Frank Gutch Jr: The Pac Northwest— Redux….. In the Way of Explanation

FrankJr2When I wrote this past week’s column about the Pacific Northwest music scene (read it here), I left it feeling as if it wasn’t quite done.  You may have gotten an idea of what it was like but unless you lived it, you don’t.  I knew my little corner of the Willamette Valley and I am sure that Seattle people my age knew Seattle and Portland people knew Portland, but if you weren’t there it was a different planet.  I came to that realization while re-watching the documentary which highlighted the aforementioned column— the one laying out EJD Enterprises and the part Ed Daugherty played in the lives of so many musicians and teens back in the sixties’ Willamette Valley of Oregon.

I had seen the doc once but had not taken notes and it is a documentary made for note-taking, especially for music “historians” like myself.  The second time through, I had my notebook handy and all sorts of things came to mind.  But before I dive into it in more detail, if you lived in the Pac Northwest during those years or have a real interest in the early days of the rock teen scenes of the sixties, I am once again posting this video as a must-see.  Pay close attention and you will either relive your experiences or will learn something.  Either way, you will be better for it, I hope.

One thing you need to know is that the “music industry” in those days was not anywhere near as corporate as it would come even a very few years later.  It was every man for himself in those meierandfrankdays and if you had money, all the better.  You didn’t really need it if you were a real promoter, though.  Many times, especially if you were a local, your word was good enough to get things going.  And if you made good on your word once, it opened doors.  In Daugherty’s case, they opened fast.

The second is that there were not that many record stores around in those days.  Real record stores.  I know that the closest ones to my hometown of Sweet Home, Oregon were in Albany, about 30 miles distant (Albany Music, which sold mainly instruments, racked 45s for a short time) and Eugene (Thompson’s Record Mart was an oasis for kids looking to feed that vinyl fix— I went there every time I ended up in Eugene if I could talk my parents into it).  The mainstays of records were the many department stores in the various towns— the Fred Meyer’s and Bon Marche‘s and Meier & Franks.  I remember very distinctly going into the basement at Eugene’s Bon Marche to the record bin and finding an interesting album by some clown act out of Texas calling themselves The 13th Floor Elevators, that big psychedelic eye following me everywhere until I bought it just to stop it.  You can imagine my surprise when I took that record home.  I bought more than a few albums in that basement.

The third is that radio ruled the roost.  If it didn’t get played on radio, more times than not you had no idea it existed.  And it hadn’t been that long since radio had taken over from the previous powerhouse of music, jukeboxes.  Man, there are books about jukeboxes and their influence on the music biz.  You should try to find one or two.  Fascinating stuff.

cottonwoodsfatsThe fourth is that while concerts and dances were a part of the business, it was a very small part outside of certain major cities.  Adjust your mindset from thousands to hundreds and even less and you pretty much describe the attendance at most major concerts/dances.  I haven’t been able to find information about The Cottonwoods Ballroom outside of Albany, Oregon, but I would venture to say that jam-packed, it held less and a thousand, and I’m sure that was the limit for acts like Bobby Darin and Fats Domino, not to mention earlier acts like Woody Herman and (so some people say) Bob Wills.

The fifth had to do with equipment.  I know most of you think that equipment is pretty much ready whenever you have the bucks to wander into a guitar store, but back then, there were very few guitar stores.  If you wanted, say, a Fender Showman amplifier, and they had a few different models for your choosing, you had to get it from an official fender dealer and many times had to wait for it to be shipped.  It wasn’t until the late sixties that the competition got amped up enough (amped… get it?  I got a million of ’em) to make it worth handling electric equipment in quantities enough to do the job.  From the mid-sixties on, it seemed like everyone wanted to play in a band.  Good thing, too.  Because kids wanted to dance.  A lot.

The point is that if you want to understand the period, you have to adjust yourself to the period.

An aside:  I attended The Eugene Pop Festival in the summer of ’69.  Until I saw the EJD doc the second time, I had forgotten who was scheduled to play outside of the bands which showed.  It was evidently EJD-backed and when the poster showed as a graphic, I stopped the frame so I could copy the list.  Here are the bands scheduled to play:  The Doors, The Young Bloods (sic), The Byrds, Alice Cooper, Them, Peter (who, if I recall correctly, were introduced as Peter & The Wolves), River, Truth, The Bumps, Tyme, Zu (I think a later version of The City Zu), and Grant’s Blueboys.  Of those acts, The Byrds and The Youngbloods and Them were all definite no-shows and I remember neither River, Truth, The Bumps, Tyme, Zu, nor Grant’s Blueboys playing.  The one act which wasn’t on the poster which did play was Rockin’ Foo, who impressed me enough that I actually searched for their record, released later that fall.  No-shows were always a problem in the early days, Sly & The Family Stone setting the record by not showing more than showing.  That’s a joke, but it might be true, for all I know.

