BEATNIK JAZZ – bongo beats, brainy piano figures, seductive saxophone lines, & crazy scat singing – Cecil Young's combo certainly knew what was hip at the dawn of the 1950s!
This musically progressive quartet "exploded onto the Seattle jazz scene in 1950, introducing the rhythmic fire of bebop to an eager new audience," noted my colleague, jazz historian Paul de Barros. Indeed, they "quickly became a regional sensation. Commanding breakneck tempos, the quartet's aggressive rhythm section mesmerized crowds across Seattle, Tacoma, and Yakima. Young was a modern piano player whose sparse, fierce, and harmonically sophisticated playing propelled his quartet."

Young had already jammed in New York City reefer dens with bebop luminaries like Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker before hitting the road. It was 1950 when his act broke up in Seattle after a final gig at the Palomar Theater (1300 Third Avenue). Young easily scored a gig at the New Chinatown nightclub (Sixth Avenue S. & South Main Street), after recruiting a new racially integrated combo that would include Traff Hubert (bass), & Jimmie Rodgers (drums). Perhaps Young's best find though was Gerald Brashear (tenor sax & bongos) who had already played with Ray Charles in his Seattle years (1948-1950) & with Billy Tolles – a wild saxman who would soon pioneer local rock 'n' roll.

It was on June 10, 1951, that the red-hot quartet performed at Seattle's Metropolitan Theatre (Fourth Avenue & University Street) for the Concert of Cool Jazz which was a fund-raising benefit show for Cerebral Palsy Fund – a gig that was luckily recorded, as was another show at the Ladies Music Club (807 E. Roy Street). The amateur audio engineer who captured the shows for posterity was Seattle's Ampex tape distributor, Bert Porter.

The theater event began with the combo's theme song, "Race Horse" & moved along to other standouts like "Who Parked The Car," which featured Brashear's bop vocals. Another tune, "Oooh-Diga-Gow," showcased his bongo skills – which later, in 1955, would earn Brashear the National Metronome Awards for conga & bongo drums.

Before long the head of Cincinnati–based King Records, Sid Nathan, visited Seattle & after hearing the tapes signed the combo up & several records followed including the Concert of Cool Jazz 10" LP [King 295-1] which featured tunes such as "Cecil's House Party Blues" (& "Tribute To Al Benson," which presumably is a misspelling of local jazz impresario, Art Benson), & an identically titled 12" LP [King 395-505]. In addition, two 7" EPs, Cecil Young Progressive Quartet [King 247 & 277], & a series of singles were issued, including "That Old Black Magic" [King 4604], "Fish Net" [King 4638], "Tea For Two" [King 15165], "Monsieur Le Duc" [King 15165], "Rushin' On Home" [King 15175], & "Fine and Dandy" [King 15192]. Upon its 1951 release, the Concert of Cool Jazz 10"sold quite well – the first Seattle-produced disc to catch outside ears since Ray Charles' 1949 Maxin Trio recordings had effectively launched his remarkable career. Indeed, sales of the the disc broke out in California (and then in France when issued there by Vogue Records) after America's ace jazz critic, San Francisco's Ralph Gleason, raved that "Who Parked the Car" was the best scat solo ever recorded. Even Nat King Cole described the tunes as "the swingiest bop I've ever heard." And with those accolades, the quartet's Seattle days were numbered: the nation's greatest talent bookers, the William Morris Agency, signed the band, a national tour commenced, & after a final show at New York's fabled jazz room, Birdland, the Cecil Young Quartet's members split the scene. Of the foursome, I know that Hubert returned to Seattle where we first met up nearly two decades ago -- & lemme tell you: he was still a very hip cat.


THE PEARLS were an R&B vocal group that formed at Tacoma's McChord Air Force Base in March, 1957. Artis Johnson Jr. -- an alumni of Oakland, CA's Midnights -- recruited three other singers (Elsie Hall, Lloyd Foster, & William Watson) & they competed in the military's annual Tops-N-Blue talent contest. By the next year's show Johnson & Hall had added new members: Rueben Martin & Ronald Small, they took the prize, & ended up performing Hall's "My Love" on the Ed Sullivan Show which aired from New York City on August 31st. Back home, the Pearls began working weekends at Seattle's top R&B dancehall, the Birdland (2203 E. Madison Street), where they were backed by house-band, the Dave Lewis Combo. In February, 1959, the quartet left Seattle by car & drove to Los Angeles with hopes of getting discovered. Arriving at the offices of Walter "Dootsie" Williams' Dootone Records, they lucked into an immediate audition – & as the Los Angeles Sentinel noted on March 19th: "after hearing them sing just once he immediately signed them to a long term contract." Ensconced in a recording studio with Ernie "Raunchy" Freeman's ace band – Williams was ecstatic about his Fabulous Pearls, declaring that "Both sides of this record will explode."
Well, not quite: even though the newspaper figured that the single's A-side ("Jungle Bunny") was an innocent "Easter-timed" (!) single, its title was actually based on some racist graffiti that Hall had once seen as a little girl. Williams thought it had "a slight edge due to its unusual style," but its edginess caused it to flop – so he began promoting the B-side, "My Heart's Desire," without much more luck. Three additional tunes -- "She'll Understand," "Baby Drop Top" & "I Laughed So Hard" -- were also cut, the latter finally surfacing on compilation CDs in 1995.
Back in Seattle -- & now recast as the Four Pearls -- they were signed in July, 1960, by Bob Reisdorff to his Dolton Records label which was scoring hits with Northwest acts like the Fleetwoods, Ventures & Frantics. The beautiful "Look At Me" (with Dave Lewis on piano) & "It's Almost Tomorrow" (with the Frantics) were cut by audio engineer, Kearney Barton, at his Northwest Recorders studio (622 Union Street). When issued by Dolton around August, KOL & various other Northwest radio stations gave "Look At Me" some support, but it failed to grow into a broader hit & the Four Pearls headed to Canada where they played their final gigs.


