WHEN ROCK WAS YOUNG – a personal tale from the production’s research file
By Her Aim Is True director, Karen Whitehead
One of the first things I learned as a reporter was that sometimes the best stories you get to write about are the unexpected ones, the ones that reveal themselves over a chance remark, an old photo or encounter at a grocery store check-out. And like most journalists, my best interviews were the ones where I was able to spend several hours “hanging out” with my subject, talking over a cup of tea. At the end of this post, I am going to share with you a great story I found from notes on this album cover.The Sonics Busy Body!
Dedicated followers of this project, will know my passion for hearing personal stories like this – from early into the production I have been collecting comments for the film’s Memory Wall -(http://cargocollective.com/dellacciofilm/Memory-Wall). The reason is that I love that people’s experiences in life represent a unique snapshot of a time and place in history and as such, when retold, serve as a vital compliment to mainstream collective perceptions of historical events. My student years encountering that master of oral history gathering, Studs Terkel, probably had a lot to do with my fascination with this kind of storytelling. And just about every project I have been involved with has given me a chance to always delve further behind the scenes and beyond the headlines from which we usually make up our “history”.
While making my independent documentary Her Aim Is True about pioneering rock ‘n‘ roll photographer Jini Dellaccio, this has happened again. From day one there was so much hidden history wrapped up around the story of Jini Dellaccio’s remarkable documentation of some of the indie music scene’s pioneers in the early 1960s, it was hard not to be overwhelmed by it. I was familiar with Beatlemania and the early rock’n’roll scene, but who knew Tacoma, Washington State, was such a critical center of raw, northwest talent including early punkish bands like The Wailers and The Sonics? Where did “Louie, Louie” that rock anthem originate? (You will enjoy hearing this answered in the film). This backstory to how Jini ended up as the photographer of the moment has a lot to do with radio. In the film we hear memories of the teen dance scene and Jini’s role, including Pat O Day from Seattle’s KJR Radio, which was a top station in the US at the time. I tried to weave the elements of this backstory into the film, while keeping the focus on Jini’s artistry. Hopefully, with this film, some discarded history might now re-emerge and the retelling of rock’s early years will include Jini’s iconic images and better recognition of the scene she documented.
So now I am going to end this post by introducing Douglas Paterson, who I tracked down after reading the recording notes for The Sonics: Busy Body!!! Live in Tacoma 1964 which is released by Norton Records, by the way very important preservers of rare recordings and a great resource for serious collectors of that Northwest Sound (http://www.nortonrecords.com/). Paterson kindly agreed to retell how he got to tape this performance, a rare and unique piece of history from the teen dance scene he was also part of in his youth. (And in the film you will hear an audio snap of The Sonics being introduced from his recording. Very Cool!).
At age 12 in 1961, I was hooked on rock and roll. I followed the charts and attended my first rock concert with the likes of The Four Seasons, Roy Orbison, Ike and Tina Turner, and on the local side, The Wailers and The Viceroys. The Northwest had a thriving recording industry with those groups, plus The Kingsmen, Paul Revere and Raiders, The Dynamics, Tiny Tony and the Statics, and more. I really took to the Northwest sound which in those years was heavily influenced by the soul music of the time.
In the summer of 1962, the Seattle Public Schools offered me string bass lessons so they’d have a bass player in my junior high school orchestra. I soon found that I could follow the bass parts of the songs on the radio as well. I put my father’s reel to reel tape recorder to good use recording the hits so I could follow along and learn the bass lines. Soon I took up guitar as well but my guitar teacher sold me his old electric bass so by 8th grade, I was already in a band playing bass. In addition to “Louie Louie”, we loved the instrumentals of The Frantics and The Ventures. Since I was only 14 or 15 at the time, we really didn’t get a chance to hear these groups in a dancehall setting. The records were all we had.
In 1964, however, I discovered Teen Time on Tacoma’s KTNT radio (AM 1400 and FM 97.3). It was a live broadcast from a Tacoma pop music venue every Friday from 10:35-11pm (usually, The Red Carpet on South Tacoma Way). The program featured bands like The Regents, The Galaxies, The Accents, and The Sonics (prior to their releasing any records). This was a goldmine for my band’s repertoire because I was able to record the show and have new instrumental materials that we could work into our song list. This was completely OK at the time in that there seemed to be a huge overlapping repertoire among all the bands (lots of Night Train and Harlem Nocturn along with “Louie Louie”).
By 1966, my own group, Consolidated Roq, had become a commercially successful second tier cover band. We performed perhaps 8 times a month (Fridays and Saturdays) in the very lucrative high school dance scene and were favourites at the University of Washington, playing frequently at the Husky Union Building ballroom and even for the homecoming dance following a Simon and Garfunkel performance. In the coming years, we performed a number of times as the opening band for The Sonics at the University of Washington and The Evergreen Ballroom in Lacy; and, we also opened for The Wailers at The Evergreen several times. We even played once at The Red Carpet, the source for our early inspiration. DOUGLAS PATERSON