THE BOEING BAND LIVE @ BOEING FIELD (1931)

WITH THE BOEING AIRPLANE COMPANY in the news a lot these days – mainly because of the firm’s increasing disloyalty to its historic hometown of Seattle while once-again attempting to extort zillion$ in tax breaks from the State of Washington, and additional concessions from its workforce (by threatening to take more work out-of-state) – I figured it was timely to gaze back and recall happier times. Like, ironically, the Great Depression when the Boeing Band used to perform for outbound passengers and spectators alike in free concerts given at Boeing Field’s airplane terminal. Comprised of musically inclined Boeing pilots (on 4 saxophones, a trumpet, clarinet, tuba, and guitar), the octet was photographed in 1931 by ACME Newspictures Inc. – and I was lucky enough to unearth this vintage photographic print – which was originally distributed with the suggested caption headline: “There’s Music In The Air.”

GENE KRUPA ROCKS SEATTLE'S TRIANON BALLROOM (1946)

THE SEATTLE SCENE has nurtured numerous world-class drummers over the years – just consider Skip Moore’s cracklin’ rimshot work on The Ventures’ 1960 global hit “Walk—Don’t Run,” or Dave Grohl’s supercharging of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in 1991. But local audiences have also been exposed to other ace tub-thumpers who came touring through the area, from Lionel Hampton and Buddy Rich and their various bigbands, to Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, & Santana's Michael Shrieve. Still, a good case can be argued that perhaps the most astounding drummer of all time was Gene Krupa (1909-1973) – & at his 1930s-1940s prime he played Seattle at least five times.
Rising up through Chicago’s Prohibition Era jazz scene, in 1934 Krupa joined one of the most high-profile ensembles of its day: the Benny Goodman (1909-1986) band. The first time that Krupa hit Seattle, he appeared with Goodman at the Trianon Ballroom (218 Wall Street).

The Seattle Times’ Lenny Anderson, who attended the show, later described that evening: “The Trianon had subdued lights in bunting that ballooned from a low ceiling, overstuffed furniture on the raised portion that bordered the floor, and the band shell at the north end of the hall. …When it was time for the music to start, a skinny college kid named Norm Bobrow [1917-2008] walked to the microphone and said it was the
thrill of a lifetime to introduce Benny Goodman. Then Goodman smiled his familiar, half-embarrassed grin and played the opening clarinet passage of ‘Let’s Dance’ into a roar of approval from the crowd and against the free-swinging background of the band. It was a 15-piece band that included the likes of Harry James, Gene Krupa, Ziggy Elman and…Jess Stacy on the piano. At intermission, Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton joined Goodman and Krupa in the quartet. …A few scattered couples jitterbugged but most of the crowd was standing, pressing in upon the bandstand. When the band played its big numbers such as ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’…it was almost worth your life to be standing in the front row, jammed in against the bandstand by the crowd behind.”
And it was that hit song, “Sing, Sing, Sing,” which is remembered by history for containing what are thought to be the very first extended drum solos ever cut for a commercial recording. People loved Goodman’s records, but live in person, Krupa’s drumming simply drove their audiences wild. It also brought Krupa’s legions of fans back to see his own bigband at the Trianon when he made return appearances here on: May 24, 1940; September 5, 1941; March 11, 1946; & May 26, 1949.

It was at that 1946 gig when a young Seattle photographer named Mike Michel captured some action shots of Krupa. At the time, Michel worked for the Photo Flash Picture Company which was based in the Wilhard Hotel Building (711 Union Street). His job was to shoot pictures of various attendees and then hurry that film to “an onsite dark-room. There the negative would be rushed in developing the image, quickly cleared and the wet negative put in an enlarger to print…the exposed print was then put through a similar rush process, put on a hot tin to dry, put in a folder and then delivered to” those same customers within twenty minutes – at which point they paid the photographer $1.25 for this souvenir of their memorable evening out on the town. But in this instance, Michel didn’t sell the photos to Krupa, he instead had the star autograph some of them & he held onto them – until recently, when I acquired them.