YEARS BEFORE the famous Blind Boys of Alabama gospel group formed in 1939, or the awesome Five Blind Boys of Mississippi formed in 1936 – not to mention the impossibly obscure Five Blind Boys of Montana, whose disc ("Brother Bill") I've struggled for 20 years to date – the Blind Radio Five Orchestra was working out of Seattle.

They were a quintet comprised of (left-to-right): William A. Teater (drums & manager), Claude E. Judge (banjo), Paul Tischner (sax & clarinet), Virgil Robison (piano & director), & Daniel O. Black (violin).

As the Seattle Times noted in 1925: "These talented young blind musicians have appeared frequently over KFOA and have won a host of friends through their artistry. The organization is declared to be the only professional blind orchestra o the Pacific Coast. When it is remembered that the musicians must necessarily play by memory their efforts are truly remarkable." KFOA – the first Seattle station to join a national network (NBC) -- was based on the second story of the Rhodes Department Store on Second Avenue. Its studio was built so that shoppers could stop by and watch while programs were being broadcast live.

On the evening of February 7, 1925, the Blind Radio Five performed for a Seattle Times-sponsored KFOA program from 8:30 p.m. until 10 p.m.. The band opened their show with a version of "You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine" a newly popular tune which had been released by Victor Records on September 5, 1924 as recorded by Glen Oswald's Serenaders who'd originated in Portland Oregon.

Then came "Follow the Swallow," "Honest and Truly," & "Where Shadows Fall." Next, Black performed a violin solo on "Then Will You Remember Me?," the Five played "Mama's Gone, Good-Bye," & Tischner did a solo sax rendition of "Marguerita." That was followed by "Blue," & the overture to "Abecia," Judge's banjo solo on Chopin's "Prelude" & "Bar Study," & Robison's piano solo on "The Octave Study." The fivesome then wrapped up their show with "Eliza" & "China Girl."


"LOUIE LOUIE" – the 1957 single by Richard Berry was a creative highlight for the singer, but prior to that he was involved in numerous Los Angeles-based doo-wop vocal groups including the Robins (he sang lead on their '54 hit, "Riot In Cell Block #9").
Berry also provided the male vocal lines on Etta James' "(The Wallflower) Dance With Me, Henry" in '55. In addition, Berry would cut many more discs under his own name, like '59's "Have Love Will Travel," which was adopted by several '60's NW teen-R&B combos such as Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Gallahads, Counts, & Sonics.

But it was "Louie Louie" that brought Berry lasting fame. The song was penned in '55; cut with his group, the Pharaohs, for Flip Records in '57; adopted by Tacoma's Blue Notes around '58; cut by Tacoma's Rockin' Robin Roberts (& the Wailers) in '60 (who scored a #1 regional radio hit in '61); cut by ex-Blue Note, Little Bill Engelhart, in '61; enjoyed as a #1 NW hit again by the Wailers in '62; revived simultaneously in '63 by Portland's Kingsmen & Paul Revere & the Raiders; revived again in '78 for the Animal House movie; & then in August '83, California's KFJC radio aired over 880 different versions of "Louie Louie" in a sixty-three hour-long Maximum Louie Louie marathon.
Months later -- on December 28, 1983 -- I had the opportunity to meet Berry. The occasion was KISW-FM's giant Best of Louie Louie event at the Tacoma Dome featuring performances by Berry & some of the vintage Northwest combos who were tied to the tune including: the Wailers, Kingsmen, Little Bill Engelhart, Gail Harris, & Ron Holden (who's band, the Playboys, had played the song in Seattle back around 1959).

It was Holden, in fact, who gave a shout-out to me when I entered the backstage green-room where all the artists were milling about pre-show. "Hey, Pete! Come over here & let me introduce you to somebody." Standing there in the corner with him was Berry – they'd been reminiscing about their first meet-up back in 1960. When Berry saw the stack of 45s, 78s, LPs, sheet music, & posters that I brought to have him autograph he laughed, obliged, & exclaimed that he could hardly believe that all this fuss was being made over that old tune, "Louie Louie."
After some small talk Holden excused himself, & Berry agreed to let me roll a tape & conduct an interview -- later we continued the discussion by telephone. My goal was to document Berry's recollections of his very first tour through the region so long ago back in the 1950s – when, like a bigbeat Johnny Appleseed, Berry had come striding through, planting his "Louie Louie" in the hearts of local R&B fans. Berry held plenty of memories about that tour, but he never was able to recollect the actual date (or exact dancehall) where he'd originally introduced Seattle to his immortal tune -- that was a mystery that I wouldn't solve for another two+ decades. So....sit tight for the forthcoming Part II of this saga!


