Monday, December 26, 2011

In Memoriam: Kent Morrill

The Wailers: Tall Cool One


The Wailers: I Want To Walk With You


The Fabulous Wailers were the Zeligs of the Northwest Rock 'n' Roll scene. They were still Tacoma high school kids when they formed in 1959, the same year as another Tacoma band, The Ventures. The Wailers hit it big first, playing their top 40 instrumental "Tall Cool One" on American Bandstand. Then in 1960, with vocalist Rockin' Robin Roberts,  they recorded an obscure R&B tune called "Louie Louie" which became a regional smash. Alas, it was the Portland-based Kingsmen who scored a nationwide hit with their sloppy copy-cat version based on The Wailers arrangement. With "Out of Our Tree", available on the Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era compilation , The Wailers introduced the punk rock sound to the Northwest, inspiring The Sonics, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Among the band's early fans: Jimi Hendrix, who offered to lend the Wailers an amp if they'd let him on stage to play with the band. ( It never happened).

When Beatlemania swept through the country, The Wailers brought their secret weapon to the fore: keyboardist Kent Morrill's voice. Listen to "I Want To Walk With You" from the 1966 album Outburst! and you'll hear a voice every bit as good as those of the lead singers of The Byrds and The Turtles. It should come as no surprise that when The Wailers finally broke up, Kent found success as a Roy Orbison tribute artist.

He was reminding his wife of an upcoming tribute show the April week he passed away at the age of 70, after years of battling cancer.

 The legendary Seattle DJ Pat O'Day said "Fame of all kind is 75 percent talent and 25 percent luck. Kent had all the talent, all of the skills, all of the emotion, all of the writing ability to be a big star. The fact that he didn't become one was just a case of luck...We don't have to cry for his disappointments because he knew how good he was and that's what counts."

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