Category Archives: Second Wave

Obscure Local Band: Red Heart

Introducing Red Heart

Introducing Red Heart

Here is an album from a Coeur d’Alene band. 1970s, though I can’t tell much from the album notes. We parsed the information out from the musician biographies on the back cover. I don’t recognize any of the musicians. The musicians are guitarist/vocals Steve Pierre from the Kalispel Reservation up by Usk, and who it is said on the album notes does a good Elvis impression. The songs he sang on, like Hank William’s Kaw liga, and a Wylon Jennings penned tune, Only Daddy That’l Walk That Line, were pure rockabilly. He did have a voice like Elvis. The other guitarists is Jim Sherman, sporting a hippie hair cut, glasses and an Amish beard. A Coeur d’Alene kid. His bio said he plays a number of instruments, learning guitar starting when he was eight. On drums is Pete Boardway from Tacoma. Armando Valasquez plays bass and who it looks like was 10 or so years older than the rest of the crew. He came to Red Heart by way of Reno, Nevada where he played clubs in a band called the Motif.

I think the album was recorded and pressed by the band. None of the songs listed had license agreements, all covers with no writers/publishers information. No record label name, no date, no nothing. However, the sonic value of the recording work is high, so whoever produced/engineered it did a good job. The album cover is nicely done too, a lot better, maybe, then that Wilson McKinley pizza-box cover, Live From Pender Auditorium in 1970, though because of the cheesy cover, and the early Christian rock songs they wrote, it is rare and sought after by collectors.

A friend of mine, record collector Jack Kendell, picked up two vinyl LP copies of Red Heart Saturday at a yard sale on the northeast side of town. Both LPs are in pristine condition, very little playing it looks like, yet the music is outstanding rockabilly and blues/rock with a Memphis twang. I say 1974, and Jack claims 1970 for its release date. I did find out they played a regular Wednesday through Saturday gig at the Flame on Sprague in the summer of 1979 billing themselves as Steve Pierre and Red Heart, and a gig at the Stockyards Inn earlier the same year.

-Robert


Grotto Benefit dances helped pay down Spokane Naturals’ editors’ debt defending First Amendment Rights in Spokane

Russ Nobbs and George Maloney had an interesting year in 1968. The Natural, the underground newspaper they published in Spokane, had switched to printing the paper on newsprint in tabloid format, which gave them increased credentials as a legitimate newspaper. They followed this up with better reporting and an increasing urgency to challenge the establishment. It was their newspaper’s subject matter in 1968 that led to a magnification of their newspaper’s money troubles eventually leading to holding a benefit dance for themselves at the Grotto in January of 1969. The dance, it turns out, was a milestone event for Spokane Rock ‘n’ Roll music as it heralded the beginning of the ability of countercultural organizations to actually make money with one of their music schemes.  That same summer, the Eagles Ballroom came and went before much of anyone noticed. The Grotto benefit dances that winter and spring in 1969 were hippie extravaganzas never before seen in Spokane, and should go down in Spokane’s music history as an event that more people claim to have been there then who were actually there.

While Nobbs and Maloney were busy publishing their underground newspaper taking on social issues in Spokane such as segregation, racism, insufficient housing codes, the war in Vietnam, and the culture wars at home, they were charged with obscenity by the Spokane Police. The obscenity charges began with a Buzz Vinyard poem published in 1967, and the use of these kinds of words continued throughout the next year of publication until Nobbs and Maloney, hearing rumors that Spokane’s establishment wanted the paper closed for good, decided to confront authority head on.

In addition, Maloney was in court charged that spring with vagrancy for selling his underground newspapers on school grounds without permission from the administration at Spokane Community College’s Fort Wright campus.

The pair of writers, editors, publishers and activists were pushing the red hot buttons of Spokane’s establishment with stories about race relations, housing for lower income families, the war in Vietnam, and first amendment rights.

Buzz Vinyard’s Third Poem published in the second edition of Russ Nobbs and George Maloney’s underground newspaper, The Spokane Natural in 1967 that initially labeled the newspaper as obscene.

“God speed baby” driving you mind to wild conclusions

Incubus mind-fucks my woman as did Virgin Mary do screw.

Despair is a painful feeling yet is a forceful part of

every person’s nature. Fatal and brutal fraping is in

deed a scorned upon act. Teardrops fall from my goddesses

eyes. K do lover. Body is beautiful. Next to her i

stand humbled. Naked body pleading for love. Twisted 

hands and knarled  fingers tear at that incubus, rip it

away and throw my body upon woman. Senseless is i lack

my power. Boys loving in the corner cafe two of them,

sex is whatever they want it to be. Sneer, unworthy as i

might be I shan’t rip at her as she offers herself. Cunt

love is not real. Easier because it takes no feeling.

Real love is much better. One’s hand flickers across a

bare midriff. But it is not just an act it is real love,

tenderness of touch is a sweet feeling. Her perfumes are

scentless yet i can smell them. Brutality never forged

such a beautiful Act.

1968

America seemed to be at war with itself in 1968. It was the year that Martin Luther King was assassinated. His murder resulted in unrest of Black youth populations in numerous cities across the U.S. Previous to King’s murder, in February, Spokane students from various college and universities in the area, organized under the Black Student Union banner to address issues of race in Spokane. The Natural staff wrote stories of the new organization and their quest for equal relations with the huge majority of white population in Spokane. After King’s murder Nobbs and Maloney continued to write about Black issues in East Spokane which took on new emphasis. This was rather new to many citizens in Spokane that didn’t think that there was a problem with racism. The stories gave the underground newspaper street cred with journalist of the leading media in Spokane. Though not as professionally polished, the Natural was reporting on stories that the other media tended to overlook.

