A Career Begins

What does a Cum Laude graduate do with all these academic credentials? Play rhythm and blues! Off he goes to Colorado for a while to hang with some buddies, one of them being Steve Parks. He plays keyboards in a few bands; some blues, some rock, some taverns. It was a casual scene in Boulder, Colorado. He did make a stab at portrait photography for a while but that wasn’t for him. He is thinking magazine or newspaper photography would be more adventurous. Dianna Lee, a friend from those Colorado days, remembers Steve as a seeker of truth.

Then one day, a friend of his named John Blair calls him from Seattle, Washington. He tells him the town is hot, and he should come on up to Seattle! This was a club scene that would not compare, John told him. It would keep them playing music all night long.

Steve yanks the back and side passenger seats out of his red ’64 VW bug and builds a platform in the bottom of it for easy loading of gear. He packs it with his Fender Rhodes, an amp and his few worldly possessions, and off he goes to the Northwest!

Steve arrived on a Tuesday, rehearsed on a Thursday and played his first gig in Seattle on Friday night at the Ridge Tavern. This was a real funky place down on First Avenue with a mostly black clientele and an all-white band. There were lots of illicit activities going on all around them at the Ridge, and the band fortunately stayed pretty well insulated from them. All they cared about was that they were playing music somewhere. They played songs by Stevie Wonder, James Brown and the Ohio Players. They had another name, but referred to themselves here as “The Quick Sixty;” named for what they got paid at the end of the night!

There were a lot of places to play in those days, as bass player Mark Dalton can attest to. The Pacific Northwest had a rich and historic music tradition. The sound and attitude involved lots of blues, jazz and funk as well as ethnic, punk, and top 40, followed later by heavy metal and the original grunge scene.

Music History

Some of the great artists from Seattle: Ernestine Anderson, Kate Smith, Diane Schuur, Isaac Scott, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Wailers, the Kingsmen, the Ventures, Jr. Cadillac, Merrilee Rush, Jimmy Hendrix, the Frantics, the Sonics, Judy Collins, Quincy Jones, Julian Priester, Kenny G., Heart, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Robert Cray, Sir MixaLot, and Alice in Chains


1950s, 60s & 70s Bands of the Great Pacific Northwest

Machine Head USA: History of Northwest Rock and Roll, 1957-1967

Experience Music Project

My EXPERIENCE at Paul Allen's big museum, by Rob Morgan

Steve’s next real band was called “Shotgun.” Rick McConnell was the leader. It was a seven piece band with two horns, four-piece rhythm section and a chick out front. Pam Tebbelnar sang for awhile, then later came Gloria Jean. They usually even wore band uniforms. They played songs by Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire, Chicago, etc. There were two club scenes in Seattle at the time — the tavern scene and the lounge scene. They played mostly lounges (they paid better than taverns and this was a big band). They were on the road a lot — Canada, Washington, Idaho, Montana, etc. In Seattle they played places like Latitude 47, Pier 70, and the Embers in West Seattle. In those days he played with Jerome, Don Weaver, Darrow Hunt, Gary Olderoid, John Scharf on drums. The band lasted a good couple of years but eventually fell apart over personality disputes. Steve loved the night life. He'd sleep and practice all day then drink and play all night. What could be more perfect for the wild child from the ’burbs?

Various snapshots of the group, Shotgun, with Steve at the keyboard

Ladies step right up (Rhonda Sable) (Dee Dee Crane Conant) (Ivy).

Next, Steve joined the “Johnny Rusk Show.” Johnny was an excellent Elvis impersonator and he needed a band to play top 40. They played in Lake Tahoe and Reno. Steve remembers bass player Ken Rose was in the band too. www.timscott.com/pages/rusk.htm

The Crystal Saloon and Ballroom in Alaska
By this time, Steve lived in a run down little apartment on Capitol Hill that was managed by Gary Cerutti (the building was referred to as “the Roach Arms” by residents). Gary also led a blues band, sang and played the harmonica. So Steve joined the blues circuit again and played with Cerutti, Jr. Earl, John McNeff, the legendary Isaac Scott, Philharmonic Sam, Mike Lynch, Jerry Christie, Brian Butler, Kim Feilds. . .

Steve recalls taking a gig for a month in Alaska to work the Crystal Saloon and Ballroom with Gary Olderoid, Tom Svornich, and Bruce Hall... They could play anything they wanted so they did a wide variety of jazz, blues, and some rock — some Lee Dorsey, Crusaders, and a cool version of “Since I Fell for You.”

Steve listened to all sorts of music. Some favorites during his early Seattle years were John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, James Brown, Doctor John, Professor Long Hair, Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, Little Feat, the Meters, the Neville Brothers, Bonnie Raitt. Later, he got into local bluesman Robert Cray, David Lindley and El Rayo Ex, Emmy Lou Harris, Steve Earl, No Doubt . . . Steve was always practicing, taking regular vocal lessons, ear training with George Peckham and writing songs. His stage flair reflects his years of study and experience of rock roots piano, boogie woogie and the taste of New Orleans. But that’s not all.

Music Life

King Louie and the Royal Flush in both of their incarnations

Married with Kids

At the next phase of his career, Steve joined King Louie and the Royal Flush. They were a lounge circuit show band that featured 2 sets of top 40 and one 50s set each night. For the 50s set they would all change clothes, grease their hair back and hit the stage with a 50s gust of energy. It made for an exciting evening. The lead singer was Louie Luvaas. The bass player was Gary Oldroid, Jeff Ziontz on Guitar and Wayne Rutledge on drums. Wayne wanted to do more comedy so he worked out a new act they called the Woodpecker, derived from something from the 50s. That was pretty silly. The year was 1976 and they were on the road a lot.

