Something In The Music
I was on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle when my phone started ringing. It was a client and I was a salesman; a rock music agent, always on the lookout for clients and new bands. I was the kind of local agent who sold to rock clubs and taverns and the golden rule among agents like myself was “if you’ve got the jobs you’ve got the power” and in early 1978 I had some power.
I worked in Seattle booking a bunch of large rock and roll taverns that paid bands well. I always needed bands for the club owners who were very picky so when the voice on the phone had said; “meet me at Peter Guys in an hour and check this band out, you’ll get your mind blown” I’d listened.
Peter Guys was an unusual place for the Seattle area at that time. Located in Kent, a town minutes out of downtown Seattle it was a small lounge with hard liquor located in a mini mall across the street from a 500 seat rock and roll tavern that only sold beer and wine. What made it unique besides selling hard booze, was that it had live music, rock music, not lounge or piano bar music that most lounges had. The guy who’d called owned the big club across the street another big one in Belleview and two others in Seattle and was affectionately known as “Fun Phil.” He was an important club owner and we worked together daily on his entertainment schedules for all the clubs. So driving from Queen Anne out to Kent in a blinding rain storm I figured he was on to something. He always wanted to be the first, to have the best. He’d woken me up in the middle of the night several times to tell me to go check out a new band and a couple of times it had paid off. I hoped this was another deal like that; I was taking my life in my hands on the freeway in the deluge!
When I pulled into the parking lot of Peter Guys I saw Phil’s empty car, a sliver 280 Z, and figured he was inside. I ran across the lot through the rain and ducked into the entry way leading into the club. Suddenly I was propelled backwards to about ten years earlier when I heard and felt a similar kind of energy that was now rushing at me, it had been Jimi Hendrix blasting through “Foxy Lady” mesmerizing a standing room only crowd; people who were transfixed and wide eyed in awe. Well one thing I knew for sure was that it wasn’t Hendrix playing in there, he’d died in 1970, but It could have been his ghost, the hair on my arms was bristling as I walked into the lounge area and saw the source of the sound and energy pirouetting colorfully with scarves flying across a small stage bathed in light from one stage light hanging hap hazard from the ceiling. When I’d seen Jimi Hendrix he was on a big stage with concert lighting and a colorful light show and there were about 4,000 at that show and everyone was totally into it, there were only about 75 people in Peter Guys, but the two audiences had one thing in common; they got their minds blown!
An hour later Phil and I sat in his office at the Ad-Lib Tavern across the street from Peter Guys. “What did I tell you? Nobody around here has ever seen anything like that. Find out who his agent is, split the commission with him and I’ll use him all the rooms. That was amazing; I’ve never seen anything like those people watching, they couldn’t take their eyes off that kid.”
That was the beginning of the journey working with Randy Hansen who along with band mates Tim Kelliher, and Larry Epperly, set the Northwest afire as Randy Hansen’s Machine Gun; A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
The best part was Phil had dates for him I had to fill, so I had the good jobs to offer Randy. That was a good thing because the agency he was going through, The Bill Stephan agency, was ninety percent lounge acts. Light cocktail trios, uniformed mellow top forty bands, and a couple of 50’s show bands but no trios like his. They knew they couldn’t keep him working on their circuit so their agent made a deal, split a months worth of commissions and I took over from there.
Before they’d began doing the Hendrix show full time Randy, Tim and Larry were in of the 50’s show bands Stephan booked; Kid Chrysler and the Cruisers. They did a lot of other impersonations including Alice Cooper, Mick Jagger, John Kay of Steppenwolf and Randy Bachman of B.T.O. and when Randy started doing his Hendrix impersonation it blew everyone away but Kid Chrysler broke up so the three band mates decided to try Jimi full on. That’s when they were at when I first saw them in 1978, they were just beginning their Hendrix trip; mine had begun as a college student meeting him in 1968. They didn’t know where theirs would take them and I certainly hadn’t known where I was headed, but something in his music was pulling all of us along.