkey Christmas) also included a version of “This Winter’s Night” recorded by a duo named ‘Ben and Kat,’ who were, in fact, Tom Dyer’s son and daughter. The Green Monkey Christmas albums have become an annual tradition with all proceeds going to charity. Both Tom Dyer and the Green Pajamas record songs for the albums in various permutations and plenty of other Northwest bands are always ready to offer something up.

“I remember for some reason Steve wasn’t there when we recorded “This Winter’s Night”. I‘m not sure why…it was just one of those things,” Joe says. “When we met Steve, he was into gigging with us but not doing recordings. Jeff and I recorded at the drop of a hat,” Joe continues,  but gigs were bigger deals. We’d have to make calls to get a gig. In the beginning, Steve didn’t record with us, but he always played live. I think the first live gig with Steve was at Seattle University.

New Year’s Eve 1984/1985. After-Show Party

The band played several shows in November and December of 1984. On New Year’s Eve of 1984/1985 Larry Reid, owner of Graven Image Gallery, held an event at Seattle’s notorious Meat Lockers. Reid had booked Henry Rollins (then of Black Flag) to perform. Seattle’s U-Men, who Larry was managing at the time played.  The line-up also included the bands Pop Defect and Baba Yaga. Tim Grimm, a magician who would later be a member of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, performed. Verna Doherty, who was instrumental in getting Henry Rollins to do his spoken word performance, also read some of her work. The Green Pajamas played an after-show performance at Reid’s Graven Image Gallery, going onstage about 3 A.M.

Steve’s first recordings with the band were at Joe’s jam room in his parent’ house. In January 1985, the entire band recorded “Thinking Only Of You (Lust Don’t Last)” and “All I Want To Do” The songs were eventually released as a limited pressing of 300 singles on lime green vinyl by Germany’s GOAR Magazine. Like many other alternative ‘zines at the time, each issue of GOAR included a 7″ record. The Green Pajamas single came with 1993’s #8 issue of GOAR.

A HORSE IS A HORSE

The Green Pajamas’ most auspicious recording of their early career, “Kim the Waitress” was recorded in January of 1985 but not released until May 1986.  The b-side “Jennifer” was written by Steve Lawrence. The songs were from the same recording sessions as “Peppermint Stick”, which was included on the late 1995 Green Monkey compilation, Monkey Business. The single “Kim The Waitress” would be instrumental to the band’s success, but until its release, it sat in the can for over a year. The entire story begins in the summer of 1984.

Jeff and Joe had grown up in West Seattle. “There was a little all-night cafe called Mr. Ed’s,” Joe tells me. Jeff, Joe, and Karl spent a lot of time at Mr. Ed’s. They just sat around, sometimes into the middle of the night, drinking coffee and discussing whatever came into their heads.  

Joe had worked at Mr. Ed’s as a dishwasher in high school. Kim Chavey (now Kim Olson) was a young woman working the graveyard shift as a waitress. Jeff Kelly had a crush on Kim, and she became somewhat of a muse for him.

Kim Chavey, now Kim Olson.
The actual ‘Kim The Waitress’ at Mr. Ed’s 1984.

Jeff, Joe, Karl, and whoever was with them had a habit of writing dirty limericks on the coffee house placemats. Joe says he still has an original placemat on which they first wrote a poem about Kim Chavey “Me, Jeff, Karl and probably Julie Lawrence would be giggling, hiding, and bouncing around,” Joe remembers. “The poem about Kim was something along the lines of ‘I’m in love with Kim the waitress’. It was really juvenile. I remember rhyming ‘pert‘ with ‘a little squirt’.  We were giggling about it, but the rhyme later proved to be the basis of the lyrics for the song “Kim the Waitress” 

“We were getting very raunchy with these poems,” Joe says, but when it came to writing the lyrics to “Kim The Waitress” they took on a meaning of unrequited love. “The actual inspiration was juvenile…really juvenile…super juvenile, dirty lyrics,” Joe says. “Later, I got to know Kim on more of a social basis. In fact, a friend of mine and Kim were dating when the single “Kim The Waitress” came out. She really loved it. Her whole family knows all about it. Until a decade ago, I still got Christmas cards from her, and they were always signed: ‘from Kim the Waitress’ Kim even told me the song was played at her wedding.”

Joe says the origins of “Kim the Waitress’ are evident on the first of the two Gothic Funk with Incense tapesAfter writing “Kim The Waitress” Jeff and Joe knew the song was really good. “It came organically out of a jam session we did upstairs at my parents’ house,” Joe says. “Jeff was ad-libbing lyrics. I was playing guitar and noodling around. We did a few versions of “Kim the Waitress’ ‘with Jeff playing the bass drum with his right foot and high hat with his left. ‘Boom-boom-boom. Boom-boom-boom,” Joe recalls. “He was doing a simple drum part and playing bass at the same time he was singing. Then you’d hear the rhythm. When he was doing it, Jeff was inspired by Joy Division; not as intense, but with that repetitive beat and the bass. “A bunch of songs came out of those sessions,” Jeff says.

In early January 1985, The Green Pajamas went into Tom’s studio to record “Kim The Waitress”. A few days before the recording  Joe borrowed a sitar from the father of a  friend.  His friend’s father was a high school music teacher and Joe knew that he had played the sitar in the ’60s and early ’70s. Joe secured the use of the sitar just in time for the band to use it during the same session they recorded “Kim The Waitress.” Each band member had a go at playing it. “I thought I would be able to play it,” Joe says,” but Steve Lawrence was better at it so he played it on the record.  I played guitar and Jeff played bass with Karl Wilhelm on drums.”

We tuned the sitar to an A chord,” Joe recalls. “The sitar hadn’t been played in years.  When I got hold of the sitar there was no resemblance of proper tuning. (the band’s tuning it to an A chord is practically unheard of in classical Indian music).  “It was just a bunch of strings and the texture had little friction holes in it. There were no gears,” Joe tells me. “ I still have it.  I told the guy we used it in our recording and he asked ‘Do you wanna buy it?’ So I gave him 40 bucks.”

“Kim the Waitress” was recorded in January of 1985, but not released until May 1986 with the b-side “Jennifer” written by Steve Lawrence. The song “Kim The Waitress” would be instrumental to the band’s success, but until its release it sat in the can for over a year.

Tom Dyer did not press and release the single as soon as it was recorded. He wanted to give more time for his newly released compilation Monkey Business.  He intended proper promotion, distribution, and possibly sales for his latest compilation.   “Kim The Waitress” would have to wait.

The Green Pajamas The Vogue, Seattle, January 11, 1985.
L. to R. Joe Ross, Karl Wilhelm, Jeff Kelly

On January 23rd, 1985, The Green Pajamas played what they considered their “coming out gig” at Seattle nightclub The Vogue. It was one of the clubs that had was important during the era by providing a formal bar setting for the bands that would later become known as ‘grunge’ artists. The Vogue was one of the few small clubs in Seattle that consistently booked ‘alternative’ national acts as well as an eclectic mix of local musicians…most of them at the forefront of the music spectrum. The club had the same policy since 1979 when it opened as a punk club called WREX. That night The Green Pajamas played in front of a Paisley backdrop, and two dancers performed on either side of them- the dancers wouldn’t last more than a couple of gigs.

 

On February 2nd, 1985, The Green Pajamas were booked to play a frat party at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, about 270 miles east of Seattle on the hot and dry side of the state. Usually, the trip is about a 4½ hour drive from Seattle. The band hired David Cotrell, a roommate of Joe’s brother at the University of Washington to drive the group and their equipment to Walla Walla. The band piled into Cotrell’s Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon. It snowed all the way between Seattle and Walla Walla, so the trip was considerably longer than anticipated.

At one point, David and the band stopped for gas somewhere in Eastern Washington. At the time, the band was wearing full psychedelic regalia for their performances. During the stop, band members ran into the gas station’s coffee shop to gather up snacks and pay for them. Joe says they were all in paisley shirts, tight striped pants, and hippy-style leather jackets. A county Sheriff sat in the coffee shop and gave them a good looking over. The Sheriff ended up following the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon for about ten miles down the road before pulling them over.

“Fortunately our driver was a small-town boy from Grayland, Washington,” Joe says “He politely explained to the officer how he was driving this zany band from Seattle to a legitimate gig in Walla Walla, and he’d make sure we didn’t get into any trouble.” It’s unclear if there was any real reason to pull the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon over,” but,” as Joe says, “We didn’t get a ticket.”

Green Pajamas. Rock Theater (Gorilla Gardens) Seattle
Joe’s last show

Tension had been growing between Jeff and Joe during the lead-up to a March 16th show at The Rock Theater, part of The Gorilla Gardens complex on the edge of Seattle’s International District.  Jeff had broken up with Kirsten Wilhelm, and Joe had secretly started dating her…at least secretly until Jeff found out. This arrangement complicated the friendship between the two, and Jeff felt that Joe should no longer be in the band. It was Tom Dyer’s unenviable task to tell Joe “his services were no longer needed” since Tom had recently become The Green Pajamas’ manager. After Joe was asked to leave, the band played the West Seattle Golf Course on April 6th, and at Seattle University, the first live gig Tom Dyer booked. Another gig took place at the Golden Crown on April 26th, which was the first Tom Dyer attended. The band played the Golden Crown once more on May 10th. It was also in May 1985 that Steve Lawrence made his first short departure.

Jeff and Joe didn’t speak to one another for the rest of 1985 and much of 1986. “We both care a lot for each other,” Joe says, “but I had stolen his love from him. It was weird because Jeff and I really wanted to work together, but we couldn’t and wouldn’t. It was the closest kind of feeling I’d had when you want to be with someone, but they don’t want to be with you. It was really emotional. It was a unique experience for me.” 

By the time Jeff had gotten over Kirsten Wilhelm, fallen in love again, and got married to Susanne Dailey on September 5th, 1986, Jeff and Joe had repaired their friendship. Joe attended the wedding. He continued to write and record as a solo artist and as the bassist for at least two other bands, but it seemed inevitable he would return to The Green Pajamas one day.

Earlier, in May of 1986 “Kim The Waitress” b/w “Jennifer” (written by Steve Lawrence) was finally released.  The single had faced a few glitches at the pressing plant in Vancouver, Canada, but had still arrived much earlier than May of ’86.  According to Tom, he kept the singles hidden in a closet and told everyone in the band except Jeff Kelly that the records had been held up in customs at the Canadian border. “I was trying to be strategic,” Tom tells me. “I wanted to release the compilation Monkey Business first and then allow enough time for the next Green Pajamas single to take over the attention.”

Jeff says that the band was performing at the time but wasn’t getting much radio support.  KCMU (predecessor of Seattle’s widely broadcast KEXP) would play a little Green Pajamas once in a while, but the band was kind of a novelty.  “We weren’t ‘grunge’ so our music didn’t fit into anything like that,” Jeff tells me. Jonathan Poneman, who co-founded the label Sub Pop later that year played the singe when he was a DJ at KCMU during a late-night spot.  “We got on there,” Jeff says, “but “Kim The Waitress”  never became any kind of a hit.”

Joe believes Jeff never fully embraced “Kim The Waitress” with the enthusiasm he could have. “I think Jeff could have ridden it to fame.” Although the song was a staple of the band’s performance during its early years, especially when Joe wasn’t in the band,  Jeff admits he lost interest over the last ten or fifteen years.  

In later years, as Joe says, “Everyone in the band said, ‘Yeah, let’s play “Kim The Waitress.”  We’d write it on the setlist,” Joe says, “But Jeff said ‘No. We’re skipping that.’ Joe tells me of one disgruntled couple approaching him after a show, saying, ‘We came to hear” Kim The Waitress,” and you didn’t even fucking play it!.’ ”

It’s hard to say what would have resulted if the song had become more popular at the time. It’s even harder to envision the path the band might have taken. They certainly never became stars in the conventional sense, but they were part of an underground music scene that held them in high regard. The critics were uniformly positive for almost every release they issued. They might not have found the independent licensing they treasured and the ability to write, record, and release what they chose. Having a hit with “Kim the Waitress” on a major label could have just as easily led them to be one-hit-wonders or derailing the creativity that would later be so obvious. It’s better not to deal with hypothetical could-have-beens.  One thing Jeff tells in an almost covert voice “Here’s a piece of trivia.  If you look at the run out of “Kim The Waitress” you can see we had “A horse is a horse”etched in there… like in the show Mr. Ed.  Unless you know we used to hang out at that coffee shop Mr. Ed’s you wouldn’t have a clue what it meant.

Jeff’s reluctance might have been seen as self-sabotage. On the other hand, his approach could have been responsible for worldwide recognition and a career that spanned 40 years without ever sounding old and never having to rest on former laurels. Or it could have been, as Karl Wilhelm pointed out, “Jeff didn’t like to keep very many songs in the loop.” Locally it was “Kim The Waitress” the band was most identified with.  Throughout the world, they were more well known for a parade of brilliant albums.

“Kim The Waitress” could have been a bigger record if I knew what I was doing,” Tom Dyer says, “…or if the band just got lucky. But that’s not how it went,” he says. Despite anyone’s feelings, “Kim The Waitress” went on to be covered by both Material Issue and Sister Psychic. Andy Davenhall (of Sister Psychic) even sat in with the Green Pajamas on the live version of “Kim The Waitress ” for the album Lust Never Sleeps. The song became known to a broader audience, but Jeff Kelly and the band were never defined by it.

TELL ME SOMETHING GOOD: 64 SPIDERS AND CAPPING DAY

In 1985, during what would turn out to be his hiatus from The Green Pajamas, Joe Ross joined James Burdyshaw’s band 64 Spiders.  Joe and Burdyshaw had known each other since high school in West Seattle ” Burdyshaw says he talked Joe into joining the band, but it’s clear Joe had been looking for a band to take part in.

64 Spiders. From top clockwise: Joe Ross, James Burdyshaw, Scott McCullum. Photo: Cam Garrett

Originally James Burdyshaw played guitar. When Joe Ross joined he played bass, Eric Walker was on drums having replaced the original drummer Brian Wright. David Lee sang vocals. Since it was Joe and James writing the lyrics and because of personal friction, David Lee was booted from the band in the summer of 1986.  James  Burdyshaw and Joe took over as lead vocalists for the songs each had individually written. Eric Walker was replaced by drummer Scott McCullum (now known as Norman Scott Rockwell). Later in the year, the band, now a trio, recorded an album with Jack Endino at Reciprocal Recording Studios.  This was the line-up and the era in which 64 Spiders really hit their stride.

“This was a whole new scene to me, Joe says. “It was the nascent ‘grunge’ scene. It was completely different than what I’d become used to. Everyone was so supportive of everyone else. I really loved it, but I missed the music of The Green Pajamas. James was a real taskmaster,” Joe adds with a laugh. “He’d say ‘You’re not going to play bass like you did in the Green Pajamas. I want you to listen to this Big Black record. Listen to this Butthole Surfers record. This is how you play bass now’. He was kind of funny, but he and I had known each other for many years. We’d always had a love/hate relationship,” Joe tells me.  “James forced me to change my whole musical sensibility. It’s what I needed to do, but I thought the Green Pajamas and Jeff were right on the cusp of something big, and I hadn’t wanted to leave.”

James Burdyshaw went on to help form Cat Butt while still playing with 64 Spiders. In March,  Scott McCullum left 64 Spiders for Skinyard, yet another of the best bands of the early ‘grunge’ scene. After McCullum’s departure, 64 Spiders tried out two new drummers but called it quits May of 1987.  At the time Jeff Kelly had asked Joe to re-join The Green Pajamas. Without McCullum and Joe, the band disintegrated.  Later Burdyshaw began a band called Yummy, with Tracy Simmons of Blood Circus on bass.  The band lasted for two years, and for about two months during it’s run Joe Ross filled-in for bassist Tracy Simmons as a favor to Burdyshaw.  Joe played on Yummy’s final single “Do Yer Fix” b/w”Candy Day” which was released in 1992  by Jimmy Stapleton’s Bag of Hammers label.

Burdyshw has started the band in 1984, but it was just over the last two years or so that 64 Spiders left an impression on many in the Seattle music scene.  One of their most loyal fans was Dawn Anderson, the editor/publisher of Backlash magazine. She took every chance she could to popularize the band.

Joe Ross released the Triangle sessions as a self-titled album on his  Endgame Records while he and McCullum were still playing with Burdyshaw.  Two of the tracks, “Bulimic Saturday”  and “There Ain’t” ended up on Daniel House’s 1989 C/Z Records compilation Another Pyrrhic Victory, subtitled ‘The Only Compilation Of Dead Seattle God Bands’ In the same year “Potty Swat” the short instrumental “Nope” along with “Rubber Room” was released as a 7″ on Michael Goodall’s Regal Select Records.

In 1987 Joe Ross and Scott McCullum saw a performance by Laura Weller playing guitar and singing alongside Bonnie Hammond playing keyboards and also singing. Joe and Scott were impressed with the duo but told Weller and Hammond they would be better with a backup band. Soon Joe and Scott became members of their group, Capping Day. Laura and Bonnie still remained at the helm, but when the quartet was filled-out, the band became popular with Seattle audiences. In 1988 they went into Reciprocal Recording to record “Mona Lisa” b/w “Slow Fade”. The single was co-produced by Jack Endino and Craig Montgomery, who (like Jack) went on to create a formidable career as a producer/engineer.  The single was initially released on Tom Dyer’s Green Monkey Records.

Almost as soon as it was released, “Mona Lisa” went into heavy rotation on Seattle’s college radio station KCMU. It was also among the top 10 songs of 1988 on the station’s yearly ‘best of’ list. The single got enough airplay that when EMI Records and Snickers Candy Bars launched a promo challenge in 1987 to find ‘The Best-Unsigned College Radio Band in the U.S.” KCMU entered the single. To everyone’s surprise (including the band’s), Capping Day won the challenge. The prize included a one-time recording deal with EMI records’ American affiliate Capitol Records.

Capping Day at the OK Hotel. Jan. 1990.
Top: Bonnie Hamilton, Scott McCullum.
Bottom: Laura Weller, Joe Ross.
Photo: Karen Moskowitz

Well-known Seattle promoter, festival organizer, and bassist Terry Morgan was Capping Day’s manager. He was also managing the Posies and had been responsible for getting the Posies their first major label deal with DGC records. Morgan says he saw Capping Day one night and liked what they were doing. “Bonnie and Laura were way ahead of their time and good at it,” Terry says, adding, “They had excellent tunes. It seemed like a natural as far as possibly getting them introduced to the masses that the label deal might have done. What they were able to do at that time-this was over 30 years ago, mind you-was pretty ground-breaking.

“When we got the paperwork for the record deal, it was totally one-sided and didn’t favor the band at all,” Terry tells me. He advised the band to refuse to sign the contract. “We retained Lori Salzarullo as our lawyer,” Morgan says. “She took us on pro bono and helped me negotiate a contract that was so totally in favor of the label, as most of these deals are. We were able to re-negotiate, so Capping Day was able to release something, but record and produce it themselves instead of risking having to go through Capitol Records,” Terry says.

“Once indentured to a major label, it could be several years that you couldn’t do anything outside that label,” Terry explains. When a young band signs with a major label, it’s common for the label to leave a band languishing for months or years. Often when the band presents a label with what they believe is a finished project, the label refuses it, sending the band back into the studio or back home. In the worst cases, band members become so disillusioned they break up. 

“If I remember correctly, the deal was for one record and either one or two first rights-of-approval options,” Terry says. “I don’t remember what the publishing deal was, but it was wrong for Capping Day at the time. We worked to negotiate out of the contract and get the band reimbursed the cost that Capitol would have spent on their ‘prize’. 

Capping Day took the money and chose to record their EP Post No Bills at Conrad Uno’s Egg Studios. By this time, Uno had made a name for himself through his work with The Young Fresh Fellows, The Presidents of the United States of America, The Fastbacks, and a parade of other nationally-known Seattle bands. Recording in a hometown studio with Jon Auer of the Posies as producer gave Capping Day a sense of independence. In 1990 the EP Post No Bills was released on Uno’s Popllama Records. A newly recorded version of “Mona Lisa” was included. 

 “Terry Morgan kept us from signing a terrible contract,” Laura Weller tells me. “He hooked us up with Conrad Uno. We had a fantastic experience with Terry! He got us some amazing shows. We opened up for Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma. We opened for Robyn Hitchcock. We opened for Exene Cervenka. We got some outstanding gigs,” Laura says. “I love Terry. He’s still doing amazing things. He has a big place in my heart.”

LET’S REWIND A BIT

After Joe was dismissed from The Green Pajamas in 1985 the band put a “Musicians Wanted” ad in The Rocket-Seattle’s pre-eminent music journal at the time.  Bruce Haedt, who’d been doing collaborations with his wife and friends answered the ad.  “I’ve been composing music and performing music since my teens,” Bruce says,” I was enjoying the feeling of being with other musicians.” Bruce says he picked up a copy of The Rocket and found the ad placed by The Green Pajamas in search of a keyboard player.  It was one of the instruments Bruce played. He called the phone number in the ad and soon auditioned with the band.

Bruce hung out with the band and went to hear them rehearse at Jeff’s house in West Seattle to get an idea of what they were doing.  “We talked and jammed a bit,” Bruce says.  When Jeff and Bruce met they both were strongly influenced by  Leonard Cohen and ’60s folk-rock duo Richard & Mimi Fariña (Mimi who passed away in 2001 was the sister of Joan Baez). “They were one of my favorite acts,” Bruce tells me. “Crosby, Stills & Nash was also a cross-over influence between us.  Where Jeff and I met musically was in the Beatle-esque stuff and our shared feelings about Leonard Cohen.” 

Bruce Haedt.
Photo: Susanne Kelly

“It seemed like a good fit,”  Bruce tells me. “so I joined the band”. Soon afterward, the band started rehearsing in the basement of Bruce Haedt’s house at Whitman and 145th just north of Seattle in the suburb of Shoreline. “It was a big old room that was unused,” Bruce admits. “It was pretty rough, so it didn’t need to be protected, and it was easy to load equipment in and out. The Green Pajamas rehearsed there the whole time I was in the band,” Bruce tells me. “We started laying down tracks for what would become the album Book of Hours right away. It was full of Jeff Kelly’s new songs,” Bruce says. 

“I also write a lot of music,” according to Bruce. “I was curious if any of my songs would fit with what was being rehearsed, so I started bringing in my material.  My music was not as psychedelic as Jeff’s; it was more power-pop. A few of the songs ended up on Book of Hours

After Bruce started playing with the Green Pajamas Jeff taught him some basic keyboard parts for pieces he’d written. Bruce came up with the completed parts. The two also collaborated on some of the songs on Book of Hours.  Jeff and Bruce bounced ideas off each other then began developing them together. “One real collaboration I think of specifically“was “Big Surprise,”  Bruce says. “That was really a collaboration”. Two songs, “Higher Than I’ve Been“and “Stand to Reason”, written solely by Bruce were included on Book or Hours.  Bruce says “Stand To Reason” was his departure from psychedelia into an arty power-pop piece on the album.

Book of Hours, 1985.
Design: Ursula Bolimowski

The recording of Book of Hours was far more sophisticated and complicated than anything the Green Pajamas had done before. A brass section of Darrow Hunt on Baritone Saxophone, Eric Walton on Tenor Sax, Carl Miller on Trombone, and Al Paxton accompanied the band on the song “Paula”. The song “Time of Year” includes a chorus made up of Colleen Whorley, Joe Ross, Jordan Miller, Kelle Boyd, Kirsten Wilhelm, Lisa Witt, Nancy Whorley, as well as Susanne Kelly. and Highland bagpipes were supplied by Doug Maxwell. Steve Lawrence had another go at the sitar, and the album was topped off with a beautiful cover by  Ursula Bolimowski.

In 2010, when an expanded version of the album came out as The Complete Book of Hours, critic Tim Peacock reminded readers that 1987 was the year “grunge” began taking hold in Seattle.  He wrote about the original Book of Hours, commenting:  “The idea of a Seattle band laying down a fragrant, patchouli-tinged psychedelic pop masterpiece in such a climate was brave at best.”

Elsewhere Peacock wrote:
“While Book of Hours may superficially have been drenched in Eau de 1967, if you’re expecting an unfocused sprawl akin to The Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request, then forget it, because there’s also a modern-day energy at work here, not to mention Jeff Kelly’s redoubtable brilliant song-writing skills, all of which conspire to ensure the ...Book of Hours is an inspired listen over two decades on”.

That’s three decades now.

Green Pajamas 1985. L to R. Jeff Kelly, Karl Wilhelm (above) Bruce Haedt, Steve Lawrence. Photo: Ursula Bolimowski

“We were playing plenty of live shows. The whole thing was over two years of intensity for me,” Bruce says. “I was a full-time college student at the University of Washington. I was a single dad with a daughter who went from age seven to nine years old during my time in the band. I also worked with my dad. It was a really busy time for me”.
“We had a lot of fun and plenty of good beer,” Bruce says. “We did everything on Tom Dyers’ eight-track at his place. It was all analog, of course. I liked working with Tom. I liked his production ideas. There was always a process of conveying weird rhythm Ideas to Karl, and Karl was an awesome.drummer. I liked working with him too.”

The band was bringing in more of my songs that we had played live, but hadn’t recorded,” Bruce says. “There were two different styles of music within the band. I think at a certain point I had ideas of pushing into the power-pop thing. I was enjoying the music Peter Gabriel was putting out at the time.” During his stint in The Green Pajamas, Bruce was also recording a lot of his solo work, he tells me.

“The things that were influencing me were different than what Steve Lawrence, and especially Jeff, were interested in doing.” Despite heading in different musical directions, Bruce tells me “Steve Lawrence was super high energy, funny, a really, really good guitarist and bass player. He had a passion for psychedelia. That was his love, musically. I always enjoyed hanging out with him and he was fun to work with, fun to be onstage with. He was very complimentary and supportive of the things I was doing with the band. I  never had any conflict with him.”

In 1987 Bruce recorded a solo album called Miss Lyons Looking Sideways. Tom Dyer mastered it and released it on Green Monkey Records. Bruce started a second project which he says he wanted to spend as much time and attention to. He’d spent about 2½ years with the band. Bruce decided it was time to move on.

Bruce announced his intention to leave The Green Pajamas after recording one final album with the band.  That album came to be titled November. Book of Hours had taken almost two years to record, mix, master, and release. It was a grueling experience. The thought of creating another album made the band decide this time they would  record “live-in-studio.” Joe Ross was instrumental in getting the album recorded at Jack Endino’s Reciprocal Recordings studio. One night in November 1987 Jeff Kelly, Bruce Haedt, Steve Lawrence, and Karl Wilhelm entered Endino’s studio. They brought about 20-25 friends with them-among them was Joe- so they could be surrounded by friends as an audience. Jeff Kelly says as Jack let the tape roll, “We thought ‘Let’s record and be done with it’ .”

 “Tom Dyer was there,” Jack Endino tells me. “That’s what I remember. They just wanted to catch the whole band with a minimum amount of hassle. Normally their recording process is considerably more laborious. I think it’s one of the few times that they ever did that sort of thing.

Endino goes on to say “They wanted to record a bunch of songs that likely were not going to get played much after Bruce left the band. Jeff confirms this in the album’s liner notes, writing: “(Recording), I theorized, would be a quick and cheap way of finding a home for some of the old songs that weren’t recorded in the studio and the ones that weren’t scheduled for recording in the near future.”

“There were a couple of Bruce’s songs recorded during the session,” Jack continues, “and a couple of slightly oddball songs of Jeff’s that he wanted to record just for the heck of it. The band came into Reciprocal Recording and set up live and banged out the songs.” Tom Dyer tells me “After tracking the tunes, we took the tape back to my place and recut the vocals and oboe and did the mix.”

November.  (2013 re-issue)
Cover illustration: Susanne Kelly

After listening to the recording several times, Jeff says he became apprehensive about releasing it. “I agreed on the condition we remix most of it,” Jeff wrote in the album’s liner notes.”We spent several hours one Saturday remixing and beautifying it with delays and such, only to find that we preferred the original, rougher version. Typical.” 

Jeff wrote that November was “a representative record of our live show circa 1987 (not including Book of Hours or Summer of Lust material). It’s raw, untampered with, and gets better with volume.”

Leaving the original mix also elicited more critical praise for the band.  Jack Endino has called November “Sort of the great lost Pajamas album”

A 2013 re-issue of November was mixed again, this time by Joe Ross and Jack Endino.  It was released as a CD with the newer mixes, but the original mixes were added as bonus tracks to the digital download.

After the 2013 re-issue, fanzine Americana UK  declared November “has a rawness and intensity that is one of the album’s strengths, and the album still manages to portray these feelings even after 20 odd years of obscurity” (again, it’s now more than 30 years!)

Mark Denning of All Music wrote: “November is a document of a very specific moment in time for the Green Pajamas; it finds them young, wiry, and enthusiastic…”

“I did another solo project I wanted Green Monkey Records to release,” Bruce Haedt says “…but Tom didn’t feel like putting it out. I felt a bit snubbed by that.” Bruce went on to play with the band Room 9 for a short period. “I was just a sideman keyboard player,” Bruce says, “but I was a neighbor of Ron Rudzitis (a.k.a. Ron Nine), so we hung out a lot.  I still have some tapes we did together that were really fun. Bruce remembers two of the shows he did with Room Nine were at the annual Bumbershoot Festival. “Then they broke up,” Bruce says succinctly.

Steve Lawrence unexpectedly quit shortly after Bruce Haedt ended his tenure. Almost as soon as November was recorded Joe returned as a member of the Green Pajamas.  With the departure of Steve and Bruce, Jeff Kelly, Joe Ross, and Karl Wilhelm were once again the trio The Green Pajamas had started out as, even though Joe Bauer had alternated places with Karl in the very early years.   “We started hanging out again, Jeff tells me.  “ I think we played some periodic shows with just the three of us.  We played in Tacoma at some hall and at Al Milman’s and Moshe Weinberg’s record store Bedazzled Discs when it was in downtown Seattle. I was doing periodic solo efforts that Tom Dyer was putting out on Green Monkey Records.”

The three played together and recorded for about a year. In 1989 Steve asked to rejoin the band. They happily welcomed him back.  “We definitely never asked Steve to quit the band,” Joe says. “He quit three times over his course with us, but always of his own volition… Anytime he asked, he was welcome to come back. He re-joined us for much of 1989 and 1990. 

