History of Portland Rock 3

by SP Clarke.

Part 3: The Mid 80s

By the end of 1983, change was in the wind for the Portland music scene. Near Christmas, Billy Rancher and the Unreal Gods, having signed a contract with Clive Davis and Arista Records- amidst much hoopla and snickering from local wags (who either proclaimed Portland to be the next Liverpool or an absolute pawn to the whims of an ever more powerful corporate music industry. In retrospect, both views had validity), flew to LA to record a four song demo for Arista.

It was on his return trip to LA, to record his lead vocal tracks for the demos, that Billy felt a lump in his chest. His lymphatic cancer had returned. He had just signed a six-album deal with Arista, guaranteeing $500,000 upfront for the first recording. This was not Billy’s first bout with cancer. Three years earlier, while still with the Malchicks, Billy had radical cancer surgery for lymphoma and was given a prognosis of six months to live, which he promptly laughed off. And two years earlier, while with the Unreal Gods, he had his right testicle and 47 lymph nodes down the right side of his chest, from armpit to groin, removed in eight hours of radical cancer surgery.

This surgery took place three days before the Unreal’s infamous Paramount performance, opening for reggae star Peter Tosh. Determined to play the gig with one of his rastaman idols, Billy heroically (and perhaps foolishly) ignored his doctor’s advice, leaving the hospital after only two days, instead of the prescribed ten to fifteen day recovery time; refusing all pain-killers for fear they would interfere with his performance.

Perhaps the drugs would have helped. For it was during the bands rendition of “Rasta Rhythm” that Billy took it upon himself to break into a naive, stupid rasta rap which was as embarrassing as it was humiliating. The press heavily criticized Billy and the Unreal Gods for their exhibition, unaware of any of the extenuating medical circumstances surrounding the event. Billy had kept his illness a closely guarded secret.

But the lump Billy discovered in his chest during the recording session in LA would not be so easily tossed off. There was a great deal riding on the line this third time around, both for Billy’s career and for his life. Neither would ever be the same.

Of lesser notice at the time was Robert Cray’s release of his first album, Bad Influence, for the independent High Tone label in Chicago. Suddenly Cray’s career was launched into an entirely different trajectory; one that would find his Oregon appearances dwindling as the years passed and the hits kept coming.

By the dawn of 1984, Greg Sage and the Wipers’ Restless Records release Over The Edge, had become a certifiable underground hit. Richard Burdell, along with guitarist Tod Carver, both late of Cruise Control, were nearing an independent deal for their funk/rock band Silent Treatment. Cruise Control was more of a funk/jazz ensemble, featuring Carver and Burdell along with bassist Lester McFarland and drummer Bruce Carter (formerly of Pleasure, later of Cool‘r). Silent Treatment the rockier vehicle for Carver and Burdell, featured Kit Carlson (of Wise Guy) on bass and Brian Clarke of Nimble Darts on drums. The band quickly met with critical acclaim and became a hot property among labels, local and national.

Meanwhile Billy and the Gods, carrying on with business as usual, despite Billy’s spreading cancer, became mired in the corporate muck, first with the requisite request for the band to change its name. Secondly, J. Isaac came out of retirement to offer Billy personal management advice (which no doubt included scrapping the existing band and forming a new “supergroup” around him). According to Rancher, Isaac “advocated something I’d never go for” and the two quickly disengaged from further negotiations.

In February of ’84, Meredith Brooks debuted her new band, the X-Change to lukewarm response. No stranger to success or failure, having already spent time with Sapphire and Lips, even by this early date, Brooks quickly scotched the X-Change. Also making their fledgling appearances in mid-’84 were Lenny Rancher’s new outfit the Pipsqueaks. Ed and the Boats, after several years languishing on the fringes, began to make a name for themselves.

