Tag Archives: Spokane

A Steppenwolf Riot

Image found on Internet

Steppenwolf circa 1969. Image found on Internet.

With a string of hit singles and an album in 1968, two of which, The Pusher, and Born To Be Wild, were to soon be featured in the soon to be released movie Easy Rider starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, the band Steppenwolf scheduled a concert in Spokane’s Memorial Coliseum for February 5, 1969 advertising the concert in the Spokane Natural’s late January edition. Tickets were available at P.M. Jacoy’s, Speedy’s Record Rack, and the Bon Marche. Seating was available in three areas of the Coliseum with ticket prices at $3, $4, and the top price of $5 if you wanted to sit in one of the front rows. The show started at 7 p.m.The two warm-up bands were Spokane’s Liverpool Five and an unheard of band from California, Three Dog Night, who had a recently released album and a new single Try A Little Tenderness  that soon reached #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. The producer for their album, Gabriel Meckler, had also worked with Steppenwolf on their album. Lights were provided by Retinal Circus.

The Natural sent staff writer Val Hughes, an inhabitant of the new bohemian Peaceful Valley, to review the concert. Hughes noted that the Liverpool Five were once a headliner in Spokane. The band had reduced their number of musicians to four and they had replaced members with a local musician, Fred Dennis, on bass and another musician she did not recognize.KJRB radio station personality Gary Taylor, the events promoter, served as MC for the concert. Hughes thought that Three Dog Night was the best band of the evening while Steppenwolf’s performance proved to be languid. Steppenwolf’s bass player was the exception, Hughes said, in that he was animated throughout the set. He was also wearing what appeared to be a dress. It was a dress. Nick St. Nicholas was Steppenwolf’s bass player. He had a reputation for being eccentric and for upstaging Steppenwolf’s vocalist John Kay. He was fired a year later from the band mostly for not bothering to tune his guitar and for that upstaging Kay thing. Hughes, impressed by St. Nicholas’ style and manner separate from the rest of the band said, “the bassist seemed to be in his own world.”

At the end of the show, Kay, wearing his signature dark sunglasses on stage, made an attempt at provoking the crowd into acting out some rock ’n’ roll rage at the authorities. He encouraged the opposite of crowd control. Kay invited anyone in the audience to come up and join him and the band onstage, which they did crowding together on the Coliseum’s voluminous stage. This did get a reaction from the police in that they pulled the plug on the bands amplifiers and the PA. They were shutting it down. Kay was the only one of the band left on stage. In some cities this may have accomplished what Kay wanted, a chair throwing, brawling, riot of epic proportions. But Kay overestimated what a Spokane crowd is capable of doing. There was no encore.Eyewitness Hughes described it as very underwhelming. “Now this being Spokane, nothing serious happened. The audience just went home, thinking bad things about cops, adults, and the establishment in general.”

That is, the sound went off, the lights came up and everyone politely filed out of the Coliseum. Many of the $3 ticket holders quietly came down from the second level seating on those circular ramps up in the front of the venue, passing through the front doors to catch rides with friends, or went home with a parent driving the station wagon back to Country Homes, or Hillyard, or to the Valley, or they caught the Manito Park bus for the South Hill.

Hughes talked to a musician’s agent after the show and he said that Steppenwolf was through in this town. Interviewing someone from Three Dog Night Hughes said they were “happy to be liked and ready to like back.” Hughes concluded that the show proved “we’re starting to evaluate not on a name, but on a performance . . . and maybe then the name bands will realize that you’ve got to do a bit more than just be there to turn on Spokane.”

Steppenwolf was, of course, not finished in Spokane. They would be back. Maybe it was the band reacting to the crowd that resulted in a shallow performance that night. Spokane’s audiences had a reputation among performers who appeared here as being a bit languid themselves. A year earlier Joe Felice opened up the Eagles Ballroom for rock ’n’ roll music and it folded after only a few weeks from lack of support by the public. At the August 1968 Summer Funfest held at the Spokane Fairgrounds, Grassroots guitarist Warren Entner was disappointed with the Spokane teens at their concert. He told the Natural that the whole atmosphere was bad. He said it wasn’t like a dance or concert he was accustomed to performing. He described the audience as “A lot of kids (who) didn’t come to groove on the music—they came to fuck around. Maybe it’s the lack of dilated pupils . . . there’s no communication, no love.”

However, to the Spokane audience’s credit maybe it was the music itself that needed adjustment. Also at the Funfest and appearing the next day was Canned Heat, a popular blues boogie band. This band, it was noted, did get the crowd up and on their feet. So in the end, maybe it’s not the audience that was the problem, it was what style of music Spokane wanted to hear, what got them jumping and singing and dancing. In the end, what Spokane wanted was to boogie down. That’s all.

