SCARECROW ON SEATTLE
Wheedle's Groove (2011)
Up until the grunge rock explosion, most of the world didn't realize that Seattle had any sort of noteworthy music scene. Even those who should know better are, for the most part, unaware of the dynamic soul and funk environment that thrived in Jet City during the late sixties and early seventies. Fortunately a local record collector/DJ named Mr. Supreme stumbled upon a 45 of an obscure Seattle band called Black On White Affair. He was immediately hooked on the song's instant groove and proceeded to seek out more music from this neglected era of sound. Soon he'd uncovered a stack of sweet, soulful wax and tracked down many of the participating musicians. Mr. Supreme approached Seattle based Light in the Attic Records and a compilation called Wheedle's Groove was released. It was a wonderful moment for both soul fans and local music aficionados as a whole chapter of our musical legacy was reopened for all to enjoy. Jennifer Maas' documentary expands on the phenomena with extensive interviews and a lot of great music.
Wheedle's Groove recounts a social scene that, quite frequently, has been overlooked by Anglo-centric Seattle historians. The film offers an overview of the Central District, an analysis of Seattle's socio-economic developments, and the city's passive (and often not-so passive) segregation policies that forced most of the city's people of color into a relatively small portion of town. The city's two musician's unions were split into black and white, and the majority of Seattle music clubs tried to avoid booking black bands because they didn't want to attract racially mixed audiences. Outside of the C.D. the unofficial policy was to limit bands to only two black members. As a consequence there was a high concentration of clubs and bars in the C.D. that housed a thriving jazz scene that became a little heavier and funkier by the mid-sixties with lots of hot bands performing for appreciative audiences. While there was an enthusiastic local black-owned radio station (KYAC), there was virtually no radio support elsewhere and Seattle never had a record label along the lines of Motown or Stax to offer any sort of significant distribution. Understandably, several musicians left town to pursue their careers elsewhere and then an extremely unfortunate thing called disco happened. Soon even the limited gigs dried up and most of the bands ended up folding.
With the successful release of the Wheedle's Groove LP and CD a whole new generation of fans have been turned onto this great stuff. Several concerts have reunited many of the musicians who can now lay down their jams for a racially mixed audience. If you read this in time, you can catch a live Wheedle's Groove show at the Neptune Theatre on September 22. Whether you love Seattle or good music (or both) you'll find a lot to dig in Wheedle's Groove. As a local bonus there is a discussion of what exactly is a "wheedle" that unfolds during the film's end credits
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