JEFF KELLY-GUITAR, BASS GUITAR,VOCALS
JOE ROSS-BASS GUITAR,VOCALS
STEVE LAWRENCE-GUITAR, BASS,VOCALS,SITAR
CATS OF CÁDIZ
FUR FOR FAIRIES
THE GOBLIN MARKET
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 … Read more›
Mr. Epp & The Calculations
It’s September 15, 2019. I’m on the phone with Tom Dyer from his home in Olympia Washington. Tom tells me he was born in Des Moines Iowa, although his family moved to Olympia when he was five years old. Tom relocated back to Olympia in 2016 after decades of living elsewhere…mostly Seattle. It seems fitting that he would have moved back to Olympia…he’s spent so many of his years dedicated to music that Olympia must be a very comfortable place for him. It’s certainly a completely different town than the one he grew up in. The low-key but world-renowned Oly scene has been the birthplace of some of the nation’s best indie labels, among them K, and Kill Rock Stars. Nowadays Tom Dyer’s label, Green Monkey Records, stands alongside them.
Olympia has had an over-sized influence on pop music from the late 1950s trio The Fleetwoods, through the riot grrrl movement that unleashed Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Sleater-Kinney to today’s Hounds or David Petty. For decades The Evergreen State College (TESC) has churned out rafts of musicians, artists, authors, and educators that have shaped pop and alternative culture. A smattering of those include illustrator Charles Burns, musician/producer Steve Fisk, John Foster author and founder of OP magazine, author/professor Mark H. Smith, illustrator and author Lynda Barry, DJ and radio host Steve Rabow, K Records founder Calvin Johnson, Benjamin Hammond Haggerty (a.k.a. Macklemore), actor Michael Richards(Cosmo Kramer of Seinfeld), Simpsons and Futurama creator Matt Groening, professor, author, activist, and journalist Robert McChesney, comedian and advocate for the differently-abled Josh Blue, Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, former ‘This Old House’ host Steve Thomas, and SubPop founder Bruce Pavitt. The list goes on and on.
The college is also home to KAOS radio-one of the perennially finest college radio stations in the country. KAOS hosts Tom Dyer’s weekly Freeform NW show (1-3 PM every Wednesday, streaming at www.kaosradio.org/listen). His dedication to the pop/garage format that has long been a staple of northwest music makes him a great candidate for the show’s host.
“I get to choose ‘northwest’ as I define it. If someone says ‘Hey! You can’t include those guys from Montana!” I’m not bothered”. Tom explains that he plays music of all genres and doesn’t follow themes “There’s really no theme to that show at all, Tom says. “It’s just a grab-bag of shit” His tone is obviously more in … Read more›
Ray Walker – Vocals, Guitars
Mike Walker – Guitars
Bob Bentz – Keyboards, Saxophone
Steve Evans – Bass
Larry Burton – Drums
Ann Scott-Jenkins – Dancer
Rhonda Anderson – Dancer
Paul Revere and The Raiders
The Action Unlimited Show Band
Don’t Pretend/We Gotta Run- The Fugitives Trophy Records (1965)
We Gotta Run [Re-mastered] The Fugitives- That’s Dadastic (dadastic! sounds records, compilation 2010)
Over the decades there have been many bands throughout the U.S. or anywhere else in the English-speaking world calling themselves The Fugitives. The popularity-at least in the U.S.- probably goes back to the television action series, The Fugitive, that aired on the ABC network from September 1963 to August 1967. The premise of the series is that its protagonist, Dr. Richard Kimble (played by David Janssen) is a physician who has wrongly been convicted of his wife’s murder. En route to his final sentence, the death penalty, the train (the train?!!) he is riding on de-rails. He escapes and all sorts of adventurous plots ensue around Dr. Kimble searching out and playing a cat-and-mouse- game with the real killer; a one-armed man played by Bill Raisch. The one-armed man is mostly unseen but shows up in a few episodes. All the while Dr. Kimble risks revealing his identity and freedom as he does good deeds everywhere he goes. He even occasionally shows up saving the life of Lt. Philip Gerard (played by Barry Morse), the lawman who doggedly pursues him. The Fugitive has once more become a staple of cable TV.
