In 2004, the first volume of Wheedle’s Groove shone a light on the formerly unheralded soul scene in 1960s and ‘70s Seattle, followed by a new album in 2008, and then an award winning feature-length documentary film. The on-going Wheedle’s Groove series continues to present a vast chapter of the city’s musical heritage that has little to do with long-haired rock dudes with guitars. No – in the world of Wheedle’s Groove, platform shoes and pimp hats were the order of the day.
But unlike Volume I, Seattle’s soul scene did not stop in 1975. A new volume, Wheedle’s Groove Vol. II, documents the period from 1972 to 1987, when funk was superseded by disco and modern soul. Heading into the ‘80s, artists in the Emerald City caught wind of the hip-hop and electro scenes that were growing in bigger cities across America, and gave the music their own distinct spin.
As the years unfurl in the tracks of Wheedle’s Groove Volume II, so does the recent history of American music, the songs tracing technological changes and social change, and music’s move from the club to disco as live bands moved aside for DJs. Witness Septimus, on the cusp of both, blending a live drummer with a Roland drum machine and cutting ‘Here I Go Again’ on a disco-friendly 12” single.
Separated from the major centers of soul music, Seattle was a scene that developed out of the gaze of the mainstream music industry, but one that moved just as fast. As John Studamire of the band Priceless remembers, “A lot of the groups around town would have to incorporate that disco sound or you’d sound totally dated.”
Seattle’s size and location had a great effect on its sound. Artists on the scene were accustomed to playing small, discreetly segregated club shows and pressing short runs of 45s for local radio stations. Touring happened mostly on a regional scale and artists popped up in a variety of different bands. Fans of Volume I will recognize some familiar names here: Robbie Hill’s Family Affair turn in the soul-jazz gem ‘Don’t Give Up’ and Cold, Bold & Together present the undeniable vocal beauty of ’Let’s Backtrack.’
Compiled and sequenced by Seattle’s DJ Supreme La Rock, this 18-track compilation will also introduce you to the long-forgotten blue-eyed soul boy Don Brown (‘Don’t Lose Your Love’) and frustrated talents Push, overlooked for record deals on account of singer “Big Joe” Erickson’s larger-than-life heft (‘You Turn Me On’). There’s Frederick Robinson III and his gospel-funk protest tune ‘Love One Another’, Tony Benton of Teleclere being Seattle’s answer to Prince (‘Steal Your Love’) and Seattle Mariners baseball star Lenny Randle recording a tribute to their infamous stadium