50 YEARS LATER -- five decades after Lawrence F. "Rockin' Robin" Roberts (1940-1967) quit Tacoma's pioneering R&B band, The Blue Notes, in August, 1959, to join their cross-town rivals, Northwest rock 'n' rollers, The Wailers (as seen here in 1960) -- I figured that far too much time had passed by without his biography being written.

In that essay -- just posted over at HistoryLink.org -- Roberts' tragically short life & amazing singing career are documented in detail.

Readers will be reminded of the huge impact that Roberts had on his teenaged fans as well as his fellow musicians. Being an early collector of R&B records, Roberts was the original instigator who convinced his bandmates to do their own version of Richard Berry's 1957 tune, "Louie Louie." And the rest is, well, garage-rock history...



SEATTLE WATERFRONT character, Ivar Haglund (1905-1985), is mainly remembered for his successful string of seafood restaurants & the fabled publicity stunts he pulled on all of us.

Far less well known is his background as a guitarist, singer, and aspiring radio and TV star. As a mere lad Haglund was afforded vocal lessons, & after picking up the ukulele & guitar he began performing around town -- including, a spell with the UW Varsity Glee Club in 1927.

Along the way he accumulated old folk songs & in 1930 the Seattle Times noted that he was interested in uncovering any Northwest-based tunes. An elderly woman responded by providing a copy of “The Old Settler” which had been penned by Olympia’s Francis Henry back in 1877. The folksy song featured humorous lines about life on Puget Sound – including one that especially stuck with Haglund: “I think of my pleasant condition... Surrounded by acres of clams.”

To be sure, life certainly was pleasant for him: Haglund had inherited his grandparent's Alki waterfront property, & was able to live a bohemian existence of unemployment, beachcombing, wine-making, & guitar strumming. In 1938 Haglund opened an aquarium on the downtown waterfront, & he advertised it by busking outside on the street with his guitar – singing silly little ditties like “Oscar The Octopus,” “Halley The Halibut,” & “Hermie The Hermit Crab” that he’d penned about the various critters inside the aquarium.

A slot at tiny KRSC radio followed, then one at KOL -- & finally, in 1940, a desperate program manager at KJR (the major NBC Network station across town) pleaded with Haglund to fill in when some scheduled guest failed to show up. It was in 1941 that Haglund befriended a couple of folkies -- Woody Guthrie & Pete Seeger -- who came rambling through town to perform at several labor union halls, & they ended up as the houseguests of Haglund where their friendship blossomed.

In 1942 Haglund performed in the Moore Theater's Earl Robinson Comes Home -- a revue organized to salute the return of West Seattle's songsmith, Earl Robinson, who had gained fame for his lefty tunes, like "(I Dreamed I Saw) Joe Hill." Then in 1944 KJR launched Haglund's own prime-time, weekday Around the Sound show which brought him greater exposure – & secured the success of the aquarium. The show’s theme song was “The Old Settler” – re-titled as “Acres Of Clams.” In 1946 Haglund announced – with the advertising card shown here – the opening of a seafood restaurant, Ivar’s Acres of Clams, near the aquarium.

The following year another local radioman, Don McCune, invited Haglund to appear as “First Mate” on his show, and later – when McCune got his KOMO-TV kiddie program, The Captain Puget Show, where the duo sang sea chanteys. In 1958 Haglund performed “The Old Settler” on a nationally broadcast TV special & among those watching from New York, was Robinson who was inspired to score an arrangement suitable for a full orchestra. And that version – renamed “A Country Called Puget Sound” – made its concert debut on the Canadian national radio network, & was revived again in a high-profile appearance when the Seattle Symphony Orchestra (under the baton of the Maestro, Milton Katims) performed it at Seattle's new Opera House in 1963.


THE TINY TOWN of Peshastin, Washington, was the base for a homegrown Hawaiian music group formed by guitarist John Coppock & his high-school pals around 1919. The positive reception they got after playing a few gigs there & in nearby burgs like Leavenworth and Wenatchee encouraged him enough to head off to Hollywood in 1923. It was there that he (seen here, 2nd from left) formed a new quartet and began climbing the ladder to stardom.

By 1924 Coppock's Hawaiians had added one genuine Hawaiian musician -- the ukulele ace, Dave Mahuka -- and soon scored their own weekly radio show. In 1925 the band cut a 78rpm disc for one of the West Coast's very first labels, Sunset Records, & they became one of the top acts of their type on the So-Cal scene. Throughout the summer & fall seasons of 1927 they toured through various states, including a swing up the coast & right back into Coppock's old stomping grounds.

On the evening of Friday October 28, 1927 Coppock and his crew -- which included his own brother Paul on vocals -- made a triumphant return to the old hometown for a performance at the Peshastin School Auditorium.

This rare old poster shows the local pride at having a couple of their own boys -- "Coppock's Famous Radio and Recording Trio" -- back for a visit: even the Peshastin Symphony Orchestra (!) lent a hand that night. And, as a special treat, the Coppock brothers entertained one & all with a few numbers played on their musical handsaws.


