IN THE LATE 1950s there were still plenty of folks – especially established musicians – who were rock 'n' roll haters. The long list of nationally prominent stars who specifically dissed the music (& its fans) included bobbysoxer idol Frank Sinatra, classical cello master Pablo Casals – & the biggest A&R wig at the largest label in the world: Columbia Records' Mitch Miller. Even the greatest singing star to ever emerge from the Northwest – Bing Crosby – figured (as late as 1962) that, not to worry: rock music had already "run its course."
Along the way a number of songs with a clear anti-rock spirit, & containing outright mocking condescension, were produced. Examples include: Stan Freberg tunes like "Try" (a histrionic satire of the Northwest's pop phenom, Johnnie Ray, & his international hit, "Cry"), "Sh-Boom" (a spoof of the Chords' 1954 doo-wop hit), & "Heartbreak Hotel" (a slam on Elvis Presley's breakthrough 1956 hit, in which the King rips his pants and a studio's backslap echo goes berserk) -- & The 3 Haircuts' "You Are So Rare To Me" (Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner & Howie Morris' 1956 sendup of a twitchy & pompadoured teen vocal trio), & Mitchel Torok's March, 1959, dig against Johnny Cash's rockabilly sound, "All Over Again, Again."

Seattle's contribution to this artistically dubious field is highlighted with this single: The Byron Gosh Trio's "Disgusting" / "By Gosh." Issued by New York's Golden Crest label – their archives show that it was mastered on May 15, 1959 – the tunes were cut at Joe Boles' fabled West Seattle home studio. We also know that those songs were published by Bolmin Publishing -- Boles' firm in partnership with Tacoma's music man, Art Mineo. The music itself is nothing much more than a cocktail lounge-worthy parody of real rock 'n' roll – it does feature a quite fluid electric guitar solo & is backed by crazy beatnik bongo-style drum fills – & the tune's structure emphasizes the utterance of exactly one repeated word. But while a few different radio hits of the day -- like the Champs' 1958 smash, "Tequila" -- had periodic breaks where the song's title was invoked in an enthusiastic manner, on this one the term "disgusting" is articulated with a sense of, well, sheer disgust.

So who were the Gosh gang? Well, that's a bit of a mystery. Virginia Boles – widow of the audio engineer – once told me that this disc was created as a slam on rock music by a group of professional local jazz stalwarts who deeply begrudged the new sounds. So, even though it is not firmly established, I'll risk taking my best shot at snitching on the culprits. A review of the contents of Boles' old studio guest log reveals evidence of a session in the spring of 1959 which featured these jazzmen: Chuck Bennett (guitar), Hal Champ (bass), Peter Lederer (piano), & Keith Purvis (drums). Interestingly, what I know about them is that the first two men also performed on another, later, Golden Crest 45: Stan Boreson's send-up of big-beat music: "Swedish Rock And Roll." Beyond that "coincidence," about all I know at this time is that Purvis – who grew up in North Seattle & graduated from Roosevelt High School – became a first-call AFM 76 union drummer & opened his own Burien-based store – the Keith Purvis Drum Shop (218 SW 153rd Street) – in 1955. That store – where, by gosh, I bought a set of new black Ludwig tubs in 1977 – became a mecca for generations of Northwest drum nuts, right up until his death in October 2004. But: if those Seattle players weren't the Byron Gosh Trio I'd certainly love to know who was!


THIS IS THE STRANGE TALE of a Northwest rock 'n' roll 45 whose path to success – including being issued on a surreptitiously labeled disc – was perhaps like no other. It was in 1964 – amidst the exciting British Invasion (as spearheaded by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, et al) – that a Moses Lake, Washington-based combo, the Fabulous Continentals, joined scores of other American groups who enthusiastically adopted the various trappings of the limey groups in an effort to jump aboard the Anglophilic bandwagon.
Examples of new Northwest bands who emerged at that time include: the Ascots, the Blokes, the Mersey Six, the Huntingtons, Sir Raleigh & the Cupons, King George & the Checkmates, Lord Kalvert & the Reserves, Lord Byron & the Poets, and Prince Charles & the Crusaders. Meanwhile, a few established local musicians also tried to cash-in by altering their images to appear British – such as Spokane's Runabouts (who changed their name to the London Taxi), & Seattle's popster, Billy Saint (who cut a 45 as Johnny London). Similarly, the Fabulous Continentals (who had originally formed back in 1961 to play standard fare pop and Northwest dance sounds -- like "Louie Louie") re-surfaced as the Bards. And, like some of their peer combos, the boys were now outfitted with mop-top haircuts, Carnaby Street-style garb (& sometimes even assumed fake Liverpool accents) – all intended to help them attract audiences of Beatle-crazed teenage girls.

