Dave Marsh on Buck Ormsby

My friend Dave Marsh on the passing of Buck Ormsby:

My first response is about what I figure Buck’s woulda been: Aww fuck

Dave dedicated a special edition of Rock & Rap Confidential to Buck:

RRC Extra No. 58: Buck Ormsby

SPANISH CASTLE WIZARD…. Dave Marsh writes: Buck Ormsby was the guitar player in the Wailers of “Tall Cool One” and the leader of all the madhouse rock that came after him and his great band that rescued “Louie Louie” from a trash-heap.

Now, this won’t mean a damned thing to anyone not fully steeped — soaked to the DNA — in Pacific Northwest rock’n’roll lore. But without Buck, and the shows he did with the Wailers and other bands he was in, at the Spanish Castle (not a figment of Jimi Hendrix’s imagination but a true crazoid rocker hatchery) and elsewhere in Seattle and Tacoma and Portland, that whole area, there would not have been the Kingsmen doing “Louie Louie” (because they were only doing it ‘cause they’d seen the Wailers do it), there would not have been any of the Sonics, etc. powerhouse garage punk music, there wouldn’t be any memory of “Louie” at all.

He was a pioneer in having a band own its masters (and for that matter, its record company), he was a champion of the lost memory of Rockin’ Robin Roberts, of the blues and R&B musicians they copped all their licks from before warping them into teenage overdrive. He was one of the toughest guys I ever met and although I usually couldn’t deliver, I’m proud of the fact that he always at least tried to include me in all his over-ambitious projects. He had a vision, more vision than pretty much anybody out there, certainly more vision than anybody in his area until the grunge gangs evolved (and that wouldn’t have happened without the foundations he laid, and there’s nobody part of it I can think of it who was as visionary as Buck was on a bad day). And nobody outside of Seattle-Tacoma-Portland will remember him in a half inch of obituary.

But I can’t forget. He was my shepherd when I wrote the “Louie” book. But it wasn’t just that. He was a throwback to every indomitable rock’n’roll impresario I’ve known from Jeep Holland to Frank Barsalona. He was even in his own merciless way a prefiguration of Little Steven. I own no higher praise.

I told Eric Predoehl, the “Louie” archivist who’s been close to finishing a Louie Louie documentary for the past 25 years that my reaction to the news was “Aw fuck” because I figured that was what Buck would have said. They tore down the Castle to widen the highway, or something equally useless. They will never tear down Buck Ormsby because they can’t even reach that high.

Take it from Jimi, who was there, up front copping licks from all those heroes, and didn’t neglect them as he became one:

Hang on, My Darling, Yeah
Hang on if you want to go
It puts everything else on the shelf
With just a little bit of Spanish Castle Magic
Just a little bit of daydream here and there.

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RIP: Buck Ormsby of Fabulous Wailers + Etiquette Records

buckormsby_wailers_1961pr

Today, Saturday October 29th, I was saddened to learn that my friend Buck Ormsby died early this morning on his birthday.

Here’s the message I saw on Buck’s Facebook wall:

Thank you to everyone who is sending birthday wishes to my father. He died early this morning. As many of you know he was down in Mexico for alternative cancer treatment, though cancer was not the cause of death. It was an unfortunate accident. Please know that his last months have been transformative in so many ways, and he was in a special place. Please give us time to adjust to our new reality. We will post information regarding services as plans form. Thank you everyone for all of your love and support.

Buck has been a great ally for the LOUIE documentary project, providing multiple interviews over the years. In the Pacific Northwest, Buck was a genuine legend in the music community, performing with the Fabulous Wailers, creating one of the very first artist-owned record labels- Etiquette Records, and was directly responsible for discovering + producing the Sonics, one of the earliest bands to perform in the ragged style of rock music that would eventually be labeled as “pre-punk.”

