John Currier: playing in Manito Park, and reviewing a John Mayall Concert.

John Currier – keyboard

  • Rick Mose Blues Band
  • Pearce Arrow
  • Associates: Jack Nixon, guitarist; Buzz Vinyard, guitarist; John Werr, guitarist; Ted Bellusci, (band) Southern Comfort; Larry Ellingson (Arrow) piano, harpsichord; Steve Groff (Arrow), drums; Doug Roberts (bass); Cheryl DeLorme, (vocals) and Barbara Owens, vocalist.

Spokane Be-In at Manito Park

John Currier is first mentioned by name in the pages of the Spokane Natural playing keyboards as a solo act performing at the first Spokane Natural Benefit Concert to raise money for the underground newspaper in January of 1969. The Benefit was held at the Grotto, a venue on the corner of Pacific and Browne. He was also a member of Pearce Arrow, a group playing the benefit as well.

However, Currier was involved in the Spokane music scene before this first mention by name. Currier was a member of Rick Mose Blues Band, a group that was invited to play a free concert at Manito Park, July 23, 1967, Natural editor Russ Nobbs’ called this first event the “Be-In.” This was referring to another free concert at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in January 1967, the “Human Be-In” that featured a number of San Francisco’s most popular bands.

The organizers of the Spokane Be-In rented an electrical generator to power the instruments and a sound systems. The concert was held near the duck pond and featured Rick Mose Blues Band and the Flat Earth Society.

The 1969 John Mayall Concert

In a review of the January Spokane Natural Benefit held at the Grotto by a staff writer for the underground newspaper, it was noted that Pearce Arrow played a rendition of the Rock ’n’ Roll standard, Gloria, and that the bridge of the song included a few bars from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gloria in Excelcis.

A few weeks later that year an advertisement appeared in the Spokane Natural promoting the English blues rocker the Jeff Beck Group who along with English bluesman John Mayall were booked into Spokane’s Memorial Coliseum for a concert to be held April 5, 1969. Beck cancelled, but Mayall came to “The Barn” to promote his latest album release Blues From Laural Canyon. Three other regional bands were booked to warm up the audience for Mayall. They were Spokane’s Wilson McKinley, Moses Lake’s The Bards and another Spokane group, Revised Edition.

Currier wrote the review in the Natural of the concert and expressed that he liked Mayall and his band. However, he was not very kind to the local bands who he complained were “monotonous even when they switched genres, from rock to country and western.” Currier said that the bands played too much three chord rock ’n’ roll, and tended to sound the same no matter the song. The country and western he mentioned refers to Wilson McKinley’s cover of the Louvin Brothers’ song, I Like The Christian Life. The song was recorded by the Byrds for their album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo [released Aug. 30, 1968, Columbia Records]. The reaction to Currier’s criticism arrived a week later in an unsigned letter. Nobbs backed up Currier noting his bona fides with a mention of the bands he’s played in, and that he is a student in the music department at Eastern Washington State College in Cheney. The letter-to-the-editor was highly critical of Currier’s review, and felt the Currier’s harsh criticism was uncalled for. The letter writer’s point-of-view observation of Mayall complaining backstage about the lack of audience (reportedly only 200 people came to the show in the cavernous Memorial Coliseum) indicates that the writer was someone with access to the backstage area, such as a member of one of the bands who Currier had criticized. The letter was unsigned, but Nobbs felt it was still important to publish the letter, noting that from now on, letters must be signed, but he will take out the name if asked to do so. The letter writer also points out that after performing I Like the Christian Life, the audience was seemingly stunned by the songs sentiment and calling the moment an embarrassed silence after Wilson McKinley finished it.

A second benefit for the Natural was arranged at the Grotto, to be held mid-April. Pearce Arrow was again asked to perform, and Currier was also mentioned performing solo on the keyboards at the event. It was also said that Currier lived in Peaceful Valley and was considered by the reviewer, Val Hughes, as the Valley’s “resident mad composer.” Other members of the band were Steve Groff on drums and Larry Ellingson on harpsichord, and Doug Roberts on bass.

In August of that year Nobbs, along with the Spokane Hip Independent Traders (S.H.I.T), organized a free concert at High Bridge Park, one of maybe four concerts organized in High Bridge Park that year. The music was provided by The New Southern Comfort, Tendergreen and solo performances by Buzz Vinyard, John Werr, Ted Bellusci and Currier. Southern Comfort was having some sort of problem, and they could not make it to the park. Instead, Cold Power filled in. Currier presented an Italian Operetta selection accompanied by the vocalist Barbara Owens.

“Benefit.”Advertisement. Spokane Natural. No. 3, Vol. 2. January 17, 1969: 16.

“All The Heads In The World.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 3. January 31 – February 13, 1969: 8-9.

“Be-In July 23.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 1, No. 8. August 1967

Hughs, Val. “Benefit Dance Hurt.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 9 April 25-May 8, 1969: 9.

Currier, John. “BRAVO! Mayall.” Concert Review. Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 8 April 11-April 24, 1969: 8.

“John Mayall Review Critisized [sic].” Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 9, April 25 – May 8 1969: 14.

“Free in the Park.” Advertisement. Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 17. August 15-28 1969: 8.

“In the Park.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 18. August 29-September 11, 1969: 6-7.

Nobbs, Russ. Recorded Interview. 19 Jan. 2012.

Roberts, Doug. Email to the author. 21 April 2012

Copyright © Robert G. Schoenberg 2012


About Robert Schoenberg

Writer - Blog is about the history of rock 'n' roll in Spokane Washington, from 1955 to 1980 View all posts by Robert Schoenberg

One response to “John Currier: playing in Manito Park, and reviewing a John Mayall Concert.

  • Doug Roberts

    Great to read about these events. I attended most of them.

    John Currier was my friend. The band was actually The Pearce Arrows, named beacuse of Pearce Hall at EWU. John, Steve Groff our drummer and I all attended EWU during that time and played at Pearce Hall a couple times, so we took that band name for fun.

    The Pearce Arrows were John Currier, electric piano, Larry Ellingson, organ & electric harpsichord, Steve Groff, drums, and me, Doug Roberts on bass. We had a girl singer, Cheryl DeLorme, originally from Tacoma. We had no guitars in the band, an unusual twist for those days. We also played at Sunset West, the COG at GU and even travelled to Canada to play at Nelson & Trail, B.C.

    We have been searching, but nobody seems to have any pictures of John, or of our old band.

    John Currier was also a popular solo pianist who lived down in lower Peaceful Valley, under the old High Bridge and often performed solo piano at concerts and parties. He disappeared suddenly one week, and was assumed drowned in the river. He used to go swimming in the river at Hangman Creek, which was nearly behind his house. He was never heard-from again. Those of us who knew him often laughed and said he returned to his home planet. I lived in a rental house right near him during the fall/winter of 1968, when the “Peaceful Valley Herbal & Sledding Society” was in it’s golden era.

    I have an old poster of one of John’s events.. you can view it here under “Doug’s Music” on my picture pages:
    or contact me directly and I’ll send you a copy:

    Doug Roberts, Spokane

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