In February Nobbs attended as a reporter a Washington State Legislative Committee hearing on segregation and racial imbalance to hear testimony from authorities in the area. Included were remarks from Carl Maxey, a Spokane lawyer, Don Johnson and Don Phelps from the Washington Education Association, and Glenn Minard from School District 81.

Exhibiting behavior that was forbidden for a professional journalist employed at establishment newspapers, Nobbs himself got up at the hearing to testify saying that “The local schools have tried to cope with the problems of racial imbalance, but the public, seeing only their white middle class neighbors, do not admit the existence of the problem and thus hold the school administration back.”

Nobbs went on to say that racial tension and violence are hidden from the public and that the committee was not dealing with the urgent need to take action, or face more violent outbreaks in the coming summer.

In another story Nobbs followed Tom O’Neal the head of Spokane’s Student Coordinating Committee for Positive Action, another organization consisting of students from all the area’s colleges and universities. O’Neal organized a tour for Spokane’s Mayor David Rodgers to see what the East Side really looked like.

“Even though he’s the mayor . . . I’ll bet we can show him homes, conditions, and whole blocks that he has never seen before. We’ll tell him something he hasn’t heard before: how the Black people of Spokane think and feel about the conditions.”

After King’s murder there was a story that week in the establishment media that a dozen or so windows were broken out at businesses centered along the commercial area of East Sprague. In the Natural it was reported that the response of the Spokane Police and the Sheriff’s Department was to beef up the graveyard shift, including bringing in a number of reserve officers, as well as civil defense volunteers armed with baseball bats riding with sworn officers on patrol. In addition, the National Guard headquartered at the Spokane Armory called in all of the Guard troops they could muster, with the rest of the units on call in case of trouble.

Maloney walked around the campus selling newspapers at Eastern Washington State College as often as he could, and at Spokane Community College (SCC), Fort Wright. One day at SCC he was asked to accompany the Dean of students, a Mr. Erling J. Hjortedal, to the office of President Dr. Howard Johnson. Sargent Dick Byrnes from the Spokane Police Department arrived and tried to talk Maloney into leaving.

At Eastern Bill Winkler of the Esquire Veteran’s Club publicly took offense at the selling of a hippie paper on the campus. An editor of the Easterner, the campus’ newspaper, Ralph Cady, took exception to Winkler’s remarks. In an editorial Cady stated that the Natural was a legitimate newspaper and deserved Constitutional protections.

Meanwhile, at SCC, the administration took a recommendation to ban the Natural from the campus for reasons that it was obscene and made it into school policy. Maloney would challenge that policy by going to the campus again to sell the Natural to students.

The Spokane Daily Chronicle’s article of the Board’s meeting where the new policy was discussed noted were a number of issues taken up by the trustees including the construction of a fence that was objected to, a statement of revenue, and the price of a parking lot at the Fort Wright campus. Nobbs and Maloney tape recorded the meeting, as well as standing up to say they objected to the policy. The board accepted the wording of the policy relating to sale and distribution of materials on the campus to “commercial solicitation may be subject to reasonable rules and regulations.” The policy as amended attempted to specifically keep the selling of the Natural off campus. Neither the Spokesman-Review or the Chronicle made any mention of the suppression of First Amendment rights.

So on April 16, after the board of trustees approved of the new regulation concerning the selling of the Natural on campus, Maloney, along with Richard L. Arnold, went to SCC to sell papers again to the students. They were approached again by Hjortedal who confiscated Arnold’s stack of papers, but because Maloney was taller by far, he kept the papers out of Hjortedal’s reach holding the papers above his head. It most definitely was a Marx Brothers moment in Spokane counterculture.

Nobbs and Maloney were forcing the administration at the campus to act on their recently revised policy. The Dean of Students, Hjortedal said the administration has a duty to control the behavior of visitors to the campus.

In the ensuing tug of war over the newspapers, a visitor to the campus, a 25-year-old black man, bought a newspaper from Maloney. The student responded to Hjortedal by expressing his contempt for the school’s censorship policy. An SCC staff member told the “boy” to leave. Addressing him in a way that angered the man who then told the staff member that he was 25 years old and a military combat veteran having served in Viet Nam. He called the SCC staff members “a bunch of fascists.” as he walked away.

Arnold said he would leave, and Hjortedal accompanied him to the sidewalk giving him back his papers before Arnold crossed the street and off of the campus. Before Hjortedal returned to confront Maloney again, Tom O’Neil, an SCC student, and member of the Black Student Union, was conversing with Maloney about a future article he hoped would appear in the Natural. As O’Neil started to walk away he was told by Hjortedal to shave his goatee off, and that his appearance was not acceptable. Because of that remark, the Black male students said they will grow beards in protest the Natural later reported.

A Spokane police officer appeared on campus and Maloney was arrested soon afterwards. Another patrolman driving through the area arrested Arnold as well. Maloney was booked for vagrancy, while Arnold was booked for disorderly conduct. But, as they pair were being processed, the charge for Maloney was changed to disorderly conduct while Arnold was now charged with vagrancy. They acquired attorney Tom F. Lynch for their hearing, and were ordered to post $250 bond. Arnold’s charges were dropped after he signed a statement that he would not sue the police for false arrest.