SADIE & YAM: SEATTLE's "BANJOISTS SUPREME" (1925)


BACK IN THE VAUDEVILLE ERA – when there were countless stage performers barnstorming around the country trying to catch a break in any venue that would have them, many theaters across the Pacific Northwest mounted multi-act shows every week. There would be singers, dancers, comedians, jugglers, elocutionists, whistlers, thespians, trained dancing animals, wrestlers, and musicians of every stripe. Two of America’s largest theater chains got their start and/or were based out of Seattle: the grand Orpheum and Pantages enterprises. But plenty of other nice, if smaller, theaters also booked such shows. Among them was the fabulous and still extant Neptune Theatre (1303 NE 45th Street), which opened in Seattle’s University District on November 16, 1921. 

One vaudeville act that hung around town for at least a while – they had numerous promotional photographs taken here, and also played music downtown on the pioneering KFOA radio station – were SADIE & YAM - “Banjoists Supreme.” A married couple, Yam and Sadie Stephens, played the Neptune as early as 1925, but it is also known that they popped up at the Hippodrome down in Portland, Oregon, and as far away as Ypsilanti, Michigan. One Portland newspaper review stated that there were “A versatile pair…who play their banjos so well that they hold their audiences charmed. They introduce new harmonic ideas and novelty methods of playing. They are experts on the banjo.” Among the tunes they performed were: “Grand Opera Strains,” Theobald Boehm’s “March Militaire,” Frank Meacham’s “American Patrol,” Abraham Holzmann’s “Blaze Away,” Henry S. Cuqua’s “Medley of Old Songs,” and Thomas S. Allen’s “Lot o’ Pep.” While not much more is currently known about Sadie and Yam, those of us in Seattle are lucky that the Seattle Theater Group (SGI) acquired a lease for the Neptune in 2011, and they have been mounting regular live music shows there ever since.

THE BLACK HAWKS: SEATTLE's LEGENDARY ROARING '20s JAZZ BAND (1928)

THE BLACK HAWKS are among the very earliest Seattle-based African-American jazz bands – and members of the "Negro Musicians' Union" (American Federation of Musicians' Local-493) –  whose photograph has survived all these decades. Recently unearthed from the institutional archives of AFM Local 76-493, it represents a whole lotta significant history. Seen standing here in 1928 are (left-to-right): Joe Bailey (bass & tuba), Crawford Brown, Ray Williams, Floyd Turnham Sr. (drums), Floyd Turnham, Jr. (alto sax & fish horn), Robert Taylor, Floyd Wilson, Creon Thomas (drums, violin, banjo, & piano) – & bandleader/pianist/vocalist, Edythe Turnham, seated at center.
The eventual musical matriarch of her family, Edythe Payne originally hailed from Topeka, Kansas, where she'd begun learning piano at age three. Arriving in Spokane in 1900 at around age ten, she married Floyd Turnham, a waiter, in 1907. Together with her sister Maggie, & about four other family members, they created a minstrel show that scuffled for work around the Eastern Washington & Idaho area. In time, new members were added & the ensemble morphed into the Edythe Turnham Orchestra, and then, the Edythe Turnham and Her Knights of Syncopation, which featured her husband & his namesake son, and Maggie (as a dancer). As the band gelled they began to get bookings in rooms including Spokane’s fine Silver Grill – where young Spokane/Tekoa, Washington native, Mildred Bailey, also began her eventual big-time jazz career. In 1920 the family moved to Tacoma, scorings gigs in rooms including the Tacoma Hotel.  Then in 1922, they moved to Seattle where they joined AFM-493, & played gigs in venues including the Alhambra, the Bungalow Cabaret, the Coon Chicken Inn, & the Copper Kettle. The Knights did quite nicely, apparently, with the Turnhams purchasing a home (707 22nd Avenue) in 1926. Then, in 1928, the expanded and renamed Black Hawks nine-piece band scored what would be a successful audition with John Considine’s giant Seattle-based Orpheum Theater circuit. That led to a week-long feature gig in Seattle, & they also set out on the road playing those huge rooms in cities ranging from Winnipeg, Canada, all down through the states, winding up in Los Angeles where they floundered a bit before recasting themselves with a few new players & reemerged as the Dixie Aces. For his part, Floyd Turnham Jr. went on to enjoy quite a solid jazz career in California – but that’s a whole ‘nother story….

