When you think of Seattle and music, what comes to mind? Mudhoney? Pearl Jam? Nirvana? Lollapalooza? Bumbershoot? Grunge? Sub Pop? Tooth And Nail? If that's all you think of, you're in desperate need of a history lesson. You see, long before there was a so-called "Seattle scene" (or whatever they call it), there was "The Northwest Sound". It started in the late 1950's, and reached its full flowering in the 1960s, nurtured by a handful of enterprising independent (for the most part) record labels. Most lasted only as long as the careers of the acts that were on them, never to be seen or heard from again. But four of these labels managed to make a lasting impression:

    Co-founded by Bonnie Guitar, Bob Reisendorff and Lou Leventhal. Originally called "Dolphin", their first release was The Fleetwoods' "Come Softly To Me" (which reached #1 in Billboard-not bad for a first effort by a regional label). Several acts had releases on this label, which soon went national (via Liberty Records), but the ones everybody remembers are The Frantics (if only because future Moby Grape members Jerry Miller and Don Stephenson were in it!), Vic Dana (who is as far removed from rock - Northwest or otherwise - as you can possibly get!) and Tacoma's The Ventures (rock's most successful instrumental group of all time). Label was phased out by Liberty in 1967.

    One of the first artist-run labels in rock music, owned by John "Buck" Ormsby and Kent Morrill of The Wailers. Released the first rock version of "Louie Louie", by Rockin' Robin Roberts. Still active today, reissuing their back catalog through Norton Northwest.

    Founded in 1960, Seafair Records (with its distinctive seahorse design) lasted only through 1962. Its sister label, Bolo (with its equally distinctive red and white label with the pirate cutlass) managed to hold on through 1968. Notable acts included Dave Lewis (pre-"David's Mood" and "Little Green Thing"), The Viceroys (with their classic "Granny's Pad") and The Dynamics (whose members included Larry Coryell, Jimmy Hanna, and three future members of The Springfield Rifle: Jeff and Terry Afdem, and Harry Wilson). The label revived in the mid-80s, continuing well into the 90s under new owner Dave Corning (last known release: "The Transparent Two" by The University of Texas Two O'Clock Lab Band, 1995); last known location: Snohomish, WA.

    Seattle's premier pop label. Founded by ex-Dolton promotion man Jerry Dennon and Bonnie Guitar after they left that label, its 'now you see us, now you don't' year of 1960, followed by two years of inactivity, gave no hint of the powerhouse the label was to become when it returned in 1963. Suffice it to say, Jerden (and its subsidiaries, Panorama, Piccadilly and Burdette) kicked butt and took names. Jerden #712 ("Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen) launched and defined the NW garage band style. Don & The Goodtimes, The Bards, The Springfield Rifle, Ian Whitcomb, Jim "Harpo" Valley (post-Raiders), Bobby Wayne, Dave Lewis, Danny O'Keefe... the list goes on. Morphed into The Great Northwest Music Company (First American, Music Is Medicine, Red Carpet, and the slightly renamed Picc-A-Dilly) in the late 70s-early 80s. Dennon wisely held on to the Jerden master tapes, which was a good thing when he revived the label in the early 90s, which now operates out of Rolling Way, WA, as part of his SoundWorks International company.

There were, as previously mentioned, other labels (Camelot, Lavender, and Big Sound); but by and large, these four are the ones mentioned most often when it comes to the Original Northwest Sound. What I've attempted to do here is catalog, as thoroughly as possible, every known single release on those labels. As you might have guessed, this project took a lot of research. (Fortunately, I had help!) Initial research was conducted through the online international music discography,; further verification and additional info came from Don Rogers' important book on the history of NW pop and rock recording acts of the 50s and 60s, "Dance Halls, Armories and Teen Fairs" (Music Archives Press, 1988, now out of print); and finally, "The Goldmine Price Guide To 45s (Second Edition)" by Tim Neely (Krause Publications, 1999) was of tremendous help by filling in the remaining blank spots. I thank them one and all.

Now, having said all that, I feel I have to add the following caveat: It is more than likely that, with all the research that went into this, I've still left something out. In the event that I have, would you please let me know? You can email me at

This web site is dedicated to the following individuals, without whom...:

  • Bonnie Guitar (the First Lady of NW Rock, whether she knew it or not!)
  • Bob Reisendorff and Lou Levinthal, founders of Dolton Records
  • Tom Ogilvy of Seafair-Bolo Records
  • Buck Ormsby and Kent Morrill of Etiquette Records
  • and Jerry Dennon of Jerden Records.

They didn't start The Northwest Sound; they just captured more of it than anyone else, and for that, rock and roll says 'thank you'.
To Terry Leonard; Don Rogers, Darryl Riffero, et. al; and Tim Neely: You worked hard so I didn't have to. Thanks.
The "friendly folks at Tripod, UK" for hosting this site.