The Original Northwest Sound can be traced back to 1950s Tacoma. And a lot of T-town rock heroes from that era have been back in the spotlight lately.
The most mysterious of Tacoma’s garage-rock icons, the Sonics, returned from a 40-year hiatus in 2007 and have been touring ever since.
The Ventures were belatedly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year. And last month the Ventures and their role models, the Fabulous Wailers, celebrated 50 years in the record biz with a big shindig at Seattle’s Moore Theatre.
But just under the radar are the Galaxies, a Tacoma band that recorded on the Wailers’ Etiquette Records during their 1960s heyday.
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The band’s original run ended in 1967, but a new version featuring several original members has been gigging around the South Sound since reuniting to play at the centennial celebration for Stadium High School, which band members attended, in 2006.
Recently, we caught up with bassist Chuck Naubert in the days leading up to a recent gig at Tacoma’s Spar Tavern. Here’s what Naubert, an Olympia resident, had to say about the Galaxies’ past, present and future:
What do you make of all the attention your peers are getting?
I think it’s fantastic. (It’s) once in a lifetime that people who heard us in the old days get to re-experience this. It’s like when we were kids in grade school, in junior high school. Rock will never die! And it’s kind of like, hey, it did for a while – at least for a lot of us who are performing now.
Everybody kind of did their thing back in the ’60s and ’70s and got to living their lives with their families and raising children and working day jobs and got away from that stuff. But now the resurgence is great, and I think the more the better. And now, of course, it’s not just the people who experienced it back in the day. It’s their children, too, and they love it.
Over the years there have been bands that imitated garage rock that came from here. Have you kept up with all that?
No, I’m really actually clueless. I don’t follow music like a lot of people do, and I really did get away from it. I got into classical music in college later and did more of that. I totally got away from all of what we’re doing now, and that’s part of what, I think, makes it so special.
Did you reunite specifically for the Stadium High School celebration?
Take me back to that. Was there apprehension after so much time off?
No, not at all. We were together one other time prior to that, and that was for the 20th high school reunion for the class of ’64 at Stadium High School. So we got together that one time. It was most of the original guys, except (sax player) Ron Rustad wasn’t available.
Everybody had so much fun that we said, “Well, hey, we’ve got to do this once in a while, just get together for fun if nothing else.” But it never happened.
(For Stadium’s centennial celebration) There wasn’t any apprehension. We practiced maybe four, five times before, as I recall. A lot of it was like sometimes when you get lost, you’re doing yoga or something, and you’re out of your body. You don’t even know what you’re doing, but you’re doin’ it. And that’s kind of what it was like for me, anyway.
Who’s in the band now?
Originally, when I got everybody back together for the Stadium centennial we had everybody except for Bob Koch. He’s actually the original founder of the Galaxies, he and our first drummer, Bill Slyter. And Bob was our lead guitar for all those years, and such a fantastic guitar player. It was incredible what he could do with his guitar. Bob’s health precluded him from being a part of the group.
What was wrong?
He has heart issues, and he just wasn’t physically able to perform with us. So we had one guitar player taking Bob’s place. We needed a rhythm guitar. Well, my son is also a musician and he has a group. … So at the centennial, 43 years later, I got to play in the Galaxies with my son. That was just a meaningful thing to me. But everybody else was basically original.
When we started playing we were playing a lot, and it was affecting (Slyter’s) day job. So he dropped out, and who played with us at the centennial was Phil Hanson. Phil is in most of our pictures back in the ’60s. Phil is also the principal (timpanist) for the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
The originals in the group are myself – of course our star lead vocalist Rob Lowery. Ron Rustad is also in the group. Then we have one more that’s still in the band, Mark Eubanks.
How often do you play?
We’re not playing as much as we’d like to be. We’re aiming to play a minimum of once a month and a maximum of twice a month. We don’t want this to get to be work. We’re into this just for fun, and everyone has day jobs or is retired.
We are rather a niche band. Most of the clubs now, they’re playing the new music for the kids who are 20, 30, 40, and there’s not a big market, if you will, for our age group. But there is a huge market for special events, for corporate functions, all sorts of baby boomer functions for people our age … that grew up with this music, knew this music. So that’s our market. And we’re still getting the word out.
How did the Galaxies get started?
That goes back to Bob Koch. We were all going to Stadium High School, and the Wailers preceded us. We’re hearing the Wailers when we’re in junior high school, and we’re hearing “Walk, Don’t Run” by the Ventures, you know.
Quite a few of us started at Stadium High School in 1962. That’s when Bob Koch and Mark Eubanks came to me and said, “We’re gonna start a band. Do you wanna join us?” I said, “Well, yeah. What am I gonna play?” They said, “You’re gonna be our bass player” because I played the cello, and I had played the cello since third grade.
When you’re in high school, especially back then, there’s only two things you wanna do. You wanna take out the prettiest girl and you wanna have a hot rod and you wanna be in a rock ’n’ roll band. But here I am startin’ from nothin’ and Bob Koch taught me a bunch of bass guitar riffs.
The Wailers had just cut a song called “Seattle,” as I recall. So we named our song “Tacoma,” and now I think it’s pretty cool. It’s just all instrumental, but it has a nice little rhythm to it. So that turned out to be our A-side. And then our B-side was originally gonna be named “Bill’s Basement,” but we changed it to “Shaken.” And that was our first recording.
Ernest A. Jasmin: 253-274-7389