Frank Gutch Jr: Pac Northwest Music History in Website’s Clothing; Plus Notes…..

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Summers!  What a trip!  At least they were for me in my uber-enthusiastic youth.  Cutting the gut in Albany, two towns over, Radio Station KRKT blasting Sean & The BrandywinesShe Ain’t No Good while my buddies and I looked for ladies.  Driving over the bridge into Corvallis, Radio KFLY doing the same with The SonicsLouie Louie.  Late Spring on a drive home, Eugene’s Radio KASH giving us The Five AmericansI See the Light.  Driving with the windows down on a cold night listening to Fontella Bass (Rescue Me), Lou Christie (Lightning Strikes), Love (Little Red Book), and The Mojo Men (Dance With Me).  Man, could life get any better?

Not much, as far as I’m concerned, because the airwaves were pitching more strikes in those days than there was room for.  Hell, if radio did it today, there would still be radio, which there really isn’t.

Too bad, really.  Music was something back in those days— the late fifties and then sixties and the early seventies.  They call the early days Golden Age of Radio but they kind of got it wrong.  The era of Rock ‘n’ roll and then rock was the Golden Age.  I know.  I lived it.

It was the age of disc jockeys too and like Bob Segarini is always fond of saying, they became members of your family.  Radio stations were sports franchises, successful ones.  The bands?  Man, the bands were your lifeblood.  Back then, concerts were a rare thing, at least in terms of what we think of today.  They were concerts at rodeos and car shows and for awhile grand openings of stores and shopping centers.  There were venues, but the vast majority were for dancing and not for viewing, per se.

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I remember one day talking with Barry Curtis of The Kingsmen, he telling me the story of hearing The Kingsmen on the radio as they toured the country.  Shopping centers, he said, were huge for them.  Get there, set up on a stage in front of one of the stores, play and pack up and move on to the next.  That interspersed with teen dances and county fairs.  What a life, huh?  Oh, what he said about hearing their music on radio was that they never failed to turn up the radio.  It was a thrill.

But I digress.  While the rest of the Don’t Believe a Word I Say crew are humping it in Toronto for Canadian Music Week, I sit here in my room in Oregon, awash in memories and music and sipping water (no liquor or coffee for me lately— deadens the mind).  I have one of the coolest of all websites to help me live my musical Disney dreams and I’m enjoying the hell out of it.

That site is the pnwbands.com page and it is run by good friend Sammy Carlson, but maybe I should qualify that.  He does not go by Sammy and I know him only through the pages of pnwbands, but he has become Sammy to me.  He has built a site I wish every region in the US and Canada would build.  It is an electronic version of Jaime Vernon‘s excellent tome, The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia, only limited to the Pac Northwest.  Like Vernon’s work, Sammy has gone way beyond the edge compiling and adjusting and updating like you won’t believe.  I’m even on a couple of pages, for my bands The Survivors (click here) and A Six Pack (click here).  Here is something you neither know nor care about, but the band pictured as A Six Pack was really an interim band we called The N Crowd.  I really need to contact Sammy and get that corrected.

The pnwbands site is quite like none other I have come across regarding depth.  Sammy allows posts of any band or artist who played during the various decades covered.  As long as it is verified.  Looking through the pages brings back a ton of memories and I thought I might share a few with you.  Let us start with…

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GRANT’S BLUEBOYS—  My first band, The Survivors, lost a battle of the bands to these guys one summer.  We had no idea there was even going to be one until a disc jockey from Lebanon, Oregon’s KGAL radio called and asked us if we would like to enter.  A chance to play in front of people?  Hell, yeah, we said!  Of course, right after we hung up the phone we started getting nervous.  Our equipment was sparse (we ran two guitars and vocals through one amp and our piano player played acoustic— meaning no amplification).  The only gigs we had ever played were dances at good ol’ Sweet Home Union High and they were short, taking place after football and basketball games.  I’m surprised my high school mates didn’t stone us to death or something, we were so bad, but the dances I didn’t play, I only cared about dancing with the girl of choice and getting that euphoric waft of hair spray and perfume in my nostrils.  I remember getting grilled by Dad—- Did you dance?  Yep.  Good looking?  Well, they were nice and they sure smelled good.  Dad would shake his head and walk away.

