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From Jimi Hendrix to Heart to Nirvana,the Northwest has produced some musical giants. Geographically isolated, the area's cultural scenes have always been a bit skewed from major metropolitan centers. And through it all, the "Northwest Sound" has been influential in rock music for the past 40 years. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks and David Bowie all can be linked to this corner of the country by their quotes or music.
The fifties in the Northwest were an interesting melting pot. Clubs such as The Black and Tan, Birdland, and the Evergreen Ballroom routinely brought black R&B acts to town, and Ray Charles was based in the area. Rockabilly had made its presence known, and Elvis Presley was huge. It was out of this environment that five teenagers from Tacoma, Washington formed the Fabulous Wailers.
The Boys from Tacoma hit nationally while still in high school. "Tall Cool One" reached the national charts at #36 in June of 1959. Fame called the band to the East Coast for some appearances, including the Alan Freed Show and American Bandstand. Turning down high-powered management, they returned to the Northwest to dominate the local entertainment scene.
As with any band with a ten year longevity, membership changed in the Wailers. Kent Morrill (keyboards, lead vocals) was there for the band's entire history. Buck Ormsby (bass, guitar) joined immediately after "Tall Cool One" and lasted the duration. Over the years they had several guitar players: Rich Dangel, John Greek, Neil Anderson and Denny Weaver. The band's original drummer was Mike Burk and later Dave Roland. Mark Marush played tenor sax, and was replaced by Ron Gardner who also sang lead and developed into a compelling front man.. Frustrated about the way they were handled (or mishandled) by the major record labels, Ormsby, Morrill and Rockin' Robin Roberts formed their own "indie" record label "Etiquette". Thus, their material was self-recorded and self-promoted. They produced a number of other acts, and Etiquette has left a fine history of some of the Northwest's most gritty recordings.
The Wailers were always experimenting and progressing musically. They had several fine vocalists, and with Rockin' Robin Roberts cut the definitive version of "Louie Louie". The band also featured singer Gail Harris. She was only 13 years old when she first sang with the Wailers, and eventually became a regular during the early sixties. Audiences were so awed by the powerful performances by this group of musicians and singers that an album was produced called "The Wailers At The Castle" recorded live at the then famous Spanish Castle Ballroom this was the first record featuring. The Wailers ....Gail Harris,& Rockin' Robin Roberts all together. They often toured and recorded with female back-up singers The Marshans thus mulating and updating the R&B revue/extravaganzas that had been so influential years earlier. Songs such as "Hang Up" and "Out of Our Tree" showed their abilities with mid-sixties "punk rock", but they were certainly as talented in any other musical sub-genre of that magical decade.
The Wailers are probably directly responsible for the sixties rock explosion in the Northwest.
Paul Revere and the Raiders aspired to be as big as the Wailers .
The Kingsmen had a hit with the Wailers / Rockin' Robin's arrangement of "Louie Louie".
The Sonics were groomed and produced by the Wailers. The list goes on and on.
Beginning in the late seventies and through the 80's The Wailers joined together for a number of successful reunion concerts. Today a new wave of interest and fans all over the world have enticed "The Boys from Tacoma" to once again pick up their instruments and play their rock 'n' roll. A new Wailers CD recently released on the original Etiquette Record label is titled" The Boys from Tacoma" Anthology 1961-1969 and features 27 key recordings of the band.
(excerpts from an article by Neil Skok )
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