SEATTLE'S COLUMBIAN TRIO PLAYS HAWAIIAN MUSIC (1920s)

THE GREAT HAWAIIAN MUSIC CRAZE originally began sweeping over America in the wake of two early Worlds’ Fairs – Portland, Oregon’s Lewis and Clark Exposition of 1907, and then Seattle’s Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909 – which both featured native Hawaiian musicians playing their exotic indigenous tunes. And then, thanks in good measure to Tacoma’s mega-successful pop songster Bing Crosby (1903-1977), Hawaiian-themed music became the biggest-selling genre of musical records in the Roaring ‘20s and well into the 1930s. And that demand for such 78rpm discs (and sheet music) was also matched by increased radio airplay of the music, and box office bonanza’s for vaudeville theaters that booked the growing legions of new Hawaiian-oriented bands.

Among the earliest such bands to pop up in Seattle was The Columbian Trio. Led by an authentic Hawaiian native, steel guitarist J. Nawhai, the ensemble also featured a Spanish-style guitarist (whose name is lost to the mists of time), but who appears in photographs to also have been Hawaiian. Then on ukulele, there was band-manager and music teacher, George M. MacKie, who although apparently not a Hawaiian, was also not a rookie. As early as June of 1918 he was a member of the Queen’s Hawaiians group who performed at the California Complete Small Homes Exposition in Los Angeles that very month.

But by 1920 MacKie (and his wife Florence) had settled in Seattle where they got a home (3608 Palatine Avenue N), and he also rented a downtown music studio (216 Epler Block Building, on 2nd Avenue, between Columbia and Marion Streets) where he offered musical instruction on the ukulele and Hawaiian steel guitar. Indeed, his business cards tried to allure new students with this invitation: “Learn to play ‘the most Weirdly Beautiful Music of the Dreamiest Island ever Anchored in any Ocean!’”

Meanwhile, MacKie helped form The Columbian Trio and they presumably performed around the area. In 1922 the couple – and his mother Mary MacKie, who’d moved in with them in 1921 – relocated several blocks over to a different home (3648 Phinney Avenue), so they had seemingly intended to stay here awhile. But that was not to be. Perhaps because the Epler Building was sold to the Bank of California, whose intent was to raze it to build a new bank, the MacKies hit the road.

The Columbian Trio showed up next in Denver, Colorado, where they scored a regular radio slot on KOA. But then they lost a member and went to a local music teacher to inquire if there might be somebody else around who could join them. That teacher pointed them towards one of her students, Don Wilson (who would later gain some fame as Jack Benny’s announcer). As Wilson would recall in a 1980 interview: “I joined them and we were busier than bird dogs. We made a lot more money in radio, even in those days, with the extracurricular things that we did, appearances of all kinds, including fill-ins at the Orpheum Theatre. Whenever an act couldn’t appear, the trio would be engaged to play a week here and a week there.”

The Columbian Trio also traveled the West Coast a bit, performing on stations including KFI in Los Angeles, and KGO in Oakland. But somewhere along the way the band was saddled with a corporate sponsor the Piggly Wiggly self-service supermarket chain – and they agreed to change their name to the somewhat less-than-dignified “Piggly Wiggly Hawaiian Trio.” It remains unclear exactly where and how that regrettable shift took place. In Denver? Or perhaps it was back in Seattle where in 1921 Boulder, Colorado’s William Louis Avery had arrived to open up a Piggly Wiggly franchise store downtown (408 Occidental Avenue)? What is known is that by about 1923 the MacKies had resettled in Los Angeles (at 121 S Flower Street), and George reformed his Queen's Hawaiians group with Lani McIntyre (Spanish guitar) – and Sol Ho’opi’i (steel guitar) who would soon go on the become the world's most famous Hawaiian musician.

