The life of Fabulous Wailers pianist and singer Kent Morrill, who passed after a long battle with cancer April 15 surrounded by family members and friends at the Tacoma home where he grew up, will be celebrated at 7 p.m. tonight, May 4, at the Temple Theatre, 47 Saint Helens Ave., Tacoma. Admission is free.

“Kent will be greatly missed by many, all over the world, where his voice and music is being heard to this day,” fellow band member Buck Ormsby said in a statement.

“But more importantly, he has left loads of memories and performances for his band mates, fans and friends, and a very large space open for anyone who might try to fill it.”

Morrill joined Tacoma’s Wailers in the late 1950s after an impromptu audition performing his original song “Dirty Robber,” which became his signature tune. The original Wailers included Morrill, John Greek, Richard Dangel, Michael Burk and Mark Marush.

Morrill’s first brush with national fame came in the late ‘50’s when the Wailers’ original recording of “Tall Cool One” was released on the New York-based Golden Crest Records label. The instrumental song earned them a spot on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” in Philadelphia, and as well as their first East Coast tour and performances in New York City.

While in New York, they finished recording their now-classic first album, featuring songs by Morrill, Dangel and John Greek. The album is a prized collectible today.

After the band returned to Tacoma from New York in 1959, Rockin’ Robin Roberts joined the group as a singer, followed by bassist Ormsby after the departure of guitarist and trumpeter John Greek.

In 1960, Morrill, Ormsby and Roberts formed Etiquette Records, releasing their first single of Richard Berry’s “Louie Louie” in 1961. The song had been re-arranged as a rock ‘n’ roll/R&B-flavored tune sung by Roberts and featuring the Wailers. The song inspired countless versions by other performers (notably The Kingsmen) and is among the most beloved rock ‘n’ roll songs ever recorded.

Morrill and Ormsby recorded several Wailers albums for the Etiquette label The two musicians also recorded albums for other groups, among them the first two albums by the legendary Sonics.

Morrill recorded his first and only solo album, “Hard to Rock Alone,” in 1987. Produced by Ormsby, it was originally released on vinyl on Etiquette’s sister label, Suspicious Records, and then re-issued on CD on Etiquette Records..

“Kent may not have made it into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, but it’s a sure bet he inspired many who did,” Ormsby said.

To read more about the Fabulous Wailers, click on this link.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

11 + seven =