SEATTLE's BOXING CLUB (1011 E Pike Street) was the unusual site for a rock 'n' roll rumble of a gig on the broiling hot evening of Friday July 8, 1988. A cramped, shabby, old-school tough-guy gym, the Club hosted three local bands who each cut loose with howling sets before a sweaty, packed-in, all-ages crowd. I know – because I was there.

The event was billed as a "Psycho Delic Disco Orgy" – probably because the phrase "grunge rock" was barely a concept at that early point in time. And, as this handbill noted: the gig was also a record release party held to celebrate new releases by three first generation grunge bands – each of whom (Blood Circus, Swallow, and Mudhoney) were fresh signees to the now-legendary Sub Pop label.

Blood Circus' "Two Way Street" / "Six Foot Under" [SP13] and Swallow's "Trapped" / "Guts" [SP14] singles had both been released mere days prior in June – while Mudhoney's classic "Touch Me I'm Sick" / "Sweet Young Thing (Ain't Sweet No More)" [SP18] didn't actually drop until August.

Interestingly, during this time period it was Blood Circus who were the better-established band – indeed, both Mudhoney and Nirvana performed their first shows at Seattle's fabled Vogue club opening for them. Months later, in November, Nirvana's debut 45 – "Love Buzz" / "Big Cheese" [SP23] – was issued. The rest is, well, history...


TEX HOWARD's BAND played something billed as an "Airplane Dance" at the Glide Hall in South Kelso, Washington, in 1930. That venue served that town in two distinct ways: as place for roller-skaters to glide around the hardwood floor – & then as a dancehall in the evenings.

Howard had been musically active for some time prior to this event. On December 24, 1926 Spokane's Spokesman-Review ran an ad for the Davenport Hotel which invited people to attend a Christmas Day dinner that would feature Howard & his 10-piece "all-artist" orchestra. On February 24, 1927, the place touted "Musicale Luncheons" which featured Howard & his Davenport Hotel Orchestra.

By 1931 Tex Howard & his Tigers took on a year-long stint at Seattle's Trianon Ballroom (2nd Avenue & Wall Street) and Musicland magazine noted gushed how "They are one of the finest home-town groups...It's difficult to keep the crowds still during the intermission. So enticing and dance-provoking is the music, that the dancers hate to see the orchestra pause for even a moment."

In '34 Howard's orchestra gigged on KFOX radio in Long Beach, California. Then on February 9, 1935 the band – which included his brother Wyatt Howard on vocals – cut "Let's Honeymoon Again" for Decca Records. Two days later, they cut three more songs ("Put On An Old Pair Of Shoes," "Love Dropped In For Tea," & "Somebody's Birthday"). The result was a pair of 78 rpm singles.

Soon Howard's band was back at the Trianon, which is where the UW's Junior Prom was held on March 5, 1936. The Tyee yearbook noted the oh-so-clever maritime theme of the dance: "When the S. S. Junior Prom cleared Seattle docks from the Trianon Ballroom, on its 'Transatlantic Journey'...450 couples were aboard. It was a grand voyage with none of the inconveniences of passports, luggage or mal de mer. Stars twinkled down upon coeds in filmy formals and their escorts in conventional black and white as they danced on the spacious 'deck.' Red and green lights marked the port and starboard sides of the big liner and life preservers and pillars disguised as masts added to the naval theme. The twelve-piece ship's orchestra, conducted by Tex Howard, was enthroned in the stern while the hall's balcony became a pilot house. Nattily uniformed ship's employees worked in the baggage (check) room...".

By the 1940's brother Wyatt had split off & formed his own orchestra which: featured the vocalist "Carol Ross" (aka Jeanne Tutmarc, sister to Seattle musician, Paul Tutmarc); was based out of the Town & Country Club (1421 8th Avenue); & recorded for Linden Records.

Meanwhile in 1948, Kelso's country bandleader, Roger Crandall, bought the old Glide Hall & his Barn Dance Boys performed there many a Saturday night. As the 1950s rolled around numerous national Country stars played the hall including Tommy Duncan, Ray Price, Tex Ritter, & the Maddox Brothers & Sister Rose. In addition, a few of the Northwest's up-&-comers such as Yakima's Tex Mitchell, Tacoma's Buck Owens, & Salem's Snead Family performed there. Then, when rock 'n' roll broke out, touring rockabilly stars like Buddy Knox drew a teenaged crowd, as did one of Oregon's very first rock bands, the Teen Kings.


ONE KEY MUSICIAN on the 1950's Sea-Tac country scene was guitar ace, Rivers "Jack Rivers" Lewis – the brother of famed hillbilly bandleader (the Lone Star Cowboys) and western film star, "Texas Jim" Lewis. In the '30s the boys had recorded for Vocalion & Decca Records – & in the '40s Jack recorded for Capitol Records; on scores of Hollywood film soundtracks; & picked some hot solos on many hits (i.e. "Easy To Please," "Milkcow Blues," & "Mine All Mine") as a member of Jimmy Wakely's Saddle Pals.
Along the way, Jack became one of the very first players to own an electric solid-body Spanish guitar. Custom-made for him circa 1947 by the fabled SoCal-based machinist, Paul Bigsby, Jack's unique – & recently discovered -- guitar seemingly predates the 1948 unit built for fellow Capitol artist, Merle Travis, which has often been credited as the original Bigsby.

