So, out of the blue, comes a call from “Doc” Doolittle. He wanted to tell me about his gig next week in Hood River. Since I’m always happy to get new music information, I asked him to send his stuff in, and I was looking forward to listing some new music.
Well, it turns out Doc is a bass player, who lives in Seattle, but also has ties to the Hood River area. In the early 90’s there was a band called the North Shore All Stars. But since the early 90’s is a bit before my time of living here in the Gorge, I couldn’t help but wonder if they named that band after the old Northshore Bar & Grill, in Bingen.
When I arrived in The Gorge, circa 1995, the Northshore was still going strong on the music scene. You could always count on a good Paul deLay show, or Tony Furtado, and lots of local music, which is always a good thing. My band even hosted a pretty successful open mic night there for while.
So I decided to test my theory and see if I could find out more about Doc, and fill in some gaps of the local Gorge music history scene.
It turns out Doc has been playing bass for over 30 years, and has played with Charles Mingus, Grover Washington Jr, and jazz vocal band the Inkspots. And judging by his answers to my interview questions, he’s definitely a people-person, because he knows a lot of them! Happily, some of the folks Doc knows are still playing music around The Gorge – I counted at least 7 that I know. So be sure to check this interview out, and see if your name is on the list!
So thanks, Doc! I hope that you get to see some of your old friends at the gig, and meet some new ones.
And, besides, anybody who still mentions 8-tracks as a musical format, is OK with me!
Doc is the bass player for “Crothers and Others” who will be at the CEBU Lounge on Friday, May 22, at 8 p.m.
Read Jim’s interview with Doc Doolittle here:
Interview with Doc Doolittle:
First off thanks again so much for your help getting the word out.
Here are the answers to your questions:
1. Who was in the North Shore All-Stars and when did that band exist?
The band was started in 1990 by myself on Bass and windsurfing legend John Guay on guitar in the back store room in Hood River Windsurfing's old store which now houses the Double Mountain Brewery and North Shore Inc.
The original members were John and Myself and Darryl Agersea on drums, Rob Weemer also on guitar, and Dave Picerne joined us later on sax and washboard. John is a big Stevie Ray Vaughn fan and I am more from an R&B background so I brought a lot of Tower of Power, Rascals, Spinners and James Brown to the repertoire.
Our menu was mostly dance and R&B influenced material and we got a house band gig at Brad Bookmyer's North Shore Bar and Grill on Steuben in Bingen where we played most every Sat. night hence our name. We were all wind surfers and it seemed in those days you knew everyone in the club.
From 1990 thru the present I have kept the band going as the only founding member always on bass and vocals and it continues to morph with various artists through the years hence the "Allstars" name. This will be our 19th year and I have listed below the names of various musicians that we have and continue to feature. I apologize for anyone I have missed.
We are shooting for a reunion possibly this July. We have played all of the local spots, Columbia Gorge Hotel, River City Saloon, Hood River Inn, a lot of street dances, windsurfing contests up and down the coast, The first "dance under the Stars" event at Maryhill museum, Horsefeathers and various wineries and B&Bs, weddings, and such. The group also performs in Seattle and down the coast to Bandon.
Big Al Isaksen
2. Were you into music growing up and if so what was the music scene like back then?
I am a Seattle boy. We still live on capitol hill in Seattle but I was a manufacturers rep in the windsurfing industry from 1985 on and bought a 2nd home near Rowena where we still are today.
I also have announced and helped manage windsurfing events around the globe since then and will be involved with my wife Gloria in this years USWA nationals in Hood River this year (our 24th year). My friend Dan Crothers grew up in White Salmon.
3. A friend of mine, Charlie Escher, plays bass, and did a lot of sound work at the Northshore back in the day. He's still active in music around here. Do you know him?
I do know Charlie Escher and in fact recommended him as a winter replacement with Les Vaughn at the Naked Winery in my absence this past last winter. I also play with Les, Tony Amadeo and Ted Madsen in the "FENDERBENDERS" band.
Charlie also helps me keep my axes in shape electronically. Charlie has been a fixture in the windsurf and music scene as long as I can remember. Great Guy and a true talent on many levels!
4. You mention that your current band was at CEBU last month. How did that go?
Playing with "Dan Crothers and Others" is a great experience for me as we pretty much play straight ahead jazz standards for the first part of the show which challenges my reading and upright bass chops and I love swing and Latin music.
The Cebu Lounge is a real intimate setting and a great sounding room. Dan used to be the house pianist there and in fact they bought the grand piano that resides there for Dan to play back in the day. It's a real fun gig we hope to play every couple of months or so. We always have friends like Dennis Williams on sax, Henry Shifter and Sharron Olson on vocals sitting in check us out May 22nd.