One last meager clue uncovered about all this is that by 1925 Mary MacKie had acquired her own home in Seattle (1717 W 58th Street).

THE MASTERSOUNDS JAZZ COMBO RECORDS IN SEATTLE (1957)

THE MASTERSOUNDS jazz quartet is of significance to Pacific Northwest music history for a goodly number of reasons. The first being, that they actually formed in Seattle in January 1957. That came about when the famous Lionel Hampton Orchestra came through town once again after a long tour in 1956, and their electric bassist, William “Monk” Montgomery (1921-1982), decided to stay and check out the local scene. As the Dean of Jazz critics, Ralph J. Gleason (1917-1975), later noted: “Monk, from his experience in Seattle, was convinced a good jazz group would have a chance to work in that city, and he was right.”

As the brother of famed jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery (1923-1968), Monk knew plenty of top players and he quickly sent word to another brother in Indianapolis, Buddy Montgomery (vibraphone) as well as Sydney, Montana, pianist Richie Crabtree (b. 1934), and Indianapolis drummer Benny Barth (b.1929) – and they arrived and began getting their sound together. As Barth once explained in an interview (which was posted on the website of San Francisco’s Musicians’ Union AFM Local 6 in 2011): “When the Mastersounds started out, we lived together in a big house in Seattle for several months in 1957, playing the Seattle clubs and traveling. We rehearsed every day. It was full time music.”
Indeed, it was during the months of January through March that the band drew crowds to Dave Levy’s downtown jazz club, Dave’s Fifth Avenue (506 Denny Way). And among those who stopped in and were impressed by their fresh sound was Chet Noland – owner/operator of Seattle’s pioneering audio studio, Dimensional Sound (2128 3rd Avenue) and it’s affiliated label, Celestial Records – who recorded a lot of jazz ensembles in the 1950s including those headed by sax-star Corky Corcoran, and another by piano whiz, Gay Jones. The combo was invited into Dimensional for a few sessions and they proceeded to cut a dozen hep songs including “Wes’s Tune,” “Water’s Edge,” and “Bela By Barlight.”

Meanwhile, the contractual gig at Dave’s ended – as did the bandmembers’ required payments to Seattle’s “Negro Musicians’ Union” AFM Local 493 – and Monk took off for San Francisco to scout for their next gig. And, even though Noland had high hopes of releasing their tunes on Celestial, he supported the group by giving them a nice clean second-generation copy of the Master Tapes, which they hopefully could use to help score that next gig. Well, Monk arrived in San Francisco and went to the Jazz Showcase nightclub on Market Street, introduced himself to the owners, and played the tapes for them. As jazz historian Steve Cerra has written: then, those owners, “upon hearing the Mastersounds tapes Monk Montgomery had brought along, booked the group into the room beginning in September, 1957 for an unlimited engagement.”
 
Soon, Monk took a trip to Los Angeles where, as Cerra also noted, “he met fellow bassist Leroy Vinnegar whose immediate reaction to listening to the Mastersounds demo tapes was to call Dick Bock, president of World Pacific Records. Upon hearing them, Bock signed the group to a contract that would result in six albums being produced for the World Pacific/Pacific Jazz Series.” As for Noland, he was happy for the band’s success, but was understandably upset that he was shunted aside, and that – as he still retained the original Master Tape – their debut 1958 LP, Jazz Showcase - Introducing The Mastersounds [World Pacific Records #PJM403] did not even credit his excellent production/ engineering work.
 
The next couple of years saw the Mastersounds recording a few additional LPs, and the 45rpm single shown here “Shall We Dance?” / “Getting To Know You” [World Pacific #X643] was from one of them. In 1960 the guys disbanded, but by 1962 they were back together and performing at Seattle’s fabled jazz club, the Penthouse (1st Avenue and Cherry Street), a room also favored by Wes Montgomery over the years, and one the quartet returned to again in 1965.

