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.