Maloney went to court April 26 and was found guilty of loitering, apparently, and a vagrancy charge along with being disorderly. He posted $250 bond again and appealed the verdict to the Superior Court.

A note in the Natural at the end of an article about the trial stated “George was found guilty of selling the Natural on the SCC campus, not of loitering. His disorderliness consisted of his insisting that he be arrested if selling a paper on a college campus constituted a crime.” The bond came to $105 and the Natural staff entertained contributions. This helped seed the idea for the Grotto Benefit 1, as Maloney and Nobbs were not making much money publishing the paper.

Is the word DUCK three-quarters obscene?

In July Nobbs and Maloney received a call from Detective Phyllis M. Marsh assigned to the Spokane Youth Peoples Bureau. She informed them that there was a warrant issued for their arrest. They were charged that on June 12, 1968 the two editors were “lewd, disorderly, and dissolute persons” because on that afternoon they showed Marsh and Det. James R. Albright a copy of the March 29, 1968 issue of the Natural complaining about a sentence presented in a column inch on the left-hand side of page 11.

Inspecting the page there can be found a small, bordered area down in the left hand corner of the page where the words “This is our token FUCK” with the word fuck printed in a ludicrous Victorian font reminiscent of a Terry Gilliam cartoon for Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

The word was placed in the paper with the purpose of confronting the police calling them to action.

After their arrest, Nobbs and Maloney placed their own announcement in the July 19, 1968 newspaper. It asked the question “is DUCK three-fourths obscene?” asking that people who read the paper to attend their trial set for July 30, at 1:30 p.m. to face charges of lewd, disorderly and dissolute persons. It asked they “Dress Formal Freak,” to witness the one performance. It was a call for action to make a circus out of the courtroom.

In an article on the same page Maloney addressed Det. Marsh directly

An Open Letter to Mrs. Marsh.

You can go home at night and watch the battle reports from Vietnam (in dying color, if you so desire) and watch several additional homicides during the course of the eveing [sic]. You can go to any newstand and buy the NATIONAL INQUIRER, CONFIDENTIAL, or POLICE GAZETTE, and see pictures of deformed and/or mutilated children and [sic] read about the burning of witches, what really happens in an LSD Sin Club or how Tommy Smothers kissed Cynthia Casey’s belly button. You could do it, or any 12 year old [sic] kid could do it.

There is, however, a profound difference between the NATIONAL INSIDER and the NATURAL. The NATIONAL INSIDER panders to a value system that cherishes hate, fear, violence, and prejudice; the NATURAL questions it.

Maloney said that though they had published the word “fuck” in various other articles previous to this, he feels that pressure was being put on the police department to press charges on the two because the newspaper was “starting to get advertising and become solvent.”

On the given date for the trial it was announced it would be postponed to August 14, although Maloney announced in his update in the Natural that interested parties “Numerous hippies, civil libertarians, and just possibly a few Birchers,” were told that the trial would take place on August 29. They felt that it was a deliberate attempt to mislead their friends who were planning to attend the trail.

Nobbs and Maloney had obtained the services of lawyers Sam Fancher and Gordon Cornelius, who had received notice the day of the trail of the postponement without a reason given. Nobbs and Maloney were out on $500 bonds each, a considerable amount of money for the two, and hence the need to raise money.

On the day of the new trail date, a motion was filed by Maloney’s and Nobbs’ attorneys for a change in venue. No new trial date was secured.

By this time, Nobbs had published a series on housing in Spokane that did not meet city code, was inspected by the City, but was not repaired or updated to current codes, allegedly because the property was held in trust by Norman dePender, the City’s prosecuting attorney.

On October 30, Mayor David Rodgers called a news conference to denounce the Natural for being a “hippy paper, dedicated to spreading deliberate obscenities.”

The same day the defendants’ attorneys were called and told that the trial would be held in “Twenty minutes.”

An article appeared in the next Natural.

The trial was held on December 2 in Justice Court with Judge Elsworth P. Gump presiding. Witness for the prosecution Detectives James R. Albright and Richard R. Oberding testified that Maloney and Nobbs respectively had admitted authorizing the printing of  ‘THIS IS OUR TOKEN FUCK’ and that each had stated that the purpose of the act had been to affront Spokane.

The writer of the article, unnamed, but either Maloney or Nobbs, had said that it “appeared that Norman dePender, whose duties with the city include deciding which cases are to be prosecuted, had issued an order to Get the NATURAL’ in retaliation for our expose of his conflict of interest,” from the housing issues story Nobbs wrote.

Though Maloney’s and Nobb’s attorney’s argued for dismissal on grounds of the Redrupp Decision by the U.S. Supreme Court dealing with obscenity, the City argued that the Natural editors were being prosecuted for being disorderly, thus the Redrupp Decision did not apply.

Judge Gump ruled on December 6 that Nobbs and Maloney were guilty of “offending the peace and dignity of the city.” They were given six months in jail with all but 30 days suspended. Released on $250 bail for each, they appealed the judgment in Superior Court.

By January 1969 the newspaper was $2,000 in debt and the printer would not print the newspaper unless paid in advance. The issue this article was published was printed on the Gestetner Duplicating machine that they thought they had no use for since going to newsprint.

Nobbs was warning that unless they pay down the $2,000 they owe, the Natural would cease publication despite being recognized as one of the best underground newspapers in the nation by their peers. They must have found some money because the second issue of the year was back to newsprint, and in it was a notice that a benefit for the newspaper and its editors legal problems would be held at the Grotto on January 25.

