LITTLE BILL and the BLUENOTES

Little Bill and The Bluenotes circa 1958 with Rockin Robin Roberts

Homebase: Tacoma, WA.
Stats: 1958-present

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Misc Notes:
Bill Engelhart - Guitar, Vocals
John "Buck" Ormsby - Steel Guitar, Bass (1941-2016)
Frank Dutra - Sax
Buck Mann - Sax
Lassie Aanes - Drums

Later Members:
Patti Allen ~ Vocals
Brady Anderson ~ Guitar
Hadi Al’Saadoon ~ Trumpet
Keith Backman ~ Drums
Billy Barner ~ Drums
Jim Becker ~ Drums
Jho Blenis ~ Guitar (1948-2014)
John Carmody ~ Guitar
Ken Cole ~ Keyboards
Rod Cook ~ Guitar
Brian Craig ~ Guitar
Gary Crooks ~ Guitar
Dickie Enfield ~ Drums (d. 1993)
Buck England ~ B3 Keyboards
Tom Gevin - Sax
Claude Hammond ~ Guitar (1940-2001)
Pat Hues ~ Keyboards
Hans Ipsen ~ Guitar (1949-2008)
Joe Johansen ~ Guitar (d. 1997)
Jay Johansen ~ Guitar (d. 2005)
Larry Jobe ~ Saxophone
Robbie Jordan ~ Saxophone (d. 2010)
Russ Kammerer ~ Drums
Brian Kent ~ Saxophone
Jim King ~ Saxophone
Dian Marshall ~ Vocals
Jim Michaelson ~ Saxophone (d. 1980)
Tommy Morgan ~ Drums
Bud Morreset ~ Guitar
Randy Oxford ~ Trombone
Lee Parker ~ Guitar (1942-2010)
Greg Parman ~ Saxophone
Dick Powell ~ Harp, Keyboards
Jim Pribbenow ~ Saxophone
Robin Roberts ~ Vocals
Mark Riley ~ Riley
Tim Sherman ~ Guitar
Billy Stapleton ~ Guitar
Jill Wainsgard ~ Keyboards

"LITTLE BILL AND THE BLUENOTES: TACOMA'S TEEN-R&B PIONEERS (1958-1960)" by Peter Blecha

THE BLUENOTES were the very first white teenage rockin’ band to emerge in Tacoma back in the 1950s. Founded in 1958 by Bill Engelhart (guitar, vocals), John “Buck” Ormsby (steel guitar), Frank Dutra (sax), Buck Mann (sax), and Lassie Aanes (drums), they took their name from another Tacoma band, the Blue Notes, comprised of older African American players that Engelhart had jammed with a few times at dances held for adults. The young players also modeled their multiple-sax format after the raving bands led by R&B stars like Fats Domino and Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, – even adding Tom Geving (sax) a bit later – rather than exploring an Elvis or Buddy Holly-type sound.

For a while there, the Bluenotes were the only game in town and local kids loved their R&B sound – but then a crosstown-rival situation arose with the formation of another teen combo, the Wailers. But as the Wailers’ early sound was more aligned with the twanging guitar hits of Duane "Rebel-Rouser" Eddy, and the honking sax of the Champs' "Tequila," they soon managed to overtake the Bluenotes in general popularity and also began to dominate the emerging teen-dance circuit.

So, the Bluenotes did what they needed to in order to draw crowds: they pioneered a D-I-Y approach by renting halls, posting posters that they’d had printed, and promoting themselves however they could. One night the Tacoma Police tried to shut down a dance because the hall was clearly over-capacity. The kids started to get rowdy and Engelhart convinced the cops to let the band play one final song before the hall was emptied. But the Bluenotes – who had added a new singer named “Rockin’ Robin Roberts – chose to play an endless version of Richard Berry’s 1956 tune, “Louie Louie,” and the authorities were not pleased. Next thing you know, the City Council passed a new ordinance that made it difficult for the band to play within Tacoma’s city limits. So, they proceeded to locate a little hamburger hut, called the Little Gem, which stood just outside the city line, and kids flocked to the place to attend their dances. Meanwhile, Ormsby finally upgraded from playing rumbly bass runs on his Fender steel guitar, and bought an electric Fender bass guitar – one of the very first in the region.