King Vitamix introduced the community to “scratch music,” an early element of rap and hip hop, which allowed young DJs the opportunity to orchestrate the movements involved in break dancing, a popular form of entertainment in some of the larger urban centers. Some bands regrouped. Casey Nova (Kevin Nortness), availed of a knack for crafting pretty pop hooks along the lines of Marshall Crenshaw re-emerged with the Cool Rays. Remnants of the Van Goghs, guitarist Kevin Kraft and bassist Lee Oser formed the Cry, a new wave band with REMian underpinnings and U-2ish overtones.

Among club changes. Tony Demicoli settled in at Key Largo, asserting that he would stay the established course at his new venue and not try to make of it L’il Luis’ La Bamba, which it sort of became anyway. Eli’s, located on Southwest 4th near Morrison quickly became a point of destination. With separate bars upstairs and down, the club could simultaneously appeal to both the followings of Nu Shooz and Johnny and the Distractions in the larger downtstairs space, while offering more esoteric fare upstairs, such as Chelsea Rae’s raging cowpunk outfit Rancho Notorious.

But by far the most significant club inauguration of 1984 or any other year, was the opening of Satyricon in March. Formerly Marlena’s Tavern and situated in what was one of the ugliest parts of the bowery known as Old Town, Satyricon did not immediately make its mark. Owner George Tahouliotis and his brother Dimitri had formerly run the Mediterranean Club, a tiny hole in the wall on upper West Burnside. They had catered to a coterie of avant clientele in their former space and hoped to enlarge upon that following at their newer, trashier digs. Original Satyricon booker Chris Monlux made no stylistic or hierarchical distinctions among bands, which meant that on any given night one might see a folk duo, a punk band and a top blues outfit sharing a Satyricon bill in an evening of debauched musification.

Last Hurrah upheld its status as the top club in town. Owners Michael and Peter Mott battled endless landlord and construction obstacles in their long tenure in the basement space on Southwest Alder Avenue, always maintaining the highest standards for bands. If you played at the Last Hurrah, you were a popular band.

The Rodeo on Southwest 2nd near Salmon catered to a hipper crowd, offering top funk and latin bands as well as the occasional pop sensation. Remo’s on Northwest Glisan near 14th was a bastion for jazz and fusion acts as well as occasional funk forays. Slick Willy’s on Southwest Barbur Boulevard, something of a meatmarket, offered a true cross section of popular favorites from hair bands such as Sequel and Kashmir to the R&B of Nu Shooz. Even the Copper Penny in deep Southeast Portland promoted similar musical lineups for a few years. The Dandelion Pub on Northwest 23rd and the Buffalo Gap on Southwest Macadam served as the hubs for the ever-vibrant folk scene.

Modeled after any number of successful, slightly metal-ized new wave pop/rock bands of the day- as were being showcased on the nascent MTV music video network (especially acts such as Boston, Journey, Cheap Trick, the Romantics, the Cars, Loverboy, Rick Springfield and Bryan Adams), Sequel were widely pursued by huge flocks of youthful feminine pulchritude- who themselves mostly resembled some variation of Farrah Fawcett Majors- an actress who mysteriously maintained a staunchly ironclad fashion influence among a deep stratum of young Portland females, long, long after her career had swerved into an irrevocable death roll. To this very day, vestiges of the Farrah Fawcett phenomenon can still be observed within a variety of local sub-cultures.

As is most usually the case, because the aforementioned fine-feathered creatures tended to congregate at watering holes at which Sequel was the performing act, large groups of males of the species were also known to frequent these same sites. This much alone would qualify Sequel for a mention in any honor roll of local rock bands. But that is just the beginning of their story.

Propitiously enough, they were not only booked by Andy Gilbert, notorious head of the locally powerful Pacific Talent agency, but Sequel were also managed by Bob (“The Big B.A.”) Ancheta, who also just happened to be a prime-time disc jockey for then demographically desirable KGON radio.

As with a few other more successful bands, Sequel released a locally-produced full length album. While many bands were putting out 45’s in those times (still the coin of the realm, even in the early ‘80s) the expense of a full-length album (often in the neighborhood of ten thousand dollars), proved financially prohibitive to the typical band of the day.