On January 7 in Superior Court, Maloney was convicted of state vagrancy as a result of selling the Natural newspapers on the SCC Campus after being told to leave. An appeal to the Supreme Court was planned at the time by his lawyer Gordon Cornelius. The benefit at the Grotto would help defray the costs of this appeal. Maloney then resigned from his position at the paper. Financials improved for the newspaper that month. They received about $350 from subscriptions that month, as well as making money at the benefit. In addition they were getting favorable results from their solicitations for advertising.

At the end of the month Maloney was sentenced and fined $100. The appeal bond set at $250, then led off to county jail. Bond was raised and Maloney was released.

The night of January 25 at the Grotto, Pacific and Browne, the benefit dance featured all local bands: United States of Mind, Pearce Arrow with John Currier, Wilson McKinley, Cold Power, Legal Jesus, Jack Nixon (Blues Guitarist), Southern Comfort, folk guitarists Buzz Vinyard and John Werr, and a presentation of Underground Films by Steve Dompier. The event was MC’d by Pat Kinney. Light Show by Light Karma and Light MOHS. Produced by Ted Bellusci and sponsored by “Spokane Hip Independent Traders.

The advertisement for the event, an illustration drawn by Sharon Nobbs, said that “Dress is a mere formality.”

Vinyard I, Laurence Michael Jon. “Burnt.” Poem. The Spokane Natural. Vol. 1, No. 2, 12 May, 1967: 5.

Nobbs, Russ. “Spokane Schools Provide Inferior Education.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 2, No. 5, 1 March 1968: 3.

“The Mayor Takes A Walk.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 2, No. 12. 7 June, 1968.

“The EWSC Cancer Spreads . . . and Spreads to SCC.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 2, No. 3, 2 Feb. 1968: 3.

“College Trustees End Controversy: Chronicle headline, Feb. 21.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 2, No. 5, 1 March 1968: 7.

“College Trustees End Controversy.” Spokane Daily Chronicle. 21 February, 1968: 9.

“2 Arrested for Selling Newspapers.” Spokesman-Review. 18 April, 1968: 6.

“Develop Your BUST, naturally.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 2, No. 9-10. 3 May, 1968: 13.

Maloney, George. “Develop your BUST, naturally.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 2, No. 15 19 July, 1968: 3.

“This is our token FUCK.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 2, No. 7. 27 March, 1968: 11.

“is a Duck . . .” The Spokane Natural. Vol. 2, No. 15. 19 July, 1968: 3.

Maloney, George D. “All My Trials, Lord.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 2, No. 16. 2 August, 1968: 3.

Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 1. January 1969: 1

“The Politics of Justice or Here Comes Da Judge or **** ***** ****.” Spokane Natural. 6 December, 1968: 3.

“The Changes We’re Going Through.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 3. 31 January 1969: 2.

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

Copyright © 2013 Robert G. Schoenberg


The Eagles Ballroom — Spokane’s Summer of ’68

A rock ‘n’ roll venue opens for the counterculture in Spokane

It was not a headline in the Spokesman-Review, nor was it announced during the nightly news on KXLY, or on any of the other Spokane television or radio stations. But for Spokane’s hip community, that is, the hippies that were a visibly growing sub-culture in town, were aware that a new dance venue was soon to appear in town. The first ad for the new music venue appeared in the May 24, 1968 issue of the Spokane Natural.

The Eagles Ballroom opened the following month featuring for its first show the Seattle rock ‘n’ roll band Easy Chair as the headliner. In addition local bands Tendergreen and United States of Mind played the same night. Two of the members of the United States of Mind were the Eagles Ballroom owner’s, Ron Bodvin and his business partner Joe Felice.  The address of the venue was South 174 Howard Street, in a building just north of 2nd Avenue. The small ballroom inside had been vacant since 1961 when the Fraternal Order of Eagles Temple, Aerie #2, that had been there since at least the 1930s, pulled up stakes and headed for a new location. Earlier that year the dynamic commercial duo of Felice and Bodvin had also opened the Flower Pot Downtown Trading Company at North 123 ½ Washington Street selling Incense, posters, jewelry, and beads. The shop’s wares included the stuff the Spokane Police Department did not like to see sold at all, let alone sold openly in a public store in downtown Spokane, the paraphernalia of the pot smoking hippies: hookah pipes, cigarette papers, roach holders (a clip for holding marijuana cigarettes when they burned down too small to hold with fingers). They also sold items the establishment did not want them to be selling: underground counter-culture publications such as the Berkley Barb, The Other, The Spokane Natural, and Seattle’s Helix. These underground, counter-culture, anti-establishment, subversive newspapers featured stories about drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll. About the same time they opened the Eagles Ballroom, Felice and Bodvin moved the Flower Pot to a new location at Browne and Main around the corner from the Vanguard Bookstore, along with another two new hip community commercial enterprises, the EMF Coffeehouse and Head, Joe Wilson’s and Les Clinkenbeard’s record store. Natural Editor Nobbs renamed the hippie enterprises Spokane’s Hip Independent Traders, or S.H.I.T for short.

That summer the local radio stations, KJRB and KGA, the teenagers listened to Top 40 songs because radio still ruled the music media. Heard at home and in the cars cruising on Riverside Avenue on Friday and Saturday nights are Tighten Up by Archie Bell and the Drells, Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel. The Rascals are singing It’s A Beautiful Morning and the annoying by Yummy, Yummy Yummy from the Ohio Express. The Beatles are singing Lady Madonna, and Seattle’s Blue Cheer have a hit with Summertime Blues. How this song could possibly be a hit, Richard Harris is muddling his way through MacArther Park, and Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66 had a hit with The Look Of Love.