In 1950 the brothers settled in Seattle where Jim soon gained further notoriety as the host of KING-TV's kiddie show, Sheriff Tex's Safety Junction & Rivers hosted the beer-fueled hillbilly music program, Rainier Ranch. But today's topic is the music Jack played during his Northwest years – and the local record companies that he recorded for. In time he would operate his own labels including Ranch, JR Ranch, NOW, & MRM Records, but probably the first Seattle label to feature Jack's guitar sounds was Listen Records which was based out of Oliver Runchie's Electricraft recording studio at 622 Union Street. Listen issued Jack's contribution to the then-popular topical saga first sparked by Bremerton's Arkie Shibley & the Mt. Dew Boys & their 1950 hit, "Hot Rod Race," & later taken up by Spokane's Charlie Ryan whose "Hot Rod Lincoln" broke out as a local hit in 1955. Issued between those two country-rap discs (around September, 1952), Jack's "Navy Hot Rod" single showcased the type of hot guitar licks he also played live at area roadhouses including Seattle's Circle Tavern (9602 E. Marginal Way) & Coe's Country Club (NE 110th Street & 10th Avenue NE) up into the 1960s.

GREEN LAKE BAND: circa 1912

MUSIC IN SEATTLE's public parks is a fine old tradition dating back over a century. And Seattle's favorite summertime park -- Green Lake -- has a long history of hosting musical events. Well before myriad popular local 1980s bands rocked there at Bite of Seattle outdoor festivals (prior to being booted after noise complaints from crabby recent arrivals to the neighborhood) -- or Led Zeppelin shook (and possibly cracked) the foundation of the Green Lake Aqua Theater (5900 W. Green Lake Way N.) back on May 11, 1969, or Northwest rock 'n' roll pioneers like the Frantics and Ron Holden & the Playboys played sockhops at the Green Lake Fieldhouse in the 1950s -- the park featured plenty of musical performances & dances.

Upon recently discovering this photograph of the 21-member Green Lake Band I immediately sensed that it may have been taken in vacinity of the park. But the initial research effort wasn't too promising: turns out that one or more Metropolitan Laundry companies (the business seen at right) were located at varying locations around town over the years. But not neccessarily near Green Lake. However, this image is clearly marked as having been produced by the "Maple Leaf Studios -- Green Lake Station Seattle Wash." And, we know that a Mr. J.T. Williams operated that studio. Furthermore: business records reveal that by 1912 Williams' firm was based exactly where (304 Maple Leaf Place) the Maple Leaf neighborhood abuts Green Lake -- right there at E. Green Lake Drive N. and NE 72nd Street. This case for establishing exactly where this image was captured isn't closed yet, but the circumstantial evidence is already interesting...


HOMESICK NEWCOMERS hungering for some good 'ol southern-style home cookin' in Seattle could refer to this map which highlighted several "dining and dancing resorts" along Victory Way (today's Bothell Way & Lake City Way). Among them were: Dick Parker's Pavilion, Mammy's Shack ("chicken... cooked by a real southern mammy"), Southern Home, Bob's Place ("half chicken fried just right"), Dixie Inn, Lem's Corner ("Chicken Dinner: $1"), the Check 'N Double Check ("famous Chili"), & Henry "The Watermelon King's" place ("Real Southern Watermelons Our Specialty").

Had this 1931 map showed the area several more blocks south-ward, it would have also included the most famous, er, infamous of the town's restaurants: the regrettably conceived Coon Chicken Inn (8500 Bothell Way).

The Ferris State University's Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia informs that the chain was originally founded in Salt Lake City in 1925 by Maxon Lester Graham, who opened his second Inn in Seattle in 1929 and another in Portland in 1930 -- each replete with an absurd giant grinning & winking train porter face as entryways -- & that all three were "popular."

Well, it was certainly not at all "popular" with Seattle's African-American community (who weren't even allowed to live in the North end at that time), and who were doubly offended when uncouth local white youths started a fad based on attaching the menu's mascot image on their cars' spare tires and flaunting them all around town.

At one point -- probably soon after Prohibition's repeal in 1933 -- management added a "cabaret" (liquor bar), dance floor, bandstand, & then "Imported Directly from Chicago" the Joseph "King" Oliver Orchestra to perform in their basement's new Cotton Club which was billed as the "Largest Nite Club In Seattle."

Then, as the late-1950s brought along changes, Graham leased out his property, and in time a new building -- which Ying's Drive-In Chinese Foods occupies today -- was erected on the site.


RHYTHM & BLUES records were not easy to purchase in the Northwest back in the 1940s. At that time some of the bigtime labels -- like Decca -- had their own exclusive retail stores, while other shops mostly peddled the polite pop heard on the mainstream whitebread radio stations.

In order to hear honest-to-dog genuine hard-core R&B or jazz, fans had to tune-in to pioneering African-American DJs like Fitzgerald "Eager Beaver" Beaver (1922-1991) or Bob "Bop" Summerrise (1925-2010) at tiny radio stations like Bremerton's KBRQ or Tacoma's KTAC.