I play a blond 1953 Kay 3/4 double bass and Charlie just helped me with a new active preamp so I finally have some control of the tone. Later in the night we get to move back to my funk and R&B roots so I can relax a bit more on my 1972 fretless Fender Precision. I play left-handed but strung right-handed.
I just invested in a new Epifani 3-10 speaker box and 600 watt Genz Benz Shuttle 6 rig and it changed my life. The tone and lightweight of this package showed me what I've been missing the last 20 years playing thru a Polytone single 15" with 85 watts. I'll never use all 600 watts of the new rig but it's great to have that much headroom and so much reserve bottom.
5. Your bio says you worked with the Ink Spots. Weren't they a '50s vocal group?
Yes I played briefly with them in Seattle in the early '70s while attending Cornish, again mostly jazz standard charts, a real honor to back such legends. I got a lot of sideman work in those days as the scene was really tight.
In Seattle I also played with notables such as Don Mock-guitar, Denny Goodhew-sax, Ron Soderstrom-trumpet, and Gregg Kepplinger-drums in a jazz/fusion group named "SPINNAKER." We toured with Grover Washington Jr.
I also was fortunate to hook up with guys like Rich Dangel-guitar, Leo Santo-B3, and others in a group named "PATCHWORK." I then cut my latin teeth in a group named "OBRADOR" out of Olympia.
And my wife and I ran a recording studio out of our basement throughout the seven tees. We recorded a lot of demos and TV/radio ads and did sound reinforcement work for Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessle and B.B. King to name a few.
I was really blessed to study at Cornish under trumpet player/composer Jim Knapp and studied bass with Gary Peacock. It was a great time to be an upcoming bassist in Seattle as I came from a R&B/Rock background and got fully immersed in the whole jazz,funk/fusion scene.
My main influences were guys like Chuck Rainey, Ray Brown, Jaco Pastorius and Rocco Prestia from Tower of Power. Rocco has always been my favorite player and I have drawn a lot of my style from his ghosting approach.
6. Do you record or do studio work for people or primarily play live shows?
Nowadays I primarily do live shows in Seattle, I am putting together a project with the DAVE RAYNOR BLUES BAND. The band is a four-piece with Hammond B-3, guitar, bass and drums.
Dave is an old friend who grew up in Camas and is a tremendous singer/guitar player and all-around musician; he won a Grammy as a songwriter for a song recorded by Natalie Cole. Dave and the organ player also play with the New Blues Brothers.
I'm also working on a project with an 8-piece casino band called "SHOWTIME," playing mostly funk and dance tunes "Earth Wind and Fire" stuff like that.
I also play shows every few months with a band called the "TRIP BACK." These are a bunch of high school buddies that I have played with in Seattle since 1968 and we still have the same 5 guys. They are all Italians and introduced me to my Italian wife who I married in 1970. We play all R&B, again based around a Hammond B-3. Really a fun band.
In the Gorge I perform with "Dan Crothers and Others" really is a great experience; Dan is a virtuoso and it's fun to sit in the pocket with the drummer and listen to him rip.
And the "FENDERBENDERS" take me into totally different space playing country-influenced tunes. Tony Amadeo is an incredible talent both on drums and guitar and his Hawaiian attitude and songs are so refreshing. Ted rips on the guitar and steel slide guitar as well and has a wide repertoire.
We'll be performing at the Naked Winery July 4th weekend. I also hope to do some more work with Moe Dixon as he has been a great friend and his energy is always so pure and fun. My next door neighbor in Rowena is Guitar player/composer Larry Russ and we will be working on some stuff as well.
7. Who's currently on your playlist/iPod?
IPod — hell, I'm still on 8-track tapes (just kidding). I still listen to a lot of Tower of Power (their new album rocks — they've been together 30 years) The way Dave Garibaldi on drums and Rocco Prestia drive that band is still so solid and the horn arrangements set the standard for any serious funk band.
I also listen to a lot of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, a lot of Motown, Aretha, James Taylor, Quincy Jones, and I cleanse the palate with Patsy Kline and Crusaders.
8. How did you get the nickname "Doc"?
I got the name "Doc" from a fellow soldier on active duty in the Army in 1969. I guess he read the Doctor Dolittle books as the movie wasn't out yet. When I got out of the army I kept it as a stage name and my mom even calls me Doc now. I do talk to the animals (like that's what I'm doing right now) and people never forget it. But my name has 2 O's: Doolittle.
Jim, I really appreciate you took the time to ask me these questions, as answering them forced me to take a journey back and remember some great times, people, and history which I haven't done for the past 20 or years.
Again, I really appreciate your help in getting the word out about the gigs upcoming and invite you to come sit in anytime. I'll look forward to meeting you in person.