THE PAJAMAS ALL BUT SELF-DESRUCTED

Ghosts of Love, 1990.
Design: L7 Graphics. Illustration: Susanne Kelly.

The band was gearing up for the album Ghosts Of Love to come out on Green Monkey as a co-release with Bomp! Records and Ubick which, by virtue of Greg Shaw’s involvement with both labels had become Bomp! Records’ British affiliate.  Joe reports that there was a flurry of activity at the time. Once again the band brought in back-up vocalists,  strings, bagpipes, and a host of instrumentalists. It was another huge project.

The band called it quits after Ghosts of Love was released on August 1st, 1990. The album had seen multiple delays and ultimately went nowhere.  During the recording of Ghosts of Love, the band entered into a period  that Joe Ross calls “a flurry of activity.” It may have been that  ‘flurry of activity’, the recording and releasing problems of Ghosts of Love that was the band’s undoing.  Despite the sluggish sales, it got the same kind of stellar reviews that Green Pajamas records always seemed to get. 

Phil McMullen of the British fan’zine Ptolemaic Terrascope wrote: 

“An astonishing album of such incandescent intensity that the Pajamas all but self-destructed during its making.”

McMullen was an English writer that had been following The Green Pajamas and had even covered them earlier in London-based music magazine Bucketfull of Brains. The band would go on to develop a strong relationship with McMullen.  But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

The cassette release of Ghosts of Love included two extra tracks-“Ginny” and “Song For The Maid”.  When the CD was re-issued in 1991 by the Greek label Di Di Music it included the extra tracks as well as the 45” version of the song “Emily Grace”.

 In 1991 Ghosts of Love was released on vinyl by the Greek label, Di Di Music, and again in 2000 by Pittsburgh Pennsylvania label Get Hip Recordings.  Bothe contained the songs “Ginny” and “Song For The Maid” as well as the single version of “Emily Grace.  In 2011 Tom Dyer’s resurrected Green Monkey Records released a  digital-only download of Ghosts of Love.   The above songs-“Ginny”, “Song For The Madd and “Emily Grace” were also included. Clearly the band had been disillusioned enough to break up over the initial reception of Ghosts of Love, but in the end, it proved to be an important part of their catalog.   Jeff tells me after Ghosts of Love he had decided that he didn’t want to play rock and roll anymore, so he hibernated for a while.

In 1991 Tom Dyer began the process of shutting down Green Monkey Records. Joe bought Tom’s 8-track studio gear and set it up in his old jam room upstairs at his parent’s house. Jeff and Joe continued recording together, working on Jeff’s solo album, Private Electrical Storm, released in 1992. Steve Lawrence played bass guitar on “Find A Way” and contributed backing vocals, tabla, and bass guitar on “Lavender Field.” Jeff’s wife, Susanne Kelly, did backing vocals on “Dr. Diane,” “Heather,” and “All The Maids In France,” and Alicia Clemens provided the voice a the end of “All The Maids In France.” It became somewhat of a Wilhelm family affair with Karl playing drums on the songs “Find A Way” and “Lavender Field.” His wife, Barbara, and daughters Lindsay and Shannon Wilhelm sang backing vocals for two songs: “Dr. Diane” and “All The Maids In France.” 

Tom Dyer mixed the album at the Art Institute of Seattle, where he was teaching. Even while Green Monkey Records was ‘inactive’, Tom found time to master another Jeff Kelly solo effort, 1995’s Ash Wednesday Rain. The Green Pajamas Carolers Song EP was edited and mastered by Tom and later released on Urbana Illinois label, Hidden Agenda. Green Monkey Records would later re-release the EP after it’s resurrection.

Tom Dyer and assistant Keith Livingston in Tom’s studio. 1988

Tom tells me, “I was doing too many things, to put it mildly. I had started teaching in 1989. I had no degree of any sort. I decided that I liked teaching, and I said to myself, `Go back to school’. At that point, I shut down the label and did go back to school. It was a fairly large project.” Tom says his original intention was to attend the University of Washington to get a bachelor’s degree. He ended up getting both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. “Then I went out to Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.” After receiving his doctorate in Educational Leadership, Tom became an Associate Professor. He specialized in teaching studio recording and ended up at the Art Institute of Seattle for ten years. He then taught Communications at Seattle’s Argosy University, where he also became a dean.

“In 1993, Jeff and I started recording with Karl again as The Green Pajamas,” Joe tells me. “We recorded “Song For Christina” and “I Have Touched Madness”. Steve Lawrence  came into Joe’s studio to play sax for “I Have Touched Madness.” “Steve was back!” Joe says enthusiastically. The songs were released as a single on Joe’s Endgame Records. “We played some good shows. We were featured on the cover of Backlash magazine.

“We started hanging out again, Jeff tells me.  “ I think we played some periodic shows. Just Joe, me and Karl.  We played in Tacoma at some hall and at Al Milman and Moshe Weinberg’s record store Bedazzled Discs when it was in downtown Seattle. “I was also doing periodic solo efforts that Tom Dyer was working on.

 PREPOSITIONS, COMMAS AND CANNIBALISM

Kim The Waitress by Material Issue. 1994.

In 1994 Chicago power-pop band Material Issue covered “Kim The Waitress” for the album Freak City Soundtrack-which was not actually a soundtrack. Jeff remembers Jim Ellison, Material Issue’s frontman, telling him about first hearing The Green Pajamas version of “Kim The Waitress”. “He told me, ‘I just couldn’t believe it. It came out, and it was so weird sounding’. He was saying this like it was a warm memory about the bass being a little out of tune. The whole thing was a little skewed and funny, and he said: ‘I just fell in love with that 45.’ “

Material Issue’s label, Polygram Records, brought in Australian/British producer Mike Chapman who was known for delivering hits. Despite Chapman’s involvement Freak City Soundtrack only sold about 50,000 units after it was released. In the face of disappointment, a video was made for Kim The Waitress”. The video caught the attention of viewers, industry insiders and went into rotation on MTV.

The Material Issue video was set in a darkish café, with a demented waitress (presumably Kim) presiding over a cartoonishly stereotyped family, two political operatives with Nixon/Agnew campaign buttons on their lapels, and a couple of other figures seated lazily throughout the café. Kim looks on with an evil smile and seems to be the protagonist of acts that include human butchery and cannibalism. A dubious-looking cook is seen in the kitchen grinding sausage-ostensibly of former customers. In case the video’s storyline is a bit too subtle, it ends with Kim unveiling a human head on a silver platter.

The video was shocking in a very juvenile way. Its storyline was incredulous and laughable. Most listeners and viewers assumed the song had been written by Material Issue’s  Jim Ellison. The assumption was misguided since we know “Kim The Waitress” had been recorded almost a decade earlier and released nine years before the Material Issue cover appeared. It was Jim Ellison’s admiration of the song, not his writing of it that caused “Kim The Waitress”to appear on Freak City Soundtrack. If nothing else, the cover by Material Issue might give Jeff and The Green Pajamas a higher profile.

Kim the Waitress as portrayed in the 1994 Material Issue video.

Dementia, human butchery, and cannibalism were the last things on Jeff Kelly’s mind when he wrote the song. The entire raison d’ être of the Material Issue song, and especially the video, hung on one tiny grammatical change. The chorus of the song Material Issue recorded changed the original preposition “but” to “from” for no real reason except maybe in the service of the song and a video’s attempt to be shocking. Jeff’s lyrics were written and sung as “No one can save us ‘but’ Kim the Waitress” The Material Issue version changed the tenor of the song by altering the preposition ‘but’ to ‘from’ as in: “No one can save us ‘from’ Kim the Waitress.” It seemed to be a poor attempt to dump a faux horror movie pall over what was meant to be a song about unrequited love and insecurity. It’s a mystery how anyone thought Material Issue’s version could reconcile the sinister video with Jeff’s original intent, especially with lines like:

“Writing poems in a corner booth
That I’d die if she read.”

That single lyric might be the most poignant message to any young, sensitive person who has loved someone from afar. It evokes one of the most à propos images of total humiliation that’s possible; accidentally allowing an unrequited longing for another person to be revealed to the subject of that longing. It’s a stomach-churning fear probably everyone reading this story has felt. Jeff and Joe had turned something absolutely ridiculous and crafted it into an incredibly poignant and meaningful song.

“Material Issue put out a video where Kim was a cannibal or something,” Jeff says.“It was a little annoying, but don’t get me wrong. I get the money (royalties). When they changed it, it didn’t really…well it became corporate rock. Material Issue was pretty small-time as far as the corporate rock machine…”  

On July 23rd, 1994, a capsule review of Material Issue’s version of Kim The Waitress” appeared in Billboard magazine. The unnamed reviewer touched on something that seemed to be lost on fans and everyone involved in the Material Issue’s version of the song.

“This guitar-driven song grapples with feelings of being lost and lovelorn in the twenty-something generation. As the object of desire, “Kim the Waitress” serves as a metaphor for that unattainable love that elludes (sic) the jaded and insecure among all of us…

It’s almost as if the reviewer had mistakenly put the Green Pajamas version on the turntable. Both Jeff and Joe admit Material Issue’s version was a decent piece of power pop, but it didn’t capture what Jeff and the Green Pajamas had sought to accomplish. Joe goes further and adds, “Material Issue just didn’t get it.”

The same year Material Issue’s cover of “Kim The Waitress” was released, Andy Davenhall’s Seattle/Los Angeles band Sister Psychic released its own version.  Joe says, “Andy captured it more honestly.” The Sister Psychic version is hard to find, but with some deep investigation, listeners will find it worthwhile.

I have to ask Jeff what it was that only Kim The Waitress could save us from. Even though we’re talking on the phone, I can ‘hear‘ a smile coming over Jeff’s face. “I was ending a relationship,” he tells me. “The lyrics are actually ‘No one can save us’ (in reference to the failing relationship with his then-girlfriend), ‘but Kim the waitress always turns me on.’ One entire sentence, rather than two. It suddenly dawns on me that I had misinterpreted the meaning of the song for years, and it was probable that many others had also mistaken that lyric. Material Issue and Jim Ellison were not the only ones that had played with grammar in the lyrics. Jeff had used his own sly grammatical trick.  A very sly one.

 By 1996 things were slowing down again,” Joe says. “Jeff and I were content to gig now and then. Steve, being very impatient, opted out of the band for the third time. I’m sure that he was disappointed and frustrated with The Green Pajamas’ lack of direction and ambition at the time. 

The band played a gig at Ballard’s Tractor Tavern in March of 1996. Eric Lichter, formerly of the band, The Life, played keyboards. Jeff had seen Lichter play drums in one of Lichter’s former bands. In 1997 The Green Pajamas asked Eric to join them officially. “By that time, Joe and I were working together again full-time,” Jeff says. 

 PEERING THROUGH THE PIN-HOLE OF A DARKENED ROOM

In 1986 an Australian, Tony Dale, contacted Jeff asking permission to release albums that had formerly appeared on Green Monkey Records. He explained that he ran an independent label called Camera Obscura out of Melbourne, Australia, and asked if he could release some of the older Green Pajamas recordings. Jeff thought about it and then asked Dale, “Why don’t we just make a new Green Pajama’s album?” Dale was ecstatic. 

Tony Dale started as a music writer. He was a dedicated fan of psychedelia, neo-psychedelia, dream-pop, space-rock, acid-folk, and an eclectic mix of the avant-garde, as well as pure pop music. His writing caught the attention of Perfect Sound Forever and Addicted to Sound-both of them among the earliest online web’zines. Through interviews and his writing, he created a network of fans musicians, and independent record labels. He gained a prominent place in a rabidly devoted niche group of lovers of the same sorts of music Tony loved.

In 1996 Tony Dale began his Camera Obscura label, and it developed the same kind of rabid fans that were part of an underground movement focused on little-known but worthy bands around the world with die-hard cult fans.

In 2003 Tony Dale told Dave Lang, writing for Perfect Sound Forever:

“(Camera Obscura) is really just a mirror of my own tastes, rather than being specifically designed as a psychedelic label in the retro sense of being a conduit for bands that conformed to a certain set of codes set down in the late ’60’s psychedelic music movement. That’s why there are releases on the label that don’t fall into the psychedelia domain directly, like the free noise of The Azusa Plane, and Our Glassie Azoth, the free jazz leanings of Rake, the dark folk of Sharron Kraus, or the alien singer-songwriter work of Marianne Nowottny. If it seems like it would be fun to do or unexpected, I try to fit it in to keep a sense of play going.”

The Green Pajamas fell squarely into what Tony Dale was seeking for Camera Obscura, and they rose to be one of his favorite bands. Dale was to become one of the most influential allies in creating a world-wide following for The Green Pajamas.

Joe admits putting their first album for Camera Obscura was put together over several months without many expectations. “We were recording the songs and put them in the order that we felt would make the best record we could,” Joe says the band quietly worked on the recording without anyone looking over their shoulders. It was probably that lack of expectations from others that allowed the band to escape any apprehension, thus allowing them to stretch out further than they had before.

Strung Behind The Sun, 1997. Painting: Suzanne Kelley

“When we finished, we said, ‘Hey, this is a pretty neat record!” Fans around the world agreed.  It was a revelation to those who listened as well as the musicians who created it. The album the band delivered to Dale turned out to be Strung Behind The Sun, thus launching the band into their most creative era

Strung Behind The Sun was well received, and the band felt that now EVERYONE was watching and anticipating them to produce a brilliant follow-up album. Their next record was All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed. The band had to make conscious decisions about which songs would be included and would not. Joe says while they were recording All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed, the band was acutely aware of the pressure that was put on them; by fans, not Tony Dale. “We weren’t aware of the weight of the final product until after All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed was done.” according to Jeff.

Upon its 1998 release, Tony Dale wrote: “Following on from their 1997 ‘back from the wilderness’ album Strung Behind the Sun, the Green Pajamas return with arguably their strongest album to date in All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed. If it wasn’t already self-evident from earlier releases, there should be no doubt after this one that Jeff Kelly is the finest practitioner of the mid-period Beatles influenced psychedelic pop song around today.”  

All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed. 1998.  Illustration: Susanne Kelly

The album found the same kind of critical response from every corner of the neo-psychedelic pop world. In 2019 the U.K. label Sugarbush Records re-released All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed as a limited double vinyl set that included bonus material and outtakes. Over two decades after its initial release, the album on Sugarbush Records found great critical success again.

Steve Lawrence didn’t take part in the recording of All Clues to Meagen’s bed, but he played occasional live gigs just before it’s recording. The band says he all but vanished, although Jeff mentions, “We both worked at Group Health Co-Operative (Now part of Kaiser Permanente). “I had seen him, but I never really talked to him. He seemed like a ghost,” Jeff adds.  “We never made contact with each other.

After he departed The Green Pajamas, Steve’s marriage had broken up, and he’d become involved with a woman many of Steve’s friends believe introduced to heroin.  Steve made a few unsuccessful attempts to quit and eventually went to stay with his sister Julie, who had moved to Los Angeles. He seemed to have gotten clean there. After a few months in Southern California, Steve returned to Seattle to visit his son and ex-wife.  There were no prior arrangements to meet with them, so Steve spent his first day searching for them. He was unsuccessful. Steve gave up for the day and returned to his room at a motel on Aurora Avenue. The first night he was back, Steve bought heroin.

The next morning, July 4, 1998, Steve Lawrence was found dead in his motel room from an overdose.

“It’s too bad he went that way,” Jeff says. “Steve was a really funny guy and a great musician.” Although Steve was no stranger to drugs, Joe tells me “Steve didn’t do heroin when he was in the Green Pajamas”. Steve’s family, his friends, and the members of The Green Pajamas were stunned.

The band’s output on Camera Obscura included Strung Behind the Sun, All Clues To Meagan’s Bed, Narcotic Kisses‎Hidden Minutes, Box Of Secrets: Northern Gothic 2, and an EP of outtakes known as Strung Out. The single “These Are The Best Times” b/w “Vampire Crush” was pressed as a limited edition 7″ single and a compilation of Jeff’s solo work, Melancholy Sun was released as four CDs in a special box that included a 24-page booklet. Camera Obscura also released Haunted by The Goblin Market, one of Jeff’s side projects.

THE TERRASTOCK NATION

In May of 1989, two Brits, music journalist Phil McMullen (referred to above) and Nick Saloman created the fan’zine Ptolemaic Terrascope. According to McMullen, ‘Ptolemy’ was the name of a tortoise who lived at ‘Terrascope Towers’. McMullen made up the name “because,” he says, “It matched the artwork by ‘Cyke’ Bancroft for the magazine’s first cover. McMullen was also a fan of Captain Beefheart, and he liked the song “Tarotplane.” Since McMullen was already a fan, The Green Pajamas was covered in the first issue of Ptolemaic Terrascope.

Phil McMullen (left) Bob (right)

Later McMullen became the instigator of seven international Terrastock music festivals directed toward fans, musicians, and media individuals with similar interests in music and ‘Psychedeliaon’ culture, which included Ptolemaic Terrascope and the music it covered. Eventually, this loose-knit group of fellow-travelers identified themselves collectively as the Terrastock Nation. The Green Pajamas became part of the Terrastock Nation and played at several of the Terrastock festivals. Tom Dyer called McMullen the Green Pajamas “most valuable English connection.” 

By 1995 Ptolemaic Terrascope was facing a financial crisis. The ‘zine put together a two-CD benefit album called Succour (The Terrascope Benefit Album). The compilation included a dizzying array of artists including Peter Buck & Scott McCaughey, Robyn Hitchcock, Coil, Bardo Pond, Flying Saucer Attack, The Bevis Frond, Jack Endino’s Endino’s Earthworm, Captain Sensible, Seattle super-group Wellwater Conspiracy, Nurse with Wound and, of course, The Green Pajamas. Overall, the collection includes 35 tracks-each by an individual artist, with an 8-page booklet and liner notes by Phil McMullen and Nick Saloman.

The following year a U.S. version of the compilation CD was released by Newport, Rhode Island’s Flydaddy Records, a label set up by two former SubPop vets, Kevin O’Leary and Adam Silverman.

In late 1996 Phil McMullen and Robert Jaz of Providence, Rhode Island band V. Majestic began organizing another Ptolemaic Terrascope benefit. This time they envisioned a one-night concert. Mark Stone of the Providence band Medicine Ball (not the Denny Martin band of the same name) joined the two in the organization of a concert. Kevin O’Leary and Adam Silverman of Flydaddy Records also offered their support. 

Terrastock 1. Providence RI
April 25 –27 1997
Poster: James Draper.

Although the benefit was initially envisioned as a one-night benefit concert for Ptolemaic Terrascope, it snowballed into a three-day music festival at poster artist James Draper’s Renegade Gallery and Rogue Lounge between April 25 and April 27, 1997. The venue was inside the old Atlantic Mills, a 19th-century factory that had produced woven cotton fabric and worsted yarns. The mill was closed down in 1953 but later re-purposed into an art-friendly industrial space. Today the old mill is home to working artists, performance spaces, community organizations, and a few commercial businesses. The music festival hosted 33 bands, among them The Bevis Frond, The Azusa Plane, Olivia Tremor Control, Medicine Ball, and V. Majestic. It was such a success that it got covered even in the mainstream media, and prompted a series of six other Terrastock music festivals, each held in a different city.

The Green Pajamas were invited to play the first Terrastock event, but Jeff says the cost of the band flying themselves and their equipment to the East Coast was prohibitive. He adds he also had to work that week.

The second Terrastock musical festival was held at San Francisco’s Custer Avenue Stages between April 17 and April 19, 1998. The official title of the event was ‘Terrastock West, the Left Coast Ptolemaic Perambulation’, but often referred to simply as ‘T 2’.

McMullen recruited Windy Chien, of Aquarius Records in San Francisco’s Mission District, and booking agent Kathy Harr to help organize the event. Originally the planned venue was The International Ballroom near San Francisco’s City Hall. Three days before the festival, the site was changed to the Custer Avenue Stages in the India Basin section of San Francisco. India Basin had once been the center of San Francisco’s bustling shipping trade, but in 1997 it was primarily abandoned or turned into a faceless industrial area far from the center of the city. India Basin was also home to three major San Francisco garbage dumps. 

Terrastock 2. San Francisco CA
April 17-19 1998

The venue was a better choice since it contained three separate rooms that isolated the sound within each one of them. Most festival-goers had booked hotel rooms near the city’s center, and India Basin was quite far away. To make the site more accessible, the organizers provided shuttle busses from central San Francisco directly to Custer Avenue Stages. India Basin allowed a sense of being outside the buzz of modern-day, commerce-driven San Francisco. In the end, many who attended ‘T2’ were pleased with the change of location. The event included performances by The Green Pajamas as well as Bardo Pond, The Bevis Frond, Damon and Naomi, Masaki Batoh and Michio Kurihara of Japanese band Ghost, Kendra Smith, formerly of The Dream Syndicate, Scott McCaughey, Mudhoney, Neutral Milk, The Olivia Tremor Control, The Silver Apples, The Young Fresh Fellows and another 30 bands.

Jack Endino joined Joe and Karl, driving the bands’ equipment from Seattle to San Francisco in Joe’s grandfather’s van. Karl took on the first third of the drive. He says that once he began driving, he was shocked to find that the universal joint was so bad that, according to him, “I had to rotate the steering wheel nearly 180 degrees just to turn.

Karl says Jack Endino’s portion of the drive began in Oregon. Jack was already familiar with the van since Joe had driven Jack’s band, Skinyard, on their first national tour. The group later referred to it as ‘The Tour From Hell.‘ Jack began driving faster and faster along I-5, eventually passing tractor-trailers and rolling along at over 70 mph. Karl says the roads were icy, especially around Grant’s Pass and along the winding and dangerous 50 miles through the Siskiyou mountains. It snowed nearly the entire way to San Francisco, and the van’s floorboards were so worn out there were holes. The roadway below was visible. The holes also provided a perfect way for ice and wind to be blown upward into the van. Jack and Joe seemed unfazed. On the other hand, Karl was terrified that the van would veer into one of the semi-trucks or tractor-trailers on the interstate alongside them. 

“The rest of the band flew to San Francisco,” Endino says. “I got to watch the Green Pajamas play at Terrastock. They tore it up. I’d never seen Jeff do guitar heroics like that before. I thought, ‘This guy’s like fucking Neil Young on the guitar!’ I had no idea. That was a very formidable Green Pajamas performance.”

Joe recalls playing in front of a large scrim on the main stage. The bands had obtained the services of one of the light show technicians from San Francisco’s psychedelic heyday. The Green Pajamas played in front of the scrim among strobes, lighting effects, and a full-on liquid light show behind them.

In the July 1987 issue of Aural Innovations, Steve Burton recalled the band at the San Francisco Terrastock saying: “The Green Pajamas demonstrated their mastery of the psychedelic pop-song. Spot-on performance and an excellent arena-sized sound system provided an all-too-rare demonstration of what this largely-unsung outfit is capable of. In an equitable world, these guys would be superstars!”

Terrastock 3. London England
August 27–29, 1999

The third Terrastock music festival was held in and around the University of London from August 27 through August 29, 1999. The Green Pajamas played at the Student Union Building. The line up that year included Lucky Bishops, Windy & Carl, The Azusa Plane, Green Ray. Bardo Pond, Man, Damon and Naomi, Air Traffic Controllers, The Bevis Frond, Tom Rapp, Spacious Mind, Bablicon, White Hotel, Arco, and 15 other bands including the Green Pajamas. Phil McMullen had paid to fly them from Seattle to London and back home. “It was such a fun weekend,” Joe tells me. “We made a pilgrimage to the Village Green that Ray Davies wrote about, to Muswell Hill and the Highgate cemetery. We went to the British War Museum, which is near Waterloo Bridge”.

I couldn’t help asking if they were there for the sunset. Joe says they weren’t (a shame for any fan of the Kinks). Joe tells me, “I don’t believe we played another gig in London or anywhere in Britain after our appearance at Terrastock 3”. It’s clear that if they had chosen to, they would have drawn fans up and down the U.K.

In 1999 Hidden Agenda Records began releasing The Green Pajamas’ records, which were also released by Sugarbush Records, based in Tunbridge Wells, England, about 48 miles southeast of London. Sugarbush is a brick and mortar shop with a large mail-order business and a mecca for deep vinyl, out of print cult-records, and obscure labels. Tom Dyer and The Green Pajamas (as well as Jeff Kelly, solo artist) have a long-time relationship with Sugarbush Records. The Green Pajamas, Green Monkey Records, and/or Jeff Kelly license their albums (old and new) to Sugarbush Records. Sugarbush normally presses a limited edition of 300 vinyl records packaged in their original cover art.  50 copies of each Green Pajamas albums make their way to Green Monkey Records for distribution in the United States. The special editions of Sugarbush Records are another reason for the band’s worldwide following.

In a June 12, 1999 interview on Hackettstown New Jersey radio station, WNTI-FM Jeff said, “The cool thing about Terrastock is that many of the bands that play there would normally play on tour to about 20-25 people in each town.” Joe piped in saying, “One of the reasons you don’t like to tour is that you don’t want to play before the same 20 or 25 people all the time. But when you get to Terrastock, there are maybe 20 people from every town all over the world there, making up about 1500 people who know who you are. Terrastock is not driven by money or by who’s selling records or who’s on the big tours like Lollapalooza or the Reading Festival. It’s just about the Terrascope magazine and what records they enjoy. They invite those people. Many people have only played a few shows in their whole lives or several little local shows. But here you are playing for something like a thousand people who love your records because they’re Terrascope readers, and they’ve bought the records because of the reviews.” 

1999 also marked the year Laura Weller became a member of the Green Pajamas. Laura was one of Joe’s former bandmates in Capping Day, which was mentioned above. Laura had appeared live with The Green Pajamas doing high harmonies with Jeff. She’d also contributed vocals on the albums Strung Behind the Sun, and All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed.  Joe says one day he asked her: “Hey Laura, do you want to join Green Pajamas?” She did. Laura says her only regret was not being recruited into the band before their trip to San Francisco.

Between November 3rd and 5th, 2000, Terrastock 4 was held at the Showbox in Seattle, The Green Pajamas’ hometown. In all, 32 bands played, along with The Green Pajamas and other Terrastock regulars, The Bevis Frond, Damon and Naomi, and Bardo Pond. The festival showcased several Northwest acts, including The Minus 5, Scott McCaughey of The Young Fresh Fellows’ band that included a revolving door of local and national artists. For their Terrastock 4 appearance, the Minus 5 included Scott McCaughey, former R.E.M. member Peter Buck, and Seattle’s own late Bill Rieflin, then of Ministry and, more recently, King Crimson. Other local acts billed were Kinski, Crome Syrcus (one of Seattle’s most prominent psychedelic bands of the 1960s), The Monkeywrench (Mark Arm and Steve Turner of Mudhoney, Kim Kerr of Poison 13, among numerous other groups. Tom Price, formerly of the U-Men, The Wellwater Conspiracy (including members Matt Cameron (Soundgarden/Pearl Jam) Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain, Martin Bland (Lubricated Goat/ Bloodloss / The Primevils) along with über-producer and Skinyard bassist Jack Endino. Other notable performers included the ex-Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker and another V.U. alum, Doug Yule. One of the highlights was the appearance of ’60s icon, Country Joe McDonald. Country Joe was joined by The Bevis Frond’s Nick Saloman and Adrian Shaw to perform as ‘Country Joe and the Frond-Fish.’  The Green Pajamas played Saturday, November 4, the second night of Terrastock 4. Their set included older favorites and new material from All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed. Chris Nosal of the Philadelphia City Paper was in attendance. He noted that the band played “Emily Grace,” a song written for Phil McMullen’s daughter, who was 13 years old and at the event. Nosal also notes that the band played a song from Jeff Kelly and his partner Laura Weller’s duo, Goblin Market. The Green Pajamas garnered one of the best receptions of the festival. Hometown fans and those who had traveled to Seattle from around the world found the band in top psychedelic form. The Green Pajamas was the only group of the entire festival to get an enthusiastic call for “One more! One more! One More!”

THE GOTHIC, THE GOBLINS AND A GUY FROM BOSTON

The Goblin Market,
First Edition Frontispiece.
Design: Dante Gabriel Rosetti.

In 2000 Laura and Jeff Kelly formed a side project they called The Goblin Market. The duo named themselves after a poem written by Christina Rosetti, who’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, had co-founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in England. The Pre-Raphaelite movement consisted of painters, illustrators, and artisans dedicated to the detail, compositions, and vivid colors of Italy’s 15th-century painters. The most prominent of these being Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (known as Raphael in English). Their subjects ranged from British vernacular family life to the myths and legends of northern European literature to biblical tales. Although the Pre-Raphaelite movement consisted mostly of painters and illustrators, some literary practitioners sought to synthesize the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic with the Romantic and Gothic movements popular in Victorian Britain. Christina Rossetti was at the forefront of these writers.

Her poem, Goblin Market is, at first glance, a child’s tale. A closer look reveals what is actually a work of a psycho-sexual nature. In it, the poem’s protagonists, two young sisters, Laura and Lizzie, are tempted with fruit by goblin merchants selling their wares near their home. A great deal of sexual themes are thinly veiled based on this premise. Christina Rosetti herself admitted that even though the characters of her poem were young girls, and the story was fantastical, the poem itself was not meant for children.

Ghostland, Jeff and Laura’s first album as The Goblin Market was released on Camera Obsura in 2000. It was influenced by 19th-century poets and writers, including Christina Rossetti, Robert Browning, George Meredith, Algernon Charles Swinburne, and John Ruskin, the social and art critic. The 20th-century Gothic writings of Joyce Carol Oates were reflected in their next album, Haunted, which was released by Camera Obscura in 2005.

The Goblin Market.
Laura Weller and Jeff Kelly
Photo: Susanne Kelly

“I’d already been thinking about leaving the band,” Karl Wilhelm tells me. “We were playing out about twice a year at best, and Jeff was synthesizing so much stuff in his studio”  Karl adds that Jeff was incredibly talented at studio production, but he was doing little or no drumming on albums.

“I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was when The Goblin Market, opened for Jonathan Richman at the Showbox.”  The date was April 5th, 2002. Nobody told me about it. I thought, ‘Thanks, you guys. You’re opening for Jonathan Richman, for God’s sake!’ My sister was the one who mentioned it to me. Jeff and Laura had neglected to tell me they were doing the show. I really don’t know why. No one has ever explained that to me. I thought, ‘Well, I gotta go check this out.’

