From Ray Charles To Jimi Hendrix: How Seattle Helped Create R&B And Rock And Roll

Life Writer
01.01.17 6 Comments

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Though the guitar fuzz has faded and “grunge” has spread far and wide from its launch spot, music remains a big part of Seattle’s identity. But the history of the “Seattle Sound” begins long before Green River’s “Come On Down” and the “Deep Six” compilation and it’s a lot more diverse, kickstarted in the 1940s around a premier jazz and blues scene that attracted greats like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Charlie Parker, and so many more. It’s also all connected and passed down like a trade secret from one legend to the next.

Ray Charles left the south and went to Seattle to sing the blues, and, subsequently, invented soul. His best friend was a young Quincy Jones who spent rainy day after rainy day honing his skills and writing music that eventually changed music forever. Jones’ neighbor, Dave Lewis blended the soul, blues, and jazz of his youth and became the granddaddy of the Northwest Sound. Lewis went on to give Jimi Hendrix his first shot at performing on stage and a place to practice and plug in his electric guitar. And Hendrix would inspire locals like Heart, the ’70s metal/punk of the UMen that inspired bands in the ’80s, and what became grunge. And it’s all tied together by determination, ambition, a few coincidences, and the Emerald City.