Frank Gutch Jr: The Pacific Northwest…That Sound!

They call the sound “garage” these days.  The sound of The Sonics and The Fabulous Wailers (who were always referred to as just The Wailers in the Pac Northwest) and Mr. Lucky & The Gamblers and Paul Bearer & The Hearsemen and so many more who relied on that harder edge to get teens to dance.  Older people called it garbage and maybe it was, but by the gods, teens would have said (if they’d thought of it) it is our garbage, and they hung onto it like it was the last order of fries they might ever get.  Not all teens, but enough of them.  Enough to pack the various National Guard Armories which were the core of the NW venues allowing rock ‘n’ roll.  Enough to place bands like The Gentlemen Wild and The Live Five and The Dimensions on the rock charts— the local rock charts.  Was there ever really anything but local?  Not then and not up here.

The thing is, the Pac NW was no more all garage than Southern California was all surf, but thanks to a few writers, it became so.  In retrospect.  As far as the people who followed the trends were concerned.  The Sonics were the cause of it all— well, a resurgent interest in The Sonics.  They had power few bands ever put on record and during the New Wave/Punk movement of the mid- to late-seventies became legend.  The legend, as it usually does, soon eclipsed reality and here we are, looking back at a region of savage, crazed bands which, when not eating meat raw and pillaging villages, were blowing out eardrums by the gross.  They broke the sound barrier without a jet plane.  When they played, eyes bled and windows shattered.  They could be heard in the next county.  They wouldn’t let them play in Eastern Oregon because every time they did, the cows stopped giving milk.  I get it.  They were unique.  But, come on.  You would think that they were the Gene Simmons tongue of the era.  To many, they were.  To many, they still are.  But they weren’t the end-all of Northwest bands.  They weren’t undefeated.  (To understand, read my review of a live Sonics/Wailers show, written in retrospect some 40 years later)

Like everywhere, bands in the Northwest came in all shapes, sizes and colors.  In the early days, most of the recording bands worked out of, if not lived in, the big cities.  Boise produced one of the best ever in Paul Revere & The Raiders, Seattle had The Frantics and The Dynamics, Portland had The Kingsmen (and later, the transplanted Raiders), Tacoma had The Wailers, and those were just the big guys.  The success of a myriad of rock radio stations and the relatively new purchasing power of teens precipitated a music boom throughout the Northwest and throughout the nation.  Teen scenes popped up everywhere, all local and regional and all music-driven.  Soon, every area had their own local version of American Bandstand and bands had their own circuits to play.  For teens who loved music, it was truly a golden age.

It Wasn’t All Louie Louie, folks…..

… although most people outside of the NW may think so.  As it was everywhere, there were movers and shakers.  For instance, The Wailers shook with the first radio-accepted version of Louie Louie that I can remember, followed closely by The Kingsmen and Paul Revere & The Raiders— all charting on NW radio with The Kingsmen grabbing the brass ring.  On radio, it seemed that all versions were welcome all the time and as the song’s popularity grew, more than one party was almost broken up with intense discussions about the song, the bands and the versions, arguments ranging from which was first to which was best.  When The Sonics released their version a few years later, things really got intense.  After awhile, though, the passion subsided and it soon grew into a song of regional pride.  Decades later, Rhino Records would even put together an album consisting of nothing but Louie Louie‘s on their release of The Best of Louie Louie, an album which even lowered itself to include a version by The Rice University Marching Owl Band.  Some songs get no respect.

Which is my point.  It wasn’t all Louie Louie and it wasn’t all The Sonics or Paul Revere & The Raiders.  It was everything from Johnnie Ray and Jimmie Rodgers to the plethora of rock bands that haunted venues like The Spanish Castle and The Cascade Club and Parker’s and any number of guard armories throughout the Northwest.  Though it probably didn’t look like it at the time, we had it all.  Here is a snapshot:

The Moguls…..

…started out as one of those instrumental cover bands not unlike Colorado’s The Astronauts or Southern California’s Dick Dale & The Deltones.  Their schtick was ski outfits and a power surf sound and songs which revolved around skiing.  Their one hit was a song called Avalanche which began with a rumbling sound created by pounding on the reverb and echo units of an overamped amplifier.  It was a surprisingly effective musical re-creation of what I assume an avalanche might sound like, though I’ve never been near one (thank the gods), after which The Moguls cranked into overdrive and ski/surfed their way to a sweaty seizure.  Needless to say, the crowds loved it and the band was soon packing them in all over the campus of the University of Oregon (the band was Eugene-bred) and elsewhere.  The flip side of the single, by the way, was Ski Bum and was used as the A-side of their later single released on Panorama, one of Jerry Dennon‘s fabled labels.  Shortly after Ski Bum was released, the band faded into an oblivion of sorts.  To my knowledge, they never recorded again.