“They were using my gear, my drums, and I thought, ‘Oh, I see how it is. You can use my equipment, but you’re not going to tell me.’ Karl laughs while re-telling the story but admits that his feelings were hurt more than anything else at the time.  “I wondered what was going through their minds, Karl says. “I wouldn’t have been concerned about not playing with The Goblin Market because that was Jeff’s baby. He had rotated musicians that had played at various times with The Goblin Market. I didn’t play every time. I couldn’t figure out what it was all about. It wasn’t even a nasty situation. I was just confused more than anything else, but I thought, ‘Well, it’s drifted this far, I might as well call it quits. I still stayed in touch with everybody. Not so much with Jeff for a little while. Since then, Jeff and I have patched things up,” Karl says. “Before leaving The Green Pajamas, I played at three of the Terrastock festivals; San Francisco, London, and Seattle. They were very memorable events in my life. Being in The Green Pajamas was a great ride.” Karl adds. “I enjoyed every minute I played with the band. It was fascinating to go from being a fledgling drummer to honing how to play the drums in action. We got in front of people almost immediately. I had to figure out how to be in front of people and not be terrified. It was a real expansive experience for me, and I’ll never forget any of it. I don’t regret any of the things that we did. It sparked my creativity and inspiration.”

“I was there the night The Goblin Market played with Jonathan Richman,” says Scott Vanderpool, Laura Weller’s husband since February 1993. “They had me get up for one song to bang the tambourine,” Scott says. “I still get shit to this day from Jason Finn, the drummer for The Presidents of the United States of America. He says to me, ‘Oh, that was a GOOD tambourine performance! Boy, you were SMOKIN’ on that thing!’ “

“That show was amusing,” Scott adds. “I got to watch Jonathan Richman give a little lecture to Jeff and Laura. ‘You really should work on your microphone technique,’ Scott says, imitating Richman. Scott tells me Richman went on to say, ‘I did enjoy the performance of the last set, so I had the sound man turn your volume down 20% because I will NOT be upstaged.’

“So here’s this Boston guy who sings happy little songs about chewing gum wrappers and the corner store.” Scott tells me. “but he’s actually a shrewd businessman.”

THE REVOLVING DRUMMER SYNDROME: TWO-MAYBE THREE-IN 35 YEARS

Scott Vanderpool

Scott moves on to his joining The Green Pajamas. “It was a natural thing,” he says. “After Karl quit over The Goblin Market incident, Laura came home and announced that I was now the new drummer for The Green Pajamas”.

“I was just a drummer in The Green Pajamas, but I sing, and I do a lot of other things,” Scott tells me. Scott has done stints with The Chemistry Set, the King Country Queens, Noxious Fumes, Down With People, and has done some production work with the U-Men. “I still play in The Young Pioneers,” Scott says. “The band started at The Evergreen State College in October 1982. We’ve been playing gigs again for the last couple of years. In 2017 The Young Pioneers recorded an album called High Again for Calvin Johnson’s K Records. “It didn’t sound that great,” Scott admits. “We haven’t been playing live because we’re taking time to come up with new stuff”.

“The highlight for me with The Green Pajamas was going to Providence Rhode Island to play Terrastock 6”, Scott says. “Terrastock 6 was the only one of the seven Terrastock festivals to be held in the same city twice.” (Providence, Rhode Island).

Terrastock 6. Providence RI
April 21- 23 2006

The festival was held April 21st through April 23rd, 2006 at AS220, a community artists’ studio space and the Pell Chafee Performance Center. That year the Green Pajamas were joined by other Terrastock stand-bys The Bardo Pond, David and Naomi, and Seattle’s Kinski along with another 30 bands.

“After Providence, we did a little thing on WMBR, the M.I.T. radio station in Boston.” Scott continues. “We also played at a basement club called T. T. The Bear’s Place in Cambridge. Despite the club’s too-cute name, it was a hotbed of the emerging local, national and international punk and alt-rock scene beginning in 1984 until its closing in July of 2015.

By the time the albums Seven Fathoms Down and Falling (1999) and This Is Where We Disappear (2002) Jeff was doing most of the writing and recording. He was not only a prolific writer, but he was also excellent in the studio. Jeff had the opportunity to record in his basement where he’d amassed some very high-end recording equipment and kept it well-stocked. By that point in the band’s life, Jeff wrote spongs and recorded all the instrumentation, including drums, bass, guitars, and vocals. When he needed Laura to sing harmony, he’d bring her into the studio, and sometimes add a little percussion. “The band wasn’t playing more than two or three gigs per year, which was the only time we actually played together,” Joe says. “The Green Pajamas had become Jeff’s solo project more or less, and the rest were playing the parts Jeff had written in a live setting and coming in and out of the studio.”  Jeff says that during those years, Eric contributed five or six of his best songs. He also says Laura’s song “Landslide” from This Is Where We Disappear was significant enough that the band members played it at almost every live gig after the album came out, even up to their last show.

Both Seven Fathoms Down and Falling and This is Where We Disappear were released on Waroznow Records. Nick Saloman of The Bevis Frond who had started the Terrastock festivals with Phil Mcmullen founded the label in 1984 as a vehicle to release his music and the music of like-minded, totally original, and somewhat out-there music (‘out-there’ being in it’s best sense). Saloman is the only consistent member of The Bevis Frond, and since 1984 he has released 26 albums, 19 singles, and at least 16 collaborations or under pseudonyms. 

A GUITAR GENIUS, A HIDDEN AGENDA  AND A SCARLET SONG

The Bevis Frond sound is hard to pigeonhole since there are so many influences and so many fundamental approaches by Saloman. Some hear Hendrix; others hear the best of what Americans call “pop”. The addition of grunge, space-rock, grizzled folk, and all-out psychedelia makes Saloman one of a kind. Saloman’s recorded output is not only prodigious, but he’s also done an astounding amount of live appearances. Although practically unknown in the U.S., the fans he has are profoundly dedicated to his music. Nick’s work has been released by his own Waronzow Records, Reckless, Flydaddy, Fire, Funhouse, Bongo Beat. Fruits de Mer, Kasumuen Records, Damaged Goods, Cherry Red, and at least a dozen other independent labels. Brandon Stosey of Pitchfork magazine has written, “Nick Saloman is my choice for king of the ’60s psychedelic revival when it finally comes back around.”

Nick Saloman: The Bevis Frond.

Nick Saloman has been one of the guiding lights of the Terrastock music festivals, performing at five of the seven festivals. He’s a long-time friend of both Phil McMullen and the members of The Green Pajamas.

In 2002 The Green Pajama released the album Northern Gothic. The record is the first of a trilogy that includes Box of Secrets: Northern Gothic Season 2, released in 2007 on Urbana Illinois’s Hidden Agenda Records, and Phantom Lake: Northern Gothic 3, in 2018, after having once again moved back to Tom Dyer’s resurrected Green Monkey Records. The thread that ties the three albums together is their literal gothic themes-not “gothic” as in a contemporary musical genre but gothic as in the mid to late 19th-century movement that The Green Pajamas (particularly Jeff Kelly) has taken much of their inspiration. The albums in this trilogy are drenched in the kind of rainy, forested distance of a dark winter day in the Northwest. Many songs in this cycle, as Tom Dyer evokes, are “The grey skies, the endless evergreens, the ‘black and blue moon’ and ‘a thousand crows’ which hang over small lakeside West Coast towns populated by the lonesome, the unlucky-in-love and even a few slightly eerie children.”

The first of these three albums, Northern Gothic, was the last Green Pajamas album on the Camera Obscura label until 2009. The relationship between the band and Dale had been fruitful, and the pairing produced many of the band’s most beautiful moments, but The Green Pajamas then released seven albums and an EP on Urbana Illinois label Hidden Agenda.

The Caroler’s Song EP a and  In A Glass Darkly were both released in 2001, followed by Through Glass Covered Roses,(2003), Ten White Stones (2004) 21st Century Séance (2005), The Night Races Into Anna,(2006), Box of Secrets: Northern Gothic Season 2 (2007), and Poison in The Russian Room (2009). The label also released two solo albums by Jeff Kelly (Indiscretion in 2001 and  For The Swans In The Hallway in 2004).  Hidden Agenda also released  Palm Wine Sunday Blue by Eric Lichter in 2002. “Wildly Polite”, a song from Lichter’s solo album also appears on a 2002 compilation released on Hidden Agenda’s parent company, Parasol Records called  Parasol’s Sweet Sixteen, Volume Five.

“There was no falling out or hurt feelings with Tony Dale or Camera Obscura,” Jeff says. “Hidden Agenda had been interested in releasing Green Pajamas stuff and offered me nice advances for each album I gave them, including my two solo records. I was making so much music at that time that it was some very nice and much-needed income; not that Tony didn’t pay me,” Jeff is quick to point out. “On the contrary, he was always fair about that. It was just nice getting a big chunk of money all at once!” That was something Hidden Agenda could do. The Green Pajamas he no releases on Camera Obscura between 2002 and 2009, but Jeff reminds me that Camera Obscura had released Haunted, by The Goblin Market in 2005.

Tony Dale started Camera Obscura in 1996. During its existence, the label released 86 albums, at least five limited-edition, signed runs of lathe discs, and ten EPs on Camera Obscura’s sister label, Camera Lucida. During the latter half of the 2000s, Tony’s output became less regular, and in 2008 he was diagnosed with cancer. He continued to do what he could to keep the label going, which included releasing records, operating a digital download site, and a substantial mail-order business. The Green Pajamas’ last album on Camera Obscura was Hidden Minutes, released on March 24, 2009. It would be the second to the last of the label’s releases. In August of the same year, Camera Obscura released Incoherent Lullabies by the Denver, Colorado musician Josh Wambeke, working under the name Fell. After the last release on Camera Obscura, Tony Dale started sorting out all of his business having to do with the label. He intended to save his family from being left with unfinished deals with artists, his distributors, and tax authorities after he had gone. Dale concluded all of his dealings by June 30 of 2010, the end of Australia’s tax year.  At that point, Tony shut his label, distribution and mail order down.

During his last summer, Tony Dale sent Jeff and Susanne Kelly round-trip tickets to visit him in Australia. Jeff says Tony tried to be a cheerful and accommodating host.  Jeff says “He was such a good person, and even while he was dying he wanted to show us a good time.  We look back on our trip to see him and his wife Carol with very mixed emotions – sadness but fond memories as well… We miss him very much.” Two weeks after Jeff and Susanne returning to Seattle, on August 2010, Tony Dale died.  His loss reverberated around the world among the friends and fellow-fans he’d met around the world.

Upon his passing, Dave Lang of the web’zine Lexicon Devil wrote: “The music biz is littered w/ the kinds of jerk-offs you’d probably never really want to know on a personal level, and to state the obvious, Tony Dale was not one of them. He was a fan first and foremost and ran his label to spread the gospel.

Jeff Kelly wrote: “If he believed in something, he would find a way to do it. Sometimes I would write to him with some crazy idea, and he would come back and top it with an even crazier idea. No thought as to how many we’d sell; this was about art and beauty and the proper representation of the music he loved.”

Most fitting was a photo of Tony Dale run on several online memorial tributes, showing Tony’s name with the years of his birth and death underneath  and an inscription reading “We will miss you so very much.” Above Dales photo is a lyric from the Green Pajamas’ “Scarlet Song” (written by Eric Lichter)

“...I wonder how the angels look
All strung behind the sun.”

 

 

 

Author –  Dennis R. White.
Special thanks to Kim “Kim The Waitress” Olsen. Jeff Kelly “interview with the author” (September 25, 2019 & November 12, 2019). Tom Dyer “Interview with the author” (September 28, 2019). Eric Lichter, ‘Interview with the author’ (October 1, 2019). Joe Ross “interview with the author” (October 3, 2019 & November 14, 2019). Scott Vanderpool “interview with the author” (October 7, 2019). Jack Endino, ‘Interview with the author’ (February 2, 2020). Laura Weller, Interview with the author’ (October 11, 2020). Bruce Haedt ‘interview with the author’ (December 7. 2019). Eric Lichter ‘interview with the author’ (October 30, 2019) Eric Lichter (correspondence with the author’ November 20, 2019). ‘The Story of Kim The Waitress’ https://tinyurl.com/rj76bfy, retrieved September 10, 2019). Gil Kaufman. “Terrastock Psychedelic Music Fest Heads West” (MTV News, January 21, 1998). “The Paisley Underground: Los Angeles’s 1980s psychedelic explosion” (The Guardian, US edition (May 16, 2016).“The Green Pajamas Website” (https://thegreenpajamas.net/retrieved September 2, 2019) “Green Monkey Records” (https://greenmonkeyrecords.com/ Retrieved September 20, 2019). Michael Nelson “The Green Pajamas – Kim The Waitress – Forgotten Song” (f-Measure, September 27, 2013). Jeff Ankeny, “The Green Pajamas” ( All Music,https://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-green-pajamas-mn0000155068/biography, retrieved October 10, 2019). Jud Cost “Q&A with The Green Pajamas” (Magnet Magazine, June 6, 2012). Jud Cost “The Green Pajamas: Something a Little More Comfortable” (Magnet Magazine, October 10, 2012). Sonic Mosquito“The Green Pajamas-Kim The Waitress [1986]” (The Sonic Mosquito Soup, January 29, 2019). “The Green Pajamas Interviewed” (Worship Guitars, http://www.worshipguitars.org/Interviews/greenpajamas/index.html, retrieved October 11, 2019). Larry Flick[Editor] “Kim The Waitress-Material Issue” (Billboard Magazine, July 23, 1994). John M. Borack/Jem Aswad “Material Issue” (http://www.trouserpress.com/entry.php?a=material_issue, retrieved October 10. 2019). Erik 4A “Green Pajamas” Tape Op, September/October 2019). SF Weekly Staff “Woodstick” (San Francisco Weekly, April 15, 1998). “The Green Pajama Party” (Interview originally broadcast on White Noise,91.9WNTI, Hackettstown NJ, June 12, 1999. Ptolemaic Terrascope #25, 1998 [date of publication and date of original interview do not comport]. Jack Endino “Terrastock ’98: San Francisco, Ca., 5/17-5/19″ (endino.com, retrieved October 12, 2019). Green Pajamas and Grip Weeds: classic albums, vinyl reissues from Sugarbush Records‘ (Bucketfull of Brains, Jeff Kelly’s Beneath The Stars Above The River and Green Pajamas’ Poison In The Russian Room; limited vinyl release on Sugarbush” (Bucketfull of Brains, September 12, 2019). Art Chantry “Grunge: Just More Snotty Bratty Punk Rock” (Madame Pickwick Art Blog, September 15, 2011). Tom Dyer correspondence with the author ( September 16-October 20, 2019). “‘Top Modern Music Tracks” Billboard Magazine July 23, 1994). William Yardley “Seattle Bids Tuba Man a Sad Goodbye” The New York Times (November 13, 2008). Lord Rutledge “Retro Reviews: Material Issue – Freak City Soundtrack” (Faster & Louder, Wednesday, May 2014). Branfionn NicGrioghair, ‘ Myths & Legends : Brigid, Bright Goddess of The Gael’  (Mythical Ireland,  © 1997, NicGrioghar, branfionn@mindspring.com. Retrieved  November 17, 2019). The Green Pajamas ‘Tony Dale 1958-2010’ (Secret Day: The Official Website of The Green Pajamas, August 15, 2010). Tim Canny, Correspondence with the author (December 23, December 24, 2019). Joe Ross. The Green Pajamas ‘Summer of Lust (Forced Exposure, June 3, 2014). Rhode Island Art In Ruins, ‘Atlantic Mills’ (www.artinruins.com/arch/?id=stillinuse&pr=atlantic retrieved February 22, 2020). Steve Burton, “Terrastock II: San Francisco, CA, April 17-19, 1998’ (Aural Innovations #3, July 1988). Gil Kaufman ‘Terrastock Psychedelic Music Fest Heads West’ (MTV News, January 21, 1998. http://www.mtv.com/news/2758/terrastock-psychedelic-music-fest-heads-west/  Retrieved January 21, 2020). Jack Endino ‘Terrastock ‘98: San Francisco Ca. 5/17-5/19’ (www.endino.com/archive/terrastock98.html retrieved January 20, 2020). MC Tom, ‘64 Spiders: What Life Was Like Before Cat Butt’ (Lamestain, lamestainnorthwest.blogspot.com/2006/11/64-spiders-what-life-was-like-before.html, retrieved January 22, 2020). Chris Nosal ” Puget Sounds: Psychedelicists, Experimentalists and Indie Rockers gather at Seattle’s Terrastock IV’ (Philadelphia City Paper, November 16–23, 2000. [ Archived at My City Paper, New York City, https://mycitypaper.com/articles/111600/mus.terrastock.shtml ].Retrieved April 3, 2020). John Davis “Phantom Lake: Northern Gothic 3” (exposé  [Canada] October 25, 2019). George Peckham “Porky’s Prime Cuts” (abcor publishing, 2018 [retrieved from Mersey blog, June 2, 2020]). Nick Talevski “Rock Obituaries: Knocking On Heavens’ Door” (Omnibus, 2004).

 

 

 

 

 

FLOATING BRIDGE

In 1958 five Tacoma Washington friends formed a group they originally called The Nitecaps.  Later that year they recorded a demo for one the seminal songs of the first great music movement in the Northwest.  The band consisted of John Greek (guitar, cornet), Rich Dangel (lead guitar), Kent Morrill (piano and vocals), Mark Marush (tenor saxophone) and Mike Burk (drums). As you may have already guessed the group re-named themselves The Wailers, and became one of the most important bands to come out of the region in the late 50s and early 60s. Today the band is generally agreed to be one of the first to popularize “Garage Rock”

“Tall Cool One” was their biggest and best selling single It’s said the song was co-written by Rich Dangel and fellow Wailer John Greek while they were still students at Tacoma’s Clover Park High School.  The demo came to the attention of Long Island based Golden Crest Records and it’s head, Clark Galehouse. Galehouse liked what he heard so much that in February of 1959 he arrived in the Northwest, and after a Wailers gig at Lakewood Washington’s Knights of Columbus Hall he had the band re-record the song which became one of the great singles in Northwest and Garage Rock  history

When the song was released in 1959  it made The Wailers a household name among teenagers across the country.  The single peaked at number 36 on the Billboard charts and at number 24 on the R&B charts; not exactly spectacular positions, but higher than any previous Northwest rock group before them.  Beside the song’s fans were not the same crowd that was used to more popular sanitized acts like Pat Boone or Connie Francis who seemed to be everywhere at the time.

Tall Cool One” garnered The Wailers a featured spot on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, a spot on Alan Freed’s Big Beat show on New York’s WNEW-TV, and set them on an East Coast  tour.  For the next few years The Wailers would continue to release singles that became regional hits and played endless gigs on the northwest teen-dance circuit.  In 1964 Golden Crest Records re-released “Tall Cool One”; this time the single would reach number 38 on the Billboard charts.

The shine between The Wailers and Clark Galehouse had worn off, and Golden Crest Records lost interest.  Galehouse wanted the band to remain in NYC, but the “Boys from Tacoma” weren’t interested.  The wanted to return to the Northwest where they had found their biggest success.  The Wailers were effectively dropped by their label and ruined many of The Wailers plans to tour and record hits…but that wasn’t exactly how things worked out. In fact the move away from Golden Crest Records would be one of the best decisions of their career.

Soon after returning to Tacoma  The Wailers added “Rockin ‘Robin” Roberts (born Lawrence Fewell Roberts II) to their line up. Roberts had formerly been with another well-known Tacoma outfit, “Little Bill and The Blue Notes” headed up by Bill Engelhart.  During his time with Little Bill, Roberts had begun doing and calypso influenced rendition of Richard Berry “Louie Louie”. Roberts tracked down a used copy of the song that had originally been a minor hit for Berry on Los Angeles couple Max and Lillian Feirtag’s Flip Records in 1957.  It had been a flop nationally an It’s reported that Roberts paid ten cents for it- to decipher the lyrics.  Others believe Roberts stole the single from the record store he’d been working at.

Roberts began performing his own rock version that was enthusiastically received by fans of Little Bill and The Blue Notes, and later The Wailers among other Northwest Sound bands.  Another Northwest band, The Sonics recorded a cover of Richard Berry’s “Have Love, Will Travel,  It was originally released in 1959 as an early R&B song.  In 1965 the song  was revised into a garage-rock classic on the Sonic’s debut album “Here Are The Sonics”.  Northwest fans were familiar with Richard Berry for his frequent visits to Seattle, Tacoma and beyond.

After the loss of interest by Golden Golden Crest Records the band felt somewhat dejected, but decided to form their own label, Etiquette Records with Buck Ormsby, Kent Morrill and Roberts as the principal owners.  The decision for a nationally-known band  to record on their own label was unusual for the day, but it set the newly launched Etiquette Records on a run that would last about 60 years.  In the early 1960s the label had a roster that included The Sonics, Gail Harris, The Galaxies as well as The Wailers themselves.

It was in 1960 that The Wailers recorded the song “Louie Louie” sung by ‘Rockin’ Robin Roberts at Joe Boles’ West Seattle studio.  They also recorded an upbeat version of Ray Charles’s “Maryann” during the session.

Buck Ormsby recalls;

“In early 1961 I happened to be in Seattle visiting ‘Dolton Records’ and heard my friend and former band member ‘Little Bill (Englehart)’ recording “Louie Louie” in the studio in back of the building.  Solution solved.  We agreed it would be released under Robin’s name as the artist.  The label copy was sent to the manufacturer and our first 45 single was released early 1961 on ‘Etiquette Records’

Louie Louie 1985 re-release

Since The Wailers were technically still under contract with Golden Crest the single was released under the guise of being a solo project by ‘Rockin’ Robin Roberts’, but it was actually The Wailers who had recorded the song and everyone knew it.

Little Bill’s version of “Louie Louie” was recorded at Kearney Barton’s Seattle Audio Recording for Barton’s label Topaz. The back-up band used for this session was “The Adventures” rather his regular band The Blue Notes.  It’s noted that The Wailers version had been recorded with Seattle’s other sound engineer legend, Joe Boles.  It seems unclear where Ormsby actually heard Englehart’s recording, but Boles had a falling out with Dolton Records and for several months in 1959 and 1960 he’d worked at Barton’s downtown Seattle studio.  Barton was involved in several hits for the short-lived Dolton Records including The Frantics, The Ventures and a number one hit with The Fleetwoods (“Come Softly To Me).

No matter where Ormsby remembers hearing Englehart’s version, The Wailers camp rushed  an unlabeled copy to KJR, the most popular rock and roll radio station in the city.  The Wailers  were determined to have first crack at the song on local radio.  Pat O’Day, the  general manager and program director loved the single and put it into heavy rotation. A few weeks later Englehart released  his version, but it simply could not compete with the excitement The Wailers delivered with their version.

Peter Blecha, in his book Sonic Boom recounts the story from Englehart’s perspective;

“Well, so the next day on KJR I hear a record of Rockin’ Robin and The Wailers doin’ “Louie Louie”!  I didn’t know how they did it that quick-whether it was an acetate copy or tape or what it was-but it buried me I’ll tell ya! The fuckin’ guy (laughter) I could have killed them!”

This was more than two years before The Kingsmen’s recording that mimicked the original Wailers version. Rich Dangel re-arranged Richard Berry’s original song into its now well-known garage sound. Rockin’ Robins ad-libbed the ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ s, and “let’s give it to ’em right now”. Dangel also lent his own universally recognized   A A A –  D D – Em Em Em – D D) intro to the song that’s been covered onstage and in garages by everyone who ever wanted to start a rock band.

“That solo (on “Louie Louie”) he did was copied by everybody,” said Buck Ormsby, The Wailers’ bassist and Dangel’s lifelong friend. “Tons of musicians and wannabe musicians actually used to come and watch Rich play, because he was so good, and so innovative.”

By 1963 Dangel had become tired of playing with The Wailers.  Although he had co-written a huge hit (“Tall Cool One”) and created what is arguably the most recognizable intro in rock history-maybe only second to Keith Richards opening to “Satisfaction”.  Dangel’s first love was jazz and he longed to find himself among the finest jazz players.  Eventually he’d reach that goal but for several years he found himself in rock outfits-but ones that would allow him to incorporate jazzy riffs and solos into their music.  In an interview shortly after Rich Dangel’s in 2002 his son Corey told the AP;

“The whole rock ‘n’ roll thing, he thought it was funny, almost. He wanted to play jazz and he wanted people to respect him as a serious musician, and not just some guy who could lay down three chords. I don’t think it was until recently that he became comfortable with his legacy.”

In 1964, after leaving The Wailers Dangel formed a four-piece band called “The Rooks” another garage band that released two singles.  The first was “Gimme A Break b/w “Bound To Lose” on Mustang Records-mostly known as the label that released The Bobby Fuller Four’s hit “I Fought The Law”,  The Rooks second single was “Believe In You” b/w “I’ll Be the One” released on Dangel’s former label Etiquette Records. “I’ll be The One” was written by Kent Morrill,one of the other founding members of The Wailers.

After two years Rich Dangel left The Rooks to join mother band “The Time Machine” The outfit had been formed by former Willow Creek Ramblers Paul Gillingham, and Paul Poth, Charlie Morgan (Yes, that Charlie Morgan of Morgan Sound) who’d started out in The Valiants. Fred Aldredge, Mike Allen (also of Magic Fern) Scott Letterman and Jim Wolfe (both who’d been in Tom Thumb and The Casuals) . There’s very little recorded  about  The Time Machine but seems they were popular during their existence.  Walt Crowley mentions them in his book “Rites of Passage: A Memoir of Seattle in The 60s”.

The Time Machine as well as Magic Fern, The Daily Flash and Crome Syrcus were playing regularly at Seattle clubs.  He reports The Time Machine playing “The Underground Rock Festival” held at Eagles Auditorium alongside Magic Fern, Crome Syrcus, Clockwork Orange, Good Karma Lawn Service,  Willowdale Handcar Jug Band, United Flight Service, Chimes of Freedom and Prism. 

On September 1, 1967 The Time Machine opened for The Peanut Butter Conspiracy at Eagles Auditorium.  The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was a pop/rock psychedelic band from Los Angeles that had once included  drummer Spencer Dryden,  After his short stint Dryden would move on to The Jefferson Airplane as a replacement for Skip Spence.  Even after Dryden left the Conspiracy they still had cult status in the Bay area as well with hippies across the United States.

Crowley also mentions The Helix magazine and KRAB radio coming together to present a “Media Mash” also held at The Eagles Auditorium.  The headliner was Country Joe and The Fish, supported by The Time Machine, Magic Fern, Uncle Henry, Indian Puddin’ and Pipe, Canterbury Tales, Blues Feedback, The Excelsior Jazz Band and Murray Roman. Roman is a now forgotten hippie-esque cross between Lenny Bruce and George Carlin.  During this period he was near middle-aged, smoked a cigar onstage and frequently appeared at rock shows with his sharp-witted routine that mocked both the “establishment” as well as having fun at the expense of the counterculture.  Roman also appeared at the The Seattle Pop Music Festival in 1968.

Charlie Morgan says Dangel was never in The Time Machine while he (Charlie)  was in the band.  Since Morgan was a co-founder his word should normally be good enough to dispel any rumors. However, there was a reformed version of The Time Machine later that both Poth and Gillingham were part of, but not Charlie. There’s no contemporaneous proof  of Dangel being in that iteration of the band, and Paul Gillingham who’d been in both incarnations of The Time Machine also says Dangel was never in the band.  The confusion may be due to the nature of the internet.  Somewhere along the way Dangel was named as a member of The Time Machine, and the mythology was simply repeated over and over again by “authors” or commenters who simply didn’t do the footwork to find out, and  repeated the claim until it became accepted as fact.  In 1966 The Time Machine released a single, “All or Nothing” b/w “Take It Slow and Easy”on what is probably their own label “New Sounds”, but no information I’ve found tells us anything except this single was recorded, and that it was actually released-so far I know of no copies that have surfaced and there are no digitalizations I’ve been able to find.  Any clues to this mystery are welcome.  If any copies of the single exist they would be highly prized on the collector’s market.

In 1967 Dangel teamed up with his old friend Joe Johansen to form Unknown Factor.  Both played guitar with Joe Johnson on bass and Michael Marinelli on drums. Johansen was already a seasoned-veteran having played with The Adventurers; the band that backed-up Little Bill Englehart on his version of “Louie Louie” and other important Northwest bands like  The Dave Lewis Trio, The Frantics and The Checkers-a band from Yakima that had started to make waves in Seattle in the late 1950s.  In 1960 some of the Checkers met a high school kid from Richland WA named Larry Coryell.  Coryell was drafted into the band on the spot and began a stint with The Checkers that would soon lead him to Seattle and the University of Washington playing and jamming with other local bands and eventually on to New York City.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Joe Johnson was a transplant from Texas who had played in Seattle band Sir Raleigh and the Cupons (often misidentified as Sir Walter Raleigh and the Coupons) alongside future Buffalo Springfield drummer Dewey Martin (born Walter Milton Dwayne Midkiff, in Chesterton Ontario in Canada), Dewey had made his way to Nashville and worked as a side musician for Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline, Charlie Rich, Carl Perkins, and Faron Young among others. In 1963, he left Nashville for the west coast  on tour with Faron Young.  He ditched Young’s band in Las Vegas and ran off to Los Angeles. Dewey decided to base himself in L.A. but spent time backing up some of the country stars he’d worked with on tour. In 1963 he met Mel Taylor of The Ventures who advised him to find work in the Northwest.  Martin was soon in Seattle and playing with “Lucky Lee and The Blue Diamonds.

Sir Raleigh & The Cupons 1965

“Sneaky’ Pete Kleinow was a guitarist in the band, but had spent time as a stop motion animator in the film and television business.  Kleinow  had  worked on The Outer Limits (1963–1965), The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), and the long-running children’s shows Gumby and Davey and Goliath,  Soon after his time with Sir Walter, Kleinow found himself back in L.A. and playing his first love-the pedal steel guitar for The Flying Burrito Brothers.  He’d later go on to be one of the most in-demand session players of the 20th century.  Any artist remotely involved in the Los Angeles Country Rock scene during the 60s, 70s and 80s seemed to call on Klenows talents.

