Emerging in a furore of drum beats in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Seattle has stood its ground as a pilgrimage for music lovers across the globe. But while the city has become synonymous with this famed era of Grunge, Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, look a little further back through time and you’ll find a rich musical history; fertile ground for the famous blend of punk, metal and rock that ensued.
In the early 20th century, Seattle was firmly on the beaten track for touring Vaudeville groups, where music, dance and light comedy provided frilly entertainment for the locals. A home-grown talent of the time was Gypsy Rose Lee, who learnt the art of Burlesque in Seattle before courteously strip-teasing her way around the rest of the States. Then came the Second World War where the likes of Miss Lee were magnetic centrepieces in an underground scene of boozing, gambling, music and dance. Great hall-like venues housed these after-hours performances and here some of the greatest jazz musicians first performed. Both Ray Charles and Quincy Jones belong to Seattle’s starry alumni.
The 1950’s saw the beat of the city quieting down with stricter licensing laws. Only a decade on and the volume was turned up again as Seattle’s music box burst open with the city quickly becoming a hot spot for recording ‘60s pop music. At about this time rock began to seed its sound around the Pacific Northwest and from this blossomed one of Seattle’s most prominent exports, Jimi Hendrix (he
actually shot to fame in England, but being born and bred in Seattle, we’ll let them claim him).
Fast forward another few years and you get to the much-lauded Grunge era. Exploring the streets of Seattle, you will be stomping the same ground as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, to name
just a few of the hedonistic rockers this place has launched to fame. But the musical Mecca didn’t end with the death of Kurt Cobain. Seattle has continued to churn out some of the best talent around, so as you listen to the indie folk of Fleet Foxes or rap lyrics of Macklemore, know that you are tuning into the sound of Seattle. Who knows what will emerge in coming years…