As someone who has not seen the movie based on the television series I have no idea if the film follows the same conceit, but I’m almost certain it’s not as fascinating to a seven to ten-year-old kid like me who would try just about anything in the book to stay up Tuesday nights to see the show that didn’t air until 10:00 PM. This really was must-see TV…a Quinn Martin Production in glorious, full-spectrum black and white…until color came along.
The mid-60s group The Fugitives from Portland OR may not have become as prominent as others, but they do have the distinction of having the band’s name on their first and only single misspelled as “The Fugatives”. The record pressing plant misprinted the name and obviously, no one connected with the band did a press check. Although it was mislabeled on the record, Portland kids already knew who they were, and probably didn’t even notice the mistake. Another distinction is that the band took out a regional copyright for the name The Fugitives; an unusual move at the time, but it stopped other NW bands from using the name. However, the copyright didn’t extend into Canada, where over half a dozen bands named The Fugitives… Read more›
The Dynette Set
Mader & The Biarritz Orchestra
The Mrs. Bill Larsens
The Living Theater
The Alchemical Theater
The Girls Can’t Help It – “Each Time” [As Leslee Swanson] (Rhino Records. 1984)
Sorrow and Solitude – Penta Leslee Swanson (Erdenklang Records 1996)
Return to Alpha – Penta (PLS, 2002)
“I should have been born in Seattle” Penta Leslee Swanson tells me. “Instead I was born in Wenatchee Washington on September 14, 1962, though I never lived there. My parents were visiting my grandmother in Moses Lake. At the time there was no hospital in Moses Lake so they had to drive almost 70 miles to Wenatchee. That was the closest hospital…That’s where I was born. The Deaconess Hospital in Wenatchee Washington
That first long trip was a prologue to the peripatetic life of the girl born Leslee Swanson. Although she went by the name Leslee growing up and in the early stages of career, let’s dispense with the earlier name and use ‘Penta’ just to keep things clear.
“I knew from the time I was a child that I was a singer. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do. I always knew that was what I wanted to do. I grew up in a household with a sister who was 11 years older and she was a big Beatles fan. So I grew up listening to popular music… especially the Beatles. It was just something that I loved all my life. My mom raised me and two of my brothers as a single parent. We grew up all over in Seattle. We moved all the time. We moved every six months to a year. It was nuts”.
“I started in my first band when I was 13” says Penta, who was still known as Leslee to her friends and family. “We did cover songs. I don’t even remember the name of the band, but I was hooked. That was it. I got asked to be in other bands over the next few years, and sang in a couple of them. One of the bands I played in was with Richard Stuverud. He played with The Fastbacks for awhile in the 1980s. When Richard was in my band we used to call him ‘Dickie’.
“When I was 15 I had a boyfriend named Jeff Gilbert. He was really cute back then, and quite a bit older than me. He and I wrote songs together and I did my first recording with him when I was just barely 16 at a studio on Queen Anne Hill called ‘Big and Famous Studio’ We recorded about 6 or 7 songs. I actually have cassette copies of the tapes. The … Read more›
Cynthia Genser – Vocals and Poetry
Rich Riggins – Guitar
Dag Mitskog – Bass
Mark Wheaton – Keyboards
Brock Wheaton – Drums
Steven “Jesse” Bernstein
Peasant/Slave & Love/Love b/w Snake In The Sun & Disease (Exquisite Corpse Records, 1977)
Snaps (Portrait of a Fan) b/w For The Rich (7″ Exquisite Corpse Records. 1979)
Chinas Comidas-CD anthology (Exquisite Corpse Records, 2006)
Chinas Comidas Complete Studio Recordings 77-81 [12″Vinyl] (Take The City Records [Spain] 2018)
In 1978 The Bay Area Recorder announced an upcoming gig at San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens. It read; ‘Seattle, the city that brought you The Kingsmen of ‘Louie, Louie’ fame, and Jimi Hendrix, exports their premiere new wave team —Chinas Comidas”
Later that year L.A.s Slash magazine called Chinas Comidas “Seattle’s most important band”.
Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth would say ‘Chinas Comidas were the real deal. Exciting, intriguing and intoxicating”.
Yet, in 1980 Marvin Goodman declared in Gary ‘Pig’ Gold’s Pig Papers the second single by Chinas Comidas, ‘Snaps (Portrait of a Fan)’ was “Boring. A copy of Talking Heads copying Blondie. Two chords is rotten-you need at least three. Turn it off. It stinks! ‘Dulll as Ditchwater’ as Jack Good (the creator of Shindig!) would say”.
Here we have proof of a couple of elemental things. Platitudes are easy to come by, but musicians must work really hard to engender the kind of dismissive, smarmy and calculated attitude that Goodman shows in his review. Humans do not like change…music critics are especially resistant to it. If a band receives comments like Marvin Goodman’s it probably because they are taking listeners out of their comfort zone. Experimenting. Challenging what is popular. Travelling their own artistic road.
Listening to ‘Snaps’ in 2018 might cause a person to wonder what song Goodman was listening to and how he mistook it for Chinas Comidas. But Goodman had made no mistake at all. He was listening to Chinas Comidas… something new to him’ something outside his comfort zone. He did not like that.
Goodman would not be the only critic or listener that seemed to show visceral distaste for the band during their career. It was unfair and pedestrian, but as we know, sometimes artists are totally vindicated by time and ongoing artistic and social evolution.
(N.B. Another elemental thing a music writer might do is to discover which band, from which city brought the world which particular song. Knowing who wrote and recorded the song first is helpful-but only if the right band is named).
Chinas Comidas is really a tale of two cultures colliding-that of the erudite New York poetry scene and the somewhat more relaxed beginnings of punk and experimental music in Seattle. A third location could be added-Los Angeles, California. But where the northwest and the northeast had birthed Chinas Comidas, … Read more›
101 Cherry St. Seattle 98104 (1991-1996)
911 E. Pike, Seattle, 98122 (1996-1998)
4742 University Way, Seattle, 98105 (1998-2003)
John Coltrane-A Love Supreme (Impulse! 1965)
Randy Newman-Randy Newman (Reprise Records, 1968)
Miles Davis-Miles Ahead (Columbia Records, 1957)
The Beach Boys-Pet Sounds ( Capitol Records, 1966)
James Brown-Solid Gold (Polydor Records, 1977)
Nina Simone-Four Women: The Nina Simone Philips Recordings (Verve Records. 2003)
Ray Charles-The Definative Ray Charles (Demon Music Group, 2006-Import)
The Alan Milman Sect + Man-Ka-Zam-Stitches in My Head 30th Anniversary compilation (Flotation, 2007)
I’m sitting in Chuck’s Hop Shop on Seattle’s East Union St. The huge variety of bottled beers lining the walls is overwhelming. I don’t drink, but I’m fascinated by the colors of the labels. The evening is warm and the doors of the bar are open. It appears Chuck’s Hop Shop used to be a large garage of some sort. Did this place used to be a garage I ask myself? I get a Coke from a vending machine. I’m expecting to meet Al Milman and Moshe Weinberg. They’re the former proprietors of Bedazzled Discs. They stuck it out through the 90s while the record business was crumbling around them up to the point that digital downloads were on the brink of overtaking every other form of music. Their store was geared toward imports, garage and pop classics and a bit of the more esoteric music that collectors are always seeking out. In the end the survived into the 21st century. Despite an uphill battle they made it from 1991 ‘til 2003.
