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Unknown eighties Seattle

June 19, 2007

In the summer of 1986, 5440 (wikipedia) was supposed to be the next big thing, and a completely unknown Soundgarden (fan site, wikipedia) and my band opened for them at an empty Pine Street Theater (which became La Luna). Our Seattle-bred drummer had previously played in two of the least successful bands ever to exist in Seattle, both great, and each member of Soundgarden individually recognized him from both of them. Tuneage below.

The Probes were Yorck and his high school buddies, led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Jon Woolverton. Briefly I’d say his closest creative cousin that you might have heard of is Andy Partridge, but whereas AP had a weakness for biting dissonance JW couldn’t stay away from sweeping operatic grandeur, in a teenage un-punk/para-punk kinda way. Best just to listen for yourself, here’s their album Act of Faith. Metadata:
Yorck Franken- percussion
Jon Woolverton- guitar, vocals
Charles Comstock- sixtrings
Lloyd Ericson- bass guitar
Written and performed by The Probes, 1980-1984
Recorded live and mixed, January 1985, Triad Studios, Redmond, Washington.
Engineered by Greg Unterseher
Thankyoutwo engineers Tom Hall, Larry Nefzger
Mastered at 45 RPM for higher audio fidelity bu Ron Luder, The Mastering Lab, Los Angeles, CA

Fred (oftenspelled with a backwards e or a 3- pr3-7334) was led by trombonist Greg Powers and guitarist (trumpeter in the real world) Jeff McGrath. Words fail me, this was simply the most beautiful band that’s ever existed. Here’s a couple of tunes from a record they recorded a few years later that never came out. A couple of the tunes came out in the nineties on the Fot Records Passed Normal compilations. Personnell:
Greg Powers- trombone, vocals,
Jeff Mcgrath- guitar, bass, vocals,
David Stern- woodwinds, keyboards, vocals
Amy Denio- bass, sax, vocals
Jeff Markham- drums

Another funny Soundgarden story. Once they became famous, there was a hot local band on the STP/Alice in Chains tip called Love on Ice that signed to Interscope (or something). Soundgarden were being interviewed on the corporate rock station in Portland, and the DJ said “you know, we have a pretty good music scene down here in Portland too…” Soundgarden responds ” oh sure, the Wipers are from Portland, and the Hellcows, and the Obituaries, and Napalm Beach, and Dead Moon…” The poor DJ kept trying to interject “and Love on Ice is from Portland,” but Soundgarden was unstoppable, it was like the goddamn catalog of the ships from the Illead, “The Oily Bloodmen are from Portland, Pell Mell, Smegma, Poison Idea, Sno Bud and the Flower People…”

And by the way, the only people who saw that 5440 show were the members of GBH, who had played there the night before.

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30 comments

  1. Jon Woolverton, where are you?


    • Hello!
      I’m not sure who this is- I sent out psychic feelers for Randy Smallwood a few weeks ago…that method of contact can take years, obviously. I’m alive and well and living in Thousand Oaks, CA.
      Not terribly web savvy, I’m afraid. Check my e-mail about once a week at the public library.I would love to catch up with a few folks from the old days…

      peace&love Jonathan


      • Nice to hear from ya Jon !
        There’s alot of folks from the NWS days on Facebook if you get a chance to sign up…and/or I can foresee this thread getting longer as folks notice it.
        Are you making making music these days?
        I’ll admit I’ve collected a few G&L’s inspired by the fond memories of your old F-100 and Mesa combo.
        …again, it’s really nice to hear from you.
        All my best,
        Kris


  2. Thanks, It’s fun to see this, but who wrote it? (Not that computer savvy)


  3. P.S., Jon woolverton where are you? Lloyd Erickson where are you? P.P.S. I also played with Fr3d for a while. To which two ‘least famous’ bands are you referring?