Meanwhile, Felice and Bodvin finally secured a lease on the Eagles Ballroom and are able to open a new rock ‘n’ roll venue.

“The ballroom at Second and Howard was the culmination of the United States of Mind’s half year search for a good location for a psychedelic dancehall. Wending their way through the maze of city codes, inspectors and last-minute details, Eagles was found suitable by 3:30 Friday afternoon; by 8:30 the doors were open for business,” Nobbs said in his article in the Natural.

After entering the building there was seating down the right wall. Towards the back a set of double doors led to a ballroom, and in the back of the ballroom, a balcony with seating. In front was a semi-circular stage jutting out from the wall.

The grand opening of the Eagles Ballroom was set for the weekend, Friday, June 14 and Saturday June 15 with the doors opening at 9 p.m., and including a $2 cover charge to get in. Easy Chair were featured in the first full-page Natural ad with a photo, and the local bands were listed as well. A light show was to be provided by Blind Greek. Light shows are what a band needed now in addition to providing music for dancing. Not only that, Felice provided dance staging and lighting for a Go-Go dancer. Later, in August, Nobb’s published a murky photo in his newspaper of a woman by the name of Cathy go-go dancing in a bikini, her bare skin streaked with Day-Glo paint, cavorting under a black light. Here it is a year after the Summer of Love in San Francisco, and Spokane is getting its very own hippie dance, acid-rock, free-love-for-all rock ‘n’ roll venue. However, this all is freedom hippie attitude also proved to be the Eagles’ downfall.

In July the Natural advertised that music was playing every weekend, including future appearances of Magic Fern, the Time Machine, and Wilson McKinley.

But the people of Spokane apparently were having problems responding to the new entertainment scene. It has been said by musicians that appear here that Spokane audiences earned a reputation for being too polite, too laid-back. It was really a matter of musical style in the long run. When Canned Heat came to town during the KGA Summer Festival July 28 at the Spokane Fairgrounds, the audience knew exactly what to do—they boogied. Acid rock was all right, but what this town wanted was boogie blues, as evidenced by the popularity of Elvin Bishop at the El Patio in the 1970s.

In the July Natural an article by Richard Reed was published as he explained the reasons for a light show at the Eagles Ballroom.

Reed admonishes the audience at the Eagle’s Ballroom dance featuring Magic Fern. He explained that bands use the “lite-show” to stimulate the dancing activity. Reed was referring to the experiences created by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters at San Francisco’s Fillmore West, and Avalon Ballroom concerts, among other locations, and copy-catted by other promoters. At Merry Prankster concerts, also known as “Acid Tests” which were held from 1965 through 1966 in several West Coast cities until the hallucinogen LSD was outlawed for recreational use, free hits of LSD were consumed by the audience, as well as the promoters, and musicians that played. The LSD was consumed in a Kool-Aid punch given out at the door for those who wanted the full experience of the test. Visual artists created light shows with a variety of slide and movie projectors, overhead projectors, stage lighting, strobe and black lights. By 1968 the use of projectors, strobe and black lights copied from the Merry Prankster’s set up were at just about every venue featuring rock and roll bands.

Reed, in his article, said a light show simulates the use of LSD to get people to dance, cavort, act insane and just get out of their heads, and away from their dreary establishment lives once and for all. According to Reed, the Spokane audience did not dance much. It was as if they did not know what to do.

Wilson McKinley

In the same issue of the Natural, in an ad for Wilson McKinley’s appearance at the Eagles Ballroom coming up on July 5 and 6 with Tender Green, in addition there is a mention that on Friday July 12, the ballroom will host the wedding of Bill and Julie.

This appearance of Wilson McKinley at the Eagles Ballroom was said to be the probable final Spokane show for the band since the band was soon to leave for Chicago and New York to become famous.

For the event of their final show in Spokane, the members of Wilson McKinley decided to throw an afternoon going away party at Manito Park to say farewell to their Spokane fans and friends before heading out.

Wilson McKinley set up an area near the Manito Park duck pond in the afternoon before their Saturday show at the Eagle’s Ballroom. As people gathered near the pond, someone collected money in a hat to buy nine watermelons for the crowd. Musician friends from the band County Fair showed up for a set. Also that afternoon members from Tendergreen, Real Mother Goose, and the Howard Fargo Blues Band either were at the watermelon picnic, had loaned their equipment, or jammed with each other next to the duck pond. The watermelon picnic caused a small hassle with a couple of Spokane cops out on patrol who demanded to see their permit. Natural publisher Nobbs intervened and told them that they hadn’t gotten permits for previous concerts at Manito Park the year before in 1967, for the Be-Ins that were organized with music from Rick Mose Blues Band (John Currier) and The Flat Earth Society. The cops evidently let them stay. The party broke up around 7:30 that evening as musicians and the equipment headed back to the Eagle’s Ballroom. Nobbs then went down to the Parks Department the next week to have a talk about permits. This was the first effort to make rock and roll music in the parks legitimate, and would lead to the music in High Bridge Park.

In the the same issue of the Natural, band members of Wilson McKinley placed an ad in the classified pages. It was not unusual for the Natural to have typographical errors, the staff was small, and the equipment a bit primitive by newspaper standards.  It read:

“ The Wilson McKinley is leaving Spokane this weekend for New York. We would not have been able to do what we’ve done with out (sic) the consideration, help and good wishes of all the good people here. No matter how long we’re gone or how far away we are, we’ll always remember our people in Spokane.