I’ve never met Moshe, but I know Al a bit. Al went out of his way to make sure we scheduled this meeting at a time Moshe was available. It seems he’s a very busy guy. Al is a man obsessed by music. He’s been that way since he was a kid growing up in New York City. Along the way he’s managed to rub a lot of shoulders with punk, garage, psychedelic and jazz artists…hell…all kinds of artists. I also know he and his band The Alan Milman Sect were there at the beginning of the downtown punk explosion in the NYC during the 1970s. His music and/or Bedazzled Discs have been covered in magazines from Trouser Press to the NME and the BBC’s music sites to Billboard. His music also the subject of a multitude of bloggers who are interested in anything punk…or anything off-beat.. The website Killed By Death once wrote ‘Hell, not even Poison Idea does it as good as Alan Milman Sect’. His song ‘Stitches in My Head’ was covered by Urge Overkill. He has a visible presence on facebook, and he’s not afraid to tell anyone what he thinks online or in person.
Al’s recorded with his own band, The Alan Milman Sect, and managed and produced The Boss Martians. He’s DJ’d at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English … Read more›
I Don’t Like Your Face b/w Ordinary Girls 7″ (HRRR Records, 1980)
Have An Idea (Albatross Records, 1980)
Sorry Girls b/w When You’re Mine 7″ (Albatross Records, 1981)
Burnin’ Live (Sushi Records, 1983)
Rivals b/w Count on Me 7″ (Albatross Records, 1983)
Smoke (Chuckie Boy, 1998)
The Heaters Live at The Showbox 1979! (Green Monkey Records, 2011)
“The band almost didn’t happen” Ken Deans, former drummer for The HeatersThe Heats tells me. I’m on the phone with him as he’s perched in his office above the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio California; the site of the most important multi-day music festival in the United States; The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival…or simply “Coachella” as it’s commonly referred to. Ken, who is now the “Logistics Manager” for Goldenvoice Entertainment tells me he’s been up for about 90 days, but just as Coachella is being dismantled.
He still has a several more events to work on. The Bonnaroo Festival held in Manchester Tennessee and then for the annual Stagecoach Festival, (back at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio) which is becoming the largest gathering of C&W artists and fans in the country. In fact, Ken and Goldenvoice works with almost every major outdoor music festival in the United States. They also book top-notch concerts and events. I’m surprised he’s carved out time for me to talk with him, but he doesn’t rush, he’s full of anecdotes and stories that I don’t need to prompt him to answer. He’s surprisingly relaxed for a man with so much to do.
It’s been a long slog from The Heats to where he’s gotten, but he admits he wouldn’t have come so far except for starting out in The Heaters/The Heats a band that was once Seattle’s presumed contender for attaining fame and fortune.
“It was an accident” he says. “Keith Lilly and I were scheming to put a band together and find a female front singer to go to Alaska to make money. That’s all we were thinking about. So, it was Keith myself Steve Pearson, Gordon (“Rothberger…Rosman?… or maybe Craig Roper”) playing bass. We asked this woman named Kim to come and jam. It was awful. It was truly painful. We were trying to be like Burgundy Express; complete lounge bullshit”.