Before Martin and Kleinow had a chance to run off, the band recorded a demo at Kearny Barton’s Audio Recorders studio.  Lucky Lee, a very odd Hillbilly/HonkyTonk singer who billed himself as“America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Indian”.  It makes perfect sense that Dewey and Sneaky Pete would have hooked up with Lucky Lee since they were C&W influenced players and would go on to be important members of Hollywood’s Country Rock scene.  So The Blue Diamonds went into the studio as a budding C&W band and came out as the garage-rockers Sir Raleigh and The Cupons. The band was made up of Dewey Martin (drums) ‘Sneaky’ Pete Kleinow, Al Harris and Norman Raleigh (all on guitars) and Johnny Meeks (bass) under their new name. Lucky Lee went on to continue as a moderately well-known country singer.

Kearny Barton raved about the band’s demo, and they soon came to the attention of Jerry Dennon of Jerden Records.  In 1965 Jerden released their first single the Tommy Boyce/Steve Venet song “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day”b/w “Whitcomb Street” which became a regional hit and landed them a contract with A&M Records.The band would go on to record four more singles, two  for A&M and two for Tower Records, though none of them made much traction, and constant personnel changes were continual..

By this time Dewey Martin was the frontman and he brought in guitarist Steven Green, drummer Lyall Smith and keyboardist J.C. Reik.  The band  never recaptured the regional attention they’d found with “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day” but the song was later popularized by The Monkees on their self-titled 1966 debut albumafter all the song was co-written by Tommy Boyce who with Bobby Hart would become a “hit factory”  for The Monkees and others. The Monkees attempt is worthy but toned-down for popular consumption. For a truer representation of the garage rock of the northwest sound, Sir Raleigh’s version wins hands down.

In 1965 they also recorded their second single, a hopped up version of “The White Cliffs of Dover” b/w “Somethin’ Or Other” (written by Dewey Martin) that was released by A&M.  A follow-up “While I Wait” (written by Martin)  b/w “Something’ or Other” for a second time.  After these two singles the band moved to Tower Records and released,  Tell Her Tonight bw/ If You Need Me”.  The A side was another composition by Steve Venet and Tommy Boyce.  Their final single on Rocket Records was  “I don’t Want To Cry” b/w” Always” the B-side being credited as written by “Dewayne Midkiff” (aka Dewey Martin). The band finally broke up leaving  Dangel’s buddy Joe Johnson ready for another gig.

Drummer Michael Marinelli had come to Seattle by way of New York along with keyboardist Howard Wales. Wales had worked with The Four Tops, James Brown and Ronnie Hawkins before first joining Rich Dangels’ next projects, Unknown Factor and Floating Bridge.  Wales ended up playing  organ on the  Grateful Dead album “American Beauty”  as well as playing on two collaborative albums by Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales. “Hooteroll?” released in 1971, and “Side Trips Volume 1” in 1998. In the very late 1960s Garcia and Marinelli’s former partner Howard Wales had performed in small venues in the Bay area;notably at free-form jazz jam sessions on Monday night at The Matrix in San Francisco  and a handful of clubs on the east coast.  This allowed Garcia to stretch out a bit, playing jazz and experimenting in front of smaller audiences. Several gigs included Bill Vitt on drums and occasionally bassists like Richard Favis, or one of Garcia’s other friends and collaborators, John Kahn.  These jams became the inspiration for the album “Hooteroll?”  During recording the band brought in Howard Wale’s old friend Michael Marinelli to play drums.

Joe Johansen was a Washington native from Mossyrock, a speck of a town in Lewis County.  He learned to play from a door-to-door guitar teacher. He was a natural and moved to Seattle after high school to play with a band called the Adventurers,.  He also played with Northwest legend Dave Lewis and alongside Little Bill Englehart .It’s said that Jimi Hendrix idolized him and it’s obvious that bands like The Sonics, The Kingsmen and The Wailers weren’t above stealing licks from him.  They too idolized him. He was always the guy to watch.

“He IS the Northwest Sound,” says Robert Browning, a Spokane Washington rock ‘n’ roll history buff. “Joe is one of the great unsung heroes of guitar. He was there from the beginning of Northwest rock ‘n’ roll.”
In 1996 Rich Dangel said  “Joe was an awesome guitar player and a major influence to a lot of people.”
Johansen says it was Englehart that first introduced him to the blues and jazz. One night they listened to blues master B.B. King. 

While performing at The Spanish Castle one night Johansen noticed a teenager hanging around the club night after night.

The boy kept listening and asking for a chance to sit in.

Johansen refused each time.

“No way I was letting some weird-looking, skinny 15-year-old kid play my guitar,” says Johansen, exploding with a laugh. “Even if the kid turned out to be Jimi Hendrix.”
“My tastes, the way I played, everything went through a major lifestyle change right there,” he says.

Finally in 1967 Dangel, Johnson, Marinelli and Johansen got together to form a band.
Unknown Factor was a band with an incredible pedigree and not to be taken lightly. The band was ostensibly created as a back-up band for legendary Seattle’s blues and soul singer Patti Allen and Ron Holden-also from Seattle, who’d toured with Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, James Brown, Brook Benton, Etta James, The Coasters, Big Joe Turner, Bill Haley and scores of other popular R&B acts of the 1950s.  Holden also had a huge hit in 1960 with the song “Love You So” that reached number 7 on the Billboard Charts in June of  1960.

During its short stint as a backing band and guns-for-hire Unknown Factor met vocalist and keyboard player  Pat Gossan during a performance at a popular,  rundown tavern in Ballard called Mr. P’s. It’s said Gossan had  jumped onstage to sing with the band- to the surprise of everyone, but of course the mythology isn’t as interesting as what really happened.

Pat Gossan says;

“I was 20, and my girlfriend at the time (who later became my wife for a couple of years) was a regular at Mr. P’s.  She walked in in front of me and Irene Johansen-Joes wife-worked the door. Once she saw my wife Karen, she said “hello” and it was like nothing to breeze right in  the door behind her”.

Gossen was young at the time, but had already put in time in The Ambassadors, playing keyboards in a popular Mercer Island based band called The Punch as well as doing a short stint with Papa Bear’s Medicine Show.  

“The way I’d gotten up on the stage at Mr.P’s in Ballard” says Gossan “was I went up to Joe Johansen and said ‘we have something in common.  We’re both from Mossyrock Washington. You went to school with my cousin Trev’ and we started talking,  Ron Holden hadn’t shown up that night and I asked if I could sit in and he said ‘I don’t know.  Are you any good?”  He was a very intimidating fellow.  I said “well, my friends think I am” and he said ‘I don’t give a fuck what your friends think “Are YOU any good!!?” and I said, “well I think I could probably sing some songs with you and so they invited me up and I did a few songs.  Then they conferred and by the end of the night they asked me to join.  They were playing as ‘Unknown Factor’  at the time and they were backing Patti Allen. 

After Unknown Factor made Gossan their new singer they re-named themselves Floating Bridge  

The name Floating Bridge  was chosen because it referred to one or both of the major floating bridges that connected Seattle with the bedroom communities of Bellevue, Mercer Island, Medina and beyond.  The first of these bridges was opened in 1940 as The Lake Washington Floating Bridge” (now the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge, or simply the I-90 bridge).  This bridge is commonly referred to as the “first floating bridge” that was not used exclusively by the US  military.  This is untrue, but it may be the first floating bridge made with concrete pontoons. The Persians had used floating bridges centuries ago and two earlier 19th and 20th century floating bridges still span The Golden Horn between the European and Asian sides of the city of Istanbul  The band name might also have been inspired by The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, (officially the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge) but commonly called the 520 Bridge….or the Hood Canal Floating Bridge that connects Kitsap County to the Olympic Peninsula.  All of this is moot and just a bit of fun at guessing since the band had probably named themselves for a series of structures that are more prominent in Washington than any other state in the union.  Today there are even two more….and of course the name sounded cool.  

The band was a hit right out of the box.  Soon they became the house band at Eagles Auditorium. They played the first Sky River Rock Festival that took place outside Sultan WA between August 31 to September 2, 1968.  It’s reported their set was one of the best of the entire festival. They were playing the Seattle club circuit and venturing more and more outside the city-especially to the Bay Area.

It was their heavy psychedelic blues that attracted more and more fans.  They used twin guitar leads that found Dangel and Johansen veering off into heavy, blues and jazz influenced interweaving solos that were well-grounded in Marinelli and Johnson’s rhythm section.  The band played a mix of original material as well as their own interpretations of songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Byrds, each one delivered in a heavy thunder of psychedelic blues.  It’s not surprising that soon they would be  the most memorable acts of Seattle’s bohemian/hippie scene.  Pat Gossan did the vocals and was seen as genial and generous, despite his work as a blues singer.

During the first Sky River Rock Festival an A&R man from L.A.s Vault Records spotted the band, no doubt with the prompting of the bands’ manager at the time-Frank d’Aquila. The spreading word on the street about the band, their reception at the festival as well as their sound got them signed almost immediately.  Vault Records had been releasing surf bands for years, but they were looking to expand their roster since surf music was becoming less and less popular.  Floating Bridge was signed to Vault Records right away,  and in October of 1968 the band flew to Los Angeles to record their first album with producer Jackie Mills. A single from their upcoming self-titled album was released in December of 1968 did well locally but failed to make the national charts

In retrospect Mills may seem to have been an odd choice as producer.  He had spent many years as a jazz drummer working with luminaries from The Dorsey Brothers to Billie Holiday to Erroll Garner to Dizzy Gillespie, Barney Kessel, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Red Norvo  and scores more. He’d also drummed in the studio with Frank Sinatra, Anita O’Day, Benny Carter and many many more artists.  For over twenty years he was one of the most renowned jazz drummers in the music business.  At the time he met up with Floating Bridge his production credits were largely soundtracks by Elmer Bernstein, and The Pete Jolly Trio.  Mills had even composed the score for the 1960  Marilyn Monroe/Yves Montand film “Let’s Make Love”.

It was 1968, the same year Floating Bridge recorded their album, that Mills began working with other rock musicians.   In ’68 Jackie Mills recorded Floating Bridge  as well as producing an album by the band Kaleidoscope titled “Incredible!”  The band was originally comprised of Chris Darrow, who by the time of “Incredible! had left for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and was replaced by Stuart Brotman, formerly of Canned Heat. The original drummer John Vidican was replaced by Paul Lagos who had a jazz and R&B background, having played with Little Richard, Johnny Otis, and Ike and Tina Turner.  Solomon Feldthouse had worked with Leonard Cohen among others, and is the father of the actress Fairuza Balk. Max Buda, who had worked with Chris Darrow before Kaleidoscope has continued to work with him as a duo to this day.  Last of all there was David Lindley, an American musical treasure and highly respected session man and live musician. Lindley has played on albums by Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder, James Taylor and David Crosby and Graham Nash along with others.  He’s been called “a “musician’s musician” who’s had a years-long collaborative relationship with Henry Kaiser and formed his own band, El Rayo-X in 1981.

After returning to Seattle Floating Bridge there were a couple of huge concert events ahead of them. On December 6th and 7th opened  opened for The Moody Blues at the Eagles Auditorium and on December 27 1968 the band opened for both Vanilla Fudge and Led Zeppelin at the Seattle Center Arena.  They continued playing opening slots for major acts that came through Seattle;  BB King, Johnny Winter, John Mayall and Elliot Randall-a session player who would break out on his own and also record with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker-soon to be ‘Steely Dan’

Then suddenly Dangel quit the band In early 1969.

He had a family to maintain and the small amount of money the band made simply didn’t allow him to continue playing in it.  Aside from the lack of money, Dangel still had the urge to be a jazz musician. The parting is said to be amicable-and this is probably true because Dangel and the other members of the band would often gig with each other, and it was Dangel who would, over the decades, bear the standard for the band.  Dangel was replaced by Denny MacLeod who is said to have brought a bit more of a traditional Americana sound.

Despite Dangel leaving Floating Bridge they still remained popular and even struck a non-exclusive deal with John Nyberg’s and Paul Barboras’ new agency Far West Entertainment.  Bigger events and festivals were interested, and Far West was happy to set up out of town dates for them.  They were also eager to pair them with more and more touring bands who’s bookings Far West was handling and producing.  It also made it possible to hook up shows through other agencies-like Far West’s rival Seattle agency at the time-Concerts West.

Floating Bridge also took part in the Seattle Pop Festival organized by Boyd Grafmyre. The Festival was held at Gold Creek Park in Woodinville, WA from July 25 to July 27, 1969. Besides Floating Bridge and another popular Seattle band, Crome Syrcus the line-up included  Chuck Berry, Black Snake, Tim Buckley, The Byrds, Chicago Transit Authority, Albert Collins, Bo Diddley, The Doors, The Flock, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Guess Who, It’s A Beautiful Day, Led Zeppelin, Charles Lloyd, Lonnie Mack, Lee Michaels, Rockin Fu, Murray Roman, Santana, Spirit, Ten Years After, Ike & Tina Turner, Vanilla Fudge, Alice Cooper and The Youngbloods.

Although there have been bigger festivals in later years – only 50,000 people attended The Seattle Pop Festival – but there’s no doubt it still remains the most influential and star-studded festival to ever be held in the northwest.

Floating Bridge were also on the bill for the second Sky River Rock Festival that took place August 30 through September 1, 1969 in Tenino, Washington. Also performing at the festival were Anonymous Artists of America, Black Snake, Blue Bird, Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band, Collectors, Congress of Wonders, James Cotton, Country Weather, Country Joe and the Fish, Crome Syrcus, Crow, Dovetail, Flying Burrito Brothers, Frumious Bandersnatch, Grapefruit, Guitar Shorty, Buddy Guy, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, Dr. Humbead’s New Tranquility String Band, Juggernaut, Kaleidoscope, Los Flamencos de Santa Lucia, Fred McDowell, Steve Miller, New Lost City Ramblers, Pacific Gas & Electric, Peter, Terry Reid, Mike Russo, Sons of Champlin, Mark Spoelstra, Alice Stuart, Yellowstone, Youngbloods, and Elyse Weinberg.  

Some of the shine had come off the second festival due to not even knowing if it would take place up til the last moment. After the first Sky River Festival held in Sultan Washington there were pressures from conservatives and local police to pass laws severely restricting the rights to hold large public rock festivals.

The second Sky River Rock Festival almost didn’t happen.  The Festival’s producer, John Chambless had looked in vain for a suitable place to hold the Festival, but was met with restrictive laws or angry citizens everywhere he sought to hold the event.  Finally he secured The Rainier Hereford Ranch, among small hillocks created millions of years ago by glacial activity.  The area is locally known as “the mounds” and hold both Native American and New Age mythology.  The Tenino Chamber of Commerce and adjacent property owners were granted an injunction blocking a permit Thurston County had already issued, but as the case wound through the courts a sympathetic judge asked The Chamber of Commerce and property owners to post a $25,000 bond against any possible losses. The plaintiffs couldn’t come up with it (surprisingly!)  and with only days before the Festival was set to open Chambless had won the right to hold it.

Floating Bridge appeared at “The Vancouver Pop Festival” which took place at The Paradise Valley Resort in Squamish, British Columbia between August 22 and 24, 1969. Their name is not included on any posters, news articles or festival-related ephemera; the history of early rock festivals are muddled, Bush is quite right and whichever band announced to show up might not make it-and conversely others might show up out of the blue.  Pat Gossan remembers, and when asked if they played he says;

“We absolutely did”.  ‘Canned Heat’ and ‘Little Richard’ played on the same might as us. The promoters were kind of shysters” he adds
“They ended up burning a lot of bands.  Eric Nelson was our manager at the time,  We played sometime in the evening after ‘Little Richard’.  Now, ‘Little Richard did get paid because they demanded their money up-font.  A lot of us got shorted or completely stiffed,  but our manager was able to get a little bit of money for us, but not anywhere near what was in the contract, so our manager made up the difference because we’d driven such a long distance.  It actually wasn’t in Vancouver it was quite a bit north’.

In fact it was 53 miles north of Vancouver and the route along the way was the very old and somewhat decaying Highway 99BC.  The same Highway 99 that still exists along most of the west coast of the US.

“I looked pretty closely at the poster and and found that our name wasn’t on there ” says Gossan” but that’s kind of like the Sky River posters.  I have some posters from that era…there are some that don’t  have our name on it, and some that do.  I think it was due to the fact that they would put out a poster for the initial bands and others were added later.  I think in our case on the Vancouver one and the first Sky River we were added later.  I think that poster was an early version of The Vancouver Pop Festival”

Despite this observation, later versions of the Vancouver Pop Festival poster don’t seem to mention Floating Bridge.

 The Grateful Dead who had been given as one of the major headlines is said to have not played as planned; but Jerry Garcia himself says they played, and his biographer, Blair Jackson, also claims The Dead played at the Festival.  On Garcia’s official web page 1,222 people claimed they had attended the concert-which is a pretty high percentage since it was estimated only about 15,000 attended the festival…but as we know millions have claimed to have been at Woodstock.   Even the local online journal recently carries a recent headline “Remember When The Grateful Dead Came To Squamish?”  It features two articles from The Squamish Times..,but neither of the 1969 articles mention the Grateful Dead. One would think that if they’d played there’d be some contemporaneous documentation of it. Over the years there’s been some misunderstanding where The Grateful Dead were on August 23, 1969, the date they were set to play The Vancouver Pop Festival.  A listing in The San Francisco Express Times  (dated August 21,1969) advertises for the day for the supposed presence at Vancouver Pop Festival:

“Hippy Hill: Trans-Cultural Rip-Offs, Inc. presents Steve Gaskin & the Grateful Dead in concert with Shiva Fellowship. Bring dope (the sacrament) and good vibes. noon. Free”.

In May of 2012 San Francisco historian Corry Arnold wrote:

“The event on “Hippy Hill” (the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park, close to the entry from the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood) was canceled at the last minute, and everything associated with it was subject to change. I’m sure that Stephen Gaskin (a hippie icon/guru/lecturer who would go on to found “The Farm” in Summerville Tennessee in 1971) hoped the Dead would show up, and I’m also pretty confident it didn’t happen. The whole weekend is rather murky, but escaping from a farm in rural Oregon is not like loading out of a Sports Arena that’s near an airport. I don’t see how ‘the Dead’ and their equipment were ready to roll by Sunday afternoon, even if they bailed on British Columbia”.

One thing is clear; The Grateful Dead and The New Riders of the Purple Sage were scheduled to play a gig at Seattle’s Green Lake Aqua Theater on August 20, 1969,  The show was rained-out so the date was set for the next day, August 21. Since the band was available they made an unannounced surprise gig at Ballard’s El Roach the night of the 20th.  We know both shows took place because they were documented with photographs from both the El Roach and the Aqua Theater gigs. On August 23 they appeared at the Bullfrog 2 Festival at Pelletier Farm near St. Helens Oregon.  The Pelletier Farm gig was two days before their scheduled gig at the Vancouver Pop Festival.  It would be a long haul to Vancouver, but not so long that they couldn’t make it. All we know for sure is thatThe Dead were in the neighborhood.

When asked if he remembers the Grateful Dead playing at the Vancouver Pop Festival Gossan frostily says:

I don’t remember ‘The Grateful Dead’ playing at the ‘Vancouver Pop Festival’; as Far as San Francisco bands I remember ‘Canned Heat’ playing; but we went up and hung out for the afternnon and played in the evening after dark and seeing Little Richard.  I think the fact is that we’d gotten soured for being stiffed on our money  so we really didn’t care about sticking around,  We saw such a small part of that fesitval, so they very well could have.

The band seems to have been quite impressed with Little Richard’s performance:

“It was something seeing him.  He had a mirrored vest that when the lights were on it the reflections were flying everywhere”.

Another reason Floating Bridge may only have seen a small portion of The Vancouver Pop Festival is that the promoters hadn’t bothered to arrange places to stay for many of the bands.   The weather was wet and chilly and they didn’t have any accomodations…just having to get in our cars since there was no place to stay. They chose to drive home.

We played all over”, says Gossan  “The Walrus of course, the El Roach,  We played the Buffalo.  You know we were kind of an odd group to play those places,  We played at The Clockwork Orange, il Bistro in Vancouver B.C, The Emergency Exit and the B.F.D. I was undergaged when I went to see The Daily Flash.   I think The Bumps-this psychedelic-garage rock band, probably played too.  The Time Machine could very well have played there; their salad days were from 65 to about 67.  And then they opened the second B.F.D. north of 205th Street on Aurora Avenue and it didn’t last very long.  It was very short lived.  It was like when Jerry King opened The Warehouse on Eastlake-I think we might have played there once.

There’s a picture we took down at Seattle Center with an old “Floating Bridge” sign; I gave that to Jerry King.  It’s been mistakenly said it was in The Blue Moon Tavern, but I gave it to King and he had it at The Warehouse.  That’s not to say it wasn’t moved to The Blue Moon when The Warehouse closed because King owned them both.  The Warehouse Tavern opened  a second Warehouse in Bellevue and it also went belly-up; when they tried to double their exposure it didn’t work for these places.

Since Vault Records were pleased with their first album. Floating Bridge set off for San Francisco to record a second album.  Manager Eric Nelson set up recording time at Columbia Studios in North Beach.  The band felt more in control, since the project was being financed by their manager and they were allowed to help produce the album and in some cases even taking part in the mixes.  The band was happier with this outing than they’d been with their debut.  People who’ve heard it claim it is a classic mix of psychedelic blues; especially a 21 minute track by the name of “Ode To Crazy Ray” that has been called their “masterpiece”,

When their manager Eric Nelson and the band presented the finished master tapes to Vault Records the label chose not to pick the album up. It’s possible that Vault was having jitters because owner Jack  Lewerke was negotiating to sell his entire company to National Tape Distributors of Milwaukee. 

“As far as Vault Records turning the second record down” Gossan says  “it was because of a 21 minute track called ‘Ode to Crazy Ray’ and ‘Today’s Pig is Tomorrow’s Bacon’ and some other titles like that; and the 21 minute of ‘Ode To Crazy Ray’ was so psychedelic, and Johansen absolutely killed on it. His guitar playing on “Ode To Crazy Ray” is stratospheric; I would love for the masses to hear it, Vault Records turned it down because it was too outside and they wanted us to record more middle-of-the-road material; they wanted covers. They didn’t care about our songwriting so much although they would have benefitted by it with the publishing so I don’t think they would have turned down something that would have been pleasing to their ears

Floating Bridge with Crazy Ray

Crazy Ray’ is about the band’s roadie. If you look at the  page for “Helix Redux” there’s a picture that I posted fairly recently of Floating Bridge playing at Seattle’s Volunteer Park If you look closely at that picture there’s a head sticking out of the bushes, He looks like an FBI agent looking at the crowd  well that was Crazy Ray!

I became at odds with Pat Hewitt over the length of “Crazy Ray” After Johansen’s solo it goes into an electric kind of backwards tapes playing the Joe and Denny McLeod played along with,  It gets a little bit frenzied. I think if it were to be edited by three or four minutes it would be stonger and there are a couple of other songs on there that would do pretty well.

Guitarist Denny MacLeod (who’d replaced Rich Dangel) finally became disillusioned and quit.  Despite his leaving a hole in the band, Floating Bridge invited Michael Jacobson to perform with them on electric cello and saxophones.  Andrew Lang Jr. was drafted to play trumpet; Lang was originally from New Orleans and had played on Robert Parker’s classic R& B song“Barefootin’, Jacobsen had a strong background in music having been performing since the age of three.   The band was stretching out, but even going into more of an experimental stage the magic was lost, and the band seemed directionless.

The newly re-invented Floating Bridge showed up at The First Buffalo Party Convention and Pig Roast on July 3rd, 4th and 5th of July 1970 at ‘Buffalo’ Don Murphy’s “Flying M Ranch” near  Eatonville Washington.  Albert King, Muddy Waters, Canned Heat, Van Morrison, Chuck Berry and James Cotton along with about two dozen other artists were announced to play, but there’s no record  of who actually showed up. Some of those who attended report that  James Cotton, The Strawberry Alarm Clock A.B, Skhy (with Howard Wales) played.  Some remember the Northwest Sound contingent of The Wailers, The Sonics and  Don and The Good Times playing as well as Mojo Hand and Crome Syrcus from Seattle.  All of these bands were likey (but not certain) to have played.  Other mentions are Fever Tree, Clear Light, Country Joe McDonald, and The Portland Zoo; but like many of the smaller festivals of the day we have to rely on anecdotal evidence rather than contracts and tight timelines by stage managers to tell us who and who did not play.  Adding to the confusion was the fact that since this was an anti-authority “political” gathering many bands had agreed to pay for free…hence no records at all.  So we have to rely on attendees who all seem to have been high on acid, full of alcohol completely fried or otherwise too zonked out to remember the same day, not to mention so many years later.  One thing that most attendees agree on is that much of the time cassette tapes were played through the huge loudspeakers.

The Buffalo Party had been and would continue to be a thorn in the side of Washington State and Thurston County authorities.  The Buffalo Party was able to pose as a political party but in fact were joined together in an attempt to keep authorities from crashing their “conventions” that allowed Buffalo Party “members” and their “guests” to roam freely in any state of dress (or undress) openly use drugs, skinny dip, have open sex and generally defy the status quo.

According to a post at geocaching.com:

“Sheriff Carl Peterson was onsite with 35 deputies to enforce (an)  injunction, assisted by state troopers. But there was no turning back the tide. Unfortunately, because of the injunction, portable restrooms were never delivered, so a large ditch had to serve instead. Drugs were sold openly, but the crowd turned out to be more peaceful than rebellious, causing almost no property damage. Local residents even cautiously joined the crowds, more to gawk at the “hippies” dancing and skinny dipping in nearby ponds than to listen to the music. Unfortunately one man died during the festival when he slipped and fell from the top of nearby Little Mashel Falls”.  

The man was Don Christiansen from Lakewood , Washington.

In the final analysis ‘Buffalo” Don Murphy came to a deservedly horrible end.  He was killed by his wife who he’d abused (along with the kids) for years. In 1977, Francine Murphy set fire to Buffalo Don’s bed as he was asleep. The ensuing fire killed him and burned the house down; Then Francine bundled up her five children, put them in the car and drove into Eatonville to confess what she’d done.  When she went to trial for murder the jury found her ‘“not guilty by reason of temporary insanity”.  They realized it was 13 years of physical and emotional abuse that drove her to kill her husband. It’s thought that this was the first case using what would come to be called the “battered wife syndrome.” as a defense.  People in and around Eatonville helped  pay her court costs and in  1984 Farrah Fawcett starred in a well-known movie based on the incident called “The Burning Bed

Later in 1970 the Floating Bridge van was involved in a wreck.  The van had actually rolled-over, but no one suffered any major injuries. Soon after the van rolling over it was stolen with most of the bands equipment in it.  Even though a charity event was held to recoup the loss of their equipment there seemed no reason to continue.  Their second album had been turned down by their label, audiences were getting smaller, tastes were changing and no one was sure how long the band could continue to face adversity;  Johansen had blown out his knee and he was having some issues with prescriptions  and self-medicating himself  He was done with it, We asked Doug Hastings from The Daily Flash to see if something could happenm so when that didn’t happen we just let it go. The band officially broke up in December of 1970.  Marinelli took a job at the top of the Sheraton with Corky Ryan and Joe Johnson went on to play with a band called Easy Chair” which was not the original “Easy Chair.  The original  band’s name was appropriated by the sleaziest of promoters, Matthew Katz.  Dangle had long since moved on and Johnson eventually found music and sobriety did not mix well for him.  Pat Gossan went on to a series of successful regional bands, and at one point even toured in Doug Kershaw’s band and his band Freddie and The Screamers has been Peter Noone’s back-up band on many occasions.

Their influence of Floating Bridge may have faded like most music of the psychedelic era, but more fans worldwide have found their way to Floating Bridge and their album. No less than a dozen re-issues of the first Floating Bridge albums have been pressed around the world since it debuted.

The deal with National Tape Distributors went through in 1971 and the second Floating Bridge album is still unreleased.

Gossan says:
Our former manager Eric Nelson who had foot the bill for the second album in San Francisco happened into this house of a former girlfriend in Seattle and he found the tapes down in the basement,  I thought the tapes were ruined and that I’d never see them again.  Eric’s ex-girlfriend called me and said “I’ve got these big boxes of tapes of the Floating Bridge. Do you want them? Well, of course I did,..this was probably 15 years ago and I hung onto them and hung onto to them trying to find somebody who had a Skully eight-track in Seattle so I could do a transfer, I was able to do that a couple of years ago at a studio in Wallingford. We put them on thumb drives and my old playing partner Pat Hewitt who I played together for the past 45 years off and on started going through them and got them up so that they would be able to be released, My intention is still to release them, So I contacted Michael Marinelli who is the only other living survivor of the original band and the second Floating Bridge album,  and I later found out Jake Jacobsen was living in L.A, but he didn’t have anything to do with the album.  Gossan says it’s always been his intention to release the second album.  Now only if there’s some label (large or small) willing to put it out.  It’s ready to go!

A bit on the cast of characters here:

Rich Dangel eventually went on to form another well-known Seattle band called Sledgehammer.He worked with them for years and participated in several Wailers re-unions and even went on tour with them in 1969. During the late ’70’s he put together a crew of outstanding musicians naming it ‘Rich Dangel & The Reputations,  By the 1980s and 90s years of dependence on alcohol and harder drugs got out of hand,  In the early 1990s Rich sought help overcoming his addictions, and even became a certified drug counselor. In 1997 he founded his dream group “Butterbean” along with Michael Kinder and Buck England.  The band re-inspired Rich’s deep interest in mixing jazz with blues, R&B and rock,  In 2001 he took part in recording The Wailers CD “Cadillac to Mexico”. Dangel died of a brain aneurysm on on December 3rd 2002, a week after his birthday.

Buck Ormsby  became the last living member of the original Wailers died of complications from lung cancer on his 75th birthday-October 9, 2016.  Buck died in Tepic, Mexico in a bid to find alternative treatment for his cancer.  His long-time partner, Pamela Mills Ruzic said that Ormsby had died immediately after a fall. Ormbsy was a dedicated champion of The Northwest Sound as both a member of The Wailers and Little Bill and The Bluenotes. His founding of Etiquette Records provided the template for nationally successful bands to create and distribute their own music. In the ensuing years he became a much-loved figure on the Seattle and Tacoma music scene.  He took part in Wailers re-unions and made sure to re-release albums and singles on his Etiquette Records. He also played the occasional date with The Sonics as well as being their soundman from time to time. There had been years that Etiquette was not active, but it was still very much alive. Buck’s son, Gregory Ormsby, intends to continue Etiquette Records as an active label  In 2020 Etiquette will celebrate its 60th anniversary.