Sequel’s eponymously entitled first album, which was produced by the legendary Marlon McLain (of Pleasure fame) and released in 1982 on Double-T David Leikin’s Lucky records label, sold well on a regional level, with several songs receiving regional radio airplay.

Exploiting a dramatic rise in interest in local recordings (with innumerable samples from which to choose), KGON released two “homegrown” compilation albums featuring regional talent. Competition among bands was extremely intense for selection to one of the coveted ten tracks on the album. However, KGON incurred the wrath of many rejected acts, when it became known that Sequel just happened to be the only band selected to appear on both albums.

In an exceedingly rare instance of actual hard-hitting “journalism,” Two Louies, smelling a rat, stepped to the fore, charging Bob Ancheta with a conflict of interest: for acting as Sequel’s manager while simultaneously promoting them through his position at KGON. Receiving several official letters of complaint, the FCC eventually looked into the matter. But nothing ever came of any assertions.

Still, a music scene adrift in the doldrums, in 1983, was showing signs of moving toward channels where the trade winds were blowing more favorably in 1984. As Terry Robb was recording his third acoustic album with the legendary John Fahey for Rounder Records, he also was in the midst of reconfiguring his Terry Robb Band- opting for a harder edged Rock sound over the more traditional blues stylings the band had been laying down for the previous three years. By the end of the year, Robb had formed Two Lane Black Top with drummer Guy Maxwell of Diamond Hill and former Slowtrain bassist Scott White.

Billy Kennedy, fresh from experimental ventures with Rick Mitchell’s Le Bon, decided to throw in with renowned misfit entrepreneur and washboardist extraordinaire, Billy Hults to form Special K. Hults, who had been garnering local fame for his smirking folk troupe Billy Foodstamp and the Welfare Ranch Rodeo, as well as for stints with Les Clams and occasionally with the Rounders, was even more notorious for the outspoken support of his friend Bud Clark in the 1984 Portland mayoral race.

The two Billys combined to create a cosmic conjunction that was nearly Keseyesque in nature, wherein Hults’ Sometimes A Great Notion sensibility intersected with Kennedy’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest flights of fancy. Never predictable, their sets were funny, cathartic and transformative, sometimes within the course of a single five minute song.

By the Summer of 1984 the scene was once again rejuvenated. Not only were the home boys in Black ‘n’ Blue making a triumphant return to Portland, opening for Whitesnake at the Coliseum, but Nu Shooz rocked nearly 200,000 spectators in the streets of lower Southwest Portland at the Neighborfair, an early (and superior) precursor to the Bite. Coincidently, the Bite began it’s long run as a popular civic event later that same Summer.

Supergroups began to form from the fragments of other bands. Chris Tsefalas a talented singer/songwriter and guitarist picked up bassist Sid Jones from the disbanded Positive Waves and drummer Charlie DeFrank late of Map Of France to team up with Crow, a band which drew instant recognition from the local press and scenesters alike. Ben Davis from the Odds formed Fashion Ambulance. Guitarist John Lindahl, who replaced Duane Jarvis in the reformed Odds, joined the Skins for a brief run. Fred Cole, whose Rats met their demise the year before, resurfaced with a surly cowpunk outfit, Western Front.

But most the most noteworthy developments in the Summer of 1984 were the names flying around Meredith Brooks’ search for the right players for her all-star band and Jack Charles’ split from Quarterflash to go solo with Mien Street. Strangely enough, J. Isaac’s name was closely affiliated with both bands. Isaac, who had consistently popped out to short right since his first-at-bat-in-the-majors homerun with Quarterflash’s first album, had acquired a worldwide reputation (via Midem in France) as the conduit to the hit bands of Portland. But he was rapidly running out of gas in his quest to mastermind the next uberband. His second run up that hill would be his last in the local music industry.

Mien Street was the cutting-edge conception of Charles, who, inspired by Peter Gabriel’s third solo album (which featured the song “Shock The Monkey”) gathered together a stalwart squad of seasoned veterans and facile neophytes. Initially, Jack raided drummer Greg Williams and keyboardists Rob O’Hearn (whose brother Patrick was playing with Missing Persons at the time) and Kerry McCoy from Man In Motion- which fell apart when Mike Fingerut developed a career ending case of tinnitis.

