This hour on The Conversation we’re taking a long, strange trip through Seattle’s musical history. We’ll start before rock 'n roll was invented; when Seattle had a vibrant, professional music scene, thanks in part to powerful unions. We’ll learn about Jimi Hendrix’s early days when he got by as a backup guitarist for the likes of Little Richard. Also, author Charles R. Cross tells us how Ann and Nancy Wilson from the Seattle band, Heart, went from middle-class Bellevue teenagers to international stars.
Before Seattle Rocked
When you think about Seattle’s music history, artists like Jimi Hendrix and Heart come to mind, of course. But there’s so much more to tell. Historian Kurt Armbruster says the golden age of music in Seattle was from 1890 to 1962. He tells the history in his book, “Before Seattle Rocked: A City and Its Music.” During that time Armbruster says, “There was a great demand for live music. It was a seller’s market.”
Labor unions also played a big role in Seattle’s thriving music scene. “There was a very aggressive, focused union leadership that really got the job done for musicians,” says Armbruster.
One of the musicians who thrived during this era was Bonnie “Guitar” Buckingham. She was popular locally and even hit the crossover pop charts in the early 1950s.
Kurt Armbruster parses Seattle’s hidden musical history with Ross Reynolds.
Becoming Jimi Hendrix
How did Seattle-born James Marshall Hendrix become the Jimi Hendrix who astounded the rock world in 1967 at the Monterrey Pop Festival? According to author Steven Roby, it took years of hard slogging as a backup guitarist with a host of R&B artists like Little Richard and The Isley Brothers.
Hendrix also performed with journeyman soul singer Curtis Knight.
Steven Roby is co-author of “Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius.” He shares Hendrix’s early days with Ross Reynolds.
The Story Of Heart
Earlier this month, the two sisters behind Seattle rock band Heart were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So how did two middle-class kids from Bellevue end up as international superstars?
Seattle-based music biographer Charles Cross tells the story in his book "Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul And Rock and Roll."
Charles Cross sits down with David Hyde.