    • Hey Yorck
      long time no see etc…!
      it was great to find this, funny i never thought to google my old name before…but i’m glad i did.I have been in touch with Lloyd off and on over the past couple of years, and i have a current phone number.I am currently living in Thousand Oaks,CA.
      Married (10 years!) and we have an adorable 4 yr old daughter.Not doing much music lately, as my priorities have shifted somewhat.I have been recording songs sporatically over the past 8 years or so, and have a cd available if anyone is interested.I would love to get my greasy mitts on any Probes material that may have found it’s way onto cd, and also get in touch with Chas & Greg,if you have contact info…
      great to see (any!) mention of the Probes!I still think we had something special( but i am biased, of course).
      Hope you are well, and still pursuing your creative interests…
      peaceandlove, Jonathan


      • Hi Jon,
        It’d be great to hear some of you more recent creations. How do I find one of your cd’s?
        I’ve seen Chas on facebook occasionally.
        All my best, Kris


      • Hi Jon,
        I’m so glad to here from you! I am amazed at all this new technology, and that it can actually help people connect. I have not been playing as much as I would like, for the same reasons.Chazz and Greg made a great remaster of all the stuff we recorded (the tapes were melting) and I will try to keep in touch with you, get in touch with them, and get you a copy. It is fun to hear after so long. I would love to talk to you, and get in touch with Lloyd. I don’t know how one does that on the computer (without the privacy issues getting in the way), but let’s keep talking.
        Love, Yorck


  4. Yorck, it’s me, Steve! Steve Lew! No, no, I’m not inside the computer, I just have this little blog here. Rock. I was refering to Fr3d & the Probes. This is the recording they made years later in Vancouver. I don’t think I ever heard a recording of them with you, do you have one? Do you still have that tape of additional Probes material, like “God Fearing Man?”


    • Hi Steve,
      Check the next comment for my note (I put it in the wrong spot).


  5. Seriously, does anyone know what happened to Jon? I have asked some people from Northwest, and it’s like he fell off the edge of the earth. No one knows.

    Anyone with info please contact me at my name rocket mail.com (take out the spaces). I would put it here, but I don’t want spam. Last name = raven but not…


    • Hi Steve,
      Thanks for setting up this site, it seems to be getting people together who wouldn’t otherwise. I hope you are well, will talk to you soon.
      Love, yorck


  6. Hi Steve, Yorck here. Sorry I took so long getting back. I hope you’re well. I don’t know of any Fr3d recordings with me; your site seems to be the best source on old Seattle stuff, although I have found some things with Fr3d members under “Face Ditch”. Regarding other Probes recordings: I will try to find that old tape – “Probes Cult Jam” – but it’s been a long time since I could locate it. In the meanwhile, Chazz and Greg mixed down all the other stuff we recorded, and I will try to get you a copy of that. They realized that the old 2″ tapes were starting to melt together, so they carefully baked them and remixed them in a one play only scenario. It sounded like a pretty scary situation, but the results were really fun. Again, I will try to get you a copy of that, but you could also try Chazz Comstock or Greg Unterseyer. Love, Yorck


  7. Yorck,
    Nice to read your words,
    I treasure the memories dancing with friends to The Probes.
    I hope Jon is creating wonderful things wherever he maybe.
    …and loving thoughts to Lloyd too : )

    If some old tapes surface and are posted online I’d be giddy!
    Kris


    • Hey Kris, is this Kris Henderson? or am I completely mistaken? Thanks for expressing you appreciation, it was FUN. Whoever you are, please feel free to contact me at:yorckfranken@gm.mail.com. If you are Kris Henderson, I would love to talk about sailboats, if you are not Kris Henderson, my apologies for making logical leaps of assumption, but I would still love to hear from you. Thanks for your interest, love to you all. yorck.
      P.S. I don’t know about Jon or Lloyd, but I am trying, as are Chazz and Greg.


      • (see reply below)


  8. Hi all,

    Jim Tillman here! Cool article, and hellos all around. Jon is living, I believe, in Sultan again- but he is now a certified nurse, I think, and working at Northwest Hospital here in Seattle. I was in touch with him recently, and can get in touch with him again. Send me an email – jgtillman at comcast dot net.


  9. Great news Jim!


  10. It is wonderful to hear the Probes again. I have often sung “Here and Now” to myself over the last 25+ years, but being able to actually listen to the song is joyful. Thanks for this!


  11. Hi Yorck,
    I was hoping that you would see my post : )
    You were close…this is Kris Stewart.

    I sent you an email ,but there must be a typo in the address as it came back as ‘undelivered’.