Jack Ely & The Courtmen…..

…were put together by ex-Kingsman Jack Ely not too long after he left that band (Ely was the voice behind Louie Louie).  If I remember what Ely told me, he left The Kingsmen just before Louie Louie broke and tried to get back into the band, but the door was closed.  He gathered other musicians and played as Jack Ely & The Kingsmen for awhile (his voice was on the record, after all) but shortly thereafter changed the band name to Jack Ely & The Courtmen prior to signing with Bang Records.  The band’s first release on that label, Louie Louie ’66, was a virtual copy of the original Kingsmen recording and got a fair amount of Oregon airplay because of it, but in truth barely charted on all but a few stations.  The follow-up, Ride Ride Baby, was notable for the cover version of the Raiders’ Louie Go Home.  The band may have lasted only a short time, but they made a mark.

The Live Five…..

… was one of those bands which was so close and yet so far from success.  They played a number of shows with national and international acts such as The Rolling Stones , were the focus of EJD Enterprises, a talent and booking agency which practically owned Salem and helped run the Willamette Valley (they booked a lot of the armory shows in many of the towns) and looked to be the next Pac NW breakout act.  Unfortunately, the engine ran out of steam and the band ground to a halt.  Not after producing two of the best singles to come out of the Northwest, though.  Yes You’re Mine was the first.  A Zombies-like tune arranged around electric piano, it combined a smooth groove with harmony vocals, creating a hook which got them major airplay.  Unfortunately, that airplay was mostly on the smaller stations and it soon dropped off the charts, as good as it was (and it was good!).  Awhile later, they went in to the studio to record a power pop monster (long before there was power pop).  Hunose, also released as Who Knows on another label from the same company, tossed crunchy rhythm guitar  reminiscent of a pop-oriented Kinks into the mix and they had another beauty.  Which got airplay and then tanked.  I still don’t know how it happened.  It had hit written all over it.  But such is the way of the world.  Not long after, band members started looking to the future and the band broke up.  They are still one of the best kept secrets the Pac NW has ever had.

The Talismen/She Was Good b/w Debbie & Gaylis/My Life Is So Lonely…..

Someone told me that Debbie & Gaylis was embarrassed by My Life Is So Lonely, but for the life of me I cannot imagine why.  They gave the song an aroma of innocence not heard since Patience & Prudence knocked the world on  its ear in the fifties with Tonight You belong To Me and the follow-up, Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now and God knows we needed more of that in the sixties.  It was recorded by tiny Julian Records out of Wenatchee, Washington and that label, oddly enough, put a different artist on the A-Side (Yep, as good as it is to my ears, My Life Is So Lonely was the B-Side).  Well, not an artist exactly, but a different band:  The Talismen.  Whoever those guys were, they laid down as good a hook and groove as any band in those days.  It was classic guitar, organ and bass with simple drum beat and, man, it, like she, was good.  Especially when the vocalist ripped into his minor league Gerry Roslie (The Sonics) scream.  A great moment in what I believe to be a great song.  I could listen to both sides of this 45 for hours.  And, no, they weren’t The Sonics but I liked them just as much.

Bluebird…..

… was one of those bands which struggled to gain a following and more than a few of us wondered why.  They leaned more toward the folk-rock side, utilizing a twelve-string, jazzy riffs and harmony vocals which at times were so good that every time I hear them, they make me laugh.  This was Pac NW at its best, my friends, and while all songs were maybe not as good as Goin’ Down or Modessa, they are all worth hearing and the highs of those two songs alone are reason enough to buy an album.  If they ever had one.  Writer and collector Neal Skok and I spent a good half hour ruminating over the injustice handed Bluebird.  When the conversation ended, we had not even scratched the surface of our frustrations.

The Viceroys…..

