(PORTLAND, OR) — Hello from rainy Portland, Oregon. My time here will be short because I arrived on Thursday and I’m leaving today (Saturday, when this is published). I’m leaving so soon because I’m headed back to Tucson briefly to pick up some medication. Then I’ll drive east to PA to celebrate my younger son’s 15th birthday.
I didn’t know much about Portland, so I was curious to see if there were famous musicians with ties to the Rose City. Turns out there are dozens, including many from modern bands along with a bunch from The Drive’s era. Let’s take a look at (and a listen to) several of them.
Most people know Lee Dorsey for his big hits “Working In The Coal Mine” and “Ya Ya.” I only just learned that he was backed by New Orleans funk masters The Meters on most of his records, and his arrangements were primarily by another Crescent City giant: Allen Toussaint. Lee Dorsey was born in New Orleans, where Fats Domino was one of his friends as a young child. He moved to Portland when he was 10.
NANCY WILSON of HEART
The talented guitarist and songwriter grew up in nearby Seattle, but attended Portland State University in the early 70s. Nancy was usually a backing vocalist, but she sang lead on the #1 hit “These Dreams.”
TOMMY THAYER of KISS
While not the original guitarist for KISS, Portland native Tommy Thayer has spent nearly a decade in the role, in and out of makeup. Here he is rockin’ out a few years ago:
Canadian by birth, lang is a Portlander by choice, having lived in the City of Roses (it’s called that, too) since 2012. lang has collaborated with a who’s who of Drive-era faves, including Roy Orbison, Tony Bennett, Elton John, Anne Murray, and Ann Wilson.
JACK ELY of THE KINGSMEN
Where would rock music be without Jack Ely’s, um, “distinctive” vocals on “Louie Louie”? We’ve got Portland to thank for this indelible performance.
(OK, one more. The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies are from Portland. I mention that because my trio opened for them at Club Congress in Tucson back in the mid-90s.)