The band at the time consisted of Deans on drums, Steve Pearson on guitar, Keith Lilly on guitar (he’d later become bassist)
“Steve Pearson says to me;
‘Hey!” I have no desire to do this but I like playing with you and I met this guy and we’ve been talking about jamming, Maybe the four of us could jam some night”
The guy Steve was talking about was Don … Read more›
Rich Dangle – Guitar
Pat Gossan – Vocals
Michael Jacobsen – Cello, Saxophone
Joe Johansen – Guitar
Joe Johnson – Bass
Andrew Lang – Trumpet
Michael Marinelli – Drums
Michael Jacobson – Electric Cello & Saxophone
Andrew Lang – Trumpet
Denny MacLeod – Guitar
The Unknown Factor
Little Bill and The Blue Notes
The Daily Flash
Rich Dangel and The Reputations
Floating Bridge – “Floating Bridge” (Vault Records, 1969)
Floating Bridge – Brought Up Wrong” b/w “Watch Your Step 7” (Vault, 1968)
Floating Bridge – “Don’t Mean A Thing” b/w “Mr. Jaybird” 7″ (Vault, 1969
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 … Read more›
Dick Kaihue McIntire
Paul Tutmarc & The Islanders
Paul Tutmarc & The Wranglers
Only The Moon Man Knows-various artists including Paul Turtmarc & The Wranglers (Bear Family Records, 2012)
Midget Auto Blues: Hillbilly, Hotrod & Automobile Songs (Jasmine, 2006)
Country Music From The Pacific Northwest-various artists- (BACM, 2017)
On March 6, 2018 a very special guitar was sold on ebay. It was auctioned off by Dale and Bev McKnight, an elderly couple living in a mobile home park in Snohomish WA. Dale had originally bought the guitar in Seattle in 1947 and after over 60 years of dragging it around it found its place under the bed of their home in their trailer. The buyer was David Wallis, a retired electrical engineer and guitar collector from Georgia. Wallis paid $23,850.09 for the guitar-probably a bargain for an instrument so rare. The guitar Wallis bought was an Audiovox 736 Electric Bass guitar; an instrument that some believe to be the first electric guitar…or at least the first electric bass guitar ever made.. It was Seattle inventor/engineer/tinkerer and musician Paul Tutmarc that had produced the first version of his 736 Electric Bass in 1935 or 1936. Today there are only four known to exist. Two are in private collections, and now Wallis will make his the third in a private collection. The fourth Audiovox 736 known to exist is displayed at Paul Allen’s Seattle Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop); formerly known as the Experience Music Project or EMP). Local music chronicler and former chief curator at the EMP Peter Blecha tells the story of the Audiovox 736 displayed in the MoPop/EMP museum, In an April 1, 2018 letter he wrote
“By the late 1980s I was quietly picking up Audiovox guitars and amps wherever I could find them. Thrift shops, antique stores, and guitar stores mainly, plus via the occasional classified ad. The fact is, there was no demand for them and so once these shop owners knew I was interested , they would call me to inform that another had popped up. Back then I was scooping them up for $25, or $50, or $75. One place that was always interesting to scour was a very odd ramshackle store in Tukwila. The proprietor, Jake Sturgeon, did appliance repairs/sales there and was well-connected with the local Country music scene, so he also had an array of guitars stuffed in there too. I bought a few Audiovox units from him, and he understood that I was the prime collector of the things. So, in about 1996 — 4 years into my employment as curator with Paul Allen’s museum project — I got another call from Jake. This time he … Read more›
Gamble & Huff
Gladys Knight & the Pips
The Three Degrees
Bell & James – Bell & James (A&M Records, 1978)
Only Make Believe – Bell & James (A&M Records, 1979)
In Black and White – Bell & James (A&M, 1981)
The Thom Bell Sessions – Elton John (Leroy Bell & Casey James [Writers] Rocket Records, 1979
Calling Out Around The World – The I Threes (Leroy Bell, Casey James & Thom Bell [Writers] (Tuff Gong, 1984)
Spending Time – Leroy Bell (EP. Martez Music, 2003)
Two Sides To Every Story – Leroy Bell (Martez Music, 2003)
Traces – Leroy Bell (Martez Music, 2010)
When That Fire Roll Around - Leroy Bell (EP, Martez Music, 2016
LeRoy Bell made his first appearance on Fox network’s talent show The X Factor in September 2011 He appeared on the show for five consecutive weeks eventually ended up being chosen for the final 16 and went on to the live X-Factor shows. He was eliminated after the fifth live show finishing 8th overall in the inaugural season of the American version of the show. bottom three Although he did not win LeRoy’s profile was sent into the stratosphere (by the way…whatever happened to season one’s winner Melanie Ann Amaro?).