And to actually buy such discs required a visit to a neighborhood store that catered to the black community -- like Tacoma's Broadway Record Shop, Portland's Bop City Records, or Seattle's legendary Groove Record Shop (1223 Jackson Street). This circa 1947 10" Modern Music Co. 78rpm disc includes "Shuffle Boogie" & "You Won't Let Me Go" by the Los Angeles-based Johnny Moore's Three Blazers. Interestingly, that trio's singer -- the soon-to-be-famous Charles "Merry Christmas Baby" Brown -- is often cited as an early stylistic inspiration to Ray Charles, the soon-to-be-famous singer/pianist who arrived in Seattle in 1948. Lastly, in 1952 Summerise bought out The Groove Shop (which had moved to 1211 Jackson St.), renamed it the World of Music Record Shop, and (while there, & then later at 1412 23rd Avenue / Jackson Street) it remained a cornerstone of the nascent local R&B scene well into the 1960s -- & a place where kids like Jimi Hendrix (& members of teen-R&B bands including the Dynamics & Pulsations) hung out and soaked up all the hip new sounds.


THAT TINY OLD Cascade Mountain mining town of Cle Elum was the site of what was surely a memorable evening of entertainment on Saturday June 28, 1947. It was there, at the local Eagles Temple (220 Pennsylvania Avenue), that the homegrown Peggy Miner's Band provided music for public dancing at an event sponsored by a local equestrian organization -- the Cle Elum Riding Club.

But for the basic admission price of $1 (for men) and 50¢ (for "Extra Ladies"), attendees would also thrill to a bonus "Special Attraction." Brought over "Direct from Vogue Studios, Seattle" (315 Marion Street) were the dynamic dancing duo of Jack & Paula.

As advertised, Jack & Paula were booked to perform "5 Big Acts" that night -- such daring and exotic presentations as an: "Exhibition of Fantasy In Dance," a "Tango, a "Rhumba," an "Afro-Cuban Dance," & even the spine-tingling & no doubt, death-defying, "Primitive Knife Ritual Dance."

In hindsight though, the greatest spectacle for witnesses that particular summer night must have been Jack & Paula's version of the stately and dignified "Viennese Waltz" -- as rendered in their matching Me- Tarzan-You-Jane leopard loincloth and bikini stage apparel.


TAC RECORDS? That's right: Not Tacoma Records, & not Sea-Tac Records. TAC Records was the politically progressive New York-based label that in 1939 issued this 78 rpm disc of Seattle's labor songster, Earl Robinson, & his famous 1936 tribute tune, "Joe Hill." Perhaps the most widely recognized ballad penned by Robinson (& the lyricist/poet, Alfred Hayes), this song saluted the life of America's labor activist/martyr, Joe Hill, who was infamously executed by the State of Utah on November 19, 1915.

This early rendition – one of many cut over the following seven decades (including Joan Baez's high-profile 1969 version at Woodstock) – is notable for featuring Robinson's own piano-work behind the vocals of lefty singer, Michael Loring. TAC Records -- named for NYC's radical Theater Arts Committee – were produced by the Modern Record Co. (which was apparently affiliated with the Musicraft label that had issued many other cool tunes by the likes of Leadbelly & Harry "The Hipster" Gibson). As one measure of the TAC record's socio-political value, that bastion of Establishment sensibilities, Time magazine, bothered to take the time & space to diss the disc (which included "Abe Lincoln" on the A-side) as being "two crusty proletarian items" in a tacky March 6, 1939 review.

JUKE BOX WARS: circa 1948

THE MUSIC BIZ is a notoriously corrupt one – with record distibution being particularly guilty of nefarious activities. Beyond that, the commercial juke box realm is one known to have been infiltrated by the Mob. But until the recent discovery of this artifact, I had no sense of the challenges that tavern & cafe owners once faced in dealing with their contracted juke box servicing agents.
This old undated poster from the Citizens Committee warned that Seattle was the site of an intimidation campaign by "Stooges," "Goon Squads and Gangters Molls" who were apparently leaning on various local venues to surrender their current juke boxes in order that "obsolete equipment" – sent here from New York by the "Werlitzer" [sic] Phono Company – could be installed instead. It claimed that those jukes ("some 400 of them, are in public warehouses in Seattle") were being dumped here because Wurlitzer will "have a new model ready soon."

My initial guess is that the controvery may date back to around 1948 or so – when those big 10-inch 78rpm singles were first being superceded by the smaller 7-inch 45rpm singles – a change that required all-new juke boxes. The cautionary poster's details are downright chilling: "Should any group invade your tavern or cafe and start cutting wires or smashing music equipment or attempt to roll in another music machine, call the police or sheriff. ...Be alert for burning cigarette butts with match heads enclosed thrown in front of music machines or underneath equipment to start fires to disgrace your local music men. ... Ignore all goons or their molls calling by phone." It goes on to assert that various unions had been bought off; that certain suppliers of beer or foodstuffs – being in cahoots with the gangsters – might illegally try and deny delivery orders; and furthermore: that if the tavern operators allowed the original juke boxes to be switched out, they themselves would be hauled into court & sued by the original juke box contractors over financial losses. "Keep your skirts clean. ...Don't become involved..."