Joe Johansen retired from music in 1972 and slipped into obscurity after his escape from Seattle to Spokane in 1980,  He moved in order to get away from the influence of decades of addiction

In a 1996 interview Johansen said:

“All my musical heroes were junkies so I became one, I blew some of the best He had just come back to Spokane after a triumphant four-concert return in mid-May to the Seattle blues scene.years of my playing career. I’ll never know how good I could have been because I was always loaded.”

His interviewer Dale Clarke wrote:

Johansen played Carnegie Hall twice while touring with headline acts. After five years as an L.A. studio musician, he retired with a substantial amount of money in the bank. He bought a house in Seattle and a pound of pure heroin in that order”

Broke by the late 1970s, Johansen went back to playing. After a relapse, Johansen was forced to choose between the guitar and sobriety. “Sobriety won” he told Clarke.. Johansen sold his guitar and moved To Eastern Washington, Johansen, like Dangel also became a drug counselor.

One day Joe  was recognized on the streets of Spokane my music historian Robert Browning. They were soon fast friends, and it was Browning who had bought Johansen’s last guitar and encouraged him to play again.

In mid-may of 1997 Joe made one last trip to Western Washington and  played a triumphant four-concert return to the Seattle blues scene. His last performance was at The Swiss Restaurant and Pub in Tacoma.  The gig attracted his old music friends to support and share the moment he played from his soul.  Later he told Dale Clarke of The Spokane Statesman-Review:

“That last night was a high point.  I’ve never cried on stage, but I was blubbering like a damn baby. It was heaven, I don’t think anything could match that experience. So why try?”

He vowed never to play again.  His words were prophetic. Joe died of a heart attack in room 601 of The Delaney, a low-income apartment building in downtown Spokane.  He was found by the apartment manager.

Joe Johnson  went on to play with several local bands, most notably with Blind Willie.  Joe died June 4, 1977.

Pat Gossan went on to play keyboards in several bands from the 70s though 21st century. including, Prairie Creek, Freddie and The Screamers, Fat Cat and the Vududes (pronounced Voo-Dudes, geddit?) Pat now performs alongside Charlie Morgan, Steve Boyce, and Rick Bourgoin in the band “Two Sheds Jackson”.  He was asked to join after a concert to raise money and awareness of breast cancer.  The event was called Boobapalooza and raised more than $15,000.

Denny MacLeod died April 15, 2001, After leaving  live music behind him he became a radio disc jockey and went on to have a decades long career as a DJ and radio talent in the Spokane and Eastern Washington area, winning several awards along the way..  He spent his last years at the now defunct KZLN FM in Othello Washington.  Co-workers said he was a wonderful friend, mentor, and big brother and he often remarked about how he’d enjoyed his time playing guitar with Floating Bridge.

Little Bill Engelhart is still at it after over six decades in music.  Unfortunately he’s outlived all of the original Blue Notes, but musicians and fans still seek him out.

Michael Marinelli would go on to play on the original soundtrack for the cult film El Topo. Alejandro Jodorowsky had written and directed the film as well as creating it’s score..  John Lennon and Yoko Ono had been so impressed with the film they convinced  Allen Klein,who was then manager of Apple, to buy the rights to the film, and the soundtrack was released on Apple Records.  Lennon was so smitten by Jodorowsky’s work that he even advanced $1 million for Jodorowsky’s next movie,“The Holy Mountain” The latter soundtrack was released on Allen Klein’s own label ABCO.  In the 70s The members of the now-defunct Beatles entered into a series of legal battles with Klein and the rights to the entire Apple catalogue.

Michael then became an actor.  When “Freddie and the Screamers” were together Buck Ormsby had been able to secure a pilot to do fours songs for the TV show Northern Exposure.  The bass player was left out because Buck wanted to play, so the band went to Roslyn WA where they were filming the pilot. While they were sitting in the comissary area some guy walked past them and it was Michael.  Pat Gossan who hadn’t seen Marinelli for fifteen years  yelled “Magooch!” and the guy turned around and it was indeed Michael,  He was  was working as the stand-in for Barry Corbin.  He and the band  had a chance to catch-up. Marinelli had moved to Hawaii with his then-wife who was a flight attendent and he had secured a couple of things on Magnum P.I. and and a TV for an ad for a Home Alert system.  Gossan says he’s been in touch with Michael periodically. He’s living in Taos New Mexico and in poor health-he injured his hip and he has other health issues that are going on.  He’s content staying in his place and somewhat of a recluse

 Rockin’ Robin Roberts may be the most tragic figure in this story.  Roberts had sought out Richard Berry’s original “Louie Louie’ and turned it into a rock classic even before Rich Dangel added his signature intro.  It was his vocals on The Wailers recording, the first version of the song ever released. Rockin’ Roberts, more than anyone. turned a minor song into what is said to be the second most recorded song in history-only eclipsed by Paul McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’.

Early in the morning of December 22, 1967 Rockin’ Robin Roberts was killed on impact in a head-on collision after leaving a party. He was the passenger in a car traveling the wrong direction on a divided freeway south of San Francisco.  He was only 27 years old.


All corrections to this story are welcome.  Leave your comments below.

 

 

-Dennis R. White.  Sources: James Bush “Floating Bridge” (Encyclopedia of Northwest Music, Sasquatch Books,1999); Floating Bridge; Seattle, Washington 1967 – 1969 (Pacific Northwest Bands, pnwbands.com/bridge , retrieved May 20, 2018); Tony Engelhart “The Tall Cool One: Rich Dangel 1942-2002” (Blues Onstage, February 2003): “Floating Bridge” (Bad Cat Records Biography” (http://badcatrecords.com/BadCat/FLOATINGbridge.htm, retrieved May 20, 2018): Rich Dangle (Etiquette Records. www.etiquette-records.com/artists/dj-smiling-10/, retrieved May 19, 2018); “Floating Bridge” (Forced Exposure, www.forcedexposure.com/Artists/FLOATING.BRIDGE.html, retrieved May 19, 2018); “Floating Bridge” (AllMusic, www.allmusic.com/artist/floating-bridge-mn0000639749/biography , retrieved May 19 2018); “Floating Bridge; Floating Bridge” (Forced Exposure, April 18, 2012,  rockasteria.blogspot.com/2012/04/floating-bridge-floating-bridge-1969-us.html, retrieved May 19, 2018); Simon Stable “Floating Bridge [liner notes UK] retrieved May 20, 2018);Doug Clark “Guitarist Takes Final Bow On A Good Note” Spokeman-Review [Spokane WA] June 10, 1997); Eric Predoehl “Memories of Robin Roberts” (The Louie Report, December 14 2002 louielouie.net retrieved May 20 2018); Peter Blecha “Sonic Boom: The History of Northwest Rock From “Louie Louie” to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Backbeat Books, 2009); Ian Ith “Richard Dangel, seminal guitarist, inspired luminaries” (The Seattle Times, Decembe 5, 2002); Jason Ankeny “Sir Raleigh and The Coupons” allmusic.com, retrieved May 22, 2018); Walt Crowley “Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle” (Universtiy of Washington Press,1997); Johnny Blogger “Vancouver Pop Festival,1969” www.djtees.com/blogs/djtees-blog/vancouver-pop-festival-1969, retrieved May 24, 2018); Corry Allen [post] “Where Was The Grateful Dead August 24,1969?” (Jerry Garcia’s Middle Finger, May 9,2012); K2D2 “The Eatonville Rock Festival” (Geocacheing.com, retrieved May 24.2018); ZIBI “Floating Bridge ‘Floating Bridge, 1969” [Polish Translation] (Rock Dizziness, June 29, 2017, retrieved May 21, 2018) Don Rogers “The Time Machine, Seattle, Washington, 1966 – 1968 (pnwbands.com, retrieved May 21, 2018) The Time Machine” (rateyourmusic.com, retrieved May24, 2018); Don Randi with Karen Nishimura “You’ve Heard These Hands: From The Wall of Sound to the Wrecking Crew and Other Incredible Stories” (Hal Leonard Books, 2015): Dave Clarke “Jimi Hendrix’s Guitar Hero Now Lives Quietly In Spokane” (Spokesman-Review [Spokane WA] Oct. 8, 1996);Associated Press “Northwest music icon Rich Dangel dies” (December 6.2002); Pat Gossan “interview with the author”, May 31,2018)

 

 

NW SONGWRITERS: A STRAW POLL

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. In my opinion all good songs are founded in the music.  I suppose most people at least subconsciously know that, despite the overemphasis of  lyrics alone.  But there’s no doubt a lyric can as easily set the mood as a melody.

Anyone who’s listened to the work of Frank Zappa might  point to “Peaches En Regalia”  (among others) as an example of brilliant songwriting  without the use of lyrics.  None of us can say what the song is actually about (except peaches dressed in the signs of their royal or noble status?) but there’s no doubt this song-among many other instrumentals-has been crafted, and composed in a way that each and every note seems to belongs exactly where it lies. It seems unlikely that anyone else would compose this particular song other than Frank Zappa. It contains a mix of elaborate musicianship, purposely-cheesy sounding orchestration and themes and a distinct left-of-center pop sensibility, although it’s highly influenced by jazz. For all it’s grandiosity of Peaches en Regalia uses an economy of tones and instrumentation.  It relies more on the unusual juxtaposition of sounds and an exceptional thematic device. More precisely; it’s fun to listen to.

On the other hand sometimes lyrics carry the day…a witty, unusual, or unexpected lyric might save an otherwise mediocre melody, but good songwriting rarely relies on the melody alone  The truth, to me, is that good songwriting is the result of craftspeople who devote their lives to songwriting, with little regard to who records their material….even  themselves.  This is what makes Leiber and Stoller, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Lennon and McCartney (together or separately) soar above the rest.  Songwriting is a craft unto itself to these writers  It goes beyond the performance of others, though there certainly are a large number of songwriters that are best suited to record their own material.  All of this congealed during the mid-19th century “Tin Pan Alley” an actual place in Manhattan on West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues,  “Tin Pan Alley” later became a collective term for the musicians, songwritersand publishers who dominated New Yorks’ popular music up until the mid-20th century.   If you ever visit New York City you will find a  comerrative plaque on the sidewalk on 28th Street between Sixth St. and Broadway.  Later, as songwriters drifted into the early days of rock and pop The Brill Building (1619 Broadway)  was considered their spiritual home.  The building had previously been a hotbed of activity for songwriting and publishing of music for the “big bands” like those of Benny Goodman or  The Dorsey brothers.  In the 1950s and the early 1960s  songwriters like Neil Diamond, Ellie Greenwich, Johnny Mercer, Billy Rose, Bobby Darin and Neil Sedaka Goffin and King, Leiber and Stoller emerged from The Brill building.  It proved to be a very successful time for songwriters pumping out well-crafted songs for teen idols, budding pop-stars and “girl groups”.  During the mid-60s “Tin Pan Alley” and The Brill Building became somewhat outdated.  By this time bands, individuals and those who would become singer/songwriters emerged, as well as the pop music charts becoming extremely influenced by “The British Invasion” The British had styled their s roots in the American blues rather than American popular music in general.  Soon the center of the music world shifted to the west coast even though many New York City-based songwriters were still able to create a hit or two.

 

In many cases the craftsmanship of songwriting is enhanced by the writers’ own renditions of their work..  This is the case with the aforementioned Elvis Costello or the collective work of a band like XTC.  Although I’d say there have been successful interpretations of Elvis Costello songs, it’s Elvis that usually supplies the definitive version.  In the case of XTC, it’s hard to imagine anyone else properly interpreting their work.

Other times we can actually hear and imagine the songwriter’s “voice” when a particular song is covered.  A case in point is The Monkee’s version of Neil Diamond’s “I’m a Believer”…really, who else could have written this song besides Neil?  Even though Diamond released his own version of it (about a year after The Monkee’s hit version) The song attributed to The Monkees is the one that counts and it should be!  The performance was actually recorded by guitarists Al Gorgoni and Sal Ditroia, Buddy Saltzman on drums, Carol Kaye on bass,  Artie Butler on the Vox Continental organ and the song’s producer, Jeff Barry, adding piano and tambourine.

It is Micky Dolenz’ vocals that add the typical Monkees sound, but the craftsmanship of Neil Diamond is the real star, no matter who played on the recording.  Aside from being a huge hit for The Monkees, Diamond once again shows his prowess as a songwriter because the song has also successfully interpreted by other artists-from The Four Tops to Robert Wyatt (his first recording after the June 1973 accident that left him a paraplegic).  It’s also famously been recorded by Smash Mouth for the film Shrek in 2001 but not quite as inventive or successful as other versions.

Another case may be made for the song “Theme from The Valley of The Dolls” as interpreted by Dionne Warwick.  The song itself was written by André and Dory Previn, instead of Dionne’s usual writers throughout her career, Hal David and Burt Bacharach.  Despite the mighty trio of Warwick, David and Bacharach, The Theme From The Valley of The Dolls remains as powerful an interpretation as anything else she has sung.  Of course it is Dionne’s incredible reading of the song that makes it so heart-tugging and melancholy as well as hopeful.  Another example of an interpretation of brilliant songwriting by another artist is Elvis Costello’s rendition of  “(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace Love and Understanding?”  I know I’m treading on thin ice here, but I’d say Costello’s rendition of an excellent song written by the gifted Nick Lowe is the definitive version of the song.  I believe this not only a sign of a great interpreter of another’s song, but also the sign of Lowe’s ability to write a near-perfect, unforgettable anthem.

My point (and I know I’ve been exhaustive about it) is that there is an animal called “the songwriter” whose first duty is to write solid, universal themes that combine well thought out lyrics and original, innovative  musical themes. This is a craft that takes hard work….much harder than merely performing the song, although a good song always deserves a good interpreter..  A good songwriter sculpts the song like Michelangelo, who claimed the end product was already within the stone.  It was his job to chip away enough to reveal what was already there.

Getting back to my straw poll, none of the writers’ work included writers included in the “Great American Songbook”. Although Spokane’s Al and Charles Rinker are considered among the talents of the era,  The more famous can be said to emerge out of the Northwest from that era is not someone we’d think or as a songwriter; it is the singer; Bing Crosby. In the late 1920s Bing  joined his Spokane friend Al Rinker  and pianist/singer Harry Barris to form The Rhythm Boys, who were featured as part of Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra. They had phenomenal success with both Rinker and Harris’s compositions as well as others’ writing.  The song below was written by Bing Crosby and Harry Barris. The song isn’t the most memorable of their output, but I’ve included it as an example of Bing Crosby’s early crack as a writer.

Al Rinker’s  brother Charles  wrote twenty-seven songs with Gene de Paul (who’d also written with Johnny Mercer) including “Your Name is Love”, which has been recorded by George Shearing and Nancy Wilson as well as other songs written by himself that have been recorded  by Frankie Lane, Red McKenzie, Shearing, Nancy Wilson, and Alan Dawson. Although both Al and Charles Rinker were capable songwriters who  crafted their music it’s hard to think of them as “important” since they are all but forgotten today.

I admit (once again) that I believe one of the hallmarks of an important songwriter is their ability to affect interpretations and long-term influence.  This can be somewhat confounding, because a composer’s work may be forgotten today, but at some time in the future re-discovered and influence unborn generations.  For my purposes I will only reflect on writers that we consider estimable from any time in the past up to the current era.  We cannot look into the future, nor can we anticipate a great songwriter’s work ever coming to light.

So let’s return to the original question:

Who do you think is the most important songwriter to come out of the Northwest?  

This was the question I asked in my straw poll, but I also invite YOU to ponder this messy question.  After all, the Northwest has a history of producing “important” songwriters, keeping in mind that the question in itself is based not only opinion, but personal taste and perhaps even a history of songwriting on your own part; and as I pointed out, there are no wrong answers

It shouldn’t come as a prize that the most often songwriter mentioned (according to my unscientific poll). was Kurt Cobain.  There’s absolutely no doubt he could write an excellent pop song, and partially wrap it up as something that could be defined loosely as “punk”.  I will refrain from the title “grunge” because I find it a useless and intellectually lazy…Any group of artists who’s output includes songs as diverse as Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow”, Seven Year Bitch’s M.I.A. or Nirvana’s cover of  David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World” does not define a genre.  It might mark a period of successful Northwest bands, but the term itself denies the individuality of the bands who fall under this nonsensical term.  We can’t even compare it to the thread that ran through the 1960’s “San Francisco Sound” which largely relied on one similar electric guitar sound.

So, we know the place Kurt Cobain many people attribute to him. I believe most of Kurt’s talent was in listening intently to what had come before him, whether it was The Beatles or one of his particular favorites, Sonic Youth. He was able to distill everything from metal to punk to Americana and pop in crafting his songs.  The only question we can ask is, had he lived longer would his output have been as high-quality as what he left us?  We’ll never know.

The second most mentioned songwriter was Jimi Hendrix.  This seemed perplexing to me since I have always considered him an innovator and a performer rather than a songwriter; but looking a bit closer I can see brilliance in his writing, even though his output is far less than I’d have liked to see. I’d always seen his real strength as innovating the sound of the electric guitar and his incredible showmanship.   It was possible for him to “ramble” along a riff, playing guitar, with no discernable song structure, and still overwhelm and amaze his listeners.  I will admit I thought  that the core of his guitar pyrotechnics was strong, but were birthed by somewhat derivative standard blues riffs. Looking back this was a common practice among his contemporaries, especially among the British where he spent a lot of his later years.

His strong suit was exploding and expanding from his riff.  Even though I am a huge fan of his playing and performance I consider a handful of his songs contain signs of great songwriting in them.  For instance“The Wind Cries Mary”, “If Six Were Nine” and my personal favorite “Angel”. It’s fairly well-known that “Amgel” was written about a dream Jimi had of his mother coming to him after her death.  The song is considered by many (myself included) as the best song Jimi Hendrix ever wrote.  Again, I understand I may be walking on thin ice here; but the theme, it’s lyrics and it’s lovely melody is so universal that it can mean something special, for many reasons to its listeners.  It’s also telling that Hendrix spent about two years perfecting the song and how he wanted to record it. One other aspect we might consider is near the time of his death, Jimi was contemplating an entirely different approach to his music.

Some folk writers were mentioned, but to be fair I think some of the best folk writers near the Pacific Northwest happen to be Canadian. If Ian Tyson (of “Ian and Sylvia” and “The Great Speckled Bird”) had been born 20 miles south of his hometown of Victoria B.C. he’d  be one of my top candidates for important Norhtwest songwriters.  However, due to the constraints placed on my own choice of covering only the history of NW music of the U.S. I thought it unfair to include anything outside Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  Ian Tyson has written an incredible song book including “Someday Soon” and “Four Strong Winds” His songs have been covered by Neil Young,  Moe Bandy, Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Bob Dylan,The Kingston Trio  Marianne Faithfull, John Denver, Trini Lopez, Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez, Glen Yarborough, Bobby Bare, Harry Belafonte, Tanya Tucker, Suzy Bogguss, Lynn Anderson and countless others.  Although Canadians could reasonably disagree, perhaps the most popular (and most definitive version outside of Tyson’s) is “Someday Soon”sung by the Seattle-born Judy Collins. But Tyson is a near-mythic figure in Canada, and will always be considered as one of the most important songwriters in Canadian history no matter if we include British Columbia as part of the Pacific Northwest or not.  He is identified and rightly claimed as a purely Canadian artist.

Loretta Lynn was mentioned; an excellent choice.  But Loretta will always be “A Coal Miner’s Daughter” and though she lived in Washington, and her career was kickstarted here with the help of Buck Owens, Kentucky has always been her real home in her heart, and it’s there and Nashville that she’s written the bulk of her output.

Local heroes like Scott MacCaughey, Rusty Willoughby. Alice Stewart, Gary Minkler, Pete Pendras, Jon Auer, Ken Stringfellow, Eric Apoe and Ben Gibbard were were all mentioned as “important” songwriters..  There’s no doubt these artists deserve respect for their work…I’d only add that Gary Minkler, over the past five decades,  is also one of the most dynamic performers the Northwest has ever produced.

Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart got lots of recognition.  Although Heart put out some spectacular music, not all of it was written by the Wilson sisters collectively or apart.  Very early on the two of them brought in the very talented songwriter abnd collaborator, Sue Ennis, to work with them.  Sue would eventually go on to be one of the members of the Wilson’s post-Heart projects; The Love Mongers. We can’t dismiss the Wilson sisters’ work, but Sue Ennis may be the least-known of great Northwest songwriters.  Her work  with the Wilsons helped mere rock songs and ballads become great songs and ballads.

Quincy Jones is another good example of a writer whose output will always be considered genius even though his writing seems secondary to other facets of his career. He isn’t particularly known for his songwriting simply because it is overshadowed by his career as an excellent jazz performer, and later as one of the world’s most renowned producers and arrangers.

Ray Charles was mentioned several times for his R&B contributions.  Although there’s no doubt he was a dedicated and talented performer, he’s often assumed to have written many songs he did not actually write.  The best examples of this are the songs “Georgia On My Mind”, his definitive version of a song written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell in 1930. Another of Ray Charles’ signature tunes is “Hit The Road Jack”. The song was written by a friend of Ray Charles, Percy Mayfield. Mayfield initially recorded a demo of the song for Art Rupe, a producer and one of the most influential figures in the US music industry at the time.  Rupe was running  Specialty Records, and “Hit The Road Jack” found it’s way to Ray Charles rather than be fully recorded by Percy Mayfield.  This may be evidence that Charles himself was not as important a songwriter as others, but there’s little doubt he is one of the most influential artists in American music. No legitmate list of the most imortant American artists would be complete without him.

Mia Zapata was also mentioned by many people; a songwriter that left us too early to provide the much larger body of work she otherwise might have given us; still  she certainly inspired one of the most powerful, angry and cathartic songs of 90s Seattle music- M.I.A – a song by Seven Year Bitch that I’ve already mentioned.

It had to be pointed out more than once that there were actual women songwriters who need to be mentioned.  Perhaps it is the male domination of rock fans that prevents more talented women their due.  Aside from the aforementioned Wilson sisters, Mia Zapata and Alice Stewart there is a plethora of women writers that deserve to be mentioned: Carrie Acre, Amy Denio Kathleen Hanna, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, Jean Grey, Kimya Dawson, Neko Case all deserve recognition, and I’m certain there are far more that I’m failing to mention.  What’s more, these women should not be consigned to a ghetto of being “women” or “girls”  Their output is just as important-sometimes more important-than their male counterparts and a good songwriter does not rely on sex

Surprisingly it also had to be pointed out that Portland and the rest of Oregon are part of the Northwest too.  The prolific Chris Newman, Fred Cole, Greg Sage among others got mention.  Eastern Washington seemed to be under-represented too.  Folk singer and songwriter Danny O’Keefe (Wenatchee) got a single mention.  The late jazz great Larry Coryell, who learned his guitar chops in Richland, Washington before moving to Seattle and then on to jazz fusion history around the world only got a single mention.  Jazz players and writers did not make much impact on the list…surprisingly Chehalis, Washington born Ralph Towner (of both the bands Oregon and The Paul Winter Consort) wasn’t  mentioned at all.  Nor was

I had promised not to mention names but I’m going to make an exception.  Penelope Houston (who is a Northwesterner despite being mostly associated with San Francisco). Replied to my question with  a simple “phew”; I assume because it’s so hard to begin listing the “important” songwriters that have come out of the Northwest.  Of course she was too modest to name herself among those important songwriters. Houston’s writing in general deserves mention since her importance can never be overestimated.  But it would be important based simply as a co-author of what may be the single greatest American punk anthem of all time: “The American In Me”  The rest of her output stands above most others during the first wave of west coast punk as well.

As I’ve said there were a few artists named that baffled me. Perhaps it’s because I’m not familiar with their work or that they are in fact not from the Northwest.  One of the artists named in this category was Bruce Hornsby.  I agree that Hornsby is a terriffic songwriter but his bio states he was born in Williamsburg Virginia, and I could find no Northwest ties.  If he does have ties in the Northwest, please contact me with the information.  Another mention was of the Canadian musician and social justice activist Bill Bourne. Bill was closely associated with Scottish traditionalists The Tannahill Weavers during the 1980s.  They were originally based in Paisley Scotland, but considered a world-renowned ensemble. Bill has also worked with various other world-roots and traditionalist artists including ex-Tannahill Weaver Alan MacLeodm, Shannon Johnson, Lester Quitzau,, Aysha Wills, Eivør Pálsdóttir, Wyckham Porteous, Madagascar Slim and Jasmine Ohlhauser. Bill was born in Red Deer Alberta, and grew up in   Besides Alberta, Bill also spent time on the road worldwide, and for a short time in TorontoBill Bourne is certainly worthy of mention, as he’s won the Canadian Juno award several times.  But I know of no Northwest connection outside of  recording with vocalist Hans Stamer and Vancouver, B.C. guitarist Andreas Schuld on the album No Special Rider, released in 1997.  Once again, if you know of ties to the Northwest, please leave them in the comments section.

A less baffling recommendation was  saxophone great Skerik.  I personally am not familiar with Skerik’s output as a songwriter, but definitely familiar with his (often improvised) brilliant performances. Perhaps I am underestimating his output, but I am certainly not underestimating his importance as a player or as an innovator.  Please set the record straight as far as Skerik as a songwriter.  He’s consistently been one of my favorite Northwest artists.

I suspect others were mentioned because they are important figures that deserves all of our respect.  The most notable of these songwriters is Richard Peterson, who is practically a living treasure of Seattle. I was happy to see Anthony Ray (Sir-Mix-a-Lot) mentioned.  The submitter rightly pointed out that Mix-a-Lot has undoubtedly influenced and outsold many of the indie and/or famous Seattle bands of the 1990s.  So often people of color are left out of anything to do with “rock” no matter how much pull they have. Besides Mix-a-Lot, Ishmael Butler and Thee Satisfaction were mentioned because they are probably better known nationally and world-wide than many of the others on this list.

Finally we reach what I consider the pinnacle of “songwriters’ songwriters”  These are the best of the best in my opinion.  I know I have overlooked many great NW songwriters; but I consider these craftsmen to represent the high-water mark (so far) of not only Northwest writers, but among the entirety of ALL American songwriters.  This  list includes Ellensburg, Washington-born Mark Lanegan, Ellliott Smith (who was born in Texas but grew up and first found fame in Portland Oregon), Eugene Oregon native Tim Hardin, and a guy from Shreveport Louisiana who moved to Bremerton, Washington at an early age, the late Ron Davies.  It was satisfying to see each ot these get multiple mentions.

I recognize that everyone has their favorite songwriter, and usually that person writes within at least one of the individual’s musical tastes.  Keep in mind  I said there are no wrong answers in this unscientific quiz or its overview. In fact I hate the Rolling Stone type lists of “bests”.  Many of us know they are B.S. and some publications concoct these kinds of lists to drive circulation and advertising sales.  If that’s not the case they’re often put together by elitist critics and celebrities.  I believe everyone has a right to their personal favorites.  I admit at one time I too was a snotty elitist who looked down on other people’s choices…but for many years now I have looked at music in a far more ecumenical way, and my musical horizons have expanded because of it.

If you have a favorite Northwest artist that you believe deserves recognition as an important songwriter post it in the comments section below. Your opinion is always valid no matter what others think and any additions to this list may well open whole new musical worlds to other people.  I’ve also made a list of every songwriter submitted, since I have left so many talented people out of this story..  You may or may not agree if they’re worthy-but someone else does.

In the sidebar is a list of everyone voted for that I left out in the above article. It’s in no particular order of importance:  Feel free to add your choice in the comments section below.

 

-Dennis R. White

THE DAILY FLASH

The Daily Flash are often referred to as either the first alternative rock band in Seattle or the first psychedelic band in Seattle. Although the former argument is up to debate, there’s no doubt The Daily Flash were one of the most successful and widely acclaimed bands to come out of Seattle in the 1960s.  The Daily Flash found it’s footing in the underground west coast folk circuit rather than the garage /R&B roots that had become so popular in the Northwest.

In fact, the term Psychedelic-at least in the beginning- may even be a bit misleading.  The Daily Flash were more interested in interpreting classic Americana and folk music as totally different takes on their originals.  This often resulted in a mix of the blues, the electrification of traditional acoustic folkie sounds and drawing from a somewhat obscure well of music written by obscure musicians…some from past folk masters, and some from writers that would soon be famous.  The biggest thing that may have set them apart from the Seattle Sound at the time is that they sought a bluesier, more electric sound than the free-wheeling style of R&B the Northwest had become known for.  The Daily Flash had more to do with the nascent sound that was about to come out of San Francisco and Los Angeles.  They drew form jazz, electric blues, folk and rejected much of what had made up the northwest teen-dance circuit.

The band rarely wrote their own material but this by no means pegs them as a “cover band” in the traditional sense.  In fact most Northwest bands working the dance circuit had always drawn from familiar covers. It’s simply that in the early days The Daily Flash took unknown or relatively unknown traditional and folk music and put their own stamp on it.  Often times the stamp was so original  as to make the material absolutely their own, and unrecognizable from the original.  In that way The Daily Flash were much like all the Northwest bands who had preceeded them…it’s only that they only had a more obscure background in folk and the hootenannies of the early 60s rather than the R&B of the late 50s.

The beginnings  of The Daily Flash go back to 1964 when multi-instrumentalist and singer Don MacAllister met another folk affecianado, Steve Lalor, in Seattle.  At the time MacAllister was playing in a local bluegrass outfit called The Willow Creek Ramblers along with Paul Gillingham, and Phil Poth.  Lalor had dropped out of college in Ohio in 1963 and headed to San Francisco where briefly hung out with musicians who would later become members of  Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Grateful Dead and a few others who would go on to create the San Francisco sound.  Lalor spent a short time in San Francisco, but decided to check out the scene in Vancouver B.C. because, he’d found  San Francisco to be a city with a “hard, cold attitude”.   He was on his way up the West Coast, until he stalled in Seattle.   Lalor became aware that the Seattle Center was auditioning for an acoustic folk show that would be broadcast from the center’s Horiuchi Mural Amphitheater.  He auditioned and made the grade as one of the performers. The show was a success and later  turned into a weekly program  “The Seattle Center Hootenanny” a weekly broadcast that ran for a year and a half on KING TV.  Lalor appeared on every show.  It was during this period that Lalor and MacAllister became aware of each other and took to practicing folk tunes and popular duets on their guitars and as vocalists.