Along with peripatetic bassist Denny Bixby (who earlier had fulfilled a similar capacity in Craig Carothers’ Orange Orange and Go 90), Charles quickly added backup singing sisters Margaret and Mary Linn, whose seamless harmony vocals added depth and class to the stage show. Another feature of the Mien Street sound was Williams’ deft interaction with a Simmons drum machine, utilizing electronic triggers for other exotic tones, along with a standard kit- lending the music a high-tech sheen. While the technique had been tried before, Mien Street’s was one of the most successful attempts.

Likewise was the groundbreaking use of computer systems in the execution of their live presentation: a decision which was not without its downside. The systems occasionally crapped out, leaving the helpless musicians marooned at their stations, grinning sheepishly with nothing to play until things were righted.

Rocked by the indifferent reaction to the X-Change, Meredith Brooks, ever the shrewd and visionary businesswoman, spent the Summer of 1984 trolling the regional waters, hoping to land some highly visible fish to serve as her new backup band and springboard to national prominence. Rumors that Dan Reed of Nimble Darts would play keys and that the Confidentials’ drummer Alec Burton and bassist Tim Clift would be the rhythm section helped to facilitate the breakup of those bands- while eventually proving to be entirely unfounded.

By the Fall of 1984, the Angels Of Mercy had been born. With Meredith fronting the band, she was backed by drummer Brian Johnson, Jeff Little on guitar, bassist Walter Stewart and keyboardist Robin Blumenstein. Little was later replaced by Jesse Samsel. Grant Roholt, former drummer for Sequel eventually replaced Johnson.

Samsel had a local music history all his own. He started playing guitar at the age of eleven and began playing in bands in junior high school. Playing with White Lightning in the mid-’70s, a teen-aged Samsel and the band were able to get airplay for a locally produced single on prodigious KISN (whose radio format then was about the same as it is today, only then the songs they played were fairly new, while today those same songs are, of course, oldies). White Lightning’s success culminated with a performance at the Inferno in Southeast Portland, at which they were the headlining act. The opening act was a then unheralded band called Heart.

The Angels of Mercy were an immediate hit within the Portland scene, regularly holding court at Last Hurrah, Eli’s, Key Largo and the Copper Penny. The band continued on successfully through 1985, before eventually running out of gas and disbanding later in the decade.

Co-managed by the unlikely team of J. Isaac (there’s that name yet again, linked with another supergroup concept) for the national push and Deni Hermann from Andy Gilbert’s Pacific Talent agency to handle the local bookings, Meredith Brooks made an immediate splash in the Portland rock scene, though her original material still drew critical scorn and indifference. Still, Brooks had stocked her pond with some of the best fish around.

Updating the continuing band soap opera, beyond the aforementioned scenarios: bass player Jim Wallace, who left Mystery Date the previous year, surfaced with Theatre Of Sheep. Johnny And The Distractions’ rhythm section of bassist John Mazzacco (late of the Results) and drummer Damien Dillon skipped to Silent Treatment when the grass looked a little greener with the latter’s inked contract with nationally distributed Red Label Records, guaranteeing an imminent record release.

Drummer Carlton Jackson and original Distraction bassist Rick Edwards raced to Johnny’s aid, re-enlisting for second tours of duty. The Distractions were always a band with a revolving door policy. Players incoming and outgoing were practically falling over each other, as a never-ending series of personnel changes seemed to undermine Jon Koonce’s schemes at every turn.

Among the fledgling acts to take wing in 1984 were Napoleon’s Mistress, a new wavey pop band fronted by the husband and wife team of Robert and Gina Noel, who alternated lead vocal duties. Pocketdoll was perhaps the best exhibit for the talents of Mark Fuqua, a charismatic singer songwriter, as well for guitarist Gordon Hermanson. The Receivers were a Christian band that hid its convictions inside U2-ish Rock anthems.