HAZEL CARROLL: SEATTLE'S GREAT HARPIST (1925)


HAZEL CARROLL (1893-1983) was an extremely talented harpist who played in the early 1920s with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. One of three daughters fathered by Seattle’s Charles Albert Bergstrom (1867?-1935), she eventually married Robert Ellsworth Carroll Jr. and while living in the University District (4205 Fifteenth Avenue NE), they bore a son, Gerald J. Carroll (who much later was captured as a POW in Germany during WWII). This image of the musician was taken at Fred Hartsook’s (1878-1930) photography studio in Seattle in 1925. 

In November of that same year she left Seattle to take up advanced studies with the famed harpist Anna Louise David in New York City. While there she joined the New York Symphony – performing under Maestro Bruno Walters (1876-1962) – and at gigs including the esteemed Carnegie Hall and on nationwide tours. In the 1930s she became a member/officer of a social club, the Order of the Amaranth, which held their meetings at the Ballard Masonic Temple. In 1940 the Carrolls (715 Harrison Street) had a daughter, Paula, and in 1953 the family resettled in California, raised purebred Dalmatian dogs at their O’Carroll Kennels for a quarter century, and Carroll also got involved with the Petaluma Folk Dancers organization.

RAREST NW RECORDS: BRAXTON QUARTET'S "WHITE PORT" (1950s)

AMONG THE THOUSANDS of records produced in the Pacific Northwest since the very first musical recording was cut here in Seattle way back in 1923, are a number that cross-over into two notable categories: awesome music and rare as hell music that was originally issued on discs which are so exceedingly scarce that few people have likely ever seen, owned, or heard them.

One example of such a rarity is this 1950s red-wax single by a jazz quartet led by Seattle saxophone legend, Bob Braxton (b. 1922). He first popped up playing around town as a member of the legendary Jive Bombers combo during World War II. At that time Seattle was still a divided city, with two racially segregated musicians’ unions – AFM Local 76 for the white players, and AFM Local 493 for the black players. After joining 493 Braxton began to fall in with a series of 493 bands and after-hour jam sessions. By 1951 he was playing tenor sax with one of Seattle’s top African-American bandleaders, pianist/vibraphonist Elmer Gill (1926-2004) in a combo called the Questions Marks that also included drummer William “Duke” Moore (b. 1923). Braxton presumably married at some point, and the pianist named Patricia Braxton (who was listed in a 493 membership roster), was probably his wife.

So here is a vinyl single featuring “Summertime” / “White Port” as issued on the Debut Records label (#1506) that was cut downtown at Seattle’s pioneering recording studio, Electricraft Inc. (622 Union Street), which operated between 1952 and 1958. The credits noted on the label list Braxton, Moore, and a “Patricia Lee” – along with bassist Bill Rinaldi who, interestingly, was the first white musician to ever quit AFM 76 and switch allegiance (way back in the 1930s) to AFM 493 – in order to get in on the red-hot jazz scene.

The two songs here are both interesting – and I really wish I was technologically capable of digitizing them for everyone’s listening pleasure. George Gershwin’s 1935 gem, “Summertime,” features Bob Braxton’s slow, spirited, gospel-like vocals over a piano-riff foundation that is later taken up by the sax during a mid-section piano solo interlude. The uptempo sax-driven original, “White Port,” swings with some good honking and squealing over solid piano lines, snappy snare accents, and drum-kit fills. All-in-all, a remarkable bit of audio documentation of Seattle’s jazz scene of a half-century ago!

JAZZMAN ELMER GILL FIGHTS SEATTLE'S MUSICAL SEGREGATION (1951-1956)

SEATTLE'S TWO RACIALLY SEGREGATED musicians’ unions were, during their uneasy coexistence between 1918 and 1958, yet another ugly symptom of greater societal problems. But that Jim Crow system – one which divided the town into separate-&-unequal turf zones (with the white members of The American Federation of Musicians Local 76 zealously hoarding all of the most financially lucrative downtown gigs, leaving the members of the “Negro Musicians’ Union” AFM Local 493 to pick up the scrap gigs in dives along the Skid Row part of town and certain areas of the Central District) – could ultimately not stop open-hearted players on either side from playing music with each other if they wanted to.