By early 1959 the band had saved enough money to book a session at Joe Bole’s home studio up in West Seattle – the same studio that was cutting the sudden series of national rock ‘n’ roll hit records for Olympia’s Fleetwoods, and Seattle’s Frantics. At their session the Bluenotes recorded a few instrumental tunes, and then, having been informed that they still had enough time to cut one more, they voted to record Engelhart’s teen ballad, “I Love An Angel.” Imagine Roberts feelings…sitting there itching to record one of his vocal tunes, but not getting the chance…

Long story short, Seattle’s Dolton Records – the same label that were scoring with the Fleetwoods, Frantics, and soon the Ventures – liked the tune and quickly issued it as a single credited to “Little Bill and the Bluenotes” – a change of emphasis that Roberts surely didn't like. “I Love An Angel” broke out as a regional radio hit, and then entered Billboard magazines national Hot-100 charts in June. Meanwhile, as more and more attention was being heaped on Engelhart by Dolton, Roberts was invited to join the Wailers. Then, after Dolton began sending Engelhart out on tours without the band (using pick-up bands along the way), Ormsby also joined the Wailers.

Little Bill and the Bluenotes carried on with new members, but by 1960 even Engelhart moved on, recording one single (“Sweet Cucumber”) with the backing of the Frantics, and also joining a popular and very talented Auburn-based band, the Adventurers. It was while with this group that in about March of 1961 he recorded a version of “Louie Louie.” Ever the rivals, though, the Wailers caught wind of this and rush-released theirs and Roberts’ version which had been languishing in the can for a half-year.

While Roberts and band enjoyed seeing their disc become a huge #1 regional radio hit, Engelhart saw his disc sink into obscurity. But, he stuck with the music biz, recording more singles, cutting his The Fiesta Club Presents… album in 1964, going country for a spell, and even working retail in one of Seattle’s University District music shops for a while. But, in time he returned to the nightclub world and over recent decades has become a pillar of the Northwest blues community, playing gigs relentlessly, working with the very best players around, and recording a long series of fine cassettes and compact discs.

Little Bill Engelhart in 1959

Robin Roberts with the Bluenotes

Nancy Claire and Little Bill - 1960 Courtesy of Little Bill Engelhart

Little Bill at the Musicians Fund Music Festival benefit for Dean Tsaparlis (Tacoma, 4/26/2009) Photo by and courtesy of Merri Sutton

Little Bill Engelhart - 2014

 

TITLE
LABEL
SERIAL
DATE

MISC NOTES:

6/59: "I Love An Angel" charted on Billboard's Top 100. It peaked at #66.

2020. A black and white  "after market" 45 rpm picture sleeve was  found for "I Love An Angel" / "Bye Bye Baby". It features the cover photo  from the 1964 live lp The Fiesta Club  Presents Little Bill and the Blue notes which was recorded in Seattle. (Camelot Records #102 Seattle, WA),  The only real flaw in the production is that it credits Dolton Records to Los Angeles, CA. When "I Love An Angel" was issued Dolton was still based in Seattle!

LOCATION:
RECORDING PERSONNEL:
RECORDING STUDIO:
RECORDING ENGINEER:

FORMAT: disc
SIZE: 7"
SPEED: 45 rpm
DISC NOTES:

Vocal With Orchestra / Vocal With Orchestra

Known Label Designs:
1PA. ) A - B promo disc.  lst three fish logo centered above spindle hole. While label background with black numerals and lettering. PROMOTIONAL COPY NOT FOR SALE  from nose of third fish downward. Distributed by: Liberty Records, etc. Disc # right center of spindle hole: NO. 4

1RA.) A - B retail disc. lst three fish logo centered above spindle hole. Light blue label background. Dark blue numerals and lettering. No distribution notation. Disc #  right center of spindle hole: NO. 4

1RB.) A - B retail disc. lst three fish logo centered above spindle hole. Light blue label background. Dark blue numerals and lettering. Dist. by: Liberty Records, etc. Disc. # right center of spindle hole: NO. 4

1RC.) A- B retail disc. lst three fish logo centered over spindle hole. Light blue label background. Dark blue numerals and lettering. Distributed by: Liberty Records, etc. Disc # left center of spindle hole: NO. 4