“Steppenwolf.” Advertisement. Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 3. January 31 – February 13, 1969: 16.
“Nick’s ouster and the bunny ears.” GoldyMcJohn.com.
Hughes, Val. “One Dog Night.” Spokane Natural. Vol. 3, No. 4. February 27, 1969: 9.
“Eagles Turns On” Spokane Natural Vol. 2, No. 20 Sept. 27 – Oct. 10 1968: 4.
“All Kinds of Heat.” article. Spokane Natural, Vol. 2, No. 16, Aug. 2-15, 1968: 7.

According to Steppenwolf keyboardist Goldy McJohn, St. Nicholas was dismissed for a number of reasons: “The führer (Kay) fired him [for] wearing dresses in Steppenwolf with that bleached blonde hair, being out of tune at gigs … lots of reasons. I liked the bunny ears, but John made such a stink about it at the Fillmore East, you’d think he was in charge. Everyone else was on acid in the audience and this great big guy got up and told Kay to let Nick tune up and everybody cheered. Stealing John Kay’s limelight has and always will be his modus operandi, in other words.”

© Copyright Robert Schoenberg 2014


The Continued Saga of Bobby Wayne, Spokane’s Rockabilly Original

Wayne hauled around the 78 rpm records of his song Sally Ann with the flip side, Warpaint in the trunk of his car selling them at his performances. One of his paying gigs was performing live at a Spokane radio and television station. Like a few years before when he performed in a country and western band also on the radio entertaining for a daily or weekly show, adding in music for commercials, they advertised their weekend performances at nearby grange halls. Ron Livingstone, a close friend of Wayne at this time, explained that a band would arrange to play at a grange hall, splitting the money taken in with the grange hall owners, and advertising each new gig at the radio station where they worked. It was pretty much do-it-yourself booking and promotion for these young country bands in the Fifties. But Wayne got fired from his job at the radio station for playing too much rockabilly style music, or Elvis type music, for the station manager’s taste.

After this Wayne booked gigs in the Northwest and in the Los Angeles area. He soon became well known for his guitar playing contributing to demo recordings of other musicians. In addition his song Sally Ann was reissued as a 45 rpm disc under an obscure label, LJV Records, who had acquired the master tape.

Wayne also hooked up with his old musician buddies Neil Livingstone and his younger brother Ron to play on Charlie Ryan’s first version of Hot Rod Lincoln recorded at SRC Studios in 1958.

Over the next few years Wayne was contracted to appear on the Grand Ol’ Opry concert circuit as a guitar player backing such musicians as Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Lefty Frizell, Freddie Hart, Tex Williams, and Little Jimmy Dickens.

Locally, Wayne contracted with record label executive and producer Jerry Dennon of Jerden Records in Seattle. Wayne recorded Big Train with drummer Vince Gerber and bass player Delmar Hawkins for Jerden. The song was a regional hit in the Northwest, and in Canada. Columbia Records took notice because the style of music Wayne was recording had similarities to their star recording artist, Johnny Cash. Cash had not had a hit song with Columbia for some time in those years from 1961 to 1963, some of it because of his debilitating addictions to drugs taking a toll on his musical abilities. But his manager argued that Columbia Records should give him one more chance. Cash then recorded Merle Kilgore and June Carter’s song, Ring of Fire, and went on to become the legendary Man in Black.

Wayne signed a contract with Columbia Records in 1963, but because Cash found redemption with his new song, Wayne recorded with a subsidiary of Columbia, Epic Records. They rerecorded and released Big Train. As Wayne became known for his guitar playing, he recorded with Warner Brothers, A&M, Quality Reo, W&G, P.Y.E, Panorama, Piccadilly, Liberty and ABC Paramount. His  instrumental Tip Toes, reached #3 in Canada. And in 1966 Cash Box Magazine rated Wayne, Roy Clark, and Glen Campbell the top three Guitarists in America.

Wayne still recorded extensively with Jerden Records, and in 1964 released an LP, Big Guitar of Bobby Wayne. He then appeared in a band called The Hummingbirds, also recording with Jerden Records under that name. Dennon as well had Wayne take on the stage name Deke Wade to record some songs. In 1966 Wayne recorded a dozen songs that became the basis for the album, Ballad Of The Appaloosa. One of the songs from this LP was used by Walt Disney for the title song in the movie Run, Appaloosa, Run. In 1967 Wayne’s contract with Jerden ran out, and was not renewed.

Wayne in 1973 recorded with a woman named Guylaine from Canada producing an album of songs in French and English. Since then Wayne’s career slowed down considerably. He continued to play with friends in Spokane as much as he could. In 2011 he was diagnosed with a number of different diseases spending more than a year dealing with health issues. He died February 26, 2013.

Interview with Ron Livingstone, 5 May, 2013, Spokane, Washington.

Interview with Marge Meyer, 5 July, 2013, Spokane, Washington.

Wilkinson, Tony. “BOBBY WAYNE .“ Black Cat Rockabilly Web site.

Snyder, Robert Wayne. “Bobby Wayne.” Rockabilly Hall of Fame Presentation.

