NEARLY FOUR DECADES after Tacoma's pioneering rock 'n' roll band, the Wailers, formed in 1958, the still-active members discovered that their garage-rock legacy was being dangerously overshadowed by that other group with the same name. Jamaica's upstart reggae band, the Wailers, released their debut album -- the obscure & hit-less The Wailing Wailers -- in 1965. By that late date, our boys from Tacoma had already scored international hits (1959's "Tall Cool One," "Dirty Robber," & "Mau Mau"), issued an influential album (1959's The Fabulous Wailers), scored a No. 1 regional hit (1961's "Louie Louie"), issued a best-selling LP (1962's At The Castle), and enjoyed more regional radio hits (1964's "You Better Believe It," & 1965's "Out Of Our Tree" & "You Weren't Using Your Head").
They had also appeared on national TV (ABC's Dick Clark Show) & on the Alan Freed Show, toured the East Coast (1959) & California (1961, etc), played shows headlined by the likes of Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, the Standells, the Royal Guardsmen, Sopwith Camel -- & enjoyed the release of a half-dozen additional 45s and four LPs. So, the band was rather well-known.
Thus it remains a bit of mystery why they (& their lawyers) did not react when the Jamaican band – which included future superstar, Bob Marley -- emerged with the exact same name. Except, to consider that by the time Marley's crew followed up with a new LP in 1970 (plus three more in 1971) – they scored no hits in the United States -- & those years were a low ebb for our local heroes. By the time the Tacoma boys began reuniting & playing more regularly in 1977, Marley's Wailers had caught fire in the British & American marketplaces: album's like 1973's Catch A Fire charted & Burnin' went gold, 1974's Natty Dread charted, 1976's Rastaman Vibration went platinum, & 1977's Exodus went multi-platinum.
Final sad proof that just enough time had passed by so as to have thoroughly confused some people about these two Wailers arose in 1993 when Bill Graham's San Francisco-based rock 'n' roll empire issued a series of limited-edition silk neckties with designs based on his old psychedelic Fillmore West & Avalon Ballroom posters. Seen here is Graham's "Reggae at the Fillmore" (!) tie – with artwork borrowed from Wes Wilson's classic poster (BG 11) for the June 17-18, 1966, Fillmore shows which featured Haight Ashbury's Quicksilver Messenger Service & the Wailers (with special mention noted of their latest Top-5 West Coast radio hit, "It's You Alone"). Clearly there were no shantytown Rastamen at the Fillmore those nights – but such shoddy handling of history caused the band, in 1993, to begin rebranding themselves on various CDs & gig posters as "The Boys From Tacoma."
In June 2007 surviving memers of Tacoma's Wailers – bassist Buck Ormsby, & keyboardist Kent Morrill – finally brought suit [Ormsby v. Barrett, No. 07-5305] against the reggae band after they discovered that the internet domain name "wailers.com" had been grabbed. Their complaint was that of trademark infringement, dilution, unfair competition, & cybersquatting, based on their registered trademark of the word "Wailers." Too little, too late: in January 2008, Western District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled for the defendants. Cased closed.
August of 1964: the Fab Four are tearing it up on their first American tour, and one of the first stops is in the Pacific Northwest, where they are due to play the Seattle Center Coliseum to a typically riotous response. During a lull in the press conference prior to the show, George Harrison takes KJR dee jay Pat O'Day aside to politely enquire, "are those blokes the Wailers still around?"
Those blokes the Wailers were indeed still around, though since the onslaught of the Beatle-led British Invasion the Tacoma combos cachet had been dimmed somewhat, in record terms at least. The six year old Wailers had enjoyed a run of classic, timeless rock'n'roll singles such as Tall Cool One and Louie Louie, records that were both commercially successful and wielded considerable influence, and had additionally issued three long players, including one album - 1961s The Fabulous Wailers At The Castle that single-handedly established the benchmark for rock in the Northwest.
But like so many established American bands of that era, the Wailers confidence began to wither in the face of the ostensible glamour of their overseas cousins. So the band hit back with a fine collection of mostly self-penned British flavoured numbers, with hitherto emphasis on harmony vocals, thanks to multi-talented recent addition Ron Gardner. Released at the beginning of 1965, Wailers Wailers Everywhere is often overlooked by Wailers fans but it's a strong album and a lot better than most American attempts at Merseybeat. Of particular note is a storming take on Ya Ya, with tremendous playing from guitar god Rich Dangel.
