[Buck Ormsby first from the left]
From Buck Ormsby‘s Facebook wall : ‘Today, Saturday October 29th, I was saddened to learn that my friend Buck Ormsby died early this morning on his birthday’.
The second part of the 80’s was a period of revival of the psychedelic/garage underground sound of 60’s with bands like The Fuzztones, The Chesterfield Kings, The Lyres, The Morlocks to name a few.
The most curious listeners then embarked on digging the originators of that sound, helped by the reissue of a plethora of seminal compilations like ‘Pebbles’ (28 volumes!), ‘Back From The Grave’ (10 volumes) or the ‘High In The Mid Sixties’ (23 volumes!) series and above all the mighty ‘Nuggets: Original Artifacts From The First Psychedelic Era’ assembled by Elektra founder Jack Holzman and Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye.
A new exciting new world opened up for many of us, seminal wild garage bands like The Seeds, The Chocolate Watchband, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Count Fives, The Standells and many more, often lasted for just one single, contributed to forge and shape that rock’n’roll heritage and ethos that all we love.
Among this ‘pre-punks’ pioneer could surely be numbered Seattle-born Buck Ormsby, the bassist/guitarist of The Fabulous Wailers.
He started his musical career in the second part of the 50’s with the teenager trio The Blue Notes, one of the earliest rock bands from Tacoma (Washington), featuring Buck’s friend Bill Engelhart, soon re-named as Little Bill And The Bluenotes.
After a couple of years, Buck and his other bandmate Robin aka Rockin Robin Roberts both teamed up with The Fabulous Wailers, fresh from the chart hit ‘Tall Cool One’ and an appearance on Dick Clark‘s American Bandstand TV show, and when few months later a recording was made of Robin singing ‘Louie Louie’, the 1957 Richard Berry original, the legend began…
Surrounded by a rich musical environment of rockabilly and black R’n’B, The Wailers soon became the most influential band of the area, a young Jimi Hendrix was one of their fan, and will be the main source of inspiration for the 60’s rock explosion of the Pacific Midwest rock scene with bands like Paul Revere And The Raiders, The Kingsmen (stuck a hit with their arrangement of ‘Louie Louie’) and The Sonics. Never afraid to experiment and develop, disillusioned by the relationship with the major labels, in 1961 the core members of Ormsby, Morrill and Rockin’ Robin Roberts decided, in true diy spirit, to form their own record label called Etiquette Records.
The band recorded and released four albums and several singles on between 1962 and 1966, the most remarkable one was ‘The Fabulous Wailers At The Castle’, recorded in 1961 and featuring the 13 years old teenager singer Gail Harris, which has been described as “undoubtedly one of the most influential albums in Seattle rock & roll history”.
Buck Ormsby was directly responsible for discovering and producing the fuzzy loud and raucous proto-punk garage quintet The Sonics, releasing two essential album and five singles.
A true innovator, a barrier-breaker, a pioneer…in this terrible year, especially for music, his departure is not less important and cannot be understimated, without the invaluable and inspirational heritage of musicians like Buck Ornsby the rock’n’roll we all love wouldn’t exist.