a Seattle LOUIE update + Little Bill Birthday Party

Time has such a funny way of sneaking up on us. Some folks are really good at keeping track of such things. For me, it’s a serious struggle. There never seems to be enough time to do it all, and by the time I get around to finishing things, so many of the folks involved have moved on.

Such is the challenge of this under-funded, more-or-less self-funded documentary project that’s taken much longer than ever expected to finish. Sometimes I’m able get some serious traction on this project… be it assembling the rough cut, coordinating the various elements from owners of miscellaneous puzzle pieces, and otherwise juggling the big story involving multiple personalities, each with their own unique stories to tell.

Other times, it feels like I’m just spinning wheels in the mud, moving in relative slow motion while the rest of the world is zipping by in the fast lane.

Last month, I celebrated another anniversary of my existence, which happened to be a multi-decade number that I didn’t expect to sneak up when it did, but what are you going to do? To quote a guy named Jerry that once shared some personal memories for this very documentary project, “You can’t let go and you can’t hold on… You can’t go back and you can’t stand still….”

In times like these, there’s nothing more therapeutic than a good road trip. There’s no time like today, and no better time to shake up the usual schedule with a fun + productive excursion.

And so, seventeen days ago, exactly one week after my big day, I took a leap of faith, and jumped onto a plane to celebrate the 80th anniversary of existence of my friend Bill Engelhart aka “Little Bill,” just because it seemed like the perfect way to celebrate my own birthday with someone else’s birthday. The fact that it was also the birthday of my mother’s mother… just added some extra spark to the journey.

Thanks to the gracious hospitality of my nephew Brian in the Seattle area, a relatively cheap online airline ticket deal and Toro, the “Uber / Airbnb” type equivalent of car rentals, I was set for another Northwest adventure.

Less than 24 hours after I landed at the SeaTac airport, I arrived at the Triple Door for the big birthday event, and the very first person I see as I walk up to the door is the man himself – Little Bill Engelhart, who arrives at the exact same time that I do. He tells me “I knew you’d be here!”

It’s a festive event, and I see a ton of friendly faces there…. Bill’s family; Pat Lee, who was helping Bill with wheelchair logistics, and assisted me with soundboard recordings; Merri Sutton, who continues to be involved with so many great NW events, and a whole bunch of incredible musicians (Randy Oxford, Patti Allen, Tommy Morgan, Buck England, and sooo many others…) that are all there to pay tribute to a genuine musical legend of the Pacific Northwest.

https://youtu.be/vw0-JkyURPA

After some beautiful speeches made in his honor, Little Bill begins the concert with a powerful rendition of his 1959 hit record “I Love An Angel.” After that, it’s a cavalcade of various musicians that worked with Bill over the years, with some additional performances by members of the United By Music North America (UBMNA) organization.

On Monday, I met up with my old friend Barry Curtis, who was a member of the Kingsmen between 1963 and 2005. With big thanks to Grinders Italian Restaurant, I was able to shoot a brand new interview, following up some relatively new developments in the big LOUIE story. Barry also reminded me of a band he witnessed while he was attending A. C. Davis High School in Yakima, WA.

Has anyone heard of an acapella doo wop group known as the Silvertones, featuring Harper Morrison, Jr, Bobby Carter, Hilton Shelly, Milton Shelly? if so, please drop me a line!!

I also wound up doing a really quick little visit with Andy Duvall, a founding member of the Playboys, one of the earliest bands to ever cover Richard’s most famous composition.

Tuesday was spent in Tacoma. I spend most of the day hanging out with my new friend Ray Michelsen, who told me about his time with the Sonics, and how he wound up bringing his pal Gerry Rosalie into the group, who wound up replacing him on vocals after he dropped out. With Ray’s help, I was able to shoot more footage of Tacoma, which will be a great asset for the project.

As I always do, whenever I visit the area, time was spent visiting various record stores. I was able to thank Steve Gaydich of Rocket Records again for his generous donation to the project, and made a quick stop at Golden Oldies to say hello to longtime LOUIE supporter Jeff Miller.

I also visited a place i never visited before – a location some folks might consider “hallowed ground.”

former location for Spanish Castle Ballrooom, Des Moines, WA

former location for Spanish Castle Ballrooom, Des Moines, WA

Wednesday was my last day in Seattle before leaping onto a plane to go home that night. I finally got around to visiting Bop Street Records, which I’ve known about for years, but never quite got around to visiting until now. Having seen this store listed on various lists of “best record stores in America,” I can indeed verify that is indeed a mother lode of cool vintage vinyl.

Bop City Records, Seattle, Washington

The autographed record shelves were also pretty cool. Great to see that Buck Ormsby was part of that.

Bop City Records, Seattle, Washington

When I saw the first Rhino “Best of LOUIE LOUIE” LP prominently displayed at one of the front racks at the front of the store, I knew this was a place of kindred spirits, which was certainly reinforced by my initial conversation with owner Dave Voorhess. I felt like I was barely scratching the surface of this wonderfully eclectic record store when I finally received a phone call I’d been waiting for.

Little Bill was ready for a new interview, and I was more than happy to drive to his home for that opportunity. I had interviewed Bill a handful of times, but there were certain topics I wanted to revisit, and Bill was more than happy to fulfill this request.

I do feel that Bill is indeed a treasure, which is reinforced whenever I read his books, see his memories shared on Facebook, or have the privilege of seeing him in person whenever I’m in the Seattle area. I wish more dedicated music enthusiasts outside of the Pacific Northwest knew about him, but with any luck, I hope to remedy the situation with the completion of this film of mine… which I hope I can finish in the near future.

FORWARD!!

– E.P. of LouieLouie.net

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