A DOZEN YEARS ago I was handed this odd brochure while strolling thru Seattle's U-District Street Fair. Now, usually I decline to accept freebies from strangers, but a single glance at it – & its cartoon images of various pop culture icons (especially of my Northwest homies, Jimi Hendrix & Kurt Cobain) – caused me to pause and grab the thing.

The graphics also included other notables (Elvis, Garcia, Lennon, Morrison, & the Duke), a bit of a benjamin poking out at bottom, & a banner offering a "CELEBRITY INTELLIGENCE TEST." That "test" was comprised of two questions: "Who are these people?"...and what do they have in common?" I was mildly intrigued...until, that is, I read the back-page's text and realized that the thing was merely an inane religious tract (produced by some California-based sect) whose fear-mongering message was simple: what those pop stars all had in common was that "They all earned big money. They are all big name celebrities...and they are all dead." Then comes the expected pitch to reject a sinful life, a final inquiry ("Why is one box empty on the cover of this tract? That's reserved for you"), & the brain-dead closer: "INTELLIGENT PEOPLE READ THE FRONT FIRST."

SEATTLE's 1st PUNKS: 1976

MAYDAY 1976: While much of Seattle was out doing the "The Hustle" at area discos – or square-dancing to local country-rock tavern bands – a small coterie of younger musicians were busy making history.

This is the ultra-rare poster for a 3-band gig held at the old IOOF Oddfellows Hall (915 E. Pine Street) in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The event's title – The TMT Show – was an acronymic reference to the trio of participating bands: the Telepaths, the Meyce, & the Tupperwares. In hindsight, this first stirring of the Northwest's punk scene – well, at least since the Sonics' heyday way back in the '60s – would help spark the rise of an independent "alternative" scene that would ultimately come to fruition with 1980s-1990s grunge rock.

But even more significantly: rock historians have recognized that the TMT Show was a bit of a trail-blazing event. As a harbinger of punk things to come, it predated by months even the very first gigs in Britain by the Clash, the Damned, the Buzzcocks, & Siouxsie & the Banshees – not to mention, the many Los Angeles punk bands that followed (including the Screamers: the revamped and relocated Tupperwares). Interestingly, because Seattle had a few busybodies who enjoyed tearing down legally posted rock handbills, the racy graphics of the TMT poster caused it to be especially targeted, and thus, exceedingly few have survived.

10¢ DANCES & A 5-PIECE BAND: 1933

THREE YEARS into the Great Depression – & one month prior to FDR's inauguration (& the beginnings of his New Deal's efforts to turn the American economy around) – the first in a series of community fund-raiser benefit dances was mounted on February 18, 1933) at the Juanita Park Pavilion.

The events were organized by the Kirkland-based East Side Association of Unemployed – one of several area groups committed to cooperative activities intended to provide help to the growing ranks of the newly jobless. But they were not the first: one history book (by Sara Bader) records that the nation's "first Depression-era 'self-help' organization took root in Seattle... There in the summer of 1931, the Unemployed Citizens League was organized" & by year's end 12,000 members were engaged in bartering: garden vegetables for services; unwanted automobiles for free rent, etc. But one year later – and across Lake Washington –100 Kirkland-area men joined forces and began chopping firewood and planting shared gardens. Along with that hard work, were the dances held nearby at Pop Bergeron's Juanita Park Pavilion. For the entry fee of ten cents, attendees could have their spirits raised a bit by dancing to music performed by a small ensemble – quite possibly, Milt Gootee & his Band. Interestingly, on the flipside of this poster is a hand-scrawled sign that reads: "POTATOES: To Members – ONLY – of East Side ASSN of Unemployed – At 50-cts A Sacks."


SEATTLE'S GREATEST native-son musician, Jimi Hendrix, has been gone now for almost four decades. His music is considered immortal & his image remains iconic. Sadly though, Jimi's memory continues to be dragged through the mud of endless courtroom battles. In February 2009, yet another Hendrix family feud was settled in a legal judgment that favored the position of the family faction headed by step-sister Janie Hendrix – & against a firm associated with Jimi's brother, Leon Hendrix. At issue was the recent marketing of alcoholic products called Electric Hendrix Vodka.

Janie's March 2007 lawsuit challenged Leon's assumed right to exploit his brother's name, & asserted that the use of Jimi's image to promote booze was an affront: the Seattle Times quoted her statement that "As a matter of strict policy, we have never promoted an alcoholic beverage ... In view of the circumstances of my brother Jimi's death, this attempt to associate his name with the sale of alcohol beverages amounts to a sick joke."

Well, yes and no. While Jimi-related booze is itself a distasteful concept – given that an over-abundance of red wine played a role in his death in 1970 – the fact remains that Janie's company, Experience Hendrix, did help promote (& sell through their Hendrix product gift catalog) 750ml bottles of Celebrity Cellars' 1997 vintage de-alcoholized "Red Table Un-Wine."

Made from "premium grapes grown in select California vineyards," the juice (60,000 bottles!) is purportedly "rich and smooth with complex aromas and subtle flavors." While Experience Hendrix may wish that they had never tied themselves to this product – which bears Jimi's photograph & "signature" on the label – the nicely aging bottles are 100% proof that they did.