One of the first local jazz bands to boast an integrated lineup was the slyly named Question Marks, which began playing a few scattered gigs together by about 1951. They began at the long-standing black-oriented restaurant/nightclub, the 908 Club (908 12th Avenue) and in 1953 moved into Gill's own Ebony Cafe (Jackson Street & Fifth Avenue).  Headed by ace pianist, Elmer Gill (1926-2004), the initially all-black combo eventually added a couple top white players, including Al Turay (guitar).

In time Gill, Turay and Al Larkins (bass) broke off as the Elmer Gill Trio, and in August 1956 significant Seattle history was made when that increasingly popular band bravely approached the management of Seattle’s New Washington Hotel (1902 2nd Avenue) and asked if they could gig at their Brigadier Room lounge.

Knowing that the Brigadier had always been considered Local 76’s turf – and that Gill would likely attract a black clientele – the hotel’s manager punted over to the hotel chain’s board of directors down in Los Angeles, asking them to decide. Probably noting the nation’s recent trend towards progressive integrative reforms, that board voted yes, and Gill’s group began a successful run in the heart of downtown. The walls of systematic racism were crumbling and by January 1958 AFM 493 and AFM 76 would finally merge into one united union.



THE 1st RECORD EVER CUT IN SEATTLE (1923)

AT THIS LATE DATE in Pacific Northwest music history [May, 2013] nobody is very surprised when yet another musical talent scores a big hit record with a tune cut in a local studio. The Lumineers & Macklemore are merely among the most recent examples…

But it wasn’t always this way. At many points over the decades, local musicians sensed the need to depart to more mature music-biz capitals like Hollywood, New York, or Nashville to make their recordings. Sure, by the 1940s Seattle & Portland each had a few studios emerging – & by the 1950s and ‘60s some of them began producing the occasional hit record, & by the 1980s-‘90s Grunge Rock uprising some of our studios & engineers even forged a powerful aural aesthetic that wowed the world.

But, way-back-when – at the very dawn of the recording industry – the Northwest had no sound studios whatsoever. So, it was pretty big news when one of the town’s top dance-bands did get a chance to cut a disc that would be released by a major label. That band was the Hotel Butler Orchestra, as led by the irrepressible Victor “Vic” Meyers (1897-1991). 

The band had been attracting Seattle’s collegiate dance crowd to their perch at the hotel’s Rose Room (at Second Avenue & James Street). This was at about the midpoint of the Prohibition Era (1916-1933) and the Rose Room was one of the most prominent / infamous speakeasies in Seattle – a place where guys in raccoon coats & their flapper dates danced the foxtrot, & sipped illegal booze well into the wee small hours. But the place was hardly a secret: Seattle’s social/political elite also reportedly enjoyed attending – & Meyers would famously tip everyone off to impending liquor raids by signaling his band to stop playing whatever song they were on & instead shift to the refrain of “How Dry I Am” while all the evidence was poured down kitchen drains. But even though these periodic raids were occasionally successful (with as many as 150 attendees hauled off to jail on one particular night), it took many years for the clampdown to have any real effect.

Meanwhile, it was at the Rose Room where a visiting field agent from the big-time Brunswick record company discovered Meyers’ band one night. It seems he liked what he heard & signed them to a recording contract. Then, it was on June 13, 1923, when The Seattle Daily Times noted that the orchestra “will soon make phonograph records for the Brunswick Company” – & sure enough, that summer a mobile recording crew rolled into town on their first-ever West Coast field trip & set up their gear (valued at a reported $18,000) in the room.

In essence, that Brunswick team proceeded to conduct, on August 21, 1923, what would be the very first professional recording session in Seattle’s history. And the result was the band’s debut single, “Mean Mean Mamma” / “Shake It and Break It” [Brunswick 2501] – the first of many discs they would record for Brunswick & various other labels over subsequent years. 

For their part, Brunswick promoted the tunes with the typically rosy prose of that era, touting in a sales brochure that: “Meyers and his syncopaters have a distinctive style. The melodies that they develop have a characteristic swing that is most compelling. You will delight at the versatility, harmony, precision and delightful novelties portrayed by this splendid orchestra.”