Anyway, the battle was at the Lebanon Guard Armory and there were probably six or eight bands there.  I knew we were in trouble the second we started dragging our equipment in to set up.  One band couldn’t have been out of junior high, they looked so young, but they could play.  Most were as lackluster as were we, though they all had better equipment.  But the stars of the show, from the standpoint of equipment and presentation alone, were what was then called Grant & The Blueboys.  They had the slick clothes and nice big Fender amps and the stage presence and everything that we lacked.  By the end of the afternoon (it was a Saturday gig, I think), we knew we’d been clonked.  Grant and the boys ran away with the prize.  The prize, as I remember it, was a recording contract with Garland Records, a label started by one Terry Garland who managed bands and promoted concerts in the Willamette Valley.  I found the single years later in a used record bin somewhere.  Love Is Such a Game b/w If I Were a Carpenter.  I admit to being envious to the point of jealousy that afternoon.  I wondered how you could possibly lose when you had equipment like that.  I found out later that it was easy.  Talent had something to do with it.  I left Oregon for awhile and when I came back found that Grant had died in, I believe, a car accident.

THE MOGULS (Later, Round Randy & The Moguls)—

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The Moguls, from Eugene, started out as another band playing frat and sorority parties but with a twist.  They keyed on the ski scene.  One thing you have to know is that the University of Oregon is not all that far from one of the better ski slopes in Oregon, Mt. Bachelor, and when ski season hit, the campus was a ghost town on weekends.  Back in the mid-60s, thick sweaters and ski pants were quite the rage as fashion and The Moguls would dress up in such garb whilst stomping out surf/ski/hot rod dance tunes for their fans.  I attended one dance at the student union on campus and it was packed, up to a thousand kids, and I have to admit, they were pretty damn good.

They had a single, you see.  Not many bands did.  They recorded it themselves oat Graves Recordings Service, a recording studio which usually recorded high school and college bands, and I don’t mean the rock kind.  Bands, you know?  Marching and concert.  Well, one day The Moguls headed out to Graves and recorded a couple of tracks and had them pressed on Graves’ own label— Avalanche, it was called, and it was a mash up of everything you would have expected from Dick Dale to The Astronauts.  Crunching, vile, spewing, volcanic.  The 45 was good but you had to see them live to get the effect.  They started it with rumble and feedback from the echo and reverb chambers in their amps, then ripped into ski/surf madness.  When they were on, they were outstanding.

Round Randy, by the way, became a disc jockey at my favorite radio station in Eugene during the band’s last couple of year run.  He was as good a DJ as he was a vocalist.  They played a lot of Animals songs in their later years— Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Boom Boom, We Gotta Get Out of This Place.  I never heard any bands do them better.

THE BARDS— 

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What year was it that The Bards hit the airwaves with Never Too Much Love?  Man, that puppy got a ton of airplay all over the Willamette Valley.  It had this organ/bass intro which I thought was next to impossible to duplicate live (hey, I was a kid!) but when I went to see them at the Lebanon Guard Armory, they had it down!  The sound was a bit muffled, mainly because they were playing on the floor— for some reason the risers were not available, but they were good!  They went through their repertoire like a hot knife through butter— little time between songs and sometimes none at all.  Great for dancing, lousy for getting a breather.

That repertoire?  Everything from the aforementioned hit Never Too Much Love to their followup Tunesmith to Goodtime Charlie’s Got the Blues to the standards they could not get away with not playing— covers of Raiders and Kingsmen and various R&B songs blanketing radio.  The band eventually signed what we considered a major label deal with Capitol and we thought they were gone.  Things happened, but not enough.  They eventually changed their name to Moses Lake, signed a deal with Brother Records and worked with Curt Boettcher and Keith Olsen, the same team which put The Millennium on the map.  Well, my map, anyway.

There were lots of bands in the Northwest at that time which had a chance to move beyond regional.  I really never understood why these guys didn’t make it.  They had the talent and the attitude.  Maybe they were too nice a guys or something.  I only saw them play that once.  It was good enough to have stuck in my mind right up to the present.

LIVERPOOL FIVE— 

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Huh.  Learn something new every day.  I always thought the Liverpool Five were based out of Seattle but the pnwbands page says Spokane.  Of all places.  Not exactly a hotbed of music, but then again, Spokane is connected to Johnny Ray, Jimmie Rodgers (the folk/pop dude), and Yma Sumac, so that’s what I get for thinking.