Jim Christensen, Bill Superak, Mike Messer, Dick Pratt and Randy Wilcock (sic).” 

The Natural endeavored to follow the quest for fame of Wilson McKinley as they traveled east. The newspaper printed updates and other news regarding the band. An unnamed staff writer wrote this article following the Eagles Ballroom concert:

“Wilson McKinley performed to about 300 at the Eagles Saturday July 5, after their free concert at Manito. They played two sets and got a standing ovation from the crowd after the second set. The response was a half hour version of (Vanilla Fudge’s) You Keep Me Hanging On. They got a second standing ovation.” 

Mike Messer played lead guitar, Randy Wilcox on bass, Dick Pratt on the organ and Bill Superak on drums. The group has been together since the summer of 1967.  The writer mentioned the band had won several battle of bands in the Northwest and in Canada since their beginning.

Still, there were some problems. Spokane’s pop music venue in Airway Heights, Sunset West, were not loyal to some of the local rockers, and the writer complained about it.

“Despite their popularity locally, Wilson McKinley have played their major dates away from Spokane. A tour with Paul Revere and gigs at The Happening in Seattle did little to increase the possibility of the group’s playing such places as Sunset West.”

Later that summer a Natural article said Wilson McKinley was in Salt Lake City playing a venue called the Crow’s Nest. They were heading to Chicago to see some people at Chess Records, and If that didn’t pan out, they were going to move on to New York.

The Wedding

Julie Davis and Billy Oliver got married at the Eagles Ballroom the following Friday with the Natural’s contributing columnist Mrs. Bette Chambers officiating. Blind Greek provided a liquid projector light show. Keith Coolidge of Susila Gallery came by for the opening remarks from Kahlil Gibran. George Maloney, one of the editors at the Natural, also had some words to say before the ceremony. After the wedding, the band County Fair played “Fire” while the wedding party danced.

The end of Eagles Ballroom

Suddenly, in mid-September, the Eagle’s Ballroom shut down. The Natural published a story after talking to Felice. The story was triggered by rumors and a letter to the editor.

“‘Whatever happened to the Eagles Ballroom?’ wrote an out-of-town friend. ‘I haven’t seen any of their ads in the NATURAL for quite a while.’ Although stories of the ballroom’s closing have spread through most of Spokane’s hip community, we asked Joe Felice of the United States of Mind to fill in the details.

Joe recounted the hassles of finding a suitable location for the dance hall, signing a lease, and preparing to open. Before signing their one-year lease, the United States of Mind asked Ralph Rosenberry, owner of the property and part-time candidate for mayor, about the tavern that was scheduled to open soon on the first floor. [sic] of the building. Rosenberry assured them that there would be no problem as long as there were separate entrances — he had checked with the State Liquor Control Board.

The Eagles opened on June 14 and closed the first week of September. The United States of Mind was told to get out. According to Rosenberry, the Liquor Board stated that it would not give him a tavern license if there were ‘hippie’ dances in the same building. Rosenberry told the U.S. of Mind partnership that he had received a letter from the Liquor Board to this effect.

Joe told the NATURAL that all the supplies and equipment as well as some light show paraphernalia were locked in the building, and that Rosenberry had on more than one occasion failed to meet with the partners when they went, by appointment, to meet him. The partners are now planning legal action.

During its short lifetime the Eagles Ballroom struggled against a lack of cooperation from all sides. Although hundreds of supposedly hip people came to Eagles, many used every possible means to avoid paying the $1.50 -$2 admission. ‘Now that they’ve helped kill Eagles,’ said Joe, ‘they sit down on Main Street on weekends and say ‘There’s nothing to do in this town.’”

The bands and the booking agent were the other main hassle. Some of the bands who gave a low rate to the Idaho taverns apparently charged the fledging [sic] Eagles their top price. The booking agent, according to Joe, gave as little consideration as possible to the ballroom, while, of course, still taking his percentage. Several times the booking agent refused to confirm a booking until such a late date that no advertising could be done.

One other reason for the closing, whether it was pressure from the Liquor Board or from others, was the crowd that gathered in the parking lot adjacent to the building in which the ballroom was located. ‘The night of our last dance,’ reminisces Joe, ‘there were 150 to 200 people inside. We must have counted 200 outside.’ This crowd littered, and several times Joe picked up much of the trash. The owner of the parking lot complained to Rosenberry, as is understandable.

Joe doesn’t think that the Eagles will reopen. The reason: ‘There would always be complaints from the tavern.’ Alcoholic recreation for over-21s is more important than non-alcoholic recreation for under 21’s — that seems to be the moral.”

That wasn’t the whole story. Felice said in a 2011 interview that there was more to it, that the tavern people, nor the Liquor Control Board really had all that much to do with it.

It was the nude hippies.

The landlord for the building, Ralph Rosenberry, had stopped by the morning after one of the concerts at the ballroom and, as Felice said, “Well, as near as I can figure out, . . . somebody had a key. They didn’t break in. One of the guys I knew I gave a key . . . to clean the place up or something . . . when it closes . . .  (He) said ‘hey!’ inviting everyone in. Kids running around naked . . . God it was fun. I guess they had a good time.”

“Rosenberry . . . he didn’t want to talk about it, he just said, “you’re out, that’s it.”  But Felice said “wait a minute!, you know, I didn’t know anything about that! Can’t help it. It happened, it shouldn’t have happened . . . I don’t know what they were doing, but he caught ’em. You know, so . . .”

