It’s 9pm and that means its time for band practice at my house. I live just above the basement where two bands, Head Bangs and Rituals, play every other night. So I hear all the songs. The other night we were talking about how Tacoma’s music scene is not well known, and its history is too often jumbled with Seattle’s history instead. After all, Nirvana wasn’t from Seattle either – they were from Aberdeen, WA. This prompted me to see what bands, if any, had come out of Tacoma. I found three bands from the 50s and 60s that still are chart-toppers, so I wanted to share. Tacoma’s music scene is built on a strong backbone.

The Ventures


In 1959 a band known as The Ventures burst on the scene with what was called “surf rock”. Their music was purely instrumental, but topped the charts. Their songs were used in Quentin Tarantino films, and the group is the most popular American rock group in Japan to date, having outsold the Beatles 2 to 1. This band is, in fact, the best-selling instrumental band of all time – having sold over 100 million records. And they’re from, of all places, Tacoma. Here is a taste.

The Wailers


From the same era as The Ventures, The Wailers (not the reggae group), is known to many people as “the first garage band“, and the group that gave rise to the Seattle grunge scene. The song “Louie Louie” comes from this group originally. One of their hits is, “Tall Cool One“. Here is a short documentary about The Wailers.

The Sonics


Another group from Tacoma – The Sonics – are considered the first punk band. I could not believe this, so I found the Seattle PI newspaper agrees, saying The Sonics “foreshadowed the punk era“, which is a bit different. Still, this is big news. Here is a taste of their music.

According to these sources, then, Tacoma is home to the first garage band, the first punk band, and the most popular American instrumental band in Japan. There haven’t been too many female artists from Tacoma, but I found one diamond in the rough who goes by the name Junkyard Jane. If you like the sounds of Head Bang, they will be playing in Olympia and in some Tacoma house shows next month, check out their myspace.

More sounds from Tacoma’s past.

Vonnegut- Don’t Tell Sophie