Signed by Seattle record mogul, Jerry Dennon, the Bards proceeded to record such forgettable things as a bland cover of the Who’s “My Generation,” & a song called "The Jabberwocky." Of greater interest though, was the Bards' attempt to construct an "original" song based upon vintage writings by the esteemed 19th Century English poet, Edward Lear. And boys-being-boys the Bards took great humor from his classic 1871 piece, “The Owl And The Pussycat” – especially the lyrical zinger: “O lovely pussy! O pussy my love, what a beautiful pussy you are.”

Upon being recorded in mid-’66, Dennon issued the song as a single on his new Piccadilly label (#224). But he had greater things in mind for the band than just that & was soon attempting to license it to bigtime labels in Hollywood. The old pros down there, however, took one listen to the racy thing and instantly applied the "ten-foot-pole" rule, declining the opportunity. In particular, A&M Records wouldn’t touch it, & Liberty/Imperial Records also steered clear. But Dennon – who had already made a fortune via his label's recording of the Kingmen's controversial hit, "Louie Louie" – had good reason to believe that a mildly naughty song just might have some commercial potential. Finally he struck an interesting, & perhaps unprecedented, deal with the Beatles' label, Capitol Records. Though somewhat interested, the company was still just wary enough that they agreed to press a limited amount of the Bards' tune on records with plain white, logo-free, (but, numbered: #2148) labels – & with the understanding that if Dennon could spark some interest at radio stations, they’d reconsider issuing it on Capitol proper. 

Which is exactly what did happen: the song began getting some spins & Capitol came through – issuing it with the same (#2148) release number. In the end, however, "The Owl & The Pussycat" still failed to break out beyond this region & the Bards subsequently settled down and produced a series of soft-rock regional hits though 1969.


WASHINGTON STATE'S HISTORY COMMUNITY deserves high praise for successfully rallying to save one of Seattle's most storied entertainment venues from the evil wrecking ball. The Washington Hall (153 14th Avenue) – home to over a century of music-making & dancing – will not be torn down, despite years of rumors to that effect.
Built in the Central District by the Danish Brotherhood Society in 1908 as a settlement house (photo courtesy, Puget Sound Regional Archives) for new immigrants, the hall initially hosted old-country folk dance groups & musicians. To make ends meet, the Brotherhood also welcomed rentals, & the town's growing African-American community held many events there over the years. On June 10, 1918, the local chapter of the NAACP threw a Grand Benefit Ball there which featured Miss Lillian Smith's Jazz Band – a night that made history as the earliest documented jazz gig in Seattle. Other fabled shows followed: Cab Calloway, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Count Basie Orchestra, Mahalia Jackson, Dinah Washington, Marian Anderson, Billie Holiday, & James Brown's band.
Confusion, however, has arisen in recent media accounts of the hall's travails: mistaken claims that Big Mama Thornton, Chuck Berry, & Little Richard all played the room have polluted its history, just as the dance there on February 20, 1960 (above photo by Odell Lee) by Jimmy Hendrix' teenaged R&B combo, the Rocking Kings, has repeatedly been cited, incorrectly, as the young Seattle guitarist's very first gig.

In 1973 the building was sold to a black organization, the Sons of Haiti Masonic Lodge, which began to rent it out to a variety of event promoters & organizations. As the 1970s rolled into the 1980s & the Northwest punk & New Wave movements gained traction, the Washington Hall was the site of tons of exciting shows including early ones by Chinas Comidas, Henry Boy, the Avengers,  the Cheaters, the Radios, Red Dress, D.O.A., the Look, the Dishrags, Pointed Sticks, & an absolutely legendary one by the Dead Kennedys & Ice-9 on July 7, 1979.
San Francisco's radical lefty punk band, the outrageously named Dead Kennedys, were on tour performing songs like their new single, "California Über Alles," & Ice-9 – a first generation Portland punk crew (see photo below) – likely kicked out a rendition of “Revolting Mess” from their classic, and sole, 45.

