RIP: John Greek, founding member of the Wailers, 65

John Greek of the Wailers

Years before the Wailers recorded LOUIE LOUIE with Rockin’ Robin Roberts, they were considered one of the hottest rock bands to emerge from the Pacific Northwest. In 1959, when they were still in high school, they were signed to Golden Crest Records, their song “Tall Cool One” peaked the national charts at #36, and they appeared on such television shows as the Alan Freed Show and Dick Clark‘s American Bandstand. For many people in the Pacific Northwest during the late 50’s, the Wailers were THE ROCK BAND to watch.

At the time, John Greek was considered the leader of the Wailers, having founded the band in 1957 with a few other kids whose parents were stationed at the McCord Air Force base in Tacoma, Washington. One year later in 1960, some tension grew to an ugly head within the band, and John Greek left the Wailers. Taking his place was Buck Ormsby, a bassist who originally played with Little Bill and the Bluenotes. Together with Kent Morrill, these two Wailers created Etiquette Records as a means to release their own material. Their very first record was a 45 single of “LOUIE LOUIE” by Rockin’ Robin Roberts, another member of the Wailers that was initially a member of Little Bill and the Bluenotes. This particular single, which came out in 1961, was considered the archetypal recording that inspired the Kingsmen, Paul Revere & the Raiders, and hundreds, if not thousands of other rock bands from the Pacific Northwest to perform the iconic song known as LOUIE LOUIE.

John Greek, the man who started the band, was for the most part forgotten by the music industry. He did a few other musical ventures, including some recording with Gary Paxton, some session work with the Fifth Dimension, but for the most part, he lived in obscurity, rarely to be heard from again.

In 1999, American Music Magazine, an amazing publication from the Swedish Rock ‘n’ Roll Club, printed issue #81 as a big tribute to the legacy of Golden Crest Records, whose roster included the Wailers, Mando and the Chili Peppers, Little Jerry Williams (many years before he transformed himself into “Swamp Dogg“), the Mad Plaids, the Three Graces, and a handful of other musical groups.

In this particular issue, John Greek wrote a nice little article about his experience with the Wailers.

According to a Social Security database, John Greek was born on October 27, 1940, and died in San Diego, California on October 6, 2006, a few weeks shy of his 66th birthday.

I don’t really have much more information beyond that.

Rest in peace, John Greek.

My thanks to Eric LeBlanc, John Broven, and Alec Palao for information about his demise.

33 comments to RIP: John Greek, founding member of the Wailers, 65

  • Lorna Peck

    John Greek was my first cousin and his passing was a sad ending to a tragic but not useless life. As a musician and as a human being, John was talented, quirky, funny, and principled. Had he been blessed with the finances to fight out his legal problems with the other band members, he doubtless would never have had to leave the group, and (personal prejudice aside) I think the Wailers would have gone on to much bigger and better things, rather than disappearing into relative ignominy. John was a truly gifted songwriter! God bless you, John, and here’s to your fans–may they always continue to seek out,find, and enjoy your music.

  • Lorna Peck

    P.S. John had a talented younger brother, James Greek, who was also a rock & roller. He played with a Tacoma area (Lakewood) group called Steakface for a time. Sadly, James preceded brother John in death in 1999.

  • Uncle Dennis

    I was researching a group called “fire and Ice, Ltd.” that John Greek was a part of. Does anyone have any further information?

  • ted wight

    John was a friend and played the guitar in our basement with Robbie Ryan playing his drumset which stayed there for years.

    What happened to Johnny?

    Ted Wightg

  • Dave Walkord

    I hung out with John and was friend with him years ago after he came back to Tacoma from California. I know he went back to California but never heard from him again. I was in bands with his brother, James, who was the greatest Hammond Organist I have ever heard. I would like to know what happened to john.