Singer/ songwriter Tim Otto, was set to record an album for Buddy Holly’s mentor, producer and collaborator Norman Petty in his Clovis, New Mexico studio complex, when Petty unfortunately died. Tim was to have been Petty’s first protege since his discovery of Holly in 1956. When Petty died, Otto’s hopes were crashed as well. He bounced back by returning to Portland, forming the Surf Cowboys, a vibrant, self-descriptive band that featured Greg Paul on lead guitar.

Salemite Brian Berg made his first appearances as a solo singer/songwriter of enormous talent and promise. Louie Samora who was the best drummer ever for the Rats, stepped out from his kit (álà Jon Koonce) to form The Jackals with former members of Sado Nation, guitarist Dave Corboy and bassist Steve Casmano. Raunchy punkabilly with a hint of surf in the turns, their music was an instant sensation.

The Miracle Workers- with Danny Damiankow on guitar and organ;drummer Gene Trautmann, bassist Joel Barnett; vocalist Gerry Mohr and guitarist Matt Rogers- were a punky pop band that had been around for a few years. They played on vintage Rickenbacher guitars through ’60s Vox amps and rose to prominence behind Mohr’s impassioned vocals and Rogers’ powerful fuzz-drenched lead guitar phrasings; releasing several albums, EPs and singles along the way, before moving to LA in 1986.

The end of 1984, found Curtis Salgado disbanding three-year old In Yo’ Face to head East and play with the eleven-piece band Roomful Of Blues. Bassist Todd Jensen left Sequel to head South to LA. Members of Rising Tide and Fire Eye (who had always intermingled in the past anyway) joined with Quiet Riot drummer Cliff Carothers, creating Malice and signed with Atlantic. Silent Treatment’s “Life On Earth” video made the playlists of MTV, and on cable network programs such as Night Tracks and Night Flight.

The Crazy 8’s release of the album Law and Order, on their own Red Rum Records label, complete with cowboy Reagan cover illustrated by Oregonian political cartoonist Jack Ohman, made an immediate impact, selling a thousand copies in the first nine days in area stores, rising to the position of Number Five Independent Release in the Gavin Alternative charts.

Through the course of 1984, Billy Rancher’s fortunes took a decided downward turn. Getting wind of the recurrence of his cancer, Arista promptly backed out of their contract with Billy, putting his career “on hold.” The band, restless and impatient, elected to desert him as well, maintaining that they “had their own careers to think about.” They formed the glam-metal band Marilyn Monroe. Debilitated by chemo therapy through the Summer of 1984, besieged with the resultant medical bills, Billy eventually formed Flesh and Blood with his brother and several other members of Lenny’s band the Pipsqueaks- with an eye toward gigging to help offset his medical expenses.

Possibly the most momentous event of the year was the unveiling of the Dan Reed Network at Last Hurrah on December 2nd, 1984. Borrowing a great deal of their stage flash from Prince, the Network, none-the-less, became an immediate force in the local scene. With the breakup of Nimble Darts, Reed, who had been with the band for a year, found financial backing for a project of his own and did not squander the opportunity.

Briefly enlisting the services of former Thin Man keyboardist Jeff Siri, then former Quarterflash keyboardist Rick DiGiallonardo (later replaced permanently by Blake Sakamoto- who met his newscaster wife Brenda Braxton in the green room at a Mayor’s Ball), drum master Dan Pred, bass monster Melvin Brannon II and production wizard/guitarist Brion James, the charismatic Reed seemed to pick up the torch Billy Rancher was passing on. While their bands were stylistically dissimilar, Rancher and Reed shared an androgynous beauty that attracted fans of both sexes. It would be Reed and his cohort who would go on to greater things in the latter half of the decade.

1985 was a year of solidification for the Portland music scene. The signings of numerous local bands and the chart success of several others led to a grassroots awareness that the scene was maturing, garnering national exposure on a regular basis. The city’s musicians began to take themselves and their careers seriously. The central episode in that maturation process was the Mayor’s Ball.