The lease was ended and Felice was thrown out of the ballroom. However, he still had his band, United States of Mind, and he had the Flower Pot at the corner of Browne and Main. In 1968 and 1969, this was Spokane’s hippie central, the vortex of the storm, the center of the anti-establishment, counter-culture, long-haired, pot smoking youngsters of the next generation.

“Grand Opening Eagles Ballroom.” Advertisement. Spokane Natural Vol. 2, No. 12. 7 June 1968.

“Eagles Turns On.” Spokane Natural Vol. 2, No. 13. June 21-July 4, 1968: 1.

Reed, Richard. “On Dancing.” Spokane Natural Vol. 2, No. 14. July 5-18, 1968: 7.

“Wilson McKinley et al at Eagles Ballroom.” Advertisement. Spokane Natural Vol. 2, No. 14. July 5-18, 1968: 12.

“The Wedding of Billy and Julie.” Spokane Natural Vol. 2, No. 15.  July 19 – Aug. 1, 1968: 6.

“With A Little Help From Their Friends.” Spokane Natural Vol. 2, No. 15 July 19 – Aug. 1, 1968: 7

“Wilson McKinley.” Advertisement. Spokane Natural Vol. 2, No. 14. July 5-18, 1968.

“McKinley’s Last Stand.” Spokane Natural Vol. 2, No. 15. July 19 – Aug. 1, 1968: 6.

“Eagles Turns On” Spokane Natural Vol. 2, No. 20 Sept. 27 – Oct. 10 1968: 4.

Interview with Joe Felice, October 2011 with Robert Schoenberg.

“Hot 100.” The Billboard. 25 May 1968: 52. http://www.billboard.com/archive#/archive. March 4, 2012.

Copyright © Robert G. Schoenberg 2012


Was it Them or not Them?

A proto-tribute band from Ohio pulls some Irish wool over our eyes in 1969

A band from Belfast, Ireland named “Them” with its intense and gifted vocalist Van Morrison released as the B-side to their first recorded single in 1964, “Gloria,” a tune written by Morrison. The song when released in America was not at first a hit on American radio, but it did go on to become a major rock ‘n’ roll standard soon to be covered by just about every garage band in America, including most of Spokane’s rock bands in the late sixties and beyond. Spokane art rock band Pearce Arrow memorably did a rendition of Gloria at the first of two Grotto Benefit dances for the underground newspaper, the Spokane Natural, in late January 1969. Vividly, the bands leader, arranger, and keyboardist Currier added in a bridge featuring the riff and lyrics for the Catholic hymn, Gloria In Excelsis Deo.

As for the lads from Belfast, Them soon after releasing a series of singles became a hit band in England. But early on Them and Morrison went through tumultuous times regarding management, money and personality differences, as often happens in a band that rises to the top swiftly. After the band broke up, Morrison and bassist Alan Henderson finished out the bands recording contracts early in 1966. Then Morrison left for New York to begin his solo career. By late 1967, Henderson, who had retained the name Them for his band, moved to Los Angeles to play and record with Kenny McDowell, Jim Armstrong and Dave Harvey. While in LA the band recorded Time Out! Time In For Them, a slightly psychedelic collection of songs. The band appeared at various venues including a May 1968 event with the Incredible String Band in LA, and in August with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in Chicago, to back up the LP’s release. The album failed to chart any singles, and the band broke up. In 1969 Henderson tried again to create a hit LP hiring A-list studio musicians to fill in for a band. These musicians included Jerry Cole, John Stark, Ry Cooder, Mark Creamer, and producer/composer Jack Nitzsche.

Spokane’s brand new Tiffany’s Family Skate Center, a roller skating rink built across the street from Spokane’s Memorial Coliseum by Dick Robertson, also included a stage and small dressing room along the north side wall with the intention of using the skating area for teen dances at night. Robertson had promoted teen dances in Spokane early in the sixties holding them at the Memorial Coliseum before he moved on to the Puget Sound area. What was about to happen appears as a bit of foreshadowing over the rock ‘n’ roll entertainment business even today with dozens of impersonators and tribute bands rolling through every town.

In June of 1969 the band “Them” was booked for an appearance at Tiffany’s. A Spokane Natural writer named Rich went down to the rink the day of the appearance to get an interview with the band. Rich soon learned that the band hires locals to open the show based on the quality of their sound system. Spokane’s Locksley Hall was hired for the gig, and Rich found their equipment set up on stage early in the afternoon. According to one of Them’s band members that Rich interviewed, the touring musicians bring along guitars, but no other equipment, plugging into the local’s sound system to play.

Rich recorded the names of the musicians that were playing under the band name Them: Barry Hayden, vocals; Michael Shortland, guitar; Billy Carroll, drums; and Alan Henderson on bass. Rich notes that Henderson was the only musician from the original band.

However, the musicians names do not match the names of the musicians Henderson was currently playing with, that is Ry Cooder, Mark Creamer, or Jack Nitzsche. The drummer, Carroll, in previous years sang vocals for an Ohio rock band, Fifth Order, recording some folk/rock songs for Counterpart Records. Vocalist Hayden sang in an Ohio band called Dantes. When Fifth Order broke up in late 1967, Carroll went back to playing drums, and, hooking up with Hayden, formed a new band. More than likely the musicians that appeared at Tiffany’s was not Them. The real Henderson was struggling to record a hit album with his studio musicians band, not out touring on the cheap without a sound system making appearances at places such as a Spokane roller-skating rink.

