THE KINGSMEN’S BARRY CURTIS
In 1957 in Yakima, Washington, I joined The Redcoats, the first band I ever saw. (It was also the first band of Ned Nelter who later formed Jr. Cadillac in Seattle.) I knew only two chords on my new guitar but was told I could learn others as we went along. I did, and eventually played in several other groups until graduation from high school in 1963. During those years, I also studied piano and vocal music.
In late 1963, I joined Portland’s Kingsmen to play Hammond organ and soon embarked on an extended U.S. tour to support the band’s hit, “Louie Louie.” Recording sessions in Seattle produced more chart records, then The Kingsmen performed with The Beach Boys on their 1964 summer tour. Many other tours, recordings and TV appearances followed. Norm Sundholm, Kingsmen bassist, founded the Sunn Amplifier Company. We shared stages with nearly all the stars of the time.
1966 and most of 1967 found me on another “tour” in Viet Nam after which I settled in Seattle and resumed performing. The Kingsmen’s heyday had passed and by late 1968, the band became dormant. I formed a new band and found a few places to play including various rock festivals around the Northwest.
Prosaically named “The Northwest Rock & Roll Band,” the group was the first to perform at the legendary Medicine Show on Pike Street and The Library Tavern in Fremont. Thus, I can claim at least partial credit for launching the Seattle Tavern Music Scene that included The Fresh Air on Capitol Hill, The Buffalo in Ballard, The Rainbow in University District and The Central Tavern in Pioneer Square, a significant venue of the more recent “Grunge” era.
The Kingsmen reformed in 1972 in Seattle and played bars, fairs and concerts around the Northwest and Western Canada. Another hiatus ensued after which I did some recording and performed with several Seattle groups including many guest appearances with Jr. Cadillac and a two-year stint with Sweet Talkin’ Jones. Eventually, the Kingsmen reactivated and have since performed throughout America.
In 1977, I recorded in Los Angeles, then returned to Seattle and co-founded Herb and The Spices, and then Freddie and the Screamers, featuring past-Kingsmen vocalist, Fred Dennis along with Sonics bassist and guitarist, Andy and Larry Parypa, and The Dynamics drummer, Ron Woods. I’ve had the good fortune to guest-perform with a number of other notable Northwest bands including The Viceroys, Merrilee Rush, and The Wailers.
I retired from active participation with The Kingsmen in September, 2005. Now, I am a member of the reconstituted Daily Flash, Seattle’s first folk-rock/psych band. I also perform with East King County’s Los Orchids, Salem Oregon’s Hoodoo Johnson, and I have my own trio based in Seattle
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