    I think I heard Kris Henderson is playing music with Sean Hudson in his new band ‘Lost in Now’.

    They played there first show a few weeks back at the Mars bar in Seattle.

    Are you on facebook? I uploaded a bunch of NWS photo’s there.

    All my best,

    Kris


    • Hey Kris,
      Thanks for writing, sorry I thought you were Kris Henderson. I hope you are doing well. I did not get the e-mail, but I’m a bit of a Luddite, and am just learning how to navigate the computer world. (i.e. I think I am on facebook!) i look forward to hearing more, and seeing who else finds this site.
      Thanks again, yorck


  12. hi everyone in on this thread. great to hear you all.
    I was looking forward to seeing Sean and Kris’ band out in ML Terrace but i had a sick wife and kid i just couldn’t leave em’. the pull to rock was huge but maybe i get another chance soon.
    Kris S great pics from back in the NWS days you posted!
    Cool article on the probes. that band was a trip, real alchemy going on there. it was a real challenge for me to find my way in Jon’s music, it was good for me as a young musician. as a player in that band i must say when we nailed something it was an awesome feeling, really fun.


    • Hey Chazz,
      I would rather talk to you on the phone, but happened to look at this site and saw your note. It is fun to see interest in what we did, and to know people still think about it. I hope you and yours are doing well! If you read some of the previous notes, you will see that people are interested in getting copies of the music you and Greg remastered. I don’t know how to get that stuff onto this site, but I think it would be appreciated, so maybe you can figure something out.
      I know what you mean about ‘finding your way’ into someone else’s music; fitting what you want to play into another person’s vision is challenging, but that challenge/compromise can make for the best music. Consensus or democratic songwriting can be very frustrating, and doesn’t always make the most inspiring music. I’ve been learning to appreciate a strong, demanding songwriter.
      Love, Yorck


    • Hey Chas!
      Very cool to find this and (tenuously) connect with old friends.I would love to talk with you but i don’t know how to convey contact info privately on this site.I am such a luddite fossil i admit here freely. But i did recently open a facebook page under my legal name Jonathan Wynne-Rose.I intend eventually to post some (relatively)recent tunes on there but due to my inexperience with this medium the process is moving very slowly.I also have a couple of Probes reels, but i’m not sure whats on them. I would love to hear the stuff that you and Greg rescued…perhaps we could work out an exchange via snail-mail? And also curious about any music you have made recently. I check this thread about once a week…
      Love, Jonathan


      • Jon, Randy Smallwood here (aka Rad88 at the very top of this thread- you guessed correctly. We seem to be circling in a tighter orbit. Maybe we will be in direct contact soon. You should have a message from me in Facebook by now. Katie, too. I also found Nathan and he gave me a number from years ago that doesn’t work. But it’s progress! Love and miss you, brother! I think of you often for the enduring and profound treasures you passed to me, that I still enjoy to this day…


  13. Great blog post.Much many thanks.


  14. Thanks for the blog post.Many thanks. Awesome.


  15. Hi, Does anyone remember trips to Orcas Island to visit Gregger, Dan, Mark and Paul of the Zuchinni Brothers!!??? I still have a tape of them playng at Orcas Hotel. Would love to pass it on to Greg as a artifact of cultural history! I mixed sound for JW in the ” SOUND ROOM” as the Zuchs played. My experiences with these great people are etched forever in my everyday thoughts, passed on to my family on a daily menu!!

    Cheers!
    Randy


    • Yes, I sure do….Chas might be able to make contact with Greg,
      I’d love to hear some old school neo-pagan post punk grooves from Orcas. I’m glad there are some recordings that made it through the years.
      all my best,
      Kris


    • Randy, We have talked about you for years and have all tried to find ways to locate you. All the Zucchini`s still talk and have remained friends since those wonderful early years. I have Chas in my house right now for the weekend and expect Greg this after noon for a party this evening. Mark lives in Montery and works at the aquarium, and Dan is the only somewhat missing link.Although that is just right now, We know where he is at I just think he is busy. Please right me at paulzech@hotmail.com and we can connect.



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