People were delighted and Meyers & band went on to cut additional toe-tappers for Brunswick, including: “Helen Gone,” “Springtime Rag,” “Heartbroken,” “Burmalone,” “Beets And Turnips,” “Weary Blues,” “Tell Me What To Do,” “Mean Looks,” No Wonder,” & “The Only Only One.”

THE SEATTLE LETTER CARRIERS' VOCAL QUARTET (1925...)

THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST has a long & proud history of nurturing what are commonly called “barbershop quartets” – a few of which  have enjoyed considerable fame and national recording careers worthy of mention (The Four Saints from Everett, & The Eligibles from Renton, among them) – but the Seattle Letter Carriers’ Quartet were a notable early example & were touted, back in the 1920s, as being “unique.” Well, they certainly had cool stage attire!

It's not really certain if the Seattle Letter Carriers’ Quartet had any relation to the Seattle Letter Carriers' Band – which formed here back in 1892 (and carries on today as the Washington Letter Carriers Band) –  but that possibility does seem quite likely. The original Quartet was a vocal ensemble comprised of actual postmen including:  John F. Daly (baritone), C.P. Donald (tenor), H.G. Stiles (basso), & L.G. Blaine (lead).

It was in July 1925 that the Seattle Letter Carriers’ Quartet began receiving press coverage in The Seattle Daily Times. On July 5th the group performed in Wenatchee, Washington, before three hundred postal employees who were attending their state convention’s banquet at the Chamber of Commerce Building. Members of three separate organizations – the National Federation of Postoffice Clerks, National Association of Letter Carriers, & the National League of District Postmasters – attended. Quartet member John F. Daly was among a half-dozen attendees who gave brief opening remarks, and later the group sang, with the newspaper reporting that it “scored a decided hit with its selections.”

Three nights later, on July 8th, postmen of the State of Washington gathered at the restaurant in Seattle’s L.C. Smith Building (506 Second Avenue), for another banquet. After welcoming remarks offered by the evening’s toastmaster – R. B. Williams, president of Seattle Branch No. 79 of the National Association of Letter Carriers – the Seattle Letter Carriers’ Quartet entertained the assembled crowd.

The public profile of the Seattle Letter Carriers’ Quartet was rising quickly, & on the evening of July 15th they made what was likely their live radio debut. Hyped as being “the first group of its type ever organized,” the guys – reportedly including new member Oscar Telquist (second tenor) in place of Blaine – performed on the Rhodes Department Store’s (4th Avenue and Pike Street) station, KFOA, as sponsored by the Hopper-Kelly Music Company (1421 3rd Avenue). Song selections broadcast on the program were “Somebody Knows (Medley)” & “Georgia Lullaby.”

Several months later, on the evening of November 6th, the Quartet reappeared on KFOA under sponsorship of Seattle’s Sherman, Clay & Co. (3rd Avenue and Pine Street) music shop. This time they were performing jointly with the six-piece D.A.V. Orchestra, which was comprised of members of the Disabled Americans Veterans of the World War. The following month, on December 11th the "Seattle Postoffice Department" sponsored its own radio program on KFOA – one that spotlighted various talented post office employees, including the Quartet.
 

Although the documentary trail of evidence regarding the Quartet’s full career of musical activity is quite sparse, it is known that on Friday April 23, 1926, they sang for annual Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of Horace Mann school (2410 E Cherry Street). The event took place at the Garfield High School auditorium (400 23rd Avenue) & the Quartet’s performance was among others contributed by the Spiegelmann Trio, whistling soloist Margaret Fogel, a Boys Glee Club, dancing by various student groups, a calisthenics drill, & the “Kitchen Band” a comedy concocted by a group of mothers.

The following year, on the evening of March 15, 1927, the Quartet were slated to “put over some red hot numbers” at an extravaganza held at the boxing ring in Seattle’s Crystal Pool Natatorium (2021-2033 2nd Avenue). After that the Seattle Letter Carriers’ Quartet seems to slip away from the public record – but it is never too late to offer a gesture of gratitude to our ever-intrepid U.S. Postal Service. Thanks to all!