edelvisMy earlier rundown of the Pac NW might have given you the idea that Daugherty was bringing in mainly NW artists and that is true, but only to a degree.  While EJD spring-boarded off of the success of the dances with NW artists, they quickly became a major promoter.  If you watch the video all the way through, you’ll see that they were a major player in the rock circuit, bringing in artists such as The Everly Brothers, The DC5, Sonny & Cher, Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Zombies, and The Lovin’ Spoonful, among many others.  And the thing about it was that the vast majority of those shows were booked as dances!  Well, concert/dances was what they called them, but they were dances.  And while the stars played, the kids danced!  Did that happen anywhere else?  I’m not really sure.  (That is Ed Daugherty holding the Elvis jacket)

pa-speakersThe early sixties saw a handful of bands covering Portland and the Willamette Valley, most of them playing instrumentals.  The PA (which stood for Public Address) was always a problem.  Eventually, companies which did sound for the fairs and high school stadiums began selling to bands and promoters.  Bogen was the PA amp of choice, most 100 Watts or less.  I think it was one of the guys from Morning Reign in the EJD doc who mentioned Atlas horns.  Many of the bands I saw ran their mics through University or JBL horns.  You know what they are.  They still hang from light poles at football stadiums.  Bands (or promoters) would put stands on each side of the stage with horns facing out from a certain height and all would be good.  Good enough, anyway.  It would be well into the late sixties that bands and promoters would start picking up PA systems which could really handle the sound— Voice of Theater speakers being the first company to really make a dent.  I mean, if you had VoT’s, you were special.

There was something about those times, too.  It was like we were passing through some kind of Twilight Zone or time warp.  It all started in black & white and very slowly began shifting toward color.  We lived in a musical Pleasantville, if you will.  Music was growing fast and the music began changing with the sound.  Amps got bigger and louder, PA systems got way better and new models of various instruments made better sound.  Music was becoming an industry.

dgoodtimestrishaPart of the coolness of the old days lies not only in the sound, but in the gimmicks.  Paul Revere & The Raiders had the most noticeable— the revolutionary war outfits and the steps in unison.  They were the cool rock side of Motown and Chicago soul with a huge side of fun.  Don & The Goodtimes followed suit (suit, get it?) by donning top hats and tails.  I can’t remember whether it was The Redcoats or The Coachmen or Gentleman Jim & The Horsemen who wore livery uniforms— you know, like the servants in olden British times who were responsible for the horse and carriage.  Most bands dressed similarly as a group until ’67 or so when regions all over began losing regional identity.  I think the last of the bands who actually wore costumes, outside of the Raiders whose costumes were part of their identity outside of as well as in the band, was Eugene’s The Moguls, who wore ski outfits (sans skis and poles, of course).  The bottom line, though, was that if you couldn’t play, it didn’t matter what you wore.  It was all about the music.

Dominions1965Attending the University of Oregon from ’65 to ’69, I was lucky enough to have seen and danced to a number of impressive bands— impressive enough to play frat and sorority as well as all-campus dances.  It seemed like every Saturday night was an opportunity.  My buddies and I would walk the streets on campus, listening for sounds.  If they didn’t come from a frat or sorority, we could usually get in.  Some frats/sororities/co-ops threw dances occasionally as fundraisers, usually fifty-cents or so.  That’s how I came to hear The Dominions.

We were just looking for a band and there was a dance going on in the lobby of one of the dorms, so we decided to check it out.  From outside, the sound was muddled, but you got the beat.  By the time we made our way through the crowd, it had become infectious.  The Dominions, the cloth sign said.  I had not heard of them.  They played mostly covers— good rock hits of the day— but they had this one song which really caught my ear.  I would find out the next week that it was their new single, I Need Her.  There was something about the simple chord progression and the way the band used dynamics.  I liked it and so did the rest of the crowd (and it was packed!).  That song shot up the charts at radio station KASH, maybe even reaching #1 for a short time.  If they didn’t, they came close and stayed in the Top Ten for some time.  This, sports fans, is why I loved KASH:

Jack_Ely_v3You know that guy who sang Louie Louie for The Kingsmen?  That guy’s name was Jack Ely and he left the band right after the song was recorded.  When he tried to rejoin after the song became a smash, the band rejected him, so he formed his own band which he called Jack Ely & The Kingsmen.  That didn’t last long, as the Kingsmen named rightfully belonged to the still-together band, so Ely changed the “backing band’s” name to The Courtmen and Jack Ely & The Courtmen were born.  With a name like that, they decided to adopt the costume style of the royal courts of England and went about trying to hit the charts.  Their first release, on Bang! Records by the way, was this remake of Louie Louie titled Louie Louie ’66.  A slicker version of the original Kingsmen track, it hit hard in the Pac NW and nowhere else.  An interesting sidenote is that future Don & The Goodtimes and Raiders’ member Charlie Coe was the Courtmen’s guitar player.