Lalor and MacAllister began working together informally, learning songs by The Everly Brothers and The Beatles.  Lalor soon paired-up with Alice Stuart and Mike Hall and Jim Manolides (via the Seattle Center Hootenanies) and the founded “The Upper University District Folk Music Mandolin Society and Glee Club”. In 1964 Jerden Records released their only single under the (thankfully) truncated name, “The Upper U Singers”. There’s some question if the recordings had been done in 1963, because by 1964 Alice Stuart was in Los Angeles.”The A side (Green Satin) was written by Frank Lewis and the B side (Sing Halelluah“) was written by Mike Settle who would go on to work with Kenny Rogers, Glenn Yarbrough and as a respected singer/songwriter in his own right.  The single went nowhere, but.  today “Green Satin b/w  Sing Halellujahis one of the rarest, most sought after singles from any era of Northwest music.

By the end of the “The Seattle Center Hootenany” show’s run Lalor had once again decided to try San Francisco.  This time he was able to co-found the popular trio there. The Driftwood Singers included Lalor, Lyn Shepard and (originally) Courtney Branch.  Soon after the trio formed, Branch left and was replaced by Billy Roberts. The Driftwood Singers became the house band at San Francisco’s “hungry i” club, then in the basement of the International Hotel in North Beach.  North Beach at the time was the spiritual home of West Coast beatnik culture with “the hungry i” and a handful of other tiny clubs at it’s comedic and folk music heart. Alice Stuart had also left Seattle for Los Angeles and by chance encounter had met Frank Zappa. The Mothers of Invention were a blues band when they started out, so Zappa invited Stuart to join the band.  He was interested in incorporating his electric guitar with Alice’s accoustic delta-blues style.  During 65/66 Stuart played with the original Mothers of Invention, but left shortly before the beginning of the Mothers’ recordings of their debut “Freak Out”.  After her short,  improbable stint with Zappa, Alice returned to her roots and became a folk icon in her own right.

As for Billy Roberts, he was finding a name as the writer of “Hey Joe”.  He’d originally written it in 1962, and it had been covered in concert by both folk and folk-rock artists (well before Jimi Hendrix popularized it).  Eventually Roberts also left The Driftwood Singer and returned to his former solo career, that saw him performing across the country, finding himself on bills with Steve Miller, Santana and as a Bay Area favorite.  Roberts went on to play the first Sky River Rock Festival-that year in Sultan WA where he jammed with James Cotton, Big Mama Thornton and members of The Grateful Dead. Roberts had also written an early folk standard “The Girl From North Alberta”  The Daily Flash would work both “Hey Joe” and “The Girl From North Alberta” into their sets, and there is a demo of “The Girl From North Alberta” that has found it’s way to both legitimate and bootleg Daily Flash albums.  Unfortunately Roberts was involved in an automobile accident near Sonoma CA in the early 90’s and moved to Atlanta, Georgia to retire from live gigs.  His performing days were over, but in 2017, at the age of 81 he still continues to write music. He owns the copyrights of over 100 songs.

The Driftwood Singers had made a name for themselves and ended up working regularly in other Bay Area coffee houses as well as doing several tours up and down the West coast.   But Lalor was once again ready to leave San Francisco behind.  His old friend Don MacAllister had come to San Francisco to entice Lalor back to Seattle to form a band with himself, Lalor and a brilliant drummer that MacAllister had “discovered” named Don Stevenson. Unfortunately for Lalor and MacCallister, Stevenson had been snapped up by The Frantics by the time they returned to Seattle.  The consolation was Lalor and MacAllister ended up with Jon Keliehor, the former Frantics drummer who’d been replaced by Stevenson after Keliehor had been involved in a near-fatal accident near Eugene OR. Don had been driving alone on his way to a series of Frantics gigs in California.  Keliehor was unable to play the gigs and was replaced by Stevenson, who became The Frantics regular drummer.  Keliehor had recuperated and joined The Daily Flash,  while Stevenson and The Frantics guitarist Jerry Miller went through several transformations in the Bay Area, and eventually went on to co-found Moby Grape.  Ironically Moby Grape and The Daily Flash held an abundance of talent that would never be properly utilized by the music industry.

At the time MacAllister had met up with Lalor it was still presumed that Stevenson would be drummer, and Stevenson had been talked-up so dramatically that it was a great disappointment to find Keliehor in his place when Lalor returned to Seattle.  Lalor would go on to tell Seattle rock Neil Skok ;

“(hiring) Keliehor was the right thing to do. He was the secret magic ingredient that makes groups happen.  Lalor also added that Kehielor ( a classically trained musician) “knew music better than the rest of us and was game to try anything”.

The next task was to find a guitarist that would be a good fit and capable of playing the blend of electric blues, traditional folk music and the newly-minted psychedelic sound.  It was Doug Hastings, a young player (still in college) that occasionally sat-in with The Dynamics that was drafted into The Daily Flash.  So now, in 1965, the classic line-up of The Daily Flash was born.  Success came almost immediately.

Jon Kehiehor  credits their popularity for breaking the mold of typical ‘Northwest Sound’ bands like The Wailers and The Sonics.

“We were the first alternative music voice for the hippie movement in the area and set a new pattern that influenced so many musicians at the time.  We broke from the teen movement and started playing outside high school venues, creating new alternative audiences and venues.  Our music was a unique fusion of folk, pop and jazz, and Steve and Don’s vocal combination was imitated by many who followed.”

It’s clear an entire new paradigm was taking hold of youth culture. music, dress-and yes…drugs  If anyone was going to break up the old one The Daily Flash were more primed than any other local choice.   They were the mosttalked about and most popular band in Seattle…and all based on the few performances they’d done, and as many posters for shows that weren’t even meant to take place.  But when the did perform The Daily Flash brought great, innovative musicianship, tight harmonies and 12 string guitars into the mix of re-interpreting folk music and jazz as rock.

One of The Daily Flash’s first gigs took place at a club called The BFD.  During the heyday of psychedelic rock in Seattle it was the place to be.  In 2009 musician Tom Dietz (formerly of The Nomads) recalled taking music lessons at Ford’s Music in Eastgate.  One of the steel guitar instructors was Blaise Lewark (of The Evergreen Drifters and later The Canterbury Tales).

“One day we were visiting between his lessons  (Lewark) told me of his vision of opening a nightclub within an abandoned church building and asked me what I thought of the name of the club – BFD.  Sounded good to me, so true to form…Blaise took possession of the building and bought a whole bunch of flat black paint.  Several weeks later the teen rock club was open for business.  Live local rock acts upstairs and live folk music in the coffee house inspired basement”

“The smartest thing Blaise did” says Dietz “was to have the joint open on Sunday nights.  If you lived in Seattle during the mid-60 the BFD was the only rock club open on Sundays.  What a stroke of genius.  Every musician in town hung out at th BFD on Sunday nights.  Most sat in with the band and we all jammed our Sunday nights away”.

One of the attractions that brought crowds to The Daily Flash’s shows was the care they took in presenting their sound.  Steve Lalor remembers:

“The harmonies were coming over like a wall of sound.  Seattle hadn’t heard anything like it before

Blaise Lewark also opened a second BFD club in West Seattle, and along with the more-often shows of national acts at the Eagles Auditorium and plenty of underground clubs Seattle now had a thriving alternative scene.  One other club that was around at the time , “The Door” (at 1818 7th Avenue-now gone) was still hosting folk music as well as some of the newer artists that were spinning out of the Seattle scene.  It was there in 1965 that Ron Saul, a local record distributor, met the band and agreed to shop the group around.  It wasn’t long before he’d gotten them a deal with Parrot Records- the American subsidy of London Records.

The first single was envisioned to be a cover of Dylan’s ‘Queen Jane Approximately” backed with Dino Valenti’s “Birdses” a song that Lalor admired since his days hanging out with Quicksilver Messenger Service.  Valenti had also written the massive hit “Get Together” for The Youngbloods and was held in high regard within the hippie music scene, not only for his writing and as singer for Quicksilver Messenger Service, but also with music executives who saw his ability to write commercially viable songs.  After recording the single Saul considered “Birdses” to be too light, so the band went back into the studio to record what some would call a classic of psychedelic blues,  their version of the traditional “Jack of Diamonds”  Unfortunately the single went nowhere except to make a small dent in the Seattle radio market.  Both sides have gained much more appreciation over the years, but it is “Jack of Diamonds” that is the stand-out.  In 2012 David Marsh of The Guardian wrote:

“Today, the shambolic brilliance of ‘The Daily Flash’s’ Jack of Diamonds is more listenable and less dated than much of what their more celebrated peers produced. The opening wall of noise during which the drummer seems to be warming up; the bass playing the same insistent riff throughout; the urgent harmonica and jagged guitar; the production that suggests it really was recorded in someone’s garage – all contribute to a great record. It finishes as it begins and you have heard the definitive garage punk single”.

Even though their debut single had failed, The Daily Flash were becoming well-known up and down the West Coast on the strength of their live performances.  Soon they caught the attention of Charlie Greene and Brian Stone, the managers of Sonny and Cher as well as up-and-comers like Iron Butterfly and Buffalo Springfield.  Greene and Stone invited The Daily Flash to re-record their single in Los Angeles while they took on management duties.  But the re-recorded single also failed to draw attention outside the Northwest and Southern California.  The management team was helpful in getting the band gigs on both the East and West coast opening for acts like Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messanger Service, The Grateful Dead, The Grass Roots, Country Joe and The Fish and The Sons of Champlin, but it was their live performances, not singles or albums that would draw them fame.

On their way south to re-record “Queen Jane Approximately”for Greene and Stone they had a stopover in San Francisco where they played two shows at The Avalon Ballroom.

According to Lalor”

“The promoter, Bill Graham, billed the group as headliners.  It was two nights, a Friday and a Saturday in April and both nights featured ‘The Daily Flash’ and ‘The Rising Sons’.  Plus on Friday night there was ‘Big Brother & The Holding Company’-without Janis-and on Saturday night it was ‘The Charlatans”

(Lalor’s memory of the shows may be off a bit.  At the time Chet Helms was running the Avalon Ballroom, but it’s possible his former partner, Bill Graham had actually booked the show).

No matter, The Daily Flash were gaining more and more popularity in San Francisco and Los Angeles-as well as Seattle where they were seen as conquering heroes. As more and more gigs piled up Jon Keliehor remembers a hard-to-forget incident in 1966.  The band were to play at Vancouver Canada’s first “Trips Festival” held on the weekend of 29-31 July.

“Steve, Doug and I arrived at the festival in the morning. We weren’t due to perform until 7 or 8pm. Quite suddenly a car arrived announcing that we were to be escorted to the seaside to spend the afternoon with various members of ‘The Grateful Dead’. I remember that The Dead’s chief chemist Owlsey Stanley drove the car that picked us up. Before any of us quite realised it, we had fallen not only under his spell, but also under the spell of his magic tablets. Soon afterwards we met other members of ‘The Grateful Dead’ and the afternoon passed amiably”.

Soon afterward The Daily Flash were firmly rooted in Los Angeles, where they became the “house band” for the local television show “Boss City”.  They were also offered a cameo in the spoof/spin-off TV show “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. starring Stephanie Powers. ( episode 19, “The Drublegratz Affair” which was first aired January 31, 1967)  The band played an improbably ridiculous song titled “My Bulgarian Baby”.  The result was pure kitsch.

In 1967 the band went into the studio again.  This time they recorded a single for UNI Records.  UNI had been formed under MCA in 1966 and was still finding it’s way.  The label had taken over management of MCA’s newly acquired Kapp Records.  UNI’s artist roster was impressive. The Strawberry Alarm Clock, Hugh Masekela, Brian Hyland, Desmond Dekker, Bill Cosby, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Dave and Ansil Collins Olivia Newton-John, and Betty Everett were some of their biggest acts.  UNI had also taken over management Revue Records,  a soul music subsidiary, from about 1966 to 1970.  Despite their roster and distribution network (or because of it’s overextension) UNI was a mess.

The band chose to do a cover or Ian Tyson’s and Sylvia Fricker’s (Ian and Sylvia) beautiful ballad “The French Girl” along with “Green Rocky Road” as the B-side.  “The French Girl” had been originally released by Ian and Sylvia and would be covered by Gene Clark, The Grateful Dead, and others, but it is The Daily Flash’s version that best captures the melancholic romance of the song.  It’s been reported that Bob Dylan occasionally used the song as a warm-up to some of his shows, but never recorded it.  In actuality he’d recorded it with The Grateful Dead and another version of it can be found on “The Bootleg Series, Vol. 11:  The Basement Tapes Complete (2014)” But these versions, like all other attempts to cover the song have never been able to capture the magic of The Daily Flash’s version.

Perhaps The Daily Flash’s release of “The French Girl” was a case of too much, too soon for UNI.  Consequently it failed to chart nationally.  It’s probably the most viable of all of The Daily Flash’s recordings but a lack of promotion or poor distribution caused the single to fail.  Looking back now it’s clear The Daily Flash version is the best of all that has been done before and since. It even makes Ian and Sylvia’s version sound a bit brutal. The Daily Flash version is a lost 1960’s masterpiece.  Fortunately it got traction in Southern Calfornia and the Northwest, so listeners of retro-radio may find the song familiar but not quite to be able to pinpoint how they know it.

With so much work without much payback, The Daily Flash began to disintegrate later that year.  Doug Hastings had taken the place of Buffalo Springfield’s Neil Young when Young had walked out. Hastings’ association with the band was brief, since The Buffalo Springfield was also near collapse.  In spite of that, Hastings had a chance to play with the band at The Monterrey Pop Festival. Hastings was replaced in The Daily Flash by Craig Tarwater formerly of “Sons of Adam” At nearly the same time Jon Keliehor was fired from the band because he’d chosen to attend a spiritual event rather than show up at an important gig.  According to Kehielor;

“I was dismissed from the band because I wanted to take a weekend to learn transcendental meditation in Los Angeles, which happened to clash with a semi-important, last minute scheduled performance in Las Vegas. I opted for the meditation instruction and was given immediate notice by the others. The result of my dismissal meant that I was no longer subsidised by our managers. I had to give up my house on Amour Road at the top of Laurel Canyon and was taken in by my friend and former Kingsmen bass player Kerry Magness”.

Keliehor was replaced by Tony Dey on drums and Dey continued to play into 1968 when he was replaced by Ron Woods just before The Daily Flash finally disbanded.  Given the direction and spirituality he’d find in the future Jon Keliehor had probably made the right decision in attending the spiritual retreat.  He moved to England in 1970 to work with The London Contemporary Dance Company, and formed Luminous Music, an organization to experiement in new and world music and movement.  His mission and work had taken on a spiritual quality.  He made a sojourn back to Seattle in the 1980s and became a composer and performer with Gamelan Pacifica, taught at The Cornish School of Art and became involved with The Seattle Symphony.  In 1996 he returned to the U.K. (this time to Glasgow Scotland) to continue his exploration of music and dance. He remains there and has become a vital contributor to the contemporary arts scene in Britain.

Before his departure from Los Angeles Keliehor was still in demand though.  He’d been brought into a new project called “Gentle Soul“.  The band’s ostensible producer was Terry Melcher, but Melcher’s intention was to record an album with upcoming singer/songwriter Pam Pollard as a duo.  He brought Pam’s collaborator on board, as well as Kerry Magness (who’d been working as a studio sideman for The Doors) and former Iron Butterfly guitarist, Danny Weis.  The proposed band would back Terry and Pam’s material.  Gentle Soul” only made one demo before going their separate ways.  Shortly afterward  Keliehor and Magness were invited to audition for The Doors producer Paul Rothchild.  Rothchild was putting together a new project he was to call “Rhinoceros”.  Doug Hastings, who had spent a brief time in Buffalo Springfied was also asked to audition, as was a host of other Los Angeles musicians  Hastings had been dropped by Buffalo Springfield the minute Neil Young had shown an interest in re-joining the group. Rhinoceros was not congealing as Rothchild had anticipated so he put the project on hold. He’d later revived the project as the first “Supergroup”, but the result was bloated and overblown.  Rhinoceros came and went after one album. To this day the album has detractors as rabid as it’s fans.
Hastings spent his time doing pick-up gigs.  Keliehor sat in on the recording of The Doors’ second album, “Strange Days” He also became friends with The Byrds (particularly David Crosby).  He gained several opening spots for the band and was considered as a substitute for Micheal Clarke when he temporarily left the band; but Michael Clarke soon returned to The Byrds. Unfortunately Keliehor’s being drafted full-time with The Byrds wasn’t meant to be.

The Daily Flash soldiered on and ended up supporting The Grateful Dead during a tour of the Northwest. Afterward they returned to Los Angeles to play a few gigs and then back to Seattle to do some very well-received shows.
“Everyone who came to see us was expecting to see a great group“, Lalor later claimed, “and because of that we played like a great group.”

In the wake of these dates the band was off to support Van Morrison for a handful of dates but it was clear there was serious division in the band. Part of it was personal, but much of it was based in the fact the band wrote very little of their own material.   MacAllister, Tarwater and drummer Ron Wood collaborated with future Mother’s of Invention bassist Jeff Simmons.  Darryl De Loach, late of Iron Butterfly and former Soul Survivors/Poco guitarist John Day joined them.  The new band worked under the name “Nirvana” They soon changed their name to “Two Guitars, Bass, Drums and Darryl”  They cut a single for Atlantic Records without Simmons (“He’s My Best Friend” b/w “Spaceman Blues”).  Both songs were penned by Don MacAllister.  After the single’s poor reception the band parted ways.  MacAllister and Craigwater the took part in the recording of Jackie De Shannon’s “Laurel Canyon”  During the sessions they became aquainted with Mac Rebennack (Dr. John). By this time MacCallister shared more than musicianship with Dr. John.  Both were heroin addicts.  Later MacCallister would tour with Dr. John (along with Hastings)  but was dismissed by the Doctor’s management for “encouraging the good Doctor’s bad habits”

In fact, MacAllister had been a junkie for quite some time and was sinking futher and further into his addiction, despite a series of studio gigs and a short tour playing mandolin for Bob Dylan.  Soon he was picking up gigs for second and third line artists in Los Angeles so MacCallister was making plans to return to Seattle to see his old friend, Paul Gillingham.  Remember that MacAllister had worked with Gillingham in The Willow Creek Ramblers.  Unfortunately MacAllister overdosed and died a few days before his planned trip.  Later Hastings recounted that  “MacAllister’s family strongly disapproved of his life and his friends and they retrieved the body (from Los Angeles) and returned to bury him in Seattle, leaving no invitations for his friends.”

Steve Lalor had played on a couple of tracks on Dr. John’s “Remedies” and played various sessions in Los Angeles before re-connecting with Danny O’Keefe, a former member of the Seattle group “Caliope”.  Lalor auditioned to tour with O’Keefe after the success of “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues” which became an international hit from O’Keefe’s solo album.

By June 1970 Doug Hastings left music behind and gone back to college, where he completed his original studies of Petroleum Geology.  As of 2016 Hastings was Senior Geologic Science Advisor for Brooks Range Petroleum.  Although he’s left music behind he occasionally sits in with the newly re-formed Daily Flash.  They’ve continued to play regularly around the Northwest since 2002.

Various members that floated in and out of the band have taken part in tours or studio recordings by artists as diverse as Buddy Miles, The Turtles, James Brown, The Byrds and too many more projects to mention.

In 1984 music critic Peter Blecha and record producer Bob Jenniker put together a comprehensive overview of The Daily Flash called “I Flash Daily”  The compilation includes the only two singles The Daily Flash ever released (“Queen Jane Approximately” b/w “Jack of Diamonds” and “The French Girl” b/w
Green Rocky Road”) as well as several demo’s, live performances and unreleased material.  The album was released by Psycho Records in the UK but has never been released domestically in the U.S.  It’s a shame since the band had gone so far on the strength of two 7″ singles, one imperfect 7″ compilation and a history of some of the earliest and most well-received performances of the psychedelic era.  There is also a soundtrack for the film “Pit Stop” credited to The Daily Flash, but in fact composed and played by Two Guitars, Piano, Drum & Darryl.  Musical radio clips of The Daily Flash are found in the 1968 Peter Bogdanovich film “Targets” starring Boris  Karloff.

 

Nowadays The Daily Flash consist of Steve Lalor, Barry Curtis (one of the original Kingsmen) and  Steve Peterson (a member of The Kingsmen since 1988) and Don Wlhelm who has worked alongside Heart founders Roger Fisher and Steve Fossen.  Wilhelm has also had the honor of working with The Frantics-turned Moby Grape drummer Don Stevenson.  The Daily Flash members also consider their sound engineer, Craig Bystrom, an essential part of the band.  On their homepage they claim “…he brings his wealth of talent and experience to The Flash and enables the band to sound its best at all times”  After their re-uniting in 2002 the band have played consistently.  In 2012 The Daily Flash released the album “Nightly”.  The album includes original material as well as the re-interpretations of traditional folk and jazz. Reviews were roundly positive (to say the least) upon it’s release.

 

-Dennis R. White.  Sources. Neal Skok “The Daily Flash” ( Ptolemaic Terrascope #12, July 1992); Steven Selinkoff ” Don MacAllister & Jon Keliehor”, (Name Dropping, 13 December 2015); Brian T. Marchese “The French Girl-The Tale of The Tune” (Where’s That Music Coming From? February 1. 2012);  Tom Deitz,”The BFD’ (PNWBands.com);  “Alice Stuart Interview” (Guitarhoo! May 14.2004);  Gordon Skene “3 By The Daily Flash-1966-Past Daily Weekend Soundbooth” (Past Daily, August 18, 2014); Vernon Joynson “Fuzz Acid and Flowers Revisited: A Comprehensive Guide to American Garage Psychedelic and Hippie Rock [1964-1975] (Borderline Productions, 2004); “Daily Flash Recordings” (Copyright LamaSivaDoz, 2003); Stewart Hendrickson “Hootenannies in Seattle” (Pacific Northwest Folklore Society); Phil Williams “</Early Bluegrass in Western Washington and the Pacific Northwest” (Voyager Recordings and Publications); David Marsh “Old Music: The Daily Flash-Jack of Diamonds (The Guardian, 13 March, 2012); Nick Warburton “The Daily Flash” (Rhinocerus. www.rhinoceros-group.com August 2001); The Daily Flash: Subverting The Dominant Paradigm Since 1965, www.thedailyflash.com) The Daily Flash “Nightly’ Liner Notes” (CDBaby.com); Jon Keliehor “I Flash Daily”  (Luminous Music, www.jonkeliehor.com/Daily_Flash_profile.htm); Richie Unterberger “The Daily Flash-I Flash Daily” www.allmusic.com); Peter Blecha “The Daily Flash: Seattle’s ’60s Folk-Rock Heroes 1965-1967”  Northwest Music Archives, 2014); Ritchie Unterberger “Jingle Jangle Morning: Folk Rock in the 1960s”  (Book Baby, Feb 20, 2014);

 


 

 

 

 

 

THE BARDS

Looking back on  heyday of 50s and 60s teen-dance music in the Northwest we tend to forget there was also a very healthy  scene in eastern Washington, Northern Idaho and to a lesser degree in eastern Oregon.  Teen dances were just as popular on the east side of the Cascades as they were on the west, but we often overlook it.  Perhaps the crowd sizes were smaller, but it’s important to remember the distances between the small towns of the Inland Empire.  Bands did much of the bookings themselves in Grange Halls, all-ages clubs, teen fairs in the larger towns and relentlessly trying to get the attention of small, local radio stations that were largely forgotten by labels and distributors.  One of the many bands that would follow in the tradition of eastern Washington bands was The Continentals (later The Fabulous Contitnentals).  The band was formed was formed at Moses Lake High School in 1961/1962.  Originally the Continentals was loose-knit affair with personnel coming and going.  During the early years Ron Covey was added on electric guitar, and singer John Draney got on board. According to bassist Chuck Wallace;

John (Draney) could do a pretty good Roy Orbison and ‘Pretty Woman’ was an early addition to our repertoire. Ken McDonald was the leader of the group and named it the Continentals. His father owned the local Lincoln, Mercury car dealership but at the time I’m not sure we were sharp enough to make a connection”.

Ken suggested the band play a “real” gig and they ended up with a 1962 booking for a New Year’s dance at a local Elks Club.  The band played “Five Foot Two” and the mostly-adult crowd loved them.  Chuck says “I was playing the upright bass, Bob Hull was on piano and I don’t really recall the exact make up of that first combo.” 

After graduating from High School in 1963 Ken went off to college, and the band went through drummers Stan Gibson and Nick Varney.  But it was Bob Galloway that finally became a permanent member of the band.  Bob Hull had also gone off to college and was replaced by keyboardist Mike Balzotti, and guitarist Mardi Sheridan joined the group around the same time.  It was at this point that the band re-christened themselves as The Fabulous Continentals and added Marsha Mae, sister of Ron Covey, on vocals. Chuck Warren says:

“We were traveling the state and enjoying some success on the dance circiout but the size of the group made traveling and dividing up the paycheck at the end of the gig was a challenge”.  Early on we rented our own halls and probably hit every Grange and Armory, and City Hall in Eastern Washington. As our popularity grew we began being hired by promoters who ran dances in roller rinks and larger venues”

It’s clear the core members of the Fabulous Continentals had aspirations and were willing to work as much as possible to make things happen. Keyboardist Mike Balzotti, guitarist Mardi Sheridan, drummer Bob Galloway, and bass player Chuck Warren were at the core of the band and made a decision to scale down the band to it’s basics.  Marsha Mae was told “to stay home. Her brother Ron quit in solidarity with his sister-or possibly on the orders of his mother and father.  At this point the Covey parents asked the remaining members to “leave the basement” where they’d practiced and “never return!” The parents even went so far as to run a local newspaper ad proclaiming that Ron and Marsha Mae Covey were no longer associated with The Fabulous Continentals “Lucky for us” Warren slyly adds “Bob Galloway had a garage!”

The move didn’t seem to deter Marsha Mae’s rise to local fame and her notoriety was probably more to her parents’ liking. In 1968  she would  be crowned “Miss Moses Lake” and the year after she was crowned “Miss Washington”.  Ron Covey became involved in Moses Lake politics and spent years on the city council as well as serving as Mayor.  Later he headed ‘The Moses Lake Irrigation and Rehabilitation District Board’ but resigned (without explanation) in 2014 after a contentious four years with the MLRDB.

Once Balzotti, Sheridan, Galloway and Warren had pared down the group to a quartet they started looking for a new name.  The musical world had been turned up by the British Invasion, with The Beatles at the forefront.  Contemporary musical tastes were changing at a dramatic pace, and bands across the US were in the process of finding more British sounding names.  Peter Blecha has pointed out a few Eastern Washington bands that followed the trend to Anglicize their band name;

“Spokane’s Runabouts retooled themselves as the London Taxi, Ellensburg’s Avengers reformed as the Scotsmen and recorded “Sorry Charlie” replete with Brit accents, and a Moses Lake band, the Bards — who had originally formed as the Fabulous Continentals back in 1961 — began restyling themselves after the Beatles…Another popular Moses Lake-area band, the Page Boys, got signed by Seattle’s Camelot label, which released their single “Our Love” The members of the Fabulous Continentals were changing (like many of their contemporaries) from a primarily instrumental band playing raucous R&B-tinged garage rock to a more lyrical outfit that would be known by a name that implied a more “British” sound.   The band started looking through a Roget’s Thesaurus to find a name that would describe the new path they’d chosen…to make use of classical  lyrics and content set to modern music…and of course to “sound” British.   After a search, they decided on the name The Bards.

The band kept up a hectic schedule playing as many venues across Washington, Oregon and Idaho as possible. After years as a dance band, and the hard work as The Bards things started paying off.  Although they were writing new music all along, they made sure to keep their audiences satisfied with playing plenty of their old standards from the Fabulous Continentals days, thus keeping fans old and new happy.  After years of constant playing they were becoming the most popular band in the Northwest…on both sides of the mountains; so it wasn’t a stretch that they’d eventually come to the attention of Seattle-based Jerden Records head Jerry Dennon.

Dennnon offered the band a chance to record a few songs at Kearney Barton’s Audio Recording Inc. studio, then on Fifth Avenue.  Barton’s Audio Recording Inc. was built inside space he’d made into one of the most sophisticated studios in the Northwest, complete with two echo chambers and a three track tape recorder. The Bards initially recorded four sides with Barton. “The Owl and The Pussycat” based on the poem by Edward Lear,  “The Jabberwocky” inspired by the Lewis Carroll poem, an original composition “The Light of Love” and a cover of The Who’s “My Generation”. The sessions were engineered by Barton and produced by Gil Bateman who also produced the Sonic’s  “Psycho” and “The Bears” by Springfield Rifle among other great Northwest sides.

Even though The Bards had originated about the same time as The Wailers, The Frantics and dozens of other NW Sound bands  The Bards tried to distance themselves from what was popular west of the Cascades.

“We purposely tried not to be too “Seattle” as we felt that many of the groups over there sounded a lot alike”.

Their first recordings show they were serious about that claim. After completing their first recordings  Dennon shopped them around Hollywood and New York City, but couldn’t find a major label willing to release them.  He had proposed “The Owl and The Pussycat” b/w “The Light of Love” as a single but label execs found the lyrics of “The Owl and the Pussycat” too…suggestive… even though the lyrics were mostly an unadulterated reading of Edward Lear’s original poem.

Instead of continuing to pursue a major label, Dennon decided to release The Bards’ first single on his Piccadilly Records imprint. Picaddilly was the regionally distributed label that Jerden Records  used to float a trial balloon for local  talent they were considering signing, or as a respected regional label that might attract the majors.  The release got a bit of Puget Sound and Eastern Washington attention, but really went nowhere.  “The Owl and The Pussycat” was rooted in what we might think of as “The Northwest Sound” but it definitely wasn’t garage rock in the manner of the Wailers, The Frantics or The Sonics. There was far more folk-rock influence, and it’s clear the band were interested in a more “pop” sound-albeit one based in serious songwriting rather than playing to the masses. The prominent organ was not played in the standard local R&B and vocal harmonies were more pronounced.  Over all it’s a great tune.  Ironically it was later re-issued by Capitol Records as well as a slower version that is pure early psychedelia. Unfortunately the later Capitol release didn’t do well either, although it’s worth a listen, and some collectors even covet it over the original recordings.  They’re  great examples of early  psychedelic pop.