Barkeep Bud Clark was not given much of a chance when he ran against perennial pol Frank Ivancie in the 1984 Portland mayoral election. But his status as a man of the people was well received by a populace that was never able to fully trust career politicians in the first place. His election victory came as a surprise to many, not the least of whom was Clark himself, who had amassed a sizable campaign debt during the course of the race.

His longtime friend Billy Hults quickly sprang to his assistance, organizing an event of unheralded magnitude. But there was method to the machinations of Billy Foodstamp. The sly Hults correctly concluded that by staging a benefit for the Mayor of Portland, featuring the cream of Portland’s musical community, he would be indirectly receiving the sanction of the city government. Such support became integral to the promotion of Portland to the greater music world.

And what a spectacle it was! More than thirty acts on seven stages performed during the evening, in front of more than 10,000 spectators. Bands such as The Kingsmen, the Paul DeLay Band, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Allstars with Steve Bradley, Thinman, the Razorbacks, Incredible John Davis, Earl Benson, Special K and the Swingline Cubs all made appearances. The first Mayor’s Ball set into motion a series of major events that helped to draw attention to the Portland music scene. It also initiated a tradition of benefits that was to continue on into perpetuity.

The first recipient of this newfound social goodwill among local musicians was, rightfully, Billy Rancher. In an attempt to stave off Billy’s creditors, friends organized a benefit for Billy at Starry Night, featuring a cast that included members of Crazy 8s, Quarterflash, Thin Man, the Unreal Gods and Nu Shooz, as well as Jack Charles, Meredith Brooks and Dan Reed. Billy even made an appearance with members of Lenny’s band the Pipsqueaks (the first of several throughout the Winter and Spring of ’84, later under the name Flesh and Blood).

Just over a month later, on St. Patrick’s Day, a benefit was being held at Starry Night for Richard Burdell. Burdell, complaining of symptoms he attributed to a water skiing accident he had suffered in the early Summer of ’84, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Silent Treatment was doomed. In order to offset his medical debts, friends organized a charity function on his behalf that featured the likes of Tom Grant, Paul DeLay, Nu Shooz, Mien Street, Calvin Walker, Cool’r, Le Bon, Ron Steen and a new band, the Lloyd Jones Struggle.
The Lloyd Jones Struggle began as a side project for the energetic guitarist on off nights from his gig with In Yo’ Face. Jones was yet another drummer to step out from behind the kit to front a band as a guitarist and lead singer.

Marilyn Monroe: the healthy members of the Unreal Gods, gigged regularly on the local circuit to critical indifference and widespread public apathy. Portraying themselves as a “glam-metal” band, in actuality they were neither. Towards the end of their limited run, the Monroes tried to lure Mark Fuqua from Pocketdoll to act as their lead singer, a role that Unreal drummer Billy Flaxel had been attempting, without much success. For better or worse, Fuqua declined, opening a hair salon instead.

As is customary within the volatile climate of music club management, venues closed and venues opened to fill their vacated demographic space. As the PC&S closed in upper Southwest, the Dublin Pub opened on the Eastside, as Larry Hurwitz was opening the Sixth Avenue club across from Starry Night, Cafe Oasis was closing in Northwest Portland. Eli’s II supplanted Belmont’s on the Eastside.

Cafe Oasis was originated by Leroy Williams whose connection to the local underground extended back to the 9th Street Exit. The cafe itself was a rickety house of cards, small and sparsely furnished. Still crowds would flock to see Billy Foodstamp, Billy Kennedy or Ed and the Boats. When the new owner Foj Kohler closed the business in mid-1985, there was a vacancy left for a club to cater to esoteric Folk acts and their fans. Dublin Pub, located at 30th and Southeast Belmont stepped in to fill that void.

Not much bigger than the average living room and located in an essentially residential neighborhood, the Dublin Pub succeeded because owners Kate Bullock and Carl Ballard were unrelenting in their control of the club. Hawking expensive imported beers to every body they could squeeze into the place, Kate and Carl were renowned beer nazis. It was commonplace for one of the pair to scoop up any unoccupied glass of beer, quickly seating a new customer in any apparent empty space.

