Steven L. Smith, Bellingham, WA Home Inspector (King of the House)

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The Unusuals -- 1960's Bellingham,WA Band

It was in the spring and summer months, 50 years ago, when I first became interested in radio broadcasting. Most of the folks at Active Rain know me as a home inspector. But, prior to that career change, I spent 30 years in radio from disc jockey to newsman, engineering, management and ownership of a Bellingham, Washington radio station. This article relates to those formative years, when I was a kid and really dedicated to getting into radio.

In 1966, I was 14 years old. But I have strong memories of a local garage band. The premier Bellingham band of the 1960's was the Unusuals. In 1966, for four to five weeks, their single "Babe, It's Me" was #1 at Bellingham's rock radio station KPUG. The 45 RPM disc received airplay at several radio stations around the country, but it was primarily a hit in their hometown of Bellingham and Whatcom County. Even today, some of the Unusual's recordings are featured on compilation albums of northwest garage bands.

The Unusuals: L to R, Bill Capp (guitar, Kathi McDonald (vocals), Laurie Vitt (Guitar and sax), Harvey Redmond (bass), Vic Bundy (keyboards), Pat Jerns (drums)

Unusuals band members in this photo, L to R, Bill Capp (guitar), Kathi McDonald (vocals), Laurie Vitt (Guitar and sax), Harvey Redmond (bass), Vic Bundy (keyboards), Pat Jerns (drums). Not pictured: Sometimes Terry Allan (bass) & Gary Ramsey (drums) played with the Unusuals

In looking back at the band, there are many stories to tell and memories. In the mid-sixties, the Unusuals were the backup band that toured with Dewey Martin, known as Sir Raleigh and prior to that as Sir Raleigh and the Cupons, who had a number of regional hits in the Pacific Northwest. Martin, soon after, became the drummer for the super star band called Buffalo Springfield (For What It's Worth, a timeless 1967 classic that describes protest and civil unrest). A promotional poster for the Sir Raleigh/Unusuals tour is at this link.

After the Unusuals disbanded, female vocalist, Kathi McDonald, moved to San Francisco and became an Ikette with Ike and Tina Turner. Then she replaced Janis Joplin in San Francisco's Big Brother and the Holding Company. McDonald released a critically acclaimed solo album called Insane Asylum. Her voice is recognizable as a background vocalist on some major hits including the Rolling Stones album "Exile On Main Street" and the single "Tumbling Dice."  In 1980, a remake of  You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling (with Long John Baldry) was a smash in Canada. McDonald passed away in 2012.

Laurie Vitt, a founding member of the band, went on to become a university professor, herpetologist (amphibians including frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians and reptiles such as snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, terrapins, crocodilians) and has since retired. Laurie lives in Arizona, he is still creating and recording music, and he is curator emeritus at the Sam Noble Museum in Norman, Oklahoma.

I do not know the whereabouts of the other Unusuals, EXCEPT, drummer, Pat Jerns, is a real estate agent here in Whatcom County. Pat was doorbelling, when campaigning for public office a few years ago. I asked if he was the same Pat Jerns from the Unusuals. He looked surprised that I knew and said "yes" and we had a nice chat.

Historically, the Unusuals evolved from a number of northwest bands. Probably the first traceable incarnation was the Nite People, a popular early 60's band. Over time, a few roster changes took place and name changes included Ron Petersen and the Accents, to the Accents and then the Bellingham Accents and by 1965 they were the Unusuals. The Unusuals stayed together until 1967.

Nite People (L to R) Vic Bundy, Reginald Shannon, Pat Jerns, Laurie Vitt, and Ron Peterson. In 1965, when the band The Unusuals was formed, Bundy, Jerns and Vitt became three of the six original members of the group.

Perhaps the earliest photo of the band that would be the Unusuals. (L to R) Vic Bundy, Reginald Shannon, Pat Jerns, Laurie Vitt, and Ron Peterson. In 1965, when the band The Unusuals was formed, Bundy, Jerns and Vitt became three of the six original members of the group

In this region, for those of us who remember back 50 years, there is still interest in the Unusuals. The band had a high profile and they played many gigs at the favorite teen dance spots and watering holes. A couple months back, Laurie Vitt and I discussed putting together a youtube page that would feature all of the Unusual's recordings and any recordings by earlier incarnations of bands that preceded the Unusuals. The link to that youtube page is here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCto-CDgS0OuxF_QLQW4XaOg

And, from the same youtube channel, here is the 50-year-old recording of "Babe, It's Me" that topped the charts in the northwest.

        

        

Check out "This Day In History" -- music and vintage television from the 1950's through the 1980's.  I enjoy writing these articles because they take me back to my days in radio broadcasting. Click on Elvis' gold record, below, to revisit those golden hits of yesteryear.

           

Comment balloon 2 commentsSteven L. Smith • July 12 2016 10:06PM
The Unusuals -- 1960's Bellingham, WA Band
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