MERRILL WOMACH: SPOKANE's GOSPEL GREAT

MERRILL WOMACH (February 7, 1927 – December 28, 2014) was the Spokane-born son of a salesman who began singing publicly at age six. As a high schooler he hosted his own radio show, and also sang with local quartet and a choir. While attending Seattle's Northwest Ministerial College, Womach directed a daily radio program for three years, and also served as assistant pastor and music director at Spokane's Fourth Presbyterian Church. He also sang as a soloist with a civic choir, and then spent a year in Los Angeles making concert, radio and television appearances.

After entering the mortuary field to work as an undertaker, in 1958 Merrill also founded a business, the  National Music Service,  which provided recordings of his own spirituals (5,000 songs, eventually) along with one of two primitive playback systems which he leased out to funeral parlors.

That regional business eventually grew into a much larger entity (the Global Distribution Network, Inc.) which serviced 5,000 clients. In 1960 he formed Melodies Divine records in Spokane and released his debut LP, My Song, which featured as many as 42 of his overdubbed vocal lines that created a chorus effect.

Meanwhile, as an aviator, Womach was involved in a plane crash in Beaver Marsh, Oregon, on November 23, 1961. It was an horrific accident which left him disfigured with third degree burns on his hands and his entire head. People magazine reported in 2013 that: "On the race to the hospital he startled his fast-driving benefactors with a song of celebration. 'My doctor says most people burned as badly as I was die from shock....I didn't, I sang. That kept me awake. That kept me alive.'"

A lucky survivor, Womach went on to authorize an autobiography, Tested by Fire, and a documentary film titled He Restoreth My Soul was also made about Womach's accident and subsequent recovery. Merrill began recording again in 1967, cutting over a dozen LPs, and finally died in his sleep on December 28, 2014.























Merrill Womach's recordings include these albums:
  • 1960 My Song
  • 1967 I Believe in Miracles
  • 1968 Merrill Womach Sings Christmas Carols
  • 1969 A Time For Us
  • 1970 Surely Goodness and Mercy
  • 1973 I Stood At Calvary
  • 1974 Happy Again
  • 1976 Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory
  • 1977 In Concert
  • 1977 In Quartet
  • 1977 New Life Collectible
  • 1979 Images Of Christmas
  • 1979 My Favorite Hymns
  • 1980 Reborn
  • 1981 Classical
  • 1981 I'm A Miracle, Lord
  • 1981 Merrill
  • 1983 Feelin' Good
  • 1985 Thank You, Lord

NW MUSIC: THE SAGA OF "LOUIE, LOUIE."

BELOW ARE LINKS to essays detailing the long history of the Northwest's signature rock 'n' roll song: "Louie, Louie." From 1957, when Richard Berry brought his song here from California; to Seattle's Dave Lewis Combo rockin' it at the Birdland; to its adoption by the Playboys, Little Bill & the Bluenotes, and the Viceroys; to radio hit versions by Rockin' Robin & the Wailers, the Kingsmen, and Paul Revere & the Raiders; then the Sonics booming it for all eternity; a humorous 1980s campaign to get the ditty named Washington State's "official rock song," and ever onwards...

NW MUSIC: 1950s ROCKABILLY

BELOW ARE LINKS to essays about the history of 1950s rockabilly music in the Northwest. From the first gigs in the region by Bill Haley and his Comets in 1955, right on through subsequent ones by Gene Vincent & the Bluecaps,  Buddy Holly & the Crickets, Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, and all the other touring stars from the deep south and Hollywood. And then the rise of homegrown rockabillies and rockabelles like Clayton Watson & the Silhouettes, the Benny Cliff Trio, Sherree Scott & the Melody Rockers, and more...

NW MUSIC: COUNTRY & FOLK

BELOW ARE LINKS to essays about the history of hillbilly, country/western, and folk music in the Northwest. From early rural sounds, to Wobbly anthems, pioneering country bands, regional radio hits, roadhouse hoe-downs, folk balladeers, and 1960s folk-rockers.

NW MUSIC: JAZZ, R&B & SOUL

BELOW ARE LINKS to essays about the history of jazz, rhythm & blues, gospel, and soul music in the Northwest. From the earliest jazz gig at Washington Hall; to the founding of the "Negro Musicians' Union;" the rise of Seattle's Jackson Street jazz scene and its stars Ray Charles, Bumps Blackwell, Ernestine Anderson, & Quincy Jones; the coming of '50s R&B and doo-wop; and the emergence of a gospel tradition and a soul scene.

NW MUSIC: THE GUITAR-MAKERS

BELOW ARE LINKS to essays about the history of guitar-making and guitar-instruction in the Northwest. From Seattle's Otto Anderson and Port Townsend's Chris Knutsen and their lutherie shops in the 1890s; to Frank Coulter designing and building wild new instruments in the 'teens and '20s [essay coming soon!]; Paul Tutmarc and John Coppock both going electric in the 1930s; Seattle's remarkable franchise schools (the National Institute of Music & Arts) for kids, and onwards to Harvey Thomas' eccentric and eye-popping guitars, Dave Bunker and his visionary "Touch" guitars, and more...

NW MUSIC: STUDIOS & LABELS

BELOW ARE LINKS to essays about the history of audio-recording & record companies in the Northwest. From the first field trips here by outside companies seeking to record local talents back during the Roaring '20s; to the founding of early homegrown studios and pioneering record companies; to notable early regional radio hits and singing stars; the rise of legendary sound engineers like Joe Boles and Kearney Barton; and the back-stories of numerous successful local labels.