Buck was one of the major architects within the LOUIE LOUIE universe, recording his friend Robin Roberts doing “that song” with the Wailers for the first record ever released by the newly-founded Etiquette Records in 1961. That particular recording, which used a very different arrangement than Richard Berry‘s original 1957 version, established an archetype that was followed closely by the Kingsmen, as well as Paul Revere & the Raiders, who both wound up with hit recordings of that song in 1963.

bluenotes-robinbillbuck

One of the earlier bands Buck ever joined was the Blue Notes, group of teenagers from Tacoma (Washington), featuring Buck’s good friend Bill Engelhart, who would eventually be given of the stage name as “Little Bill” of the band that would eventually be re-named as Little Bill and the Blue Notes. Early in their careers, Buck and Bill decided to visit the Puyallup Fair, where they found one of their high school classmates, Robin Roberts, singing rhythm and blues songs to a captivated crowd that was clearly enjoying this impromptu performance. It was at this point that both Buck and Bill thought Robin would be a perfect addition to The Blue Notes, and Robin soon became a full-fledged member of the band

For a couple of years, these three guys performed together (along with various other members) for what turned out to be one of the earliest rock bands ever created in Tacoma. Eventually, this collaboration drifted apart with Bill focusing his efforts as a solo artist, while Buck and Robin (now known as “Rockin Robin Roberts“) both teamed up with the Fabulous Wailers, who had just finished an east coast tour that included an appearance on Dick Clark‘s American Bandstand TV show.

Not long after Buck and Robin joined up with the Wailers, a recording was made of Robin singing LOUIE LOUIE with the band… and the rest was history, so to speak…

wailers-at-kfjc-2001

Here’s a photo I took of Buck with Kent Morrill, his musical partner with the Wailers and Etiquette Records, back when they visited KFJC Radio (Los Altos Hills, CA) in December 2001. As you may remember, KFJC was the place that produced the MAXIMUM LOUIE LOUIE marathon that played over 800 versions of the song for 63 hours.

When Buck and Kent did this radio appearance, they were in the middle of a road trip, and had driven down from Tacoma in a beautifully restored vintage Cadillac. They had just released their new album “Cadillac to Mexico,” and this was one of their stops.

As fate would have it, Bill returned to Mexico for what turned out to be his final roadtrip.

There’s so much more that could said about Buck, but we’ll save that for another time.

My thoughts are the family and friends of John Buck Ormsby.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Happy 90th Birthday Chuck Berry – Pre-LOUIE of the Week

chuckberry-wide-legs

Today, we celebrate Chuck Berry‘s 90th birthday, who’s still rockin’ live for fans all over the world!

For the record, Chuck Berry is definitely NOT related to Richard Berry, author of the song “LOUIE LOUIE.” That being said, there was one particular song that Chuck wrote and released in 1956 that may have had an influence on Richard’s most famous composition, which was written the year before (1955), but released the year after after (1957).

Here’s the original recording of Chuck’s song, which shall be categorized as a “Pre-LOUIE,” one of a handful of songs released before LOUIE, which may or may not have had an impact on Richard’s creative process.

Richard did actually record his own version of this song, produced by Steve Douglas, featuring Leon Russell, but we’ll save that as-yet unreleased recording for another day….

CHEERS!


https://youtu.be/ipTvgnXtYtQ

The Blues Poets – LOUIE of the Week

blues-poets

This week, The Blues Poets get the LOUIE spotlight with their special version of the song.

Here’s their band statement, shared via their YouTube page:

The band in one, two – hey are survivors, musicians who are still performing what they choose to perform; a mix of blues, soul and r ‘n’ b music. The only guarantee is harassment, that and an interminable succession of the most minor, most petty inconveniences imaginable – all designed to do your head in, destroying the very discipline you’ve had to grab and cling onto in order to survive, not just as an artist but as a human being. Here we have The Blues Poets and guests, live on stage, playing out a day-in-the-life of people who aren’t themselves, not anywhere near it, not on any personal level, although art is always personal – it’s what the plays about.

“I’m not saying that every play about musicians must have musicians in the parts. But in this particular play the qualitative and genuine nature of the performance of music is structural. Obviously there is a difference between performing music and acting a performance of music. A similar distinction exists between the creation of art and a simulation of the creation of art. In one, two – hey it is necessary that the art of music-in-performance is created.” (James Kelman)

The Blues Poets
George Gallacher – vocals/harmonica
Fraser Watson – guitar
Jackson Clarkin – bass/piano
Scott McGowan – guitar
Dougie Henderson – drums


https://youtu.be/ToXIPyu3fHg