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Report by Tina Minster
Coffee with a Legend - Kent Morrill of The Fabulous Wailers
"One on One"
April 9, 2009
I always knew that The Fabulous Wailers and their close friends The Ventures made a tremendous impact on the world of music. Since the late '50s, The Wailers have managed to maintain a formidable fan base for over five decades, no simple feat by any stretch of the imagination. Their work established the greater Seattle area as the groundbreaking music birthing pool it has become. The Ventures, labelled as a "prototype for guitar-based rock groups," have also held their sound high throughout the years. A pop music poll in Japan listed their song "Ginza Nights" as the most popular song of all time, and their sound has brightened the Hollywood scene from "Hawaii Five-O" to "Pulp Fiction." Together, these two bands helped evolve music to what it is today. They have been listed as inspirations and heroes by such greats as The Beatles, Elton John, The Eagles, Ted Nugent, and John Fogerty. What I didn't know was the bands' humble beginnings. When I had the opportunity to sit down and have coffee with Kent Morrill, the original pianist and vocalist of The Wailers, he was all too happy to tell about about the birth of their historic group.
Starting in 1958 as a bunch of high school kids in a garage, The Fabulous Wailers had no idea what success laid ahead of them. The young group initially had no grandiose plans of fame and fortune. They were "a bunch of kids who just wanted to rock out." The Wailers as well as the Ventures have both been credited as being the first garage bands, a trend that blew up as quickly as the two bands' popularity. They soon drew bigger and bigger crowds with their sound, perking ears and tapping feet for years to come. One story in particular that Mr. Morrill shared with me was the band's frequent interactions with a then-young Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix's first song he ever learned on guitar was "Tall Cool One" after attending a Wailers show in Tacoma, Washington one weekend. After that, the gangly teenager was hooked. "He used to come up to us before every show and tell us that if an amp blew while we were playing, don't worry because he brought one with him." The price for using Hendrix's amp? The chance to play one song on stage with the band. Sadly the opportunity never arose, but Ken said Jimi would be front row every show with his amp at his feet, rocking out to the band and hoping for his chance to shine.
Despite their long life in the limelight, The Wailers and The Ventures are far from cashing in their chips. In fact, the two bands recently collaborated on a CD entitled Two Car Garage (pre-sales available now off their website www.twocargaragemusic.com/). This is their first ever album together, but one that has been in the making for over fifty years. The album contains eighteen tracks handpicked by both bands as their most influential, most prominent, and most fun songs. Touring starts this week with a CD release show on April 10th at the Moore Theater in Seattle, WA. Don't miss this opportunity to experience these rock legends in person. Come see what all the hubbub's about and relive a piece of music history.