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 became interested in radio broadcasting. Most people at Active Rain know me as a home inspector. Prior to that career, I spent 30 years in radio -- disc jockey, newsman, engineering, management and ownership of a Bellingham, Washington radio station. This article relates to those formative years back when I was a kid and I was dedicated to entering the field of radio.

Even though I was only 14 years old at the time, I still 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 Bellingham and Whatcom County. Even today, some of The Unusual's recordings are featured on compilation albums of that era

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, there are many memories and stories to tell. In the mid-sixties, The Unusuals toured with Dewey Martin, known as Sir Raleigh and prior to that as Sir Raleigh and the Cupons. Martin, soon after, became the drummer for the superstar band 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. 

I do not know the whereabouts of the other Unusuals, EXCEPT, drummer, Pat Jerns, has been a real estate agent here in Whatcom County. Pat was door-belling, when campaigning for public office, a few years ago. I asked if he was the same Pat Jerns with The Unusuals. He looked surprised that I knew and said "yes." We followed up with 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 local group. Over time, a few roster changes took place and name changes included Ron Petersen and The AccentsThe Accents, The Bellingham Accents and by 1965 they were The Unusuals. Members of that group went their separate ways in 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 become 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 ago, there is still interest in The Unusuals. They had a high profile and played many gigs at favorite dance spots. A couple months back, Laurie Vitt and I discussed putting together a youtube page that would feature all of The Unusual's recordings and works by earlier incarnations of the band. 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 Pacific Northwest.

 

Steven L. Smith

If you enjoy nostalgia and music of yesteryear, click on Elvis' gold record to visit This Day In History. To explore The Stories Behind The Music blog posts click on the electric guitar. 

 

        

 

 

 

 

Comment balloon 2 commentsSteven L. Smith • July 12 2016 10:06PM

Comments

Interesting look back into local history!  They have a good sound.  What are they looking at?  Was Bellingham also famous then for UFOs?

I grew up with a guy named Nils Lofgren, whose band played at all our school dances during junior high and high school.  He is the guitarist for the E Street Band now.  I saw him a couple months ago at a local rock get together site called the Birchmere.  He can still do it.  Google him.  He's great.

Hope you're well.  Interesting but I was just thinking about you yesterday and intended to say hello.  Now it would only look like I am just saying that.  But it's true!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 1 year ago

Jay, thanks for the comment. I am doing okay, pretty tired this week. With Nils Lofgren you are stepping into the big time. He is an international star, played with Ringo's all star band, too.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 1 year ago

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