Ironically, Dangel and original drummer Mike Burk soon tired of the bands Anglophile direction, and by the summer of 1965 both had quit the band. With the arrival of replacements, Neil Andersson on guitar and Dave Roland on drums, a new and exciting Wailers began making the scene up and down the West Coast, purveying a raucous garage-flavoured rock that owed some debt to the influence of the Wailers protoges the Sonics. Wailers' members and Etiquette label honchos Buck Ormsby and Kent Morrill wisely harnessed the youthful energy of their new line-up in the studio to produce the Out Of Our Tree album in late 1965, with the raucous, punchy single of the same name that preceded it constituting perhaps the combos finest moment on vinyl. Compared to the politely recorded "Everywhere", "Tree" was crude and deliciously distorted but remained undeniably in the Wailers tradition of stomping bring-down-the-house rock. And with punky originals like Gardener's snotty Hang Up, the masters could still teach the apprentices a thing or two.
This is the first time these classic Northwest 1960s albums have appeared on compact disc, and in common with the rest of our Etiquette series, the loaded 2-on-1 package feature great sound, rare pix and extensive notes, not to mention a handful of non-LP bonus cuts (including a classy Brian Wilson knock-off, All My Nights, All My Days). And this is not our last wail with the Fabulous Wailers, either- watch this space.
by Alec Palao
Wailers Wailers Everywhere 1964
1. You Better Believe It (Rich Dangel, John Ormsby, Kent Morrill) - 2.14
2. Do You Wanna Dance (Bobby Freeman) - 1.58
3. The Wailer (Rich Dangel) - 2.21
4. Tomorrow's Another Day (Rich Dangel, John Ormsby, Kent Morrill) - 3.02
5. Just A Little Bit Louder (Rich Dangel, John Ormsby, Kent Morrill) - 2.41
6. Hold Back The Dawn (Kent Morrill) - 2.04
7. Tears (Version I) (Rich Dangel, Kent Morrill) - 2.24
8. Since You Been Cone (Version 2) (Rich Dangel, John Ormsby, Kent Morrill) - 2.13
9. How Do You Feel (Rich Dangel, John Ormsby, Kent Morrill) - 2.17
10.I Think Of You (Rich Dangel, John Ormsby, Kent Morrill) - 2.27
11.Dont Take It So Hard (Rich Dangel, Kent Morrill) - 2.12
12.Ya Ya (Lee Dorsey, Morgan Robinson, Clarence Lewis) - 2.25
13.You Weren't Usinc Your Head (Version I) (Ron Gardner) - 2.12
14.Back To You (Rich Dangel, Kent Morrill) - 2.13
15.Hang Up (Version 1) (Ron Gardner) - 1:16
16.Livewire (Rich Dangel, Kent Morrill) - 2.14
17.All My Nights, All My Days (Ron Gardner) - 3.05
Out Of Our Tree 1965
18.Out Of Our Tree (Rich Dangel, John Ormsby, Kent Morrill, Neil Anderson) - 3.29
19.Mercy Mercy (Dog Covay, Ron Miller) - 2.46
20.Hang On Sloopy (Bert Russell, Wess Farell) - 3.33
21.I'm Down (J. Lennon, P. McCartney) - 2.27
22.Unchained Melody (Alex North, Hy Zaret) - 4.40
23.Baby Dont You Do It (E. Holland, L. Dozier, B. Holland) - 3.58
24.Dirty Robber (Version 4) (Rich Dangel, John Greek, Kent Morrill) - 2.36
25.I've Got Me (Rich Dangel, John Ormsby, Kent Morrill) - 2.05
26.Summertime (George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, Ira Gershwin) - 5.04
27.Little Sister (Hank Ballard) - 1.57
28.Hang Up (Version 2) (Rich Dangel) - 2.24
29.Bama Lama Bama Loo (Richard Penniman) - 2.25
*Rich Dangel - Lead Guitar
*Buck Ormsby - Bass, Vocals
*Mike Burk - Drums, Vocals
*Kent Morrill - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Piano
*Ron Gardner - Tenor Sax, Vocals