Seattle Music Roots

(Where the Northwest Sound Came From)

The Seattle Music Scene from the black perspective has many different evolutions, starting with jazz and blues, moving into rhythm and blues, and later soul. Black people played "race music," which was played to a predominately black audience in segregated venues, but in Seattle that music's influence reached far beyond the black community.

Seattle Music Scene - 1950 to 1980

My first musical encounter was at five years old seeing my handsome and elegantly clad Uncle Lacey Wilburn, stride up to our outside porch where he assembled his gleaming golden saxophone, I was awestruck as he woke up the neighborhood with music that enfolded me and transported me to a place I’d never been. Around age seven when I ‘d visit my absentee father who was staying with Uncle Lacey, I was often pressed into service playing piano for him and guitarist partner, “ The song is “Boogie Woogie”, stated Uncle Lacey as he melodically played the intro; had me learn the fingering, then continue to help me pickup the piece and we’d begin to jam. I’d also play the drums and piano for my cousin Lacey Jr’s practice session (Moanin, Cantaloupe Island, et al), his guitar teacher was Mr. who along with a lot of the old master (in their 30’s) taught black and white children, on Friday nights we all congregated at Birdland on 22nd and Madison. I would sneak out of my bed around 9 pm arriving at Birdland where cousin would spirit me into the club, he left me in the rafters so when the police arrived I’d be safe, a good thing too since I observed two cops beating up a ten year old black boy outside the club.

There was an order of service in playing at Birdland (which was on the Chitlin Circuit), the acknowledge masters and visiting royalty which included Uncle Lacey, Ray Charles, Mr. Jones (Quincy's dad), "Pops Buford" and a host of extremely gifted musicians, visiting jazz luminaries like Miles Davies, Jimmi Smith, ect. would appear and jam. Then around midnight it was the students turn to shine: Larry Coryell, Quincy Jones, my cousin Lacey Wilburn Jr., Jimi Hendrix, "Tiny Tony" Smith, Merilee (Rush) and the Tournabouts, Ron Woods( Pacific Gas and Electric), Luther Rabb (Ball’n Jack), Jimmy Hanna - singer for the Dynamics and my drum teacher Fred Zufeld (The Viceroys/The Surprise Package - and their hit, "Granny's Pad"), all the kids that were responsible for the Northwest Sound of rock laced with jazz.

A lot of the rock groups (black and white) played jazz standards set to a rock beat, and by the 60’s when I was playing my generation were playing in top clubs locally and touring notables throughout the country; Tommy Joe Henderson and Bernard Blackman playing with Bill Withers, Ron Buford and his uncle Dave Lewis individually touring and gigging in LA., young drumming phenom Wayne Bibbs like his hero Tommy Joe were sought after and play with established musicians… but Wayne return to Seattle crushed by the experience, Kay Kuniyuki joined the popular all Japanese group Hiroshima, and Cameo became a national hit (I did the PR photos for them and one of the little kids that hung out at their house was a young Kenny G). Our club scene was fairly eclectic and some venues ethnocentric ;

Popular youth clubs were; The H.O.E. (House Of Entertainment), The Spanish Castle (closer to Tacoma than Seattle) where the Jamaican song Louie Louie was popularized, Lake Hills Roller Rink (Bellevue), The Eagles Auditorium (which presented Big Band, Rock and Roll, Rhythm and Blues and Acid Rock and other alternative hippie style music. Blaise Lewark had two dance halls called the BFD (Big F'ing Deal), which patronized predominantly young white crowds sometimes featuring young black musicians. Black musicians played at Washington Hall, Prince Hall Mason Lodge, some of the churches, school auditoriums, and local music halls, occasionally opening for prominent black groups or joining in all city band extravaganzas.

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Jose-Nicholas Greco


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