The Bards second release (also on Picaddilly) didn’t fare any better outside the Northwest.  Their cover of “My Generation” was solid but not particularly innovative.  The “B’ side of the single is “The Jabberwocky” which would be used again later as a B-side (as was their song “The Light of Love”). “The Jabberwocky” is set to fine instrumentation, but the lyrics of the Lewis Carroll poem seem out of place here.  A bit too forced.  This might be because the poem was far less referenced in 1967 than it has been in the ensuing decades.  At a time that most songs on radio were love songs, or all-out rockers it gets marks for innovation.

Finally on their third try The Bards hit pay dirt.  The band had heard the song “Never Too Much Love” on the B-side of Curtis Mayfield and The Impression’s 1964 hit “Talking About My Baby” The Bards were smitten.  They rushed back over the mountains to Kearney Barton’s studio to cut their own version almost immediately.  Mayfield had originally written the song and performed it in the classic R&B/Soul style that he pioneered.  The Bard’s version didn’t veer too far off vocally, aside from being less smooth than the incomparable Impressions.   The smooth instrumental harmonies and a gentle horn section were missing on The Bards version.  They did what most rock bands do when faced with ballads-they relied more on electric guitar.  The result was a truly new reading of Mayfield’s song.  Instead of cool soul it took on a more folk-rock/psychedelic  air.  It was also infectious and rose to number one status on many Northwest and British Columbian regional radio station’s playlists.  More importantly, it drew the attention of the major labels who had earlier turned The Bards down. The Bards were left to choose several offers that were coming in fast but chose Capitol Records, since it was the American home of their revered Beatles.

The result was taking their regional hit “Never Too Much Love” to a nationwide distribution deal, and would become a minor hit around the US.  It still ends up on compilations of both Northwest and psychedelic bands. In the aftermath of their “hit” The Bards remained on the road even more than they had in the early 60s.  They found themselves as openers for bands like The Young Rascals, The Turtles, The Dave Clark Five and as pick-up band for Tommy Roe.   Although they admit they found Roe to be a top-knotch performer, they weren’t as thrilled by his music.  The Bards also opened for other top national and international acts around the region.

Between opening gigs they continued headlining the kind of venues that had always provided their bread and butter; teen dance halls, roller rinks, grange halls, county fairs and whatever other spaces that hosted teen dances.  According to Chuck they were working 20-25 nights a month and in 1967, 1968 and 1969 they had put over 100,000 miles a year on the Bardsmobile, a car that towed a small trailer carrying their equipment with The Bards logo prominently displayed on each side.

“Virtually all of those miles were in the Northwestern Part of the United States. Washington, Oregon, and Idaho were Bard states. Parts of Montana, British Columbia and Northern California were part of the circuit also”

The schedule got incredibly demanding after “Never Too Much Love” and the band was afraid of becoming stale.  They cancelled a month’s worth of gigs and rented an old theater in Moses Lake (The Ritz) to write, practice and record.  It was these recordings that showed an even more original and innovative sound.  The band recorded on a reel-to-reel  and a song or two at a time was sent to Kearney Barton’s studio for mastering.  At the core of what they were writing was a sort of mini rock opera they called “Creation”. The Bards were so pleased with the results they decided to drive to Los Angeles with demos in hand to find a label interested in releasing the totality of “Creation” which would include a few other remarkable compositions that would fill out an album.

Before their move to find a label in LA The Bards recorded one more song at Kearney Barton’s studio.  This time the band chose Jeff Afdem of the bands The Dynamics and Springfield Rifle to arrange and produce.  The A-side of the single was “Tunesmith” by Jimmy Webb.  Webb was at the height of his career at the time, writing classic songs such as “Galveston”, Witchita Lineman” and “MacArthur Park”. The B-Side of “Tunesmith” was written by an unknown singer/songwriter born in Spokane and commuting between his home in Yakima and his gig with the Seattle based band Caliope. The song chosen was “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues”, and of course the singer/songwriter was Danny O’Keefe. O’Keefe had recorded a demo of “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues” about a year before The Bards release. O’Keefe’s version had remained unreleased since it was, in fact, a demo that O’Keefe had used to find a label.  O’Keefe had also caught the eye of Jerry Dennon very early on, and O’Keefe had become friends with Jerry, and signed with his Jerden label, as well as Dennon’s Burdette Publishing. It’s likely that this was the connection that brought the song to The Bards attention

The single was released on Parrot Records (a U.S. subsidiary of London Records) who would go on to license two other Bards  re-issues.  Danny O’Keefe would have an international hit with his song a few years later, and since then his song has been covered literally by dozens of well-known artists.  Although Jimmy Webb was considered one of America’s best songwriters at the time, Keyboardist Mike Balzotti says:

“Had it been up to The Bards, ‘Goodtime Charlie’s Got The Blues’ would have been the “A” side”.
He goes on to say:
““As it turns out, a year later Danny O’Keefe made a big hit out of a similar rendition of the song!”
(The song would actually become a hit for O’Keefe in 1971, three years after The Bards).

Despite Webb’s fame and popularity The Bards were on the right track.  “Good Time Charlie” has become the longer lasting song, that still remains a staple of oldies radio, and the many other covers of it remain favorites of the fans of other artists.

. Once in Hollywood, by pure coincidence The Bards ran into singer/songwriter/producer Curt Boettcher in an elevator after they’d visited the offices of Mike Curb, one of the most successful producer/executives of all time.  Boetthcher was taken by the band right away  so he drove them to his business partner Gary Usher’s house to listen to the tapes they were shopping.  Both Boettcher and Usher were impressed.  Later the band were introduced to Usher and Boettcher’s third partner, Keith Olsen.  Boettcher, Usher and Olsen were then in the process of putting together a label called Together Records.  On paper the trio seemed like a team that couldn’t be beat.  All had been successful producers and/or engineers on a plethora of hit records.

Boettcher had produced The Association’s debut album which resulted in the hits “Along Comes Mary”  which reached number seven on the Billboard Charts and “Cherish” which reached number one. Boettcher is remembered as one of the earliest proponents of “Sunshine Pop”-a slightly more serious version of “Bubblegum Music” and although he only lived to be 41 he would go on to produce The Grateful Dead, the mixdown engineer for Emmit Rhode’s “Farewell to Paradise” and in the mid-1970s, he sang backing vocals for artists as diverse as Elton John, Eric Carmen and Tanya Tucker among a host of others.  He’d also managed to perform and record as a solo act.

Gary Usher had strong ties with the Beach Boys, had produced a few of their early singles and co-written several  songs with Brian Wilson, including “409” and “In My Room”. He’d also produced The Byrds, The Surfari’s and Dick Dale, as well as “discovering” The Firesign Theater and being instrumental in getting them a major label deal. Usher would go on to have his own successful career in the 1970’s.

At the time Keith Olsen was a respected engineer, but his incredible track record of production credits was a bit ahead in his future.  During the 1970’s Olsen produced dozens of hit artists and several number one albums.  In all he would produce more than 39 Gold records, 24 Platinum records, and 14 Multi-Platinum albums. So under contract to “Together Records” The Bards set out to record what would be an album with “Creation” at it’s core.  Their new label seemed bound to be a huge success with all of the talent on hand and with distribution through Curb. One hitch was that The Bards were still under contract with Jerry Dennon of Jerden Records, and also to Capitol Records.  They needed a new name to release any new recordings.

Curt Boettcher, as producer had been fascinated by the name of The Bards’ hometown, Moses Lake.  He suggested the band their name should be changed to “Moses Lake” The band liked the idea, so the recordings proceeded with the assumption the band name had changed.  While the erstwhile Bards were recording , Usher, Boettcher and Olsen were in the process of finding financing and distribution for their new label.  The three had been in talks with Motown in the beginning, but no deal could be reached.  The trio then returned to Mike Curb (in who’s office elevator the band had met Boettcher) and were able to secure the finances they needed to get off the ground, and a distribution deal through Curb’s organization.

Mike Curb was and is a legendary figure in the music and film business.  He had worked with artists such as the young Linda RonstadtThe Electric Flag (featuring Mike Bloomfield and Buddy Miles) as well as writing songs for and producing The Osmonds, Roy Orbison, and Liza Minnelli among many of the acts that would later become best sellers.  Curb would also sign artists such as Richie Havens, Gloria Gaynor, Eric Burdon, Johnny Bristol and War.  In 1969 Curb merged his successful Curb Records with MGM and became President of MGM Records and Verve Records.

Shortly after becoming President of MGM  Curb became embroiled in a crusade to rid the music business of drugs by dropping 18 acts that in the words of Billboard Magazine

“had, promoted and exploited hard drugs through music.”

Billboard added that Curb was motivated by the drug-related deaths of Janis Joplin Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. Oddly enough one of the acts Curb had dropped was Frank Zappa.  Even in the 1960s Zappa had been well-known as a critic of drug use.  Apparently Curb had not gotten the memo.  He also hadn’t got the memo that Zappa had already fulfilled his contract and was in the process of establishing his own labels, Bizarre and Straight Records.

Sadly Together Records failed to live up to it’s promise.  It’s said that their only release that came near being a “hit” was used for paying staff.  The compilation  “Preflyte” by The Byrds is a collection of demos and non-released material that predated their being signed to Columbia.  The album also contains a great deal of early material recorded under The Byrds original name, The Jet Set.  The album stalled at number 84 on the Billboard charts, and other Together releases by The Hillmen, Sandy Salisbury and Charlie Musselwhite, and Curt Boettcher himself didn’t even chart.  The label was out of money, and their distribution deal was dropped.  Mike Curb was not interested in putting more money and more energy into a label that looked like it would continue to be disastrous.  No one else would touch it.  The result would also be disastrous to The Bards/Moses Lake. They’d mostly finished their album after working many months on it, but were now without a label to release it.

Producer Curt Boettcher suggested the band return to Moses Lake with him coming along as the band’s lead singer. This suggestion did not go over well with all members of the band, and going through an ordeal like the one with Together Records again was too much.  Apparently Mardi Sheridan and Mike Balzotti  had already seen the writing on the wall and left the band.  Chuck Taylor decided he’d spent too many years and too many miles on the road and wanted to return to Moses Lake to spend time with his family. Drummer Bob Galloway chose to keep the band going with a series of players until 1972.  Bob was the only original member, but “new” Bards found gigs in the Northwest, although never found the kind of success or popularity of the classic 1965-1968 line-up.  Despite their disparate reasons for dissolving The Bards/Moses Lake,  the band agrees the split was amicable.  This was reinforced when the band re-united one more time to celebrate Mike Balzotti’s 40th birthday in 1987.

The Bards work for Together Records was not a complete failure, though. The label had released a single from their “Moses Lake” sessions.  The single, “ Oobleck” b/w “Moses” was finally released under the band name, Moses Lake in 1971.  The A-side, “Oobleck “ was inspired by Dr. Seuss’s 1949 book Bartholomew and the Oobleck” with music by Mike Balzotti.   Although it has an intro that seems to go nowhere at first, and sounds appropriately Seussian, it becomes the kind of unexpected song that rings “genius” and leaves a person wanting more. Even though it’s launch was completely ruined by the concurrent collapse of their label there are a few copies to be found on the collectors market.

One other unexpected results was that without a label the band no longer had a contract with Together Records.  Their contract had not been bought-up by another label-they were, in fact, free agents. The tapes of the “Moses Lake” sessions would remain in their hands and under their control.  But life has a way of keeping us from reliving unfortunate and discouraging  past events.  Better to concentrate on the present and future than to revisit the past…so the “Moses Lake Recordings” stayed with Balzotti, without public exposure, for three decades.

Mike Balzotti was surfing the web one day and came across the site for Gear Fab Records out of Orlando Florida. Gear Fab releases what they term “Legitimate and Authorized re-issues of Psych, Garage and Rock Sounds, 1965-1972” Since the band had already come across an unauthorized bootleg of their early Piccadilly recordings along with a few later Bob Galloway-era songs, Gear Fab seemed like a natural, ethical  label to release their only album  on.  If not for this re-issue The Bards would probably be near-forgotten today.  With help from Gear Fab head Roger Maglio, the record was re-mastered for CD and released in 2002.

The album is still in print and is a great reminder of how psychedelia, pop, good songwriting , lyrics (even borrowing from the masters) and great musicianship combine to make a total much more than the sum of it’s parts. Despite the material on the album being stellar, the title is a bit cumbersome.  Officially it is “The Bards resurrect ‘The Moses Lake Recordings’ Produced by Curt Boettcher and Keith Olsen featuring ‘The Creation’. But no matter, it’s not that difficult to simply search for “The Moses Lake Recordings” Even though it sounds as if the recordings were done in Moses Lake they were not.  The title is meant to point to the band’s re-naming.  Over three decades since it was first recorded this album seems revolutionary in it’s mix of pop, garage, psychedelia, bubble-gum and prog-rock.  It’s final release is truly the end of an amazing story.

One last note;  Near the end of the documentary “I Am What I Play” Pat O’Day, the dean of west coast AM-Top 40 DJs was asked was asked what NW group deserved greater national recognition. His answer? “The Bards

 

-Dennis R. White.  Sources:  Don Rogers “Dance Halls, Armories and Teen Fairs” (Music Archives Press,1988); The Bards (http://mikebalzotti.com/BardsHomePage.htm); Richard Flynn (“Woodstock Rock RTR-FM 92.1,Perth Australia”); Stanton Swihart (The Bards Artist Biography. allmusic.com); Chuck Warren “The Bards Interview” (http://home.uni-one.nl/kesteloo/bards.html); “The Bards” (discogs.com);  Mike Dugo “The Bards” (The Lance Monthly, Volume 4, No. 3, May 2002); Peter Blecha “Inland Empire Rock: The Sound of Eastern Washington” ( HistoryLink.org Essay 7490); “Resurrect The Moses Lake Recordings by The Bards” [album20909] (rateyourmusic.com); Stanlynn Daugherty “Rock ‘n Roll Group Draws Anxious Crowd” (The Lantern, [Pendleton Oregon], Friday November 1, 1968); Beverly Paterson, Review of The Moses Lake Recordings  (September 23, 2002. The Lance Monthly); Mike Flynn “Once-obsure political race in Moses Lake takes on new import for areas’s economy. (Flynn’s Harp [Columbia Basin]  November 16, 2011)

 

CROME SYRCUS

By the mid-60’s Seattle’s once thriving R&B teen dance bands were on the wane.  Members of outfits like the Dynamics, The Viceroys and the Frantics were eagerly tapping into the first stirrings of the underground psychedelic movement.  Most of the bands making the transformation were not doing it for purely mercenary reasons.  Many players had simply aged and evolved, while remaining true to their R&B and garage-like beginnings.  Many of the psychedelic bands coming out of Seattle still held onto an insular, regional sound that favored hippie-ballads and gentle horns, reeds and the organ that had become a staple of Northwest rock since Dave Lewis.  They favored a more tie-dyed approach rather than the aggressive guitars and overtly political or socially conscious lyrics of bands like The Jefferson Airplane, The Doors or Quicksilver Messenger Service.

They also lacked the lush production  of bands coming out of New York City.  If there is a word that describes the Northwest psychedelic sound it could very well be “comfortable”…not in the passive sense, but in the sense that gentler, more flower-powered sounds were being made.  Perhaps the exception to this rule was The Frantics who’s remaining members moved to San Francisco, renamed themselves the hippiesque Luminous Marsh Gas, eventually to become one of the mightiest bands of the psychedelic era-Moby Grape.

Crome Syrcus was no different than many other NW bands.  The had arisen from the ashes of a teen R&B, jazz influenced outfit called The Mystics.  The Mystics had an enthusiastic fan base and were able to tour regionally, but ultimately had a relatively short career.  By 1962 drummer Jim Plano had joined the military.  Dick Powell, the band’s vocalist and guitarist John Gaborit remained stateside, and eventually  brought on bassist Lee Graham and keyboard player Ted Shreffler.  Jim Plano’s position as drummer was filled by Rod Pilloud.  Once assembled, the new band christened themselves Crome Syrcus.

Soon the band was finding regular gigs on the nascent psychedelic circuit in Seattle. Their distinctive sound often relied on two keyboards played by both Powell and Shreffler.  John Chambless, the coordinator of the Berkeley Folk Festival had seen Crome Syrcus at The Eagles Auditorium (it’s unclear who the headliner was that night).  He quickly booked them to his Folk Festival and on July 2nd 1968 Crome Syrcus played their first Bay Area gig.  In fact Crome Syrcus would eventually base themselves in San Francisco, but they were to spend just as much time in New York City for the next couple of years.

Soon after their stint at the Berkeley Folk Festival they came in contact with Robert Joffrey, founder, director and primary choreographer of the Joffrey Ballet based in New York City.  Joffrey himself was a native Seattleite and was taken aback by the band’s musicianship and professionalism.  Before long, Joffrey had commissioned the band to adapt music for Teo Macero’s  ballet “Opus 65″ to be perfomed with the dance.  The ballet was presented at Seattle’s Eagle’s Auditorium, but Joffrey had bigger things for the band. He lured them around the country, and eventually to New York City to work on several projects with his ballet company.

According to troupe member Trinette Singleton:

“We would do residencies at the Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington in the summers and that’s where a lot of times new works were created and so that was where we really got into working on this piece. One day, he (Joffrey) brought in a musician, Hub Miller, that he knew from Seattle. He probably had been meeting and talking to Hub weeks and weeks before Max and I ever knew it, about writing a commissioned score for this particular piece. Hub wanted Mr. Joffrey to listen to a couple of rock bands that were sort of making a scene in Seattle at that time. So we go to this night club place and there’s a band playing, it’s the Crome Syrcus and suddenly they’re going to be doing the commissioned score for it, and Hub’s going to head it up. So, okay, there’s going to be a rock band in the pit. That was part two of the equation I guess you could say.”

Joffrey had a vision of creating a ballet that took advantage of multi-media, unusual scenarios, and the daring of many of the be-ins that had been popping up around the country.  Joffrey’s ballet was to be somewhat akin to the acid tests of the mid 60s, but the experience was meant to be a multi-media drenched journey rather, and presumably without the acid, though who’s to say how many audience members took part in the event stoned?

Joffrey insisted his ballet be scored by rock musicians, but instead of the focus on band as entertainment he wanted to create a stilted, avant garde version of what ballet, modern music the new technological imagery could be.  The title of Joffrey’s proposed ballet was “Astarte”, named after a late-bronze age goddess that represented birth, renewal and war.  The name Astarte itself was the greek name of a goddess found throughout many cultures in the ancient world-from Mesopotamia, and The Middle East. The goddess was also worshipped by the Caananites, Egyptians and  the Phonecians.  In fact the goddess is found in the Jewish Bible as an icon to be avoided. According to the Jewish Women’s Archive, Astartes’ worship is repeatedly condemned in the Hebrew Bible. In the book of  Judges, the Israelites are punished for straying after the god Baal and “the Astartes” (Judg 2:13–14; 10:6–7); the people are similarly castigated for Astarte in 1 Samuel (7:3–4; 12:10); Jeremiah castigates the people for making offerings to the queen of heaven, a goddess who most probably represents a syncretism of Canaanite Astarte… Nevertheless, the very fact of these multiple condemnations is evidence that, for at least some ancient Israelites, the cult of Astarte held great appeal”.

This complicated exploration of disobedience, the vicissitudes of the world, sexuality and revolt that was at the core of Robert Joffrey’s ballet.  If the ancients had persisted in worshipping a god that represented sex and and revolt, why shouldn’t contemporaries?  Especially in the free-wheeling 1960s.

Months were spent writing the score, (mainly the work of Crome Syrcus’s Lee Graham and Ted Schreffler) while Joffrey and his dancers filmed many of their parts to be projected simultaneously with their live performance.  The filming by Gardner Compton also included seemingly everyday  (but fascinating) images, to East Village go-go dancers.  Etheral scenery and various multi-exposure effects were also shot in order to be directed at the stage from several projectors in the balconies.  Lights glimmered and flashed giving off an almost disco-like affects.  Principal dancer Maximiliano Zomosa emerged anonymously from the audience, walked onstage and removed his clothing excepting briefs.  Not everyone in the audience understood this was part of the ballet, and on occasion tried to prevent him from disrobing.

The bulk of the dance consisted of Zomosa’s character being the sexual object of the goddess Astarte.  All the while the psychedelic music and imagery filled the theater.  It concluded by Zomosa  finally walking out onto 56th street (near-naked) through the theaters actual huge backstage doors.   The idea may seem almost cliché today, given the revamping of this kind of conceptualism throughout the media over the years…but there’s no doubt that this ballet was an original stab at a new type of mixed-media.  It was truly revolutionary.

During the ballet, Crome Syrcus played their instruments live, as an orchestra would have done from the pit. The band and their music was just as central to the ballet as any of the dancers or effects. Although there are only a few known snippets of the work caught on film or audio we know from reviews that the ballet Astarte was well-received and lauded as a completely new direction in music and dance. Its world premiere on September 20, 1967 at New York’s City Center Theater also cemented Joffrey’s troupe as one of the preeminent ballet companies in the United States. The excitement of the collaboration between Joffry and Crome Syrcus, while using interactive media was so successful that the ballet made the cover of Time Magazine on March 15th 1968.

For the months it was performed it seemed nothing less than visionary…but of course all visions rely on a good deal of work. Much later, in 2012 dancer Dermot Burke told the Washington Post’s Sarah Kauffman

“Those of us who were in it were just tired, sore and hungry. We didn’t realize we were living through a revolution in American dance.”

Unfortunately we have no publicly documented comments by members of Crome Syrcus concerning their part in Joffrey’s masterpiece, but it’s clear they gained a high national profile from it, and 1968-1969 would prove to be the band at it’s zenith.  Aside from touring and spending time between San Francisco, Seattle and New York the band released a series of singles in 1968. “Lord in Black” b/w “Long Hard Road” (Piccadilly Records-an offshoot of Jerden Records), “Take It Like a Man” b/w “Cover Up” (Command Records), “Take It Like a Man” b/w the alternative “Crystals” (Command Records) and in 1969 a re-release of “Lord in Black b/w Long Hard Road”  on the Jerden label.

In 1968 Crome Syrcus recorded their only LP, Love Cycle.  The title song was a 17:11 minute pastiche of psychedelic, folk, pastoral and symphonic sounds.  The concept of varied styles was not foreign to Crome Syrcus since-unlike many bands, then and now-all members had seriously studied music…some at the University of Washington.  The rest of the album (side two) contains five examples of Northwest meets San Francisco psychedelic hippie-pop.  The arrangements are fairly delicate and lower key than the best of the Bay Area bands of the day, but still effective and definitely part of a sub-genre that was wildly popular at the time.

For the recording and release of Love Cycle the band had been signed to Command Records by Peter Kamin, son of long-time Seattle Symphony director/conductor, Milt Kamin.  Originally Command (or Command Performance as it was originally named) had been an audiophile imprint that released the very best in classical and jazz recordings, as well as a few pop artists thrown in.  Cover art was designed by top of the line artists and records were presented in gatefold sleeves which were uncommon in the 1950s and early 60s.

The label was formed and run by the famous violinist/bandleader- turned audio engineer Enoch Light. Command musicians were recorded magnetically onto 35mm film rather than tape.  The entire width of the 35mm film was coated with iron oxide, leaving the width of the entire tape available for multi-track recordings far beyond the 3-4 track tapes that were commonly used into the late 1960s.  This technique also allowed for very wide, dynamic instrumentation to remain on single tracks rather than the “stacking” of tracks that was relied on up until the time of digital recording. In 1959 Command was acquired by ABC-Paramount although Light remained at the helm.

In 1966 Enoch Light left Command Records to establish Project 3, and standards of recording and presentation at Command started to deteriorate almost immediately.  At the same time Command began to rely on repackaging and re-releasing former titles in the label’s catalog.  The initial idea of recording Love Cycle as envisioned by the band and Peter Kamin was to return to the quality that the label demanded before Enoch Light’s leaving.  Whether the release of Crome Syrcus’s Love Cycle met that criteria is up to discussion. The standards may have been higher, and the recordings were bright and clear but most fans of psychedelic and pop music did not rely on the nuances of jazz or percussion aficionados. They were more interested in songs, lyrics and volume.  By all accounts Love Cycle more than met these standards.

Although the album became somewhat of a must-have for psychedelic pop fans,  Love Cycle  became unavailable for many years.  Although bootlegs existed even they were hard to find prizes for collectors.  Since about 1990 the album has seen several authorized pressings and digitalizations.  A revisionist glance back at the psychedelic era had caused a more sympathetic audience and many young musicians were interested in updating  the genre. Later pressings and CDs of Love Cycle are  relatively easy to come by these days.  Anyone interested in psychedelia, and especially Northwest psychedelia should have a listen.  Even though Crome Syrcus found it’s greatest success in New York and San Francisco, it still retains an essential basis in Seattle music history.

Crome Syrcus spent 1969 through 1973 as both a headliner and as an opening act for greats like The Doors, Moby Grape, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and shared bills with dozens of other 60s stars, but their recorded output had come to a standstill.  Even so they still were a big draw, and were featured on the bill of Boyd Grafmyre’s remarkable Seattle Pop Festival held at Gold Creek Park in Woodinville WA during July of 1969.  Other top-drawer performers included The Doors, Chicago Transit Authority, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner, Charles Lloyd, Led Zeppelin, Santana, Ten Years After, Spirit, The Byrds and many other big names, as well as a very early version of Alice Cooper.

Crome Syrcus were also part of the line-up for the Second Sky River Rock Festival held in Tenino WA, just south of the Washington State capitol, Olympia.   Artists taking part in the festival, which took place August 30 and September 1, 1969, included James Cotton, Buddy Guy, Steve Miller, The Youngbloods, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, Guitar Shorty, Country Joe and The Fish, Pacific Gas and Electric and Sons of Champlin among others.

Crome Syrcus continued until 1973.  The genre they had worked in fell out of favor, and without any recorded output continuing  would be somewhat futile.  Each went their separate ways-all remaining as musicians at least during the imeadiate aftermath of the band’s demise.  They had proven to be one of the Northwest’s leading psychedelic lights, toured with some of the most famous bands of the day and had taken part in one of the most important and innovative breakthroughs in the history of dance.  They also left one of the best (underrated) albums of the psychedelic pop era.

 

-Dennis R. White. Sources, Walt Crowley “Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the 60’s in Seattle (University of Washington Press, 1995); Vernon Joynson “The Acid Trip – A Complete Guide to Psychedelic Music”(Babylon Books, 1984) Alan J. Stein “Sky River Rock Festival, the second, held on August 30, 1969” (HistoryLink.org, Essay 1271 06/06/1999); Unknown Author “Enoch Light” (SpaceAgePop.com); Author Unknown “The Crome Syrcus (ProgArchives.com); James Bush “The Encyclopedia of Northwest Music” (Sasquatch Books, 1999);  Susan Ackerman “Astarte:Bible” (Jewish Women’s Archive, date unknown); Sarah Kaufman ”Joffrey Ballet documentary honors the revolution that was choreographed” (Washington Post, January 26, 2012);  Shari Candler,“The making of Joffrey’s ‘Astarte’ (American Masters, PBS, first aired December 28, 2012); Sasha Anawalt “The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey and the Making of An American Dance Company. (Simon & Schuster, 1996); Photo: Tom Matthieson.

 

JEFF SIMMONS
From The Blues to Easy Chair to Zappa and Back

By the time the mid-60s 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 of their songs. Katz continued to send out various personnel under the name “Moby Grape” until 2005, the original members won back the rights to their name and started performing again as “Moby Grape” Even as late as 2007  Moby Grape (who’d won back the rights to their name) Katz  threatened to file a lawsuit against Sundazed Records (licensed by SONY) claiming ownership of the album artwork and songwriting for the first three albums.  The label was forced to withdraw the albums Moby Grape, Wow and Grape Jam.  The albums have since been re-released.

Hooking up with Katz could have resulted in disaster but he remained a savvy (though untrustworthy) entrepreneur.  In 1967 he opened the club “The San Francisco Sound” on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.  The club was  popular, but it lasted for less than a year.  Katz’s real interest was to establish a venue for bands he managed..  The meeting between Blues Interchange and Katz gave the band more high-profile gigs opening for San Francisco bands he’d booked in his club including  It’s A Beautiful Day,  Tripsacord Music Box, West Coast Natural Gas and Black Swan. Katz also convinced Blues Interchange to change their name to  Indian’ Puddin’ and Pipe. In yet another case of Katz’s dissembling, another band called Indian Puddin’ and Pipe already existed. Katz owned the names of several bands and could bestow them on any line-up he desired.  Simmons’s Indian Puddin’ and Pipe dropped the name after severing ties with Katz in 1968.  Fortunately neither the band nor it’s members walked away beholden to Katz except for the  name he’d given them-not a very good one in the first place.  Obtaining a new manager was painless.  Glen Harmon was chosen to take on Katz’s job and endlessly worked to book and promote Easy Chair. Hammon had been a big fan who worked at Boeing, but from the start of his association with Easy Chair he proved to be a natural for the jobs of promotion and management.

Meanwhile Harmon and the band sought to get a record deal  Eventually they were forced to finance their own recording at Vancouver WA’s Ripcord Studio.  The songs recorded there were  produced by Rick Keefer-who would go on to found Sea-West Studio in Seattle.  The result of their sessions was a single-sided 12′ EP that included only three songs, Slender Woman, My Own Life and Easy Chair.  Both Slender Woman and Easy Chair were written by Jeff Simmons.  My Own Life was written by Peter Larson.  With a release of only 1000 copies, it did well in the Northwest.    The songs show a slight reliance on the San Francisco Sound, but also retains a bit of the jazz-inspired R&B that successful NW bands of the 50s and early 60s had always imbued into their music.  The recordings are sparse, but have an honest, almost innocent quality.  The band would later go on to be much heavier, but their initial (and only) release is probably the most sought-after, and most valuable record by any Seattle band in the collectors market. In the past few years the EP has been re-released on CD by several foreign and domestic labels.