[HEAR IT HERE] "I Love......"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcXC3qOL4sY

[HEAR IT HERE] "Bye Bye......."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ7nd6NrdBs

"I Love An Angel" Album Reissues:
1.) [19??] Side Two, Track #2 on compilation lp The Original Great Northwest Hits - Volume I (Jerden JRL - 7001 / JRLS - 7001 - S)

A-SIDE MATRIX:
1PA.) 45 - D0 604  (WAX); do-604 (LABEL)
1RA.) 45 - DO 604 (etched WAX); dO-604 (LABEL)
1RB.) 45 - DO 604 (WAX); DO -604 (label)
1RC.) DO604 (wax)  DO-604 (label)
a - SIDE STAMPER CODE:
1RA.) Inf. Not Avail.
1RB.) ^28940 (April/May, 1959)
1RC.) None
A-SIDE COMPOSER: Bill Engelhart
A-SIDE PUBLISHER: Cornerstone (BMI)

B-SIDE MATRIX:
1PA.)  DO 605 (wax); do-605 (label)
1RA) do 605 (wax); do-605 (label)
1RB.) DO 605 (etched wax); do-605 (label)
1RC) DO 605 (wax); do-605 (label)
B-SIDE STAMPER CODE:
1PA.) ^28941 (April/May, 1959)
1RA.) ^28941 (April/May, 1959)
1RB.) ^22941 (April/May, 1959)
1RC) None
B-SIDE COMPOSER: Bill Engelhart
B-SIDE PUBLISHER: Cornerstone (BMI)

MISC NOTES:

The Fiesta was a small tavern located near the corner of 85th St. and 24th Ave. in the Crown Hill district of  north Seattle's Ballard area.  Over the years it operated under a variety of names. The single story structure still stands.

2020. A 45 rpm record sleeve was found which features the Camelot album jacket front photo of  Little Bill and the Bluenotes  "after market" adapted to the  group's "I Love An Angel" Dolton single. (See Dolton #4),

Side One
1. I Got A Woman
2. Cantaloupe Float No. 1
3. I Love An Angel
4. All About My Girl
5. Don't Cry

Side Two
1. Along Came John
2. Georgia
3. Wine And Whiskey
4. That's All
5  Everybody Jump

LOCATION: Seattle, WA
RECORDING PERSONNEL: Little Bill [guitar, vocals]; Buck England [organ]; Tom Morgan [drums]
RECORDING STUDIO: Recorded live at The Fiesta: 85th & 15th NW Crown Hill, Ballard area of  Seattle.
RECORDING ENGINEER: Fred Rassmusen

FORMAT: disc
SIZE: 12"
SPEED: 33 1/3 rpm
DISC NOTES:

A-SIDE MATRIX: CAMALOT  J - 102 - A    U - 1277

B-SIDE MATRIX: CAMALOT  J - 102 - B    U - 1278

MISC NOTES:

Side1: Sweet Cucumber '89; Wine & Whiskey, Texas, Walkin' The Dog.

Side 2: "Don't Go back To L.A., Situation, Hello Josephine, Suzy Q.

LOCATION:
RECORDING PERSONNEL:
RECORDING STUDIO:
RECORDING ENGINEER:

FORMAT: cassette
NOTES:

 

MISC NOTES:

Cardboard pic sleeve

1.Grits Ain't Groceries (Titus Turner)
2. Cherry Red (Bill Englehart)
3. Ain't Misbehavin' (Fats Waller)
4. Losing Hand (Ray Charles)
5. Down Town Rhumba Girl (Bill Englehart)
6. Guess Who (B.B. King)
7. Bye Bye Blackbird (Henderson - Dixson)
8. Lincoln Continental Blues (Bill Englehart)
9. Shake Rattle & Roll (Arthur Conley)

LOCATION: Western Washington
RECORDING PERSONNEL: Little Bill Englehart (bass, vocals]; Dick Powell [B-3, harp, keys]; Billy Stapleton [guitars]; Tommy Morgan [drums]
RECORDING STUDIO: No Script Studio
RECORDING ENGINEER: Don King

FORMAT: compact disc
DISC NOTES:

Artist name on disc = LITTLE BILL & THE BLUENOTES

Special Guest Artist Dick Powell

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