    I met John in Hollywood during the rise of the psychedelic acid rock era-lived next door to him for years-he was a top studio musician and mixdown man at Artist’s Recording Studio-downtown Hollywood at the height of the big rock night club scene in West Hollywood. Not only did John work with Rock and Rollers of the 50’s and early 60’s-it may surprise you to know he worked with hot novelty and one-off musicians like Spike Jones Jr., Abbe Casabe (Eden Abez)- the author and creator of one of the biggest smash hits of all time: “Nature Boy”, and comedy duos like Harrison and Tyler, and if memory serves me right- That Inimitable Dodge Dealer Cal Worthington, whose Real Desire was to be a country and western singer (“Go See Cal”)! With “Greek” it was always THE MUSIC, and he even produced his own album around 1980 with all instrumentals and vocals by him alone! He should be rightly credited as one of the very first breakout garage-band style lead guitar players to make the scene bigtime! He knew and played with them all!


    I should add Greek was a close personal friend and I will miss him and those old rock memories.

  • bill francisco

    i liked John and used to get high with him at our apartment building around 1970.the building was off Sunset near Vine and was next door to the Kalidoscope.he played an old fender and did some backup work at some of the studios in Hollywood. RIP John

  • axel björnsson

    The song “City Jungle” with one of his projects “The Beautiful Daze” has changed my life. That song is so before it’s time.. Genius this man. GENIUS! r.i.p

  • Dave Walkord

    Lorna, Iwas a friend of john and james and I never heard of why John died. Was it a heart attack?

  • Diana O. McLeod

    James (John’s brother) and I were close friends until circumstances drew us apart. Music held us together for as long as it could. If anyone has information about James from 1975 on…his life, history, and sadly his death please share.

  • Michael Davies

    I have been a fan of the Wailers for many years and believe that Episode 15 of Season Three of Get Smart entitled ‘The Groovy Guru’ and starring Larry Storch as the Guru features a trio of Musicians called the Sacred Cows who perform a whacked out song called KILL, KILL, KILL. My research indicates this group was comprised of Jerry Scheff, Ben Benay and John Greek. Hope you all find this of interest. RIP John

  • fred taylor

    I grew up in Lakewood, went to school at Clover Park H.S. as did Johnny. His sister, Marsha also attended CPHS. John was quite a talented musician, played several instruments with the CPHS band and of course was the Driving force behind the Wailers. It was always fun to talk with him at the few class reunions he attened. It sounded like he was on to bigger and better things in LA. I’m saddend by the news of his death. It seems most of the original Wailers have passed. The end of an era. Long live their memory.

  • Don Siels

    Just found out about John’s passing. Very sad to hear. John lived in the Cabins
    on our hill, and we just became very good friends, passing time and strummin guitars
    in the moonlight. John was a Good Soul, and a wonderful friend.

  • Gerard

    Hello Friends of John
    I am looking to reissue john’s music if anyone has his estate’s contact info or anyone close to him please contact me. I own a reissue label.
    my email is :[email protected]


  • Gerard

    If lorna or anyone could contact me we would really appreciate it. we own a real recod label called inviisblecityeditions

  • Judy Vukov

    As a fan from the late 50 ‘s and early 60 ‘s I was thrilled to
    find album ” The Fabulous Wailers”{ already installed on my i phone 6s.

    When the band played at Whitman College in the early 60’s I
    could have sworn that John Greek was present but maybe not .

    Hi to Marsha .

  • christine mckinstry

    hi gerad i lived with john greek on leand way from approx 1968 to 1972 he was my boyfriend john luckett probably has some information but his sister name is marsha blevins and lived with husband matt blevins and he had a neice named christine blevins and i believe nephew named matt blevins ………… sure his sister has his estate ,
    . john and i split up in 1972 and i moved on in life he was a very good soul but alcohol was a problem.He didnt trust music companies at all or recording labels lots of bad fellings about what happened with the wailers…….didnt like signing contracts…………

  • christine mckinstry

    o yes i forgot his sister and her husband resided at that time in fremont california and i think they still live in tha
    e bay area

  • christine mckinstry

    i do have a facebook page kweenbee(aka sweetiepie) john luckett get a hold of me [email protected]

  • christine mckinstry

    gerad and i do believe its marsha A. blevins and the neice name is spelled with a kristine blevins not c

  • John McConnell

    I was a friend of Johns and played some gigs with him and John schuford (sp?)(drummer) and Dave Firestone (Bass) in and around Lompoc, Calif. in 1963, (maybe late ’62) and ’64 until I left in Sept, ’64. John was a great guy and a good friend, RIP John.