Seattle's hip-hop pioneer crew, the Emerald Street Boys, rocked the room in the early '80s, as did many more bands – right up into the Grunge Rock Era: the Void (1982), Ten Minute Warning, the Rejectors, the Accüsed, the Boot Boys (1983), Agent Orange (1985), Poison Idea, Last Gasp, Green River, Christ On A Crutch, Subvert, the Jesters of Chaos, My Eye, Resolution, the Derelicts, 13 Hilacopters, Cat Butt, Seaweed, Gas Huffer, & the Gits. With all that great history – and much more – behind it, the Washington Hall received City of Seattle Landmark status in 2009, and then with a generous grant from the Washington State Historical Society, and another from King County's 4Culture arts-preservation agency, the Historic Seattle organization was finally able to seal the $1.5 million deal. Next month – on May 1, 2010 – the refurbished hall will host a "House Party" to celebrate its revival.


HOW MANY TIMES have record hunters been fooled when they uncovered 78 rpm discs by a Roaring '20s dance-band credited as the Seattle Harmony Kings & quite reasonably assumed that they were an early crew on the 206 scene? Well, I confess to being one in that category – but with a name like this, who could have guessed that the swingin' combo was not from the Pacific Northwest.

It appears that eight decades ago, little ol' Seattle seemed like such an exotic far-west locale that a Chicago-based musical group happily named themselves the Seattle Harmony Kings. The Kings were a subset of the Benson Orchestra, which had been formed by Edgar A. Benson – a cellist who managed bands in the Windy City. Benson eventually got so busy booking his bands that he hired other guys (like Roy Bargy) to lead them. The Kings were directed by clarinet and tenor sax-man, Eddie Neibaur, and fellow band-members included: Bennie Neibaur (trombone & vocals), Earl Baker (trumpet), Marvin Hamby (trumpet), Leon Kaplan (banjo), Swede Knudsen (tuba), Rosy McHargue (clarinet, alto sax), Joe Thomas (piano), & Richie Miller (drums).

One info source posited that the Kings was a name Victor applied to the group in order to differentiate them -- & their electrically recorded songs -- from the Benson Orchestra's acoustically recorded works. Perhaps. But what we know for sure is that on September 2, 1925 two songs -- "Darktown Shuffle" & "If I Had A Girl Like You" -- were captured by Victor in Camden, New Jersey. Then, nearly one year later – on August 2, 1926 – a Victor session in New York City yielded "Breezin' Along (With The Breeze)" & "How Many Times?" These guys are certainly harmonious musicians, maybe even kingly with their skills – but they sure ain't from Sea-Town.


THE ONE-HIT WONDER of all time!  It was in late-1959 that a silly pop ditty – "High School U.S.A." – hit the radio waves. It was sung by Tommy Facenda – who, as one of the two "Clapper Boys" with Gene Vincent's Blue Caps, had contributed percussive handclaps to their rockabilly hits before going solo in 1958. Facenda hooked up with Norfolk, Virginia's Legrand Records who cut & released the song – which featured these lyrics: "Come Friday 'noon 'bout half-past three, I drop my books and my misery / Stroll on down to the soda shop, drop a coin in the old juke box / Lookin' around what did I see, every school kid there could ever be / They came from..."  – from there Facenda gave name-check shout-outs to various high schools.
The original version featured schools in his native Virginia & was an instant local success. The big-time Atlantic label in New York quickly licensed the tune & took Facenda back into a studio where a new rendition was cut. But Atlantic had even grander ideas for  marketing the tune: they had poor Facenda record at least 28 different versions, each with customized references to specific schools in these different areas: New York City, North & South Carolina, Washington D.C.- Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Florida, Newark, Boston, Cleveland, Buffalo, Hartford, Nashville, Indianapolis, Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis - Kansas City, Georgia - Alabama, Cincinnati, Memphis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Texas, Seattle - Portland, Denver, & Oklahoma.

Billboard magazine decided to treat all 28 versions as one release for the purposes of tracking the song(s) on their pop chart & by combining the overall action, "High School U.S.A." reached #28 nationally. Typical for that time, the Pacific Northwest seemed so remote to the New Yorkers that they couldn't even get all the school names down right. Thus the "Seattle - Portland" version highlighted these schools:  Ballard, Cleveland, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Washington, West Seattle, Sunnyside, North-Central, Lincoln, Stadium, Grant, Blanchard, Franklin, Madison, David Douglas, Bremerton, Rogers, Benson, Queen Anne, Garfield, Highline, Wilson, Longview, Shelton, & Pendleton – some of which are even in the towns of Seattle & Portland (& far-flung places like Sunnyside & Tacoma & Bremerton & Longview & Shelton & Pendleton). Geographic inexactitude aside, the 45 became a Top-10 radio hit that autumn in Seattle & Portland – and maybe beyond.