ONE OF SEATTLE's oldest 'hoods – Youngstown – grew up around William Pigott's Seattle Steel Co. mill which was built in 1905. Immigrant new-hires settled into company-owned homes & rooming houses, & a rough-&-tumble working-class business district – including a church, grocery store, pool hall, & tavern – arose along 24th Avenue S.W. (today's Delridge Way in West Seattle).

By 1914 neighbors had formed the Youngstown Improvement Club as a social group & a means for helping lift their area up to the middle-class standards of West Seattle in general. They founded a clubhouse & held many community events there over the decades. Even as a Seattle-native I knew none of this history until I began researching a new discovery: this poster which advertises a dance on January 1, 1938. Now, where are all the fotos of that toe-tappin' band: Grantier's Harmonizers?


IN 1873 A TRIO OF FOUNDERS of the tiny town of Spokane Falls – including Salem, Oregon's James Glover – acquired ownership of a 158-acre tract located at the center of today's Spokane. After building a saw mill near the town's namesake waterfalls, he eventually donated about 40 prime acres (from Front Avenue to Broadway Avenue, Post Street to Monroe Street) to Frederick Post for the establishment of a flour mill. The one-square-block of that parcel which he retained is where the grand Auditorium Theater was built (NW corner of W. Main Avenue & N. Post Street) in the aftermath of the Great Fire of August 1889.

The seven-story, 1,750-seat Auditorium Theater opened in 1890, boasting an impressive exterior, an over-sized stage, three balconeys, deluxe loge seating, & eventually a house orchestra which was led for years by noted cellist, Ferdinand Sorenson. The facility was welcomed by Spokane's early residents – as well as touring musicians & entertainers (ranging from Sarah Bernhardt to Al Jolson) who presumably appreciated such a fine outpost of genteel culture out here in the Wild West. When the motion picture industry finally overtook old-school vaudevillian entertainments in the 1920s, the Auditorium added a "silver screen," but time was running out and the hall was razed in 1934. Today River Park Square marks the historic site.

MYERS MUSIC SHOP (1930s-1984)

I WILL always have a soft spot in my heart for Seattle's Myers Music shop. Although the old retail store is long-gone, memories of going there with my father to buy my first drum-kit in 1967 remain vivid. That little shoebox of a building (1206 1st Avenue) was crammed from floor to ceiling with racks of instruments and musical supplies of every type. The proprietor, Julius M. Myers (1906-1994), was most helpful in advising us & I ended up going home happily with a brandless Asian-made set of beautiful copper-colored "tiger-eye" finished tubs -- & a snare-drum case that bore a small metal logo badge as seen here. And it seems that I was in pretty good company: many previous local musicians had also received Myers' assistance: in the 1940s he'd sold young Quincy Jones his first trumpet, & in the 1950's young Jimi Hendrix got his first electric guitar there. Myers -- a Romanian immigrant who originally founded his Empire Clothing Co. in 1928 (renaming it the Empire Exchange in 1931, & then eventually, Myers Music) -- was a mandolinist, a leader of a balalaika orchestra, & a radio host on Seattle's KVI. It was in 1984 that Myers shuttered his shop -- & in 1993 a large psychedelic mural was painted on the building's south exterior wall in tribute to Hendrix.


THOSE NORTHWEST grunge rockers, Nirvana, were always targeted by profiteers who cranked out "collectibles" for the band's fans to glom onto. Among the questionable items marketed over the years have been bogus concert posters issued well after-the-fact – & others representing gigs that never happened. Then there are the ones touting gigs at concert venues that don't even exist. Here is a recent example: a specimen found on eBay that purports to advertise a hella lineup of Nirvana & that esteemed British punk/pop '70s band, the Buzzcocks. The eBay listing blithely notes that: "This poster is promoting Nirvana and a show to be held on Friday-Saturday 11-12 October, at Lakeland Arena in Seattle, Washington."

Those dates correlate to a point in 1991 when Nirvana's Nevermind album was just breaking out. But the "Lakeland Arena" attribution is mystifying as Seattle has no such concert hall – although Minocqua, Wisconsin & Waterford, Michigan both apparently do! Interestingly, the Buzzcocks did actually reform briefly and serve as the opening act on a tour with Nirvana – a group which Buzzcocks guitarist Steve Diggle saluted as "the only band we considered worthy of supporting" – but those gigs occurred only days before Kurt Cobain's demise in early 1994. Oh well...whatever...

KJR RADIO STAMP: circa 1921

THE DAWN of the radio industry saw various associated trends, fads, and crazes emerge – including the marketing of radio kits to hobbyists, the formation of amateur radio clubs, & the issuance of "Verified Reception Stamps." First produced for Chicago's EKKO Company (by the American Bank Note Co.) in 1921, the stamps were intended to appeal to radio enthusiasts whose goal was to keep track of the many distant stations that they'd successfully tuned into.

The stamps were sold by EKKO to specific stations who would then provide one to each listener who wrote-in stating the date & time (along with details about the specific broadcast content that they'd heard in order to verify their claim). Those listeners could then assemble their collection of stamps – each bearing the call letters of participating stations – into a book that EKKO began producing in 1924. Among the 800+ stations to participate were Spokane's KHQ, & Seattle's first commercial station, KJR (950 AM).