Few things came out of the Northwest which made a real impact on the rest of the world, but Louie Louie steamrolled the entire country and its legend still grows.  Here is a radio interview with Jack Ely who states his remembrances of the recording of that song.  Fascinating stuff.

Funny story.  I was working at Licorice Pizza in L.A. one day and this guy walks in and asks one of my co-workers if anyone knew anything about The Kingsmen.  They pointed in my direction damnationand he approached me.  “Ever hear of Jack Ely?” he asked.  “Sure.  Sang Louie Louie for The Kingsmen.  Had his own band called Jack Ely & The Courtmen.”  “So the guy’s legit?”  If it is Jack, yes.”  Turns out the guy was Ray Benich who had played bass for Damnation, a band I held in high esteem.  He had been approached by Jack to write songs together.  A few days later, Jack himself walked in and we talked.  He was a pretty cool guy and was struggling for cash, so he asked if he could work at the store for a few weeks so he could eat.  The manager Daryl hired him on the spot.  Unfortunately, I was heading out to open a new store in San Diego, so we never really got a chance to talk much.  Opportunity missed.

cityzudotpromoSo I’m riding around Seattle with one of my Army buddies and we see this band in a park— you know, the kid with picnic tables and a barbecue setup— and we head over to see what’s going on.  They weren’t bad, but they kept having their power source cut off because they were plugged into a coin-operated electric plug.  One of the guys said that they were City Zu and were just out because it was a nice day and thought it would be cool to play in the park.  I offered to feed the machine quarters, an offer they quickly agreed to, but it just wouldn’t work.  You could only put in one quarter at a time to set the timer and it would just eat quarters unless the power had turned off.  We talked for a bit.  They were really nice guys.  I’m not even sure if it was really them, but it was cool, nonetheless.

That would have been a later version of the band if it was them.  They hit it fairly big in the NW in the late sixties with a couple of tracks on major labels but faded into relative obscurity by the time that would have taken place, around ’70 or so.  They were always a favorite of mine, though.  Here’s why.

Note:  The next track was more produced and, more than likely used less of the band itself.  The song was written by Glen Campbell and Jerry Fuller, which explains the overly-produced sound.

Few outside of the Pac NW are aware, but Don & The Goodtimes had three basic eras, at least when it came to recording.  The first was the Jerden/Wand phase which had the original band.  The second was the Jim Valley-dominated phase, which saw the band up their game in terms of danceability while expanding their sound.  The third was the full-fledge Goodtimes band, flashed out and sounding a bit like The Cowsills in terms of stacked harmonies and pop hooks, thanks largely to Ron Overman, who had climbed the stairs from The King Biscuit Entertainers.  I think when you watch these videos, youy will understand.

Don Gallucci, the “Don” of the Goodtimes, had one last album in him.  He reached out to friends from other bands over the years and formed a band called Touch and scored an album deal with the Coliseum label.  That album is unlike any other in his or any of the other band members’ musical existences.  Set yourself.  This is a mind trip, of sorts.

Tiny Tony had a hit in Seattle back in the early sixties which had the feel and sound of almost every Pac NW band of the time.  He formed a band around him he called The Statics, one member destined for a major hit— Merrilee Rush.  After the Statics ran its course, Merrilee and husband Neil formed Merrilee & The Turnabouts and packed armories all over the NW.  Eventually, she ended up at American Sound Studio in Memphis, recording a Top Ten hit, Angel of the Morning.

If you’re curious about the old days of Northwest rock, Peter Blecha has written a book which is as good a basic primer as I have found titled Sonic Boom!  The History of Northwest Rock.  Blecha has spent years doing interviews, compiling information and gathering mementos which he uses with yeoman’s touch— just enough without wearing you (as a reader) out.  Hopefully, we will see more from Blecha, who certainly has more to tell.  You can check it out here.


Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

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DBAWIS ButtonFrank 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.” 




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