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The Boys From Tacoma

Post by Michael Allen on April 6, 2009 at 10:20 am with 3 Comments »
April 6, 2009 10:20 am

Surely it is okay to talk about the Wailers on a Pacific Northwest editorial website. And I don’t mean "Bob Marley and the Wailers" for crying out loud. I mean THE Wailers, the Boys from Tacoma. In case you haven’t heard, they’ll be co-starring alongside the Ventures (another Tacoma band) at the Moore in Seattle next Friday night.

Many northwesterners who were teeneagers in the 60s have a Wailers story. Mine has to do with the difficulty of picking up KJR (95am) radio in Ellensburg. At night-time it was possible; in your car cruising down 8th in front of Central Washington State College, the rock and roll waves from KJR came in on pretty strong.

Daytime was harder; the signal came in and out. But where there’s a will…

My best friend, Lloyd Nickel, lived across from the "Big Pool" on Poplar and 6th. On a hot summer day, the Big Pool was about as good as it got in Greasewood City (aka Ellensburg). Lloyd brought the radio outside via an extension cord; he placed it on a lawn chair in the exact right location, antenna extended. Full tilt boogy. Disc Jockey Pat O’Day came on the air prime time, the 2pm to 5pm show.

Everyone knows the Wailers’ "Tall Cool One," but my memory is the "Seattle" 45rpm. It’s ironic that the Boys from Tacoma would call a signature tune "Seattle," but Wailer Kent Morrill explains the song was originally called "Dallas." Its post-November 22, 1963, release found it renamed. Marketing.

They didn’t need to market that song to me, man. It starts out hard with drums, 2 bars, then Buck Ormsby blasts in on bass, then Kent electronc piano; then guitar. They all amp up and continue to rock. "Seattle" is all instrumental, a motif of the Northwest (and west coast) sound at that time. And those drums! I am sure other regions had drummers who could do syncopated push-beats, but this was the first time I had heard any drum kit move like that.

Where did they learn that syncopation? Fort Lewis was 10 miles south and Jackson Street 40 miles north of the Boys from Tacoma. Northwesterners didn’t have to go to Memphis to learn rock and roll; the South came to us.

And all of that blasted out of a tiny (1"?) speaker in an AM radio on a lawn chair in front of the Big Pool in Ellensburg, Washington, summer 1964.

Ed McClanahan once aptly wrote: "It was at this moment that I discovered there was such a thing as art, and I had to get me some."

Editorial cartoons
Leave a comment Comments → 3
  1. I’m trying to figure out two things: 1) Do I want to go to my Funk and Wagonal’s to try and figure out what a “sycopated push-beat” is, and 2) what in God’s name is this doing on a politics blog where we comment on the going’s on around us?
    I mean, I dig 60’s instrumentals all day long. I’d rather listen to the Surfari’s, The Wailers and The Venture’s all day long than anything written after 1975. With a very few exceptions, There hasn’t been a decent album produced since 1975.
    But don’t comments like this belong on a music blog? It is better than the usual right-wing, Rush Limburger stuff though

  2. This isn’t Political Buzz, it’s Inside the Editorial Page – what’s on the minds of our editorial writers. That encompasses a spectrum of opining that goes far beyond the political.

  3. WALTERS1221 says:

    Man, oh man … I grew up in Tacoma going to High School and University of Puget Sound with most of the Wailers and Sonics (circa 1964 1968) and this was and IS the best-est music around … Tacoma Armory, Spanaway Lake Dance Hall and other venues in and around Tacoma were definitely rockin in those days!

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