Okay lovers of the Northwest Sounds –
For March we are gonna get real and spend quality time with the original kings of NW rock – The Fabulous Wailers!
Buck Ormsby, the last of the “Louie” Wailers left the building last November. Besides being the Tacoma band that started it all in the Pacific Northwest, the Wailers started the first NW artist-owned indie label, Etiquette Records, a trend that wouldn’t really take off in the NW until punk rock rolled in during the late 70’s. Buck’s story about starting the label is right here! Beside The Wailers (and others), Etiquette released the most savage work of The Sonics, their first two albums.
The Wailers started out in the late fifties playing Northwest clubs and had their first hit “Tall Cool One” one of many instrumental dance numbers. They changed the world when they came up with their version of the Pacific Northwest National Anthem, “Louie Louie”, which was the version every other version was based on. The Kingsmen’s national hit version is basically just a straight copy of the Wailers. Just saying. As the sixties progressed and it was time for skunky garage rock The Wailers pounded out the magnificent “Out Of Our Tree” and “Hang Up.” So great. When I did my History of NW Rock album a year or so ago (with the lovely New Pagan Gods), it had three Wailers songs, more than anybody else, even those mighty Sonics. These guys were bad ass.
I’d known Buck since the 80’s when I started my own label and somewhere along the way, paths crossed. When I think of Buck “curmudgeon” is the first word that comes to mind. I mean that in only the most endearing way. I stopped by Buck’s in Ruston a couple years ago to get some Sonics materials. My twenty-something son was with me and I told him pay attention – this was the real deal.
The last time I saw Buck was last summer. I was in Tacoma with my mom for her birthday and took her to the theater district for lunch. We walked by Guitar Maniacs and there was Buck sitting on a bench outside, reading stuff on his iPhone. Didn’t stop – it was Mom’s day – but I like that picture in my brain. Good man. There will be a Buck tribute show with many old pals in Tacoma March 26.
It is my great pleasure to include some thoughts about Buck from knowledgeable journalistic machine Frank Gutch Jr.: “I always thought Buck was Ormsby’s first name. No one ever called him John in my presence. Buck. It fit. I saw him play once at the National Guard Armory in Albany, Oregon. A warm summer’s night with The Sonics and The Wailers. An unforgettable experience. The hot ticket was, of course, The Sonics. They had had the recent hits— a string of them, though you wouldn’t call them hits. Most were just tracks off their albums. The Wailers, though, they didn’t need any hits. When they plugged in, they owned the Armory— loud, raucous, powerful. I don’t remember really seeing Buck but I hardly remember anything except how goddamn good they sounded and how powerful they really were. They made you sweat from the inside out.”
“When I got to Seattle in the late seventies, Buck was then with Jr. Cadillac. We talked a little about The Wailers when I first met him, but Cadillac dominated all conversations from there on out. He loved those guys. When Les Clinkingbeard, Ned Neltner and Buck came into the Peaches store I worked at, it was guaranteed standup comedy time. I rarely laughed that hard. People outside of the Pac Northwest probably have not heard of Jr. Cadillac. Let us just say that they owned the bar circuit alongside a few others. When Cadillac played, it was a party!”
“Buck would occasionally visit me at the store for information. He was not in tune with the record business like he had been when he and Kent Morrill were running Etiquette Records. It was confusing to him. So he would stop by to ask a few questions and, inevitably, the guys who worked with me would pull him aside. He was more a great guy than legend. Hell, if you called him one, he would probably have left. But he was one.”
“I know great guys when I meet them. I remember when Tom Ogilvy, who ran Seafair-Bolo Records with his wife Ellen, handed me a couple of old tapes he had just uncovered in his basement. He had no idea how they got there but they contained four different versions of The Sonics doing “The Witch,” I believe. I almost didn’t accept them because I was afraid of breaking them. They were a Holy Grail in my mind. Mr. Ogilvy quietly said, “you wouldn’t happen to have Bucks’ phone number, would you?” Buck and I laughed about that. He had no idea how they ended up in the Ogilvy’s basement, either.”
So, getcher groove on with The original sound of the Pacific Northwest, The Fabulous Wailers. All these songs come the the out-of-print Boys From Tacoma anthology on Etiquette, but there is plenty of fine Wailers material to be had out there.
In Other news, next month we will be releasing the GMR debut of NW sub-legends pronounced AAIIEE – the album is Folly, mystical soup of NW entertainment if there ever was. In May we will bring you the debut of Shaken Growlers – 1,2,3,4, baby gotta have some more.
Upcoming show- Saturday March 18 – The Navins at Substation; Friday April 14 AAIIEE Record Release show at Darrell’s, with the return of The Squirrels. Should be swell!
td March 2017
The Wailers – selections from The Boys From Tacoma Anthology 1961-1969
(NOTE: We are having some issues with SoundCloud that hosts the files and four of the songs are not loading yet. We will update this when they do.)
1. Tall Cool One
2. Louie Louie
3. Wailers House Party
5. Dirty Robber
8. Baby Don’t You Do It
9. The Wailer
10. You Weren’t Using Your Head
11. Out of Our Tree
12. Hang Up
13. It’s You Alone
The Wailers: Kent Morrill, Rich Dangel, Mike Burk, Mark Marush,
Buck Ormsby, Ron Gardner, Neil Andersson, David Roland, Denny Weaver
and Special Guest Rockin’ Robin Roberts