  • john luckett

    HEY CHRISSIE!! You gotta talk to me about soo much…!

  • john luckett

    Chrissie- you gotta say HI–510 222-4382…

  • john luckett

    Chris- Please EMail Me!–Love JL!

  • Don Siels

    Howdy John,, How’ve you been? I’m still on the Hill,, But on the other side now.
    [email protected]

  • Don Siels

    Hello?,, Why was my last Post Deleted?? John Luckett was one of my best friends
    along with John Greek when we were all neighbors. I thought you said this site
    was also so that Greeks friends could re-connect thru here?
    I guess I misread that? Or perhaps you meant something else by it?

  • Chrissie

    John luckett facebook me kweenbeeakasweetiepie or call me 8188596324

  • Chrissie

    Call me john luckett at 8188596324

  • Mark David

    I grew up knowing John Greek from around 1975 to 1981. John was an engineer at my dad’s recording studio “Quad Teck”in Los Angeles. I always remember him as a professional, honest and kind man. I remember the first time I picked up an electric guitar when I was 14 years old, it was John’s Fender Telecaster. He taught me how it worked and played his matching Fender precision bass next to me. That was my first guitar lesson. My dad and I miss him.

  • Christine

    John. Puckett. I. Will. Try. And get hold. Of. Hope you’re alive my page is under. Christine walker

  • Jeff Bristol

    I ran away from home in 1960 with a guitar and an original song and a half. I wound up at a cheesy little motelish place on Selma ave in Hollywood and the manager suggested instead of getting my own room that I might stay in a room that a couple of guys had that were having trouble raising the rent. He knocked at the door and it was answered by an older guy (I was 16). He introduced himself as John Greek from the Wailers and I instantly knew who he was. We hung out and drank a lot of beer, he always got the quart bottles. We played guitars a lot and he contributed to the 1/2 song I had written. What he did then was to change my life forever by giving me a list of song publishers. About a block away was the first one on the list. Winston Lansdowne music publishers. Jack Hoffman was the publisher I met and I wound up staying there for years writing little songs that went nowhere. I’m still there after 50 some odd years. John and I recorded a little demo (45rpm) at a dinky studio in the same building. The producer was so proud of his new reel to reel recorder that had ECHO which he, of course, drastically overused. So I knew John briefly in between Hollywood blvd and Sunset blvd. we hung out, played, drank but I did know that for a short time we were good friends. Jeff Bristol, guitar singer songwriter thanks to Johnny Greek

  • Marsha Greek

    Hey, I am Marsha Greek, John’s sister. I appreciate all of the kind words and memories of John… And, yes, John was talented, very smart and musically way before his time. Some describe him as quirky. I think if you look up “Quirky” in the dictionary you’ll see John’s picture. John helped me learn about all kinds of music, classical, jazz and of course Rock ‘n Roll… The first record he owned was a Sammy Davis Jr. vinal.. He started playing the trumpet in the 5th grade because he had rehumatiic fever and was bedridden for a year. The trumpet helped him to strengthen his lungs. That was the beginning of John’s passion and lifelong career in music. He was voted class president at Clover Park Senior high in Lakewood, and the administrators had a fit. Here was the kid who defied authority at every turn. When my parents wouldn’t let me go out at night, John wo uld take me to dances and ditch me at the door. So many stories about John…His ashes as well as our brother, James’s ashes were spread over the lake we grew up on. I miss him so much. He burned his candle at both ends….. Rock on, John, Rock on.

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