Although LeRoy had captured the imagination of many viewers via The X-Factor, and the show had kick-started his career rather than launched it, Bell had already had a brush with fame. In fact he’d had several…first with the 70’s chart topping duo Bell and James and their hit “Livin’ It Up (Friday Night)” The song ended up at number 15 in the Billboard Charts. He was also a co-author of Elton John’s hit “Mama Can’t Buy You Love” (a world-wide hit which became a top-ten hit in the US) Three Way Love Affair” and “Are You Ready For Love” He’d also co-written songs for The O’Jays, Rita Marley, The Temptations, The Spinners, Freda Payne The Three Degrees, and a host of others.
LeRoy didn’t become an overnight success because of his X-Factor appearance…but it was a chance for him to perform in front of a massive audience.. He’d spent much of the 2000s touring with the likes of BB King Etta James, Sheryl Crow, Leon Russell, Joan Osborne, B.B King, Etta James, Al Green, Joe Cocker, Michael McDonald, Van Morrison, Mavis Staples, The Temptations, The O’jays and more. Whether he’d won or lost The X-Factor made little difference, but he seems grateful and it managed to get a whole new audience. The US version of The X-Factor lasted only two seasons, but he may be the most memorable artist of either one of them.
“It turned out to be a good thing in many ways. It was definitley an eye-opener and interesting to see how TV is totally different than the side of music that I’d grown up with. It was nerve-wracking. I was the oldest guy on the show”.
“The unique thing about the X-Factor is they have no age limit. Most of these things like American Idol are all centered on age people I think … Read more›
The Modest Trio
Good Friday Blues – The Modest Trio (Pacific Jazz Records, 1960)
Good Friday Blues-The Modest Trio (Pacific Jazz Records, Japan [includes bonus tracks] 1993)
In an obituary after Red Kelly’s death on June 9, 2004 Mike Lewis of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote
“Red Kelly was “known as a comedian with a jazz problem”
It’s a line Red would probably have used as a self-deprecating joke; but the truth is that Red Kelly was an accomplished jazz bassist first, and secondly known to use comedy onstage and throughout his career as a host in his clubs. It’s one of the things that brought patrons into his jazz venues both in Tumwater WA and in Tacoma WA. But a “jazz problem”? Not in the least! Red Kelly had spent nearly three decades performing with with jazz and Swing luminaries including Woody Herman, Red Norvo, Buddy Rich Harry James, Maynard Ferguson, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, Charlie Barnet, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Stan Kenton and a host of others. His career spanned the Big Band era to Bebop and on to the “Cool Jazz” of the early ‘60s In all, Red Kelly took part in the recording of over 100 albums, all of them with top-notch, bona fide jazz greats. He’d even played with and developed a friendship with jazz icon Charle “The Bird” Parker. In 2003 Red recounted some of his favorite tales of an adventurous life in jazz to the Tacoma’ News Tribune.
They included a story about Charlie Parker stealing a policeman’s horse and riding it into a club in New York City. The audience (and presumably the policeman) were so amused that Parker wasn’t charged for his theft of the horse. Red spoke about his friendship with Betty Grable, who, he said “liked the dirtiest jokes” and claimed that Count Basie had died owing him $3 on a 1959 World Series bet.
Another of his favorite stories was about the time local Tacoma mobsters tried to make one of their rival’s death look like an accident. They had put their already-dead victim behind the wheel of his car and pushed it into Commencement Bay…but unfortunately had left his car keys in his pocket.
Two of the bandleaders Kelly worked for, Woody Herman and Stan Kenton were notorious musical foes. According to Kelly “Woody didn’t trust anything that didn’t swing. Stan didn’t trust anything that did,” Red was full of tales about the people he’d worked with over the decades, a few imaginary ones, sometimes corny … Read more›
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 … Read more›