Copyright 2013 © Robert G. Schoenberg

A conversation with guitarist Ron Livingstone

I sat down with guitarist Ron Livingstone Sunday afternoon to have a conversation that ranged from grange hall dances in 1954, at Spring Hill Grange, the grange hall at Waverley, and half a dozen others where his brother, Neil Livingstone, and their band, The String Dusters, played with various musicians from around Spokane, including Bobby Wayne, and stories about Les Paul and Chet Atkins, two of his guitar heroes.

We talked about the beginnings of rock ‘n’ roll in Spokane. In 1955 his friend, song writing guitarist Bobby Wayne, returned from a stay in Georgia where he saw Elvis Presley and his band perform, and immediately ran down to a record store to pick up a handful of Sun Records 78s by the little known rocker who was turning the music scene in the South upside down.

Returning to Spokane Wayne and the Livingstone brothers incorporated rockabilly songs into their own performance. Wayne recorded a number of his own rockabilly songs in late 1955, some of them at Spokane’s Sound Recording Studios operated by Paul and Irene Carter.

Though it was a beginning for rock ‘n’ roll, it was not taken up soon by other musicians in Spokane. Livingstone said that the music scene in Spokane was Country and Western, and the musicians were not immediate fans of rock ‘n’ roll. It took a couple more years, and more Elvis, more Bill Haley, and a little bit of Buddy Holly to develop fully.

Copyright © 2013 Robert Schoenberg

Ray Charles at the Spokane Memorial Coliseum, 1962

Some notes from my research: Ray Charles, Marty Robbins, and the Limeliters: Spokane Coliseum 1962 —

On March 23, 1962 the Limeliters came to Spokane for an appearance at the Spokane Memorial Coliseum. The Limeliters, Alex Hassilev, Lou Gottlieb, and Glenn Yarbrough, began their professional career performing at San Francisco’s Hungry i. Recording for RCA Records they had a string of hits, “There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight,” “City of New Orleans,” “A Dollar Down,” “Have Some Madeira M’Dear,” “Lonesome Traveler,” “Wabash Cannonball,” and “Whiskey in the Jar.” They also recorded the advertising jingle “Things Go Better With Coke,” and made that a national hit. Yarbrough was to leave the group the following year.
Following the Limeliters on Easter Sunday, April 22, was a country and western blowout. Tour producers created themed shows that made a circuit around the country, including the Memorial Coliseum. This one was a stage show based on the Grand Ol’ Opry, and featuring Marty Robbins this year as the main performer.
That summer on June 8, Liberace brought his popular show to the Memorial Coliseum. His career as an entertainer was slowing down, and to reenergize it he began appearing live at a number of small to medium sized venues across the country, appealing to his fan base directly. Spokane was one of these venues.
At the time, the Memorial Coliseum was a publicly owned property. Anyone with the money could sign a “use agreement” with the city to plan an event at the Coliseum. Promoters held dances throughout the year for high school and college students, often featuring local musicians in battle of the bands.
In December of 1962, a man named Leonard Russell who lived on east Alice in Spokane signed a contract to use the Coliseum to have Ray Charles perform. The first date set for the concert was Thursday December 20, but it was soon moved to Sunday December 23. Charles was huge in rhythm and blues, and growing into a pop phenomenon with his latest hit “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” in 1962, and he’d released “Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music,” an LP, that year too. His road performances by this time featured a big band growing out of his initial small combo.


“Limeliters.” Perpetual Date Book, daily diary of the Coliseum Manager. March 23, 1962: 83.
“The Limeliters” Web site. http://www.limeliters.com/about.html. 5 August 2011.
“Grand Ol’ Opry.” Perpetual Date Book, daily diary of the Coliseum Manager. April 22, 1962: 113.
“Liberace.” Perpetual Date Book, daily diary of the Coliseum Manager. June 8, 1962: 160.
“Liberace.” 26 April 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberace.
“Ray Charles.” Perpetual Date Book, daily diary of the Coliseum Manager. December 20, 1962: 355.
“Ray Charles.” Perpetual Date Book, daily diary of the Coliseum Manager. December 23, 1962: 358.
“Ray Charles.” 26 April 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Charles.

Copyright © Robert G. Schoenberg 2012

Bob Gallagher, and the almighty vinyl record

Early Spokane bands, dances at the Memorial Coliseum, The Wailers’ sound system, country rock, Slab dances, Jimi sings the blues, and what really happened at the 1967 Jefferson Airplane concert —

Interviewed Bob Gallagher last evening in his record store, 4000 Holes, on Monroe St. We talked about his interest in music from the time he was in grade school, his first guitar and the inspiration that drove him into wanting to be a guitar player in a rock ‘n’ roll band. He told me stories about collecting thousands of vinyl records that became his passion and his business, booking bands for Expo 74, and the differences between bands that covered top 40 songs, bands that played more obscure songs, Wilson McKinley’s country and western influence, and writing songs in Spokane. It was a great interview lasting nearly two hours. Lots of work for me ahead transcribing the recording.