WHAT LITTLE IS KNOWN about the young tenor banjo-playing woman seen in this recently discovered cabinet card photograph is quite intriguing. A handwritten inscription on its reverse informs only that this is: "Annie Jackson (Mrs. J.N. Pyncheon) My Mother."
But info gleaned from the photo's credits are enough to get one's imagination roiling. The image was captured at Seattle's Roxwell Studio in the Roxwell Building (at the "Corner of Front and Columbia" streets -- today's First Avenue & Columbia Streets) on the Roxwell Block. Alas, the name "Roxwell" does not appear in Carl Mautz' authoritative 1997 tome, Biographies of Western Photographers: A Reference Guide to Photographers Working in the 19th century American West.
The circa 1880s Roxwell Building (106 Columbia Street) was, however, home to numerous notable tenants -- including Conrad Rideout, the African-American lawyer and Democratic politician who arrived here from Arkansas in 1891 -- the same year that Augustas Koch's famous illustrated birds-eye-view map of Seattle (which included the Roxwell Building) was printed by the Hughes Lithography Co. Around that same time the prominent African-American photographer James P. Ball arrived from Montana, moved into the Roxwell, and established his Ball and Sons Studio which operated there for a decade. During those early times, Seattle was still transforming from a soggy sawmill town into the bustling jump-off point for thousands of crazed gold-seekers heading up to the Alaska and Yukon Gold Rushes. Judging by her appearances alone, Ms. Jackson was perhaps more likely to be a musician who would pluck out a few old-timey hymns for her family's fireside gospel hour than entertain the leering loggers, miners and sailors swarming rough-&-tumble bars like Pioneer Square's Bucket of Blood room -- or even perhaps the clients at Madame Damnable's infamous house of ill-repute just down the block at First Avenue & Main Street. But is it at all possible that our Annie Jackson is the same one that was -- as noted by local historian Quintard Taylor in his 1994 book, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era -- listed in the 1891 Seattle Directory as an African-American music teacher?


NEARLY FOUR DECADES after Tacoma's pioneering rock 'n' roll band, the Wailers, formed in 1958, the still-active members discovered that their garage-rock legacy was being dangerously overshadowed by that other group with the same name. Jamaica's upstart reggae band, the Wailers, released their debut album -- the obscure & hit-less The Wailing Wailers -- in 1965. By that late date, our boys from Tacoma had already scored international hits (1959's "Tall Cool One," "Dirty Robber," & "Mau Mau"), issued an influential album (1959's The Fabulous Wailers), scored a No. 1 regional hit (1961's "Louie Louie"), issued a best-selling LP (1962's At The Castle), and enjoyed more regional radio hits (1964's "You Better Believe It," & 1965's "Out Of Our Tree" & "You Weren't Using Your Head").

They had also appeared on national TV (ABC's Dick Clark Show) & on the Alan Freed Show, toured the East Coast (1959) & California (1961, etc), played shows headlined by the likes of Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, the Standells, the Royal Guardsmen, Sopwith Camel -- & enjoyed the release of a half-dozen additional 45s and four LPs. So, the band was rather well-known.

Thus it remains a bit of mystery why they (& their lawyers) did not react when the Jamaican band – which included future superstar, Bob Marley -- emerged with the exact same name. Except, to consider that by the time Marley's crew followed up with a new LP in 1970 (plus three more in 1971) – they scored no hits in the United States -- & those years were a low ebb for our local heroes. By the time the Tacoma boys began reuniting & playing more regularly in 1977, Marley's Wailers had caught fire in the British & American marketplaces: album's like 1973's Catch A Fire charted & Burnin' went gold, 1974's Natty Dread charted, 1976's Rastaman Vibration went platinum, & 1977's Exodus went multi-platinum.
Final sad proof that just enough time had passed by so as to have thoroughly confused some people about these two Wailers arose in 1993 when Bill Graham's San Francisco-based rock 'n' roll empire issued a series of limited-edition silk neckties with designs based on his old psychedelic Fillmore West & Avalon Ballroom posters. Seen here is Graham's "Reggae at the Fillmore" (!) tie – with artwork borrowed from Wes Wilson's classic poster (BG 11) for the June 17-18, 1966, Fillmore shows which featured Haight Ashbury's Quicksilver Messenger Service & the Wailers (with special mention noted of their latest Top-5 West Coast radio hit, "It's You Alone"). Clearly there were no shantytown Rastamen at the Fillmore those nights – but such shoddy handling of history caused the band, in 1993, to begin rebranding themselves on various CDs & gig posters as "The Boys From Tacoma."