Back in ’66, these guys bumped right up against my favorites, largely on the basis of their first single, Heart.   First time I heard it, via KGAL, I was in love.  Powerful, great vocals, instrumentally solid, I knew they were going somewhere.  And they did.  To Los Angeles where they pretty much died on the vine.  Hell, I don’t know that, but it sure seemed like it.  One moment they were Northwest favorites, the next they were in L.A. and off the airwaves.

Arrive and OutTheir first album, Arrive, was a killer Brit rockin’ R&B album and Heart a perfect in to AM radio.  By the time they came out with their second album, Out of Sight, they were, pretty much.  The Northwest that supported them turned a deaf ear and never looked back.  For myself, I picked up both albums as they were released and scrambled to find the 45s, though they were rather hard to come by in Oregon.  You know the mantra.  No airplay, no sales.  Still, every time I hear their music, I come up with the old “what if.”  Definitely a band worth collecting.

They were Brits, you know.  God knows why they moved to Spokane.

SAND— 

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When I got out of the Army, way back in the summer of ’71, I was talked into going to a free concert at Eugene’s Skinner’s Butte Park by a girlfriend.  There, I saw two bands which completely blew me away— Notary Sojac and Sand.  Completely different styles of music, two excellent bands, vocally and instrumentally.  I mean to tell you, I thought I had hit the jackpot!  Sojac was the most adventurous but was also a bit paranoid when it came to major labels, so the one or two chances they had to record pretty much passed them by, though they did record an album themselves which is now available (click here).

Sand, though. Plucked the brass ring and signed with Andy WilliamsBarnaby Records before having their dreams dashed through a very odd set of circumstances which I might write about sometime.  One album was released, but the timing sucked.  The self-titled album was released right on the cusp of the first oil crunch back in the early seventies— you know, the one where there were long lines waiting for gas and fights and stuff?  I guess you had to be there.  Anyway, some genius had come up with the idea of pressing one album on two discs and the promotion was “One album on two discs for free-flowing Sand…”  Nice Madison Avenue touch but it got blasted by the media for wasting oil (erm, you do know that vinyl is an oil product, do you not?).    Regardless, it was a solid album from a band which definitely had its own touch, mostly thanks to vocal harmonies and pedal steel/guitar licks by Jack Meussdorffer (later, a member of Quarterflash) and Dan Ross.

When it came time to follow the album up, a whole string of incidents came about which prevented a second release, so the band did one themselves (titled Head in the Sand) which did absolutely nothing.  I saw the band play live numerous times and was never disappointed.  I mean, they could have been huge!  It evidently was just not in the stars.  Luckily, the music is still available for hearing.  Dig the dual guitar licks on this.

THE TALISMEN— 

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I laugh when I think of The Talismen because I had never heard of them but while on a 45-fueled search party, came upon a copy of their single in, of all places, San Diego!  For a dime, I purchased the surprise of the decade.  The track is titled She Was Good and was the flip of a track by Debbie & Gaylis, a girl duo which is very period and damn good in itself.  The cool thing about She Was Good is that it has the real Pac Northwest feel to it— light but crunchy guitar, driving bass and drums, cool organ and a guy who had a scream to be used in only the right places.  They were from Wenatchee, folks.  That’s a little like being from Spillamacheen, for all you Canadian blokes out there.

DEBBIE & GAYLIS— 

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Someone told me that the girls didn’t like this so awful much.  I don’t know why.  This puppy has authentic girl group written all over it.  I think it’s a  classic!

FLOATING BRIDGE— 

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I saw Floating Bridge around ’71 at the Eagles Auditorium in Seattle opening for B.B. King and was impressed as hell.  They were well-versed in the blues as well as psychedelia and mixed it up pretty well.  Typical hippie setup— all sorts of odd equipment strewn across the stage and dual guitar leads aplenty.  Thing is, if I would have known it, I would have been even more impressed than I was.  The band included two Seattle guitar legends— Joe Johansen and Rich Dangel.

CALLIOPE—

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File this one under “we all started somewhere.”  This semi-psych band from the late sixties included none other than Danny O’Keefe, and if you don’t know who he is, look him up.  The guy is a legend in Washington and Oregon.  But before his songwriting really took off, this is what he was doing.