Their squirrel-like staff were instructed to inquire after refills whenever a customer’s glass reached the half empty point. Half-full was not a Dublin Pub concept. Another unique aspect about the Dub Pub was that Kate and Carl provided the PA system, which was drastically underpowered, in order to mitigate neighborhood noise complaints. Stage volumes were always kept to an absolute minimum. Kate would take obvious relish in introducing each act, venturing forth at length, in rich Shakespearean tones, a spontaneously composed soliloquy in honor of her next guest performers.

Still, countless folk and rock acts made Dublin Pub their home- from an Earl Benson reunion with Sleazy Pieces to Ed and the Boats, the Riflebirds and Billy Kennedy and Lew Jones, to any number of Irish acts whom the owners supported. Musicians knew that Kate and Carl paid up-front and always paid the agreed amount. This was in stark contrast to other club policies around town, the most notorious of which was that of Larry Hurwitz.

A gig at Starry Night, regardless of attendance, usually meant that the band was playing for nothing or next to it. Larry’s list of deductions was legendary. He once refused to pay Rozz Rezabeck any money at all for singing to pre-recorded Theatre Of Sheep instrumental tracks: billing himself as the band, despite a favorable reaction from the audience. Rozz received instead, assurances from Larry that the withheld monies would be donated to Billy Rancher’s then-upcoming benefit. However Starry Night made more money than the charity when it came to that benefit and Rezabeck’s “donation” of $450 was never mentioned in the final tally.

Other bands to come to the fore during this time were the Neil Gilpin’s K-Tels, Boy Wonders, Harsh Lads, the Vena Rays, Insane Jane and the Oblivion Seekers. The Vena Rays were an outspoken group of alternative female musicians, memorable because their bassist, Kat Bjelland, later went on to play with Babes In Toyland. Mark Sten, already a seasoned veteran of the Portland Alternative underground wars, formed his new band, the Oblivion Seekers.

Harsh Lads were a musical bevy of Lincoln High School students led by serious young Houston Bolles. The K-Tels were the vehicle for Neil Gilpin’s sturdy versions of Soul and R&B songs known and unknown; whose main course always seemed to include pit stops at the Dublin Pub. Insane Jane were notable for the stellar lead guitar pyrotechnics of young Maria Ortizi, who later became Maria Callahan- known in the ’90s for her work with Doris Daze.

SP Clarke © 2011 – All rights reserved

3 comments on “History of Portland Rock 3

  1. I was born and raised and ran amok in Portland Oregon for 55 years. I have only reviewed a couple of volumes of 2 Louies so far it’s a Nostalgico is overwhelming me and the revisiting is doing me a lot of good. from BOGART’S JOINT TO OLD TOWN STRUTTERS HALL TO THE AMERICAN MUSEUM AND STONE BALLOON AND JOE’S CELLAR,myself and my hippie/boomer friends were there. We helped Peter Goforth open SNEAKY PETE’S.
    would you know any facts about the COWBOY ANGELS ?
    602 418 1647 john

  2. I worked in stage lighting from 83-88 with Eye Beam and some small gigs with Hollywood lighting and even Rose City Sound.. I so dearly remember working (lighting..set up and tear down and operating) at all these places many..many..times.. I really enjoyed the Shang hi lounge.. and loved Eli’s.. Joe the Bartender was way cool

    I had many fun times working with all of these bands and individuals and all of these bars…I loved it..it was the best 5 years of my life…and still talk about it

    Thank you for the excellent writing and great reading

  3. I absolutely love reading (and reminiscing while doing so) this article. Everything that I’ve read has been pretty much spot on except for two things ( regarding Dan Reed Network)1. Jeff Siri was our 1st Keyboardist then Rick Digiallonardo and then Blake Sakamoto, and 2.Melvin was actually Melvin Brannon II not III????

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