With some powerful gigs behind them and a popular regional hit, Easy Chair were on their way.  An opening slot for Cream at Seattle’s Eagles Auditorium may have been their high point.  They also opened for The Chambers Brothers who were then at the height of their success.  These concerts, along with opening for Blue Cheer the early Led Zeppelin enhanced their reputation.   They were offered a contract with Tetragrammaton Records but turned it down.  The label which was co-owned by Bill Cosby, a fact Easy Chair did not know at the time they were approached by the label  Soon  Tetragrammaton released a worldwide hit with Deep Purple ( “Hush”)    In 1968 the label also licensed the release of  John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’sUnfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins” in the United States. The album’s cover featured nude photos of John and Yoko on the front and back jacket cover. The Beatles and Lennon’s US label, Capitol Records, refused to release or distribute it, citing negative responses from retailers, and American audiences objection to nuditiy, so Tetragrammaton stepped in to distribute the album in the US.

Easy Chair under the name Ethiopia was slated to open for Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention at the Seattle Center Arena on August 24, 1968. During sound check, Frank Zappa and his business partner Herb Cohen listened to the band and were impressed enough to fly them to Los Angeles for an audition and possible contract with one of two new labels Zappa had created (Straight and Bizarre Records). The Zappa gig took place a week before the band (billed as Easy Chair) performed at the first Sky River Rock Festival.  Easy Chair/Ethiopia played their booked obligations in the Northwest and were then on the way to L.A.  Soon Ethiopia was signed to Bizarre Records and the band waited to record….and waited.  Although they were signed as Ethiopia, the band once again reverted to Easy Chair for a handful of gigs with Zappa.

Their finest moment during their stay in Los Angeles was taking part in  Bizarre Record’s legendary “Gala Pre-Xmas Bash” at Santa Monica’s Shrine Exhibition Hall on December 6th & 7th 1968.   Easy Chair played the shows alongside The Mothers of Invention, Wild Man FischerAlice Cooper, and the GTOs. Ostensibly a pre-Christmas gig, it was actually Zappa’s debut of the roster of Bizarre acts that he, for the most part, had personally signed. This gig was definitely one of the most important shows of it’s day and possibly one of the most important gigs The Mothers of  Invention ever played.

After months of living in hotels, recording negotiations and long periods of inactivity Easy Chair members became discouraged.  It was clear the studio sessions were never going to happen. They decided to return to Seattle.  Jeff Simmons and drummer Al Malosky stayed in LA.  In 1969 Jeff Simmons (as a solo artist) was signed to Frank Zappa’s Straight Records to record two solo albums.  Malosky went along for the ride as a sideman on the first album.   Jeff’s assignment was to create the soundtrack for Naked Angels a biker/sexploitation film .  Although it’s not meant to be high art, the film itself is fairly decent within it’s genre.  Jeff”s soundtrack stands out as well executed psychedelia and is really the highlight of the film.  The film featured Penelope Spheeris (who would later direct both Decline of Western Civilization documentaries) and Corey Fischer (one of Robert Altman’s stable of actors, and who appeared in both the film and the TV series M.A.S.H.  The film got very little attention outside it’s intended audience but Simmon’s soundtrack album has long been a favorite among his fans.

Later in 1969 Jeff released what is universally considered his best solo work.  The album Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up leans more toward the accessible music Frank Zappa had released.  In fact Zappa contributed heavily to the album as a guitarist, wrote the title track and co-produced with engineer Chris Huston.  Zappa wrote the title track and also co-wrote “Wonderful Wino” with Simmons.  Zappa credited his work on the album under the pseudonym Lamarr Bruister.  Later Zappa would work Lucille into an entirely different version for Joe’s Garage and “Wonderful Wino” later shows up on Zappa’s  Zoot Allures.  Zappa rarely co-wrote his music, so it’s apparent that he had high regard for Simmons during this period.

 On “Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up” a variety of players who are often heard in Mothers and Zappa’s bands show up. Simmons is featured on lead vocals, keyboards, bass guitar, and accordion. Craig Tarwater-former member of the legendary L.A. garage band Sons Of Adam plays guitar, Ron Woods (of Pacific Gas and Electric) on drums, Ian Underwood on Sax and fellow Seattle native John Kehlior, (who’d played with The Frantics and The Daily Flash) on drums for two tracks (“Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up” & “Raye“).  The reception of Lucille was positive, but like all Zappa-related albums up ’til then, did not sell to the masses.

Instead of offering another contract with Straight Records, Zappa went a step further.  He asked Jeff to join The Mothers of Invention. He had already played a one-off concert of the the album Hot Rats.

Around this time Jeff reminisced about his hometown to the U.K. Music journal Melody Maker, saying:
“There’s a lot of music in Seattle, a lot of clubs and musically it’s influenced by San Francisco and even more, Chicago.  For instance when I started playing, the first people I heard were the Spoonful and The New Vaudeville Band.  But it wasn’t long before I forgot them and got into Little Milton and Magic Sam”.

In 1970 Simmons appeared on Chunga’s Revenge, which was Frank’s third “solo” album…even though Zappa included his floating roster of musicians with himself as the main character. The album was largely a transitional one, retaining some of the satire and humor of earlier albums, though heading more toward the avant-jazz of future projects.  It was also the first time Flo & Eddie  (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, formerly of The Turtles) made a studio appearance with Zappa.  Jeff Simmons had also stepped up his game with Chunga’s Revenge by playing alongside Ian Underwood again, as well as drummer Aunsley Dunbar, and keyboardist George Duke.  Others who took part in Chunga’s Revenge was John Guerin, Max Bennett and Don “Sugarcane” Harris.

In 1971 Frank Zappa began to film his ambitious art film 200 Motels.  It’s commonly held that Jeff Simmons had quit the band shortly before the shoot began, but it’s not entirely clear what happenedSimmons is seen in the documentary The True Story of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels-though not credited.  The actual film has large segments based on Jeff.  There is a cartoon segment in which “Jeff”, tired of playing what he refers to as “Zappa’s comedy music”is convinced by his good conscience (played by Donovan) to “quit the group”  There’s an ongoing (inside joke?) of characters saying “Jeff quit the group” throughout the film. “Dental Hygiene Dilemma” sees Jeff smoking a marijuana cigarette which had been dipped in Don Preston’s “foamy liquids” and Jeff’s imagining Donovan appearing to him on a wall-mounted television as his “good conscience”.  “His good conscience” asks Jeff not to steal the towels.   Studebaker Hoch appears to him as his evil conscience in the form of Jim Pons, tells Jeff to steal ashtrays and convinces Jeff to quit the Mothers of Invention, to “et your own group together. Heavy! Like Grand Funk or Black Sabbath.

Although it’s likely he was on set at least occasionally it’s claimed that had read the script of 200 Motels before the shooting and discovered it included things Simmons and others had actually said when they thought Frank was out of earshot.  It’s claimed these negative comments were based on secret hotel-room recordings.  Another version is that Zappa fired Simmons for smoking too much marijuana.  This version would be in keeping with Zappa’s firm rule of not working with musicians using drugs…at least not if it affected their professionalism.  But the former version would back up Zappa’s habit of taping discussions among band members (recorded with or without their knowing it).  They were “anthropological field recordings” as Zappa liked to call them.  It would be a more interesting story if Simmons had actually quit because he was angry about the secret recordings.  But it’s just as probable that he was fired for his objection to the  script.  Many years later full songs, out-takes and interviews were included on Playground Psychotics. The album includes a track called “Jeff Quits” and further complicates the question of whether Simmons quit or was fired.  Jeff probably was smoking too much pot and he may have well wanted to move on from Zappa.  In 1972 Frank Zappa told Jip Golsteijn of the Dutch magazine OOR:

“Jeff Simmons is a great bassist, which will become obvious to everyone during the European tour, but I thought he had another talent. He was a comedian and I wanted to exploit it, especially because we use  quite visual elements in our shows. I let (Jeff) play Rudolph the Reindeer which has always been a huge success. Initially, he had no objection, but I was told after a while that he considered himself a heavy bass player not a clown. I knew which way the wind was blowing since Jeff’s wife had  recently said something like that to me. His wife, of course, complained that he should not be misused by me and should leave the group.  Jeff told me in honesty that he was seriously considering starting his own band.  I then said ‘can’t we play that conflict in 200 Motels that he wanted to quit’?
Then at Pinewood Studios ( London), where we recorded the film, I thought we could show Jeff brooding in a hotel room and is torn by doubt. His good conscience tells him to stay in the group, but his bad conscience tells him that he will be made a fool by Zappa and that he has become the real heavy bass player he really is. When Jeff heard what this meant, he turned quite pale, because he took it as a dig, although he knew exactly what was intended. Shortly afterwards he quit the group anyway…precisely at a time when we could not afford to lose him, right in the middle of recordings. Eventually we decided to change Jeff’s portion of the film. Another part was created for Martin Liquort (Ringo Starr’s driver) that is reminiscent of Jeff.  In the scenes where ‘Jeff’ is  playing, it’s Martin in the background with a guitar in his hand. Martin can not really play.”
(Zappa’s words here have been translated to English from Jip Golsteijn interview, originally written in Dutch)

Athough Jeff doesn’t appear in the film there’s an ongoing line of “Jeff has quit the group” sprinkled throughout the dialogue as an inside joke. One long animated sequence called “Dental Hygiene Dilemna” finds a very high Jeff  struggling with his good conscience (who he believes to be Donovan on a wall mounted TV screen) and his bad conscience.  Among advice Jeff’s good conscience  gives him  is”don’t rip off the towels, Jeff“.  His bad conscience soon appears and says “Jeff, I’d like to have a word with you . . . about your soul. Why are you wasting your life, night after night playing this comedy music?” Jeff replies “I get so tense“.  “Of course you do my boy” says his bad conscience.  That’s why it would be best to leave his stern employ….You’ll make it big!”  “That’s right” says Jeff.  “And then I won’t be SMALL!” This is the real you!” Jeff’s bad conscience tells him  “Rip off a few more ashtrays. Get rid of some of that inner tension. Quit the comedy group! Get your own group together. Heavy! Like GRAND FUNK! or BLACK SABBATH “.”Like COVEN!” shouts Jeff.

Apparently it would take animation, in the absence of Simmons, to complete Frank’s vision.

Whatever the reason for Simmon’s leaving, by 1972 he was back in the fold of musicians Frank Zappa employed to record Waka/Jawaka • Hot Rats.  He also continued to tour with Zappa’s band, and took part in the 1974’s Roxy and Elsewhere.  The album includes a live performance at The Roxy Theater in Los Angeles (with some overdubs) recorded the 8th, 9th and 10th of December, 1973.  The Elsewhere” tracks (“Son of Orange County” and “More Trouble Every Day”) were recorded on May 8th, 1974, at the Edinboro State College in Edinboro, PA.  Sections of “Son of Orange County” were also recorded on May 11, 1974, at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago but does not contain overdubbed material.  Jeff Simmons plays rhythm guitar on all tracks and adds occasional vocals. After Roxy and Elsewhere, Jeff played live with some of  Zappa’s succeeding live performances. He’s also heard playing on some of the “official” live albums that were released after Frank’s death.  Recordings Zappa  probably wouldn’t have allowed to be released because of their poor audio quality.

Jeff Simmon’s recorded legacy with Zappa had included  him providing bass, guitar, and/or vocal for Chunga’s Revenge, Waka/Jawaka, Roxy & Elsewhere, You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 1, You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 6, and Playground Psychotics; He’s also featured on the Beat The Boots series of bootlegs that were later released by Rhino Records.  Disc’s he’s included on include Freaks & Motherfuckers, Unmitigated Audacity, Piquantique, Disconnected Synapses, Tengo Na Minchia Tanta, and At The Circus 

Although Jeff’s history after saying goodbye to Frank is a bit sketchy, by 1980 he found his way back to Seattle.  In the 80’s, Simmons was busy performing with such bands as The Backtrackers, The Shimmering Guitars, and Cocktails For Ladies and as his alter-ego l’il Bobby Sumpner and his band The Stump Blasters. He claimed in the 1990’s, he was writing a book (“I Joined The Mothers Of Invention… For The F.B.I.”) which is now in unpublished manuscript form.  Given Jeff’s sense of humor it’s hard to know if the manuscript actually exists.  It would be hard for a publisher or editor to pass up a book based on Jeff’s time with the Mothers…even the title is intriguing!

In 1982 Frank Zappa appeared as a guest DJ on BBC radio (UK).  He played some of his favorite songs including “I’m in The Music Business” by Jeff.

In 1988 Jeff was featured in the psychotronic  “grunge” inspired local film Rock and Roll Mobster Girls, directed by Rick Werner.  Aside from being barrels of fun the film also includes more Seattle rock luminaries as well as local fans.

Over the years Simmons had worked on material for a potential new CD. He says it is the culmination of 20 years work. Finally, in 2004 he was able to release “Blue Universe” which got rave reviews.

In the webzine Jet City Blues Mark Dalton wrote:

“Jeff Simmons, a man with his heart in the blues no matter what he’s doing, has a hilarious persona as a performer that draws from this same well. Simmons has written a whole cycle of great tunes about “Treatment,” for example – with a couple such tunes residing on this CD. Simmons’ ne’er-do-well musician character is always one step ahead of those pesky treatment program guys – whether he’s “Breakin’ Out of Treatment,”or kicking back and enjoying the life of a “Treatmon’ Center Playboy” while he’s there, as he does on this CD.

In November 2010, Jeff Simmons took part in a Q&A session at the “Frank Zappa At The Roundhouse” celebration of Frank Zappa’s music in London. Jeff played with the Dweezil Zappa Played Zappa band at the same festival with special guests Ian Underwood & Scott Thunes as well.  The celebration also included the UK premiere of “The Adventures of Greggery Peccary” an avant-symphonic work that is one of Zappa’s most epic and most popular classical pieces.  Besides The Adventures of Greggery Peccary, the London Sinfonietta played Zappa’s “Revised Music for a Low Budget Orchestra”.  The performance included a solo set by Jeff as a multi-instrumentalist and a long-time member of Zappa’s circle.

Archival footage of Jeff Simmons was included in Thorsten Schütte’s 2016 documentary Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words

IMDb credits Jeff Simmons for sound editor of several TV series during the 90s but I can’t confirm this is the same Jeff Simmons.  Any information would be welcome.  Also feel free to offer corrections or comments below.

-Dennis R. White. Sources; “Jeff Simmons” (Zappa Wikijawaka); Lemonde Kid “Its too late for them to get their due but Katz needs to get HIS!” (Love:  The Message Board for Love Fans, October 12, 2011); Mark Dalton, (“Blue Universe CD Review” Jet City Blues, November 19, 2005); “Jeff Simmons” (spotify.com); “Jeff Simmons” (World in Sound, worldinsound.com); “Jeff Simmons – ‘Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up” ( The Day After Sabbath, Jan 23, 2015) “Jeff Simmons” (Melody Maker, December 5th 1970);  Dean R. Hegerty,”A Guide To Straight Label Records & Compact Discs” (United Mutations, 2002); “Jeff Simmons” (lastfm.com) “Eagles Auditorium” (A Seattle Lexicon)callihan.com/seattle/pophist.htm); Jeff Simmons-Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up (allmusic.com); Alan J. Stein “Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Fair opens a three-day run near Sultan on August 30, 1968” (HistoryLink.org, Essay 5425. March 15, 2003); “Easy Chair” (Clearspot, www.clear-spot.nl/item/410251/easy_chair_easy_chair.htm); “FZ and Secret Recordings” zappateers.com, July 20, 2010); Jip Golsteijn “De industrie wilde het Fillmore album ontzettend geil aanprijzen”(OOR Magazine, Issue 15. 1971); “Frank Zappa at The Roundhouse”(The 405, September 17, 2010); James Bush, “Easy Chair” (Encyclopedia of Northwest Music. Sasquatch Books, 1999); “Naked Angels” (IMDb.com); 200 Motels. film “Dental Hygiene Dilemna” sequence (directors Frank Zappa & Tony Palmer, 1971); “The True Story of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels” film. (written and directed by Frank Zappa, 1988); “Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words” film. ( directed by Thorsten Schütte, 2016) Scott Hill “From Straight to Bizarre Explores Frank Zappa’s Freak Indies” (Wired Magazine, January 19, 2012); “Jeff Simmons” (IMDb.com)

 


 

 


 

BALLIN’ JACK

Ballin’ Jack was formed in Seattle by former childhood friends Luther Rabb and Ronnie Hammon. Both of them had gone to school with and been friends with Jimi Hendrix at the city’s Garfield High School.  In the early 60s Luther Rabb played around the NW with several moderately successful outfits on the teen and R&B circuits.   He had even played saxophonist alongside Jimi Hendrix’s in The Velvetones, the first band Hendrix had been involved in.  Ronnie Hammon was a drummer who’d also backed a few Seattle bands-none of them particularly notable.  In 1967 Rabb and Hammon decided to form their own band.  Rabb, a multi-accomplished musician would leave the saxophone behind and switch to bass guitar.  Hammon continued drumming, thus forming a strong rhythm section.  Almost immeadiately they added Jim Coile on flute and Tim McFarland on trombone. A bit later Jim Walters would come onboard as their saxophonist and Glen Thomas providing the lead guitar.  The name Ballin’ Jack has obscure origins.  It could be based on “Ballin’ the Jack” a 1913 song written by Jim Burris and  Chris Smith.  It could refer to the and the ensuing dance that became popularized by the song.  The expression “Ballin’ the Jack” also has ties to railroad workers who used the expression “to go full speed”.  But the band’s use of the shortened expression probably was chosen for one of two other reasons.  Sometimes the term “ballin’ the jack” implied having a great time.  There’s certainly enough examples of the expression being used in film, on Broadway and popular music….but sometime the meaning was (literally) deep, full-on sex.  Blues great Big Bill Broonzy sang in “Feel So Good”

My baby’s coming home
I hope that she won’t fail because I feel so good, I feel so good.
You know I feel so good, feel like balling the jack

As Bessie Smith sang in “Baby Doll” in 1926,

He can be ugly, he can be black
So long as he can eagle rock and ball the jack

There’s several ways to interpret the term, but “ballin the jack” was an expression often used in jazz and blues circles to mean deep, full and fast sex.  It may be this veiled, slang reference is the meaning the band intended their name to represent.

Ballin’ Jack found themselves moving to Los Angeles, living in a large house cum-home studio near the Sunset Strip.  Although all of the members had put plenty of time paying dues, their signing to Columbia Records and tour success came almost immediately, partly due to the encouragement of their old friend Jimi Hendrix.  One key to their success is that Ballin’ Jack had been formed not only as a soulful funk unit, but also as one of the “horn bands” that were popular on the fringe of pop music in the late 60s and early 70s.  They found themselves treading the waters of both James Brown and Sylvester Stone along with bands like WAR, Pacific Gas and Electric, Cold Blood, Tower of Power and other rock bands featuring horns that were arising from on the West Coast.  Obviously the most successful of these bands was the more commercial Chicago Transit Authority-later shortened to Chicago-from the Windy City

Many of these bands had begun creating a new hybrid of soul, jazz, funk with strong horn sections. They also followed the current (at the time) move to integrate multi-ethinic players into their line-up. Ballin’ Jack could be counted among this new genre, and their rise had been quick, but Ballin’ Jack they only found modest success outside the Northwest and Bay Area of being an incredibly tight and incredibly well-loved live act.  They played the college circuit, auditoriums  like the Fillmore West and the Fillmore East and a myriad of rock festivals.  In 1970 Billboard Magazine proclaimed

“Ballin Jack’s’ reputation was that live their shows were so good that fans were known to have left afterwards, and that some headliners had actually refused to have them again as an opening act”.

Unfortunatly none of this translated into the kind of album sales and radio play they deserved. The band only lasted five years, but not before becoming a reliable touring draw and Jimi Hendrix insisting they be included as openers for several of his 1970 Cry of Love tour. After .Hendrix’s death that year they would continue to share bills with the likes of B.B. King, Spirit, Elton John, Sly and The Family Stone, The Kinks, and more of the most famous artists of their day.  They even found themselves playing two of America’s most venerated small clubs, The Bottom Line in New York City, and The Troubador in Los Angeles.  The band also played two separate sold-out dates in their hometown, at Seattle’s Paramount Theater in 1973 and 1974 respectively.  In 1973 Ballin’ Jack were featured on Burt Sugarman’s prestigious late-night show The Midnight Special.  One thing that distinguished the show was that bands played live in the TV studio.  No lip-synching.  No backing tracks.  Of course, Ballin’ Jack tore the place up.

In 1974 Ballin’ Jack called it quits due to poor album and single sales, and the band’s running it’s natural course. Co-founder Luther Rabb went on to tour as vocalist with Santana in 1976.  He then began working with Lola Falana and in 1977 released his own solo album Street Angel. Throughout the early to mid 1980’s Rabb was the bass player for

In 1986 Rabb was involved in a serious automobile accident that left him with nerve damage-consequently ending his career as a bassist.  At that point Rabb moved on to management and production until, sadly, he was left paralyzed by a stroke in 2002.  Eventually Rabb died in 2006, but he’s still recognized for his incredible talents in Ballin’ Jack,  Santana, and WAR.  He had kept close contacts with friends and musicians in the Seattle area, where his passing also had a great effect.

Although Ballin’ Jack never found the audience they should have in the 70s it’s ironic that since the band’s demise their music has been used in TV and Radio ads for the ESPN X Games and Found A Child was re-recorded in 2005, by Kon & Amir” and released as 12″ vinyl for sale to hip-hoppin’ live DJ’s.    The Beastie Boys also sampled Ballin’ Jack’s  “Never Let ‘Em Say” on their album Paul’s Boutique.  Their music has also been sampled by Ozamatli, Gang Starr and DoubleXX Posse Cheetah Girls .  Their most famous and most heavily sampled Found A Child was used liberally on Young MC’s international hit, Bust A Move.

 

-Dennis R. White.  Sources: “Luther James Rabb”  “Jump Up: “Crusin’ The Super Highway…”From Hendrix To Hip Hop”)  (DancingMonica.com); Ballinjack.com:  PNW Bands;  Harry Blair, The Louie Report, the blog for all things LOUIE LOUIE; Harry Blair ” RIP Luther Rabb, Seattle musician with Jimi Hendrix”,Feb 16, 2006.

 

 

 

WREX

WREX was established in Belltown, Seattle by Michael Clay, Wes Bradley, and Aaron McKiernan in the early Fall of 1979.  The venue, at 2018 First Avenue, was formerly a leather gay bar called Johnny’s Handlebar, located on the ground floor of a former brothel. Johnny’s Handlebar, at the time it closed was said to be the oldest, continuously open gay bar on the West Coast.  For the first few months of it’s life WREX remained a typical 70s/80s gay bar, catering to local gay men.  The unique décor inside WREX included old car seats in the back, old airplane seats in the side area, and Seattle’s first music video system curated by Ted Ladd.  A DJ spun the popular music found in thousands of gay discos around the nation (and in Seattle) which also included a handful of the poppier “new wave” hits that most gay bars also included among their playlists. As the novelty of the new gay bar wore off the gay clientele retreated to many of their previous haunts around town.  The Brass Door, Neighbors, The Park Avenue, and a plethora of other LGBT venues that  were popping up with regularity.  WREX was still viable as a business, but they needed something more to bring in customers.  One of the targets WREX had not yet tapped into was the growing popularity of punk in the LGBT community  Many who came of age during the punk era rejected the “clone” culture that pervaded the  gay scene at the time.  Not only that, alot of younger straight adults interested in punk barely regarded a difference between themselves and their queer friends. They all gravitated  toward punk as an alternative, so they were all one tribe. It’s not surprising that gays bars were regularly part of the punk scene of the late 70’s and early 80’s.  They were always ready to allow punk rock in their midst because it represented the same kind of outsidership, and it’s no wonder so many gay youth were willing to embrace more outré artists that had emerged from gay disco-artists like Sylvester and the iconic Grace Jones.

Seattle’s punk and gay communities have often mingled together, and the subcultural mise-en-scène at WREX was no exception to that general rule. Occasionally, former Johnny’s Handlebar clientele would drop in after WREX’s opening, not yet knowing about the change in management and regular crowd. Since both gays and punks were then equally shunned by mainstream Seattleites, there was no true clash between the two subcultures.

Armed with that knowledge two gay young men who were familiar with the cross-pollination between punk and gay culture approached Aaron McKiernan, the principle investor in WREX with a proposal.  One night a week WREX would host dances showcasing the latest independent, alternative and punk rock. The two DJs there were Charles “Upchuck” Gerra, then a prominent figure within Seattle’s punk scene, and Dennis R. White who would later become a graphic designer. promoter. manager and part of the staff of The Rocket.  Although Gerra spun a few records each night, his real strength was hosting, mingling with and entertaining the crowd and promoting the fact that WREX had now become a haven for young gay and lesbians searching for their own space.  And with them came their allies and friends in the punk community.  All-ages clubs and all-ages shows had come and gone in Seattle, but no single club had devoted itself to punk and alternative dance music.  There was a ready audience waiting, so, on a rainy night in December 1979 just after 8PM the needle dropped onto “Orphans” by Teenage Jesus and The Jerks.  A new chapter in Seattle music had begun.

At first the crowds were sparse, but they grew throughout 1980 and eventually the club was just as much a “gay” venue as a “punk” venue that welcomed anyone with a love for the alternative scene.  Some time during this period, Mike Vraney (of Time Travellers and Modern Productions) began to book live music at the club.  His sights were high and he intended to showcase the best of popular local alternative bands with rising stars on the indie scene both in the US and Europe.  The first live band to play WREX was The Fastbacks (with a young Duff McKagen on drums).  Their set was meant to work out any kinks in presenting live music, and in anticipation of the first official show at WREX.  The next night The Blackouts and The Beakers opened for Delta 5 from Leeds, England.  Delta 5’s politically infused feminist politics had made them stand-outs in the early post-punk years.

From then on bands played at WREX three nights a week, originally booked by Vraney.  During his very successful run of bookings Vraney brought national and international acts to the club, as well as booking the cream of the crop of Seattle alternative bands.  The job was eventually turned over to WREX manager/publicist Wes Bradley.  Bradley had extensive ties within the established music business, so it wasn’t hard for him to get his foot in the door of the labels promoting alternative acts that were finally seeing some success in the wider music business.   Bookings were also handed over to independent agents as well as bookings by members of WREX’s own staff.  At the same time Ted Ladd, a video artist and curator was in the process of making headway with both video wallpaper and showing music videos between DJ’s and live music sets.

The shows filled it’s tiny space for most of the time WREX existed. Along with almost every local band then playing original music (starting with the Enemy), touring acts who played at WREX included Grace Jones, Joan Jett, X, The Fleshtones, Romeo Void, Wall of Voodoo, Los Microwaves, Hüsker Dü and others who were then becoming staples of alternative and college radio.  The frequency of shows — and their apparent local popularity — inspired other bars around Seattle to start booking original-music bands, thus giving a crucial boost to Seattle’s punk scene at a crucial time in its development. Additionally, certain bars near WREX in Belltown — such as the Frontier Room and the Rendezvous — soon became local punk hangouts. One gay bar that had always been punk-friendly was Tugs, Belltown.  The proximity of Tugs and WREX exponentially help create what would be one of the city’s best strips to enjoy music on, First Avenue.  A little further south down road lay The Showbox, and during the heyday of it’s operation was a showcase for everyone from Captain Beefheart to John Cale to The Specials to James Brown.  Smaller all-ages venues like Danceland and one-off store front gigs and artists’ studios became common.

By the height of WREX’s popularity Upchuck had continued pursuing his career as a rock performer, Dennis White was spinning records  one night a week, and involved in The Rocket, his own musical side projects, churning out hundreds of rock posters and producing a few band’s recordings on his Pravda label.  But the bulk of the music was presented by DJ’s Michael Clay and Ross Bostwick.  Bostwick would become the one single DJ that was the powerhouse behind the dance music at WREX.  He also made  the transition to the most popular DJ when the space became The Vogue, a few years later. His excellent taste in what was new, progressive, alternative or downright spooky kept the audience intrigued.  Meanwhile Ted Ladd continued to curate punk and new wave videos-a job he continued after the club became The Vogue.

Along with the fertile subcultural ferment that thrived at WREX, there was also an inevitable element of sleaze. At the end of many nights there, spilled beer lingered an inch or two thick on the concrete floor, and young couples often had sex openly on the back staircase during shows. Such was the standard punk nightlife during that time, in Seattle and elsewhere. The nature of its clientele wasn’t WREX’s most important problem: it also had constant problems with cash flow. Dennis White once lamented,

WREX was always out of cash. Toward the end I was buying the keg off the truck in the afternoon out of my own pocket, hoping they’d sell enough that night to pay me back.

Money-or lack of it-is the most common downfall of great nightclubs, so WREX officially closed on March 18, 1982. One year later, the same venue would reopen as The Vogue (in honor of the original hotel’s name-something lost on many of WREX’s former clientele). While focusing on recorded dance music played by DJs, also The Vogue hosted live music acts on off nights — including Nirvana’s first Seattle gig before a full audience on April 24, 1988.  Perhaps it was Nirvana’s “first Seattle gig before a live audience” Most rock historians consider this show the band’s first Seattle gig, but Bruce Pavitt, founder of Sub Pop Reocrds insisted that a Nirvana showcase he attended on April 10, 1988, at the Central Saloon was the band’s very first in Seattle.  He claims “No one else remembers it because it was just me, the doorman and about three other people.”

Some people see The Vogue as one of the first venues to host bands that would one day be known as “grunge”…but like the transition from the 80s to 90s Seattle music scene, it’s hard to escape that WREX had been important to that which would emerge around The Vogue and other clubs like Gorilla Gardens, The OK Hotel and The Metropolis.  Anyone old enough or with a good fake ID who would go onto become part of the late 80s/early 90s movement had stepped inside the doors of WREX at least once. “We all stand on the shoulders of giants” as has been pointed out so many times.

 

–Jeff Stevens & Dennis R. White Sources: Clark Humphrey, “Loser: The Real Seattle Music Story” (Feral House, 1995; MiscMedia, 1999, 2016); Clark Humphrey, “Seattle’s Belltown” (Arcadia Publishing, 2007); Peter Blecha, “Sonic Boom: The History of Northwest Rock, from ‘Louie Louie’ to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’” (Backbeat Books, 2009); Stephen Tow, “The Strangest Tribe: How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge” (Sasquatch Books, 2011),