What had happened here? It seems some desperate musicians organized a tour of sorts playing at small venues around the country, bringing along only some guitars, hiring local bands to provide the sound system, and advertising themselves as a band that the locals would not recognize anyway. Knock out the chords, sing the songs that a British invasion band would sing, like Gloria, collect the cash and get out of town. Probably not the first time it happened and probably not the last. If anything, Hayden and Carroll could have advertised as a Them tribute band and let it go at that. But, except for Sha Na Na, tribute bands had not been invented yet. Now we have numerous Elvis impersonators, ACDC, Led Zepplin, Beatle and KISS tribute bands playing note for note all the songs on the original band’s playlists. This says a lot about the difficulty of being an original and writing your own tunes as Van Morrison does so well. Henderson wasn’t able to generate another hit with such studio luminaries as Ry Cooder and Jack Nitzsche. Turns out rock ‘n’ roll is a lot harder than it looks.

Rich. “Natural Interview With Them.” Spokane Natural Vol. 3, No.15, 18 July, 1969: 7.

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

Carroll, Bill.“Buckeye Beat: Fifth Order.” http://www.buckeyebeat.com/fifthorder.html. 29 December 2012.

Jack Kendall interview, Spokane, 29 December, 2012.

“The Dantes.” http://www.myspace.com/theoriginaldantes. 29 December 2012.

Warburton, Nick “Them” http://www.garagehangover.com/them/. 29 December 2012.

Copyright © Robert G. Schoenberg 2012


In Seattle interviewing . . .

Have interviews set this weekend in Seattle (and Tacoma) with Gene Nygaard, Dave Christensen, Leeroy Perkins, Tom Williams and Vaughn McKelvey. Going to be hearing about Cold Power, Shyanne, Rain, Orphan Anne, Good Morning, Blind Willie, and Sleepy John.


More on John Currier, John Mayall at Kennedy in 1970 and Rain at Last Chance Rock Festival

John Currier at High Bridge Park with Barbara Owen, John Mayall in concert and Spokane band Rain at the Last Chance Rock Festival in the mountains south of Post Falls Idaho —

Met with Doug Roberts and his wife at the Ferris Archive Friday afternoon to see if they can help identify people in the Russ Nobbs’ photograph collection.

We did find photos of John Currier playing his Wurlitzer electric piano accompanying Barbara Owen, who was singing an Italian operetta for the folks at High Bridge Park on August 13, 1969. Doug told me that Currier, as in the photos we looked at, always wore a black turtleneck sweater. Doug said his friend Currier “had a closet full of black turtlenecks.”

Looking through other contact sheets of photos we found images Nobbs’ took of John Mayall in concert at Kennedy Pavilion, October 1970.

Also Rain with Sid Fisher, Vaughn Mckelvey, Jerry DesVoignes, Vic Coy and Aaron Bochee performing at the Last Chance Rock Festival in September 1970.

Phil Ochs along with Quatrain, and comedian Murray Romain at the EWSC Fieldhouse, May 1969.

Copyright © Robert G. Schoenberg 2012


Spokane Teen Fair ’66 The Animals, Beau Brummels, Brian Hyland

The 1966 Spokane Teen Fair featuring bluesy pop version of The Animals from England—

Not enough has been said about the mid-’60s phenomena the teen fair. The business model evolved from teen events in California: combine a battle of the bands with the appearances of national acts, along with local businesses marketing to teenagers. Space the event out over a couple of days, and you have a weekend teen moneymaker.
In the summer of 1966, and always looking for ways to make money from teenagers, KREM radio’s George Phillips, along with KJRB’s John Novak and Gary Taylor, rented out the Memorial Coliseum for two days in August. The teen fair was held on a Friday and Saturday.
The Coliseum filled with booths rented by local retailers hawking items they marketed to teenagers: clothing fashion, shoes, bicycles, and more clothing fashion, and more shoes, guitars and amps, cars, stereos and records. Local bands were invited to play in the “continuous battle of the bands.” In some large urban areas, such as Chicago, or Santa Cruz in Southern California, over 300 local bands would apply for a chance to play, and win, at a battle of the bands. The Spokane teen fair was broken up into four separate events, each six hours long and featuring one national act on the main stage. The promoters charged $1.50 per show, or $4 for all four shows. For the first event Friday afternoon the national act was Freddy Cannon, Dick Clark’s favorite performer on American Bandstand.
Friday night the crowd saw The Animals in their first variation as a bluesy pop band from England. The Animals broke up after the final show of this tour, of which this Spokane appearance was near the end. Novak, commenting to the Spokesman-Review, said the Coliseum was filled to capacity for the evening.
The next afternoon Brian Hyland appeared on stage. Hyland first hit on the charts as a 16-year-old pop sensation in 1960 with Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Bikini. Hyland kept up in the business, but did not chart a hit like the first one ever again. That night the Beau Brummels, a San Francisco band that got together in 1964, took the stage. They came to Spokane with two hit singles, Laugh, laugh, and Just A Little, and an LP, Introducing the Beau Brummels.


SEACAB reports, Spokane Coliseum, 1966

Hall, Claude. “Record Hops in Spin as Band Play Steals Play.” Billboard Magazine. Oct 1 1966: 1+. 11 March 2012, http://www.billboard.com/archive#/archive.

“Mom & Dad.” Advertisement. Spokesman-Review. 7 August, 1966: II: 20.

“Teen Fair Attracts Large Crowd.” Spokesman-Review. 14 August, 1966: 20.

Copyright © Robert G. Schoenberg 2012