In June 2007 surviving memers of Tacoma's Wailers – bassist Buck Ormsby, & keyboardist Kent Morrill – finally brought suit [Ormsby v. Barrett, No. 07-5305] against the reggae band after they discovered that the internet domain name "" had been grabbed. Their complaint was that of trademark infringement, dilution, unfair competition, & cybersquatting, based on their registered trademark of the word "Wailers." Too little, too late: in January 2008, Western District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled for the defendants. Cased closed.


PARAMOUNT PICTURES premiered their brand-new musical flick – Those Redheads From Seattle – in Seattle on September 23, 1953. The reason for that backwater debut location being that the movie plotline begins here. The gist of the less-than-riveting "plot" is that a carrot-top mother & her daughters leave Gold Rush Era Seattle bound for Alaska where they seek to settle the financial affairs of their newspaperman husband/father who had been murdered in a dispute with a shady saloonkeeper. Along the way, the sisters (played by pop singing stars, Teresa Brewer, Rhonda Fleming, & the Bell Sisters) sing tunes including "Baby, Baby, Baby," "Take Back Your Gold," & "Mr. Banjo Man." Brewer also does a duet – "I Guess It Was You All the Time" – with '50s popabilly star, Guy Mitchell, who also sings "Chick-a-Boom."

The monophonic film – which was directed by Lewis R. Foster & produced between March & April 1953 – is also notable as the first Paramount movie to take a stab at the new mind-blowing 3-D technology. A week after its Seattle debut, the show opened in New York City & then on October 14th it hit Los Angeles.


SEATTLE SONGSTRESS, Lola Sugia is a charming vocalist whose professional career began back in 1940. Over the years she fronted several of the town's highest profile dance bands including those led by Jackie Souders, Pep Perry, Curt Sykes, Max Pillar, Norm Hoagy, & Wyatt Howard. In addition: she'd been a childhood friend of Seattle's pop star, Bonnie Guitar, the sister of prominent area bandleader & accordionist, Frank Sugia (who was a longtime peer of jazz great, Joe Venuti) – and her daughter is the active jazz singer, Maia Santell.

It was in 1959 that she met radio personality, Johnny Forrest, while recording some radio jingles for him at KOL which was based at the Northern Life Tower (1212 Third Avenue). That same year was when Tacoma's pioneering rock band, the Wailers, saw their classic discs issued by the New York-based label, Golden Crest Records. That deal came about when the teenaged band was being briefly managed by Atillio "Art" Mineo – an old-school Italian restaurateur & orchestra leader. Mineo had earlier formed a partnership with Seattle's top audio engineer, Joe Boles -- & their music firm's name was a contraction of their surnames: Bolmin Publishing. The Wailers soon dumped Mineo – he was too controlling & didn't have any feel for rock 'n' roll – but his connection with Golden Crest (which stemmed from his own New York days where he'd been associated with Paul "The King of Jazz" Whiteman's orchestra) remained intact & he also got Tacoma's Chessmen signed to the label.

At one point Golden Crest executives visited Seattle where they held auditions in a ballroom at the Olympic Hotel (411 University Street). Among those who auditioned were Seattle's hot R&B combo, the Counts (who weren't signed), & Seattle's "Scandihoovian" musical humorist, Stan Boreson (who was signed). And too, a combo of local rock 'n' roll-hating jazzmen cut a parody tune -- "Disgusting" -- recorded it with Boles, & Golden Crest released their 45 under the pseudonym of the Byron Gosh Trio.

It was 1960 when Sugia & Forrest married & also cut two delightful pop tunes he had penned: "Blue Tears" & "Weathervane." The recording session occurred at Boles' home studio (3550 Admiral Way) & it featured some notable jazzmen: Phil Odle (piano), Joe Adams (sax), Al Weid (bass), Norm Hoagy (vibes), & Keith Purvis (drums). Upon release, "Blue Tears" (with Sugia's sweetly overdubbed harmonies & Odle's winning piano triplets) garnered a bit of airplay on KOL & KING radio – & it must have sold reasonably well for Golden Crest as it used to be a common item in the Northwest's used record shops, but today it is rather scarce. Nice to hear that it will appear on the forthcoming Best of Golden Crest CD!