… may be one of the best stories of sixties’ Northwest rock.  They struck hard and fast with their instrumental, Granny’s Pad, in the early- or mid-sixties and took off on a run few bands are ever lucky enough to have.  The band spawned Jim Valley, who eventually jumped to the good ship Don & The Goodtimes before signing on with Paul Revere & The Raiders (Where the Action fans will remember him as Harpo), but after Valley left, The Viceroys continued on.  They had a number of successful singles and one very well received album in The Viceroys at Granny’s Pad, but really hit the mark with one of their last singles as The Viceroys, That SoundBolo Records‘ head Tom Ogilvy had taken them to Los Angeles for a recording session and they came back with what turned out to be a last chance at Northwest success.  That Sound received massive airplay all over the Pac Northwest and had a hook and a half, but even airplay did not help.  Through a series of connections, the band ended up signing with Columbia Records as The Surprise Package and re-recording That Sound for them under the title Out of My Mind.  That version was a lesser version, unfortunately, and the band, after recording one album for LHI Record (Lee Hazlewood‘s label) morphed into American Eagle and finally gave up the ghost.  They left a long string of good songs in their wake and one great one (That Sound) and are one of the unsuccess stories I wish I could change, but I can’t.

Thing is, I lived those days and I wish I could let you live them too because you’re never going to understand what it was like unless you were there.  You are going to forever remember the Pac Northwest as the training ground for Paul Revere & The Raiders and The Sonics and only a few of you will take the time to look under the sheets for the real music.  I look back and I think, man, how lucky was I to have been there!  I was.  Extremely lucky.  You could offer me fifty years more life for my memories and I wouldn’t take them.  Those were my years.  And that was my sound….. That Sound.

NOTES:  Seriously, sports fans, I said the music was coming out of the woodworks and it really, really is!  Bright Giant, those Debutantes From Des Moines, will have their album in their hot little hands soon, but in the meantime sent me their song files.  It’s another primo effort, maybe a bit more sparse than the songs on their five-song self-titled EP, but just as good.  Think early Rolling Stones with a healthy dose of early Black Crowes.  You might even notice a bit of The Yardbirds because guitarist Noah Mass has evidently gone feedback crazy!  Killer stuff!  You can stream a lot of the new tracks here…..  Lisbee Stainton, that pretty little angel-voiced girl who spent much of this year touring with Joan Armatrading and Paul Carrack in Europe, just released her new album titled Go.  I have heard only one track so far, but it was a good one.  Her last effort, Girl On an Unmade Bed, was packed with folk/pop of a higher nature, if you know what I’m getting at.  Here is a link…..  I can’t remember if I mentioned Jesse Dee & Jacquie B in my last column, but if I did, it bears repeating.  Our Ghosts Will Feel These Walls is one of those albums you really have to hear to believe.  The musicianship is remarkable.  If no one else cares, musicians have to hear this just to retain credibility.  Jesse & Jacquie, I could kiss you, your album is so good!  Here is a link to their site…..  Next week will once again be mystery week.  I’m so flaky I have to write on the fly these days.  That’s okay, though.  Being organized might take all the fun out of this.  So until next week…..

We now have an email address where all of us here at Don’t Believe a Word I Say can be contacted: dbawis@rogers.com Please use it to ask questions, tell us what you’d like to read about, links you’d like to share, and let us hear what you have to say.

Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

 

4 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: The Pacific Northwest…That Sound!”

  1. Great reading about these bands, Frank. It’s a scene I know very little about but have occasionally investigated through the, sadly, now defunct Pacific Northwest Bands website. But Spin The Groove has posted the Talismen’s track here: http://www.spinthegroove.com/2011/04/talismen-she-was-good.html

    PS – Rhino has put out a FOUR disc boxed set of “Louie Louie” covers in recent years

  2. Nice column Frank. I still have that casstte you made for me in the 1980’s that you labeled “That Sound.” Without the prejudice of knowing who all the bands where, “That Sound” (the song) became a fav power pop song to me. My jaw dropped when I found out who it was.

    I do believe the pacific Northwest Bands website is still around… http://pnwbands.com/

  3. Doug Shirk Says:

    There’s a discussion of The Talisman (and The Chargers) on Garage Hangover. Julian Records was operated by Wenatchee DJ Don Brenier, and you can find some very interesting music from the label on a the Julian Records facebook page. Brenier, who was an institution in Wenatchee on KMEL–KW3, passed away last year.

  4. https://www.facebook.com/18andAbusedPassword

    Frank Gutch Jr: The Pacific Northwest…That Sound! | Segarini: Don’t Believe a Word I Say

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