I could go on and on, but we have a few things to catch up on this week.  Which means, it’s time for them fantabulous

NotesNotes…..  It has been wa-a-a-ay too long since I heard from Craig Elkins, that Huffamoose guy.  It seems like just yesterday (though a few years ago) that I was plugging his downright off the map excellent album I Love You and claiming him the second coming of Randy Newman.  I mean, the guy has talent way beyond the norm, in a New Yorker Magazine kind of way, as that album showed.  Well, Craig is back and the afterburners are fueled by a smattering of humor amidst musical peaks unheard since, well, Jim Lauderdale, who has evidently taken Craig’s spot.  We join Craig in the studio where he is telling the crew exactly how Lauderdale derailed his once burgeoning career, they reacting in their madcap but musical ways.  Man, I missed this guy.

Cool thing is, Craig’s resurgence allows me to share one of my all-time favorite videos.  I mean, the video is great, but put it together with lines like “don’t go any deeper, you’ll get your iPhone wet,” it has to be a hit, right?

By the way, recognize anyone?

Phoebe Bridgers was a kid the first time I heard her.  She is now a young lady and one hell of a singer/songwriter.  There is something about her delivery…..

Dave Gleason, a purveyor of many genres (but mainly West Coast Country & Western), grabs his telecaster and sets his head on “bobble-head” to bring us this instrumental version of The Beatles’ Taxman.  In case you missed it, Dave was guitarist in the latest album (Boardman) by Kip Boardman, a study in recording live.  Exceptional stuff.

Never heard Pacific Soul Ltd?   Well, you’re in luck!  The band is a soul-based Pop band featuring three prominent L.A. based musicians.  I’ve been following Adam Marsland for a number of years now, thanks to friend Howie Wahlen over at Green Monkey Records and it has been a good ride.  Teresa Cowles has been a part of Marsland’s core band and a natural for this lineup.  Norman Kelsey trades keyboard and guitar roles with Marsland on a constant basis, and Jon Braun, the drummer, drives the train.  They haven’t been around that long as a band but are right now wowing the Brits with their sense of R&B and funk.  Here’s an example.  Brand new and hot off the presses.

I’m not all rock ‘n’ roll.  Every once in awhile an artist comes along to pull me away from my comfort zone.  Such is Australia’s Munro Melano.  He has a strange jazz flow in some of his songs which I find entrancing.  Here is the video which captured my attention a few years ago.

And here is one from his latest EP.  A bit of Bill Puka in him, you say?  No, you don’t.  You don’t even know who Bill Puka is, but I liked him.

Here’s something of note.  A documentary about The Weber Brothers.  Who, you ask?  That’s why you need to plug in to the guys putting together this film.  It isn’t just about the bands which make it.  The real story is in the journey.  I love this kind of stuff.  Watch the vid (don’t worry, it’s short).  Then ask yourself if it is something you would want to see.  I’d be there in the front row of the premier, myself.  But that’s just me.

Australia’s Bill Jackson goes rock ‘n’ roll roots on his latest, a dose of reality in the form of a protest song from his upcoming album.  It’s taken him forever (his last album Jerilderie was released back in the Stone Age, it seems) and it is great to have him back.  Try it.  (You’ll understand when you hear it).  The great news is that Bill always plays with the best— Pete Fidler, Australia’s equivalent to Randy Kohrs on lap steel;  Shannon Bourne on electric guitar (he can play ANYthing on that puppy, swear to God), Dean Addison on upright bass; and Roger Bergodaz on drums.  I’ve heard most of the tracks from the album (at least, if Bill used the files he sent me) and I’m pumped!

Ladies and Gentlemen, JAMUL!  A bit of crazy rocking 1970.  Not only that, halfway through, a video of Zephyr, Boulder’s entry into the jazz/blues/rock sweepstakes, featuring Candy Givens on vocals and Tommy Bolin in his early stages.  Very cool.

When The Lisa Parade isn’t playing, she’s producing.  Here is a video of one of Lisa’s favorite bands (and I can see why).  I have to chuckle.  Stuff like this can make you a legend.  Ladies & Gentlemen, F U MaryLou!  (music produced by No Small Children‘s Lisa Parade.  Oh yeah, and the guy who lives with her.  Do I have to?  Okay.  Bob Marlette.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

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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