Since Steve was home so seldom he just rented a room in a big old house on Queen Ann from guitarist Jerry Christie and saxophonist Janice Manning. One day in early spring, while Steve was in between road gigs with King Louie, a knock came to the door and he answered it. There stood Janice's cousin up from San Diego. She drove with her parents to visit their ailing grandma. They all were going to be staying at Janice's big old house on Queen Anne for the next few days. Steve's eyes met hers and hers met his, and VAWOOSH! Life threw them both a curve ball. Within seconds pheromones were flying and horoscopes were lining up! “Hello. . . . my name is Delilah.”

Just the day before Delilah’s arrival Steve had told Janice he fancied the idea of being a bachelor for the rest of his life (you just never know, do you?). Delilah was just up for a quick two days but managed to stretch it into five so she could go on a date with Steve. After she left Seattle, she just couldn’t get him out of her mind and wrote him a romantic letter. Before he even received it, he called her and said either she had to move up or he had to move down. He couldn’t stop thinking about her either!

Delilah was a professional bellydancer. Coincidentally, during her stay in Seattle she actually had a dance job offered to her by the new owner of a Greek restaurant and night club (the Grecian Corner on 9th and Madison). Since she was born in Seattle, but mostly raised in San Diego, she had always had a childhood curiosity to return to Seattle one day. So, with job and love in hand, she moved up.

They lived for a while at 10th and McGraw on Queen Anne Hill but then found an ad in the paper for a tiny little house in back of another house a few blocks away. It was coincidentally owned by Lucy Sayeh, a friend of Janice's Grandma Minnie. She was a little Lebanese woman that Delilah remembered hearing about (since she was a kid) as being Gramma Minnie’s best friend. It felt like family. Coincidences or synchronicity would be the rule for the couple’s life together.

Steve hadn’t seen Delilah dance yet. It took a couple months before the Greek Club opened and Delilah began doing two shows a night; whirling and shimmying to the loud shrill cry of the bazookie played by Takis Dotis. The Greeks loved their music and folk dancing. The band played impassioned ballads and folk dances, with their odd time signatures, into the wee hours of the morning. On opening night, the spirited Greeks celebrated by breaking plates and throwing money all over the floor — and all over Delilah! Steve was impressed (well, shocked maybe) by the cultural kind of support given to the art, and a new phase to his musical education was just beginning .

But Steve was still on the road a lot. That made for a lonely Delilah. She didn’t know anyone, and the ethnic club scene in Seattle seemed quiet compared to San Diego’s. People didn’t hang out together outside of the night club much. She found it hard to make friends in the rainy city and really wanted to be with Steve. Delilah started taking vocal lessons.

Delilah did make one close friend in Sandy Parnell. She was the dancer in the other Greek club in Seattle and her husband owned a cool jazz club in Pioneer Square called Parnell's. Her brother, Jimmy Manolides, was a keyboard player in a popular rock band called Jr. Cadillac, which would figure into Steve and Delilah’s life up the road.

The next phase began with King Louie and the Royal Flush breaking up and re-forming as Stepping Out: Gary Oldroid on Bass, Tom Svornich on Drums, Louie Luvaas on Guitar and lead vocals, Steve on Piano and Organ, and Delilah was singing and playing cow bell and tambourine. They did late 70s disco, top 40, “Brick House,” “I Want Your Love,” “Fire,” a few original songs, a Crusader song, a Little Feat song and “Shout” by the Isley Brothers. They were on the lounge circuit all over the Northwest and it lasted just short of a year.

Publicity Photos and a newspaper ad for "Steppin' Out"

After that, Delilah went back to bellydancing at the Grecian Corner and Steve plugged into the local band circuit. He played with a cool blues band called Night Life for awhile on weekends. It starred lead singer and harmonica player Mike Lynch. Steve also did a duo with guitarist Jeff Ziontz for a little while and then he joined the Brian Butler Blues Band.

l to r: some cool cat, Steve, Jeff Ziontz, John Lee and Mike Lynch

Cut the Cake

Steve and Delilah got married in 1980 in San Diego. Tony Karasac, whom Delilah had worked with for many years, played sitar at their wedding. They were married outside in the early evening, in a Spanish style courtyard. Steve made a special recording of a beautiful song he wrote and it was played during the wedding. It was called “Laying my Life on the Line for Your Love” and was sung by Louie Luvaas. Steve’s long-time friend from Principia, Dan Thompson, was his best man and Pheadra was Delilah’s maid of honor with her two daughters, Sarah and Rachel, as the flower girls. They had a second reception in Seattle at their little apartment overlooking downtown on the southeast corner of Queen Anne.

• (Sound File coming later)

Soon Steve and Delilah rented a little house in the Magnolia area of Seattle, where their first child was born on July 15, 1981. Laura Rose Flynn was born at home, and Delilah’s labor was fast. Steve almost single-handedly delivered her into the world. Victoria Barr and Tom Gorton were on hand to photograph Laura Roses’s arrival.

When Steve and Delilah first started living together she thought it was a shame he wasn’t doing much photography, so she bought him a 4x5 view camera. Steve loved working with black and white film, and he did some art photos from time to time. Then, as his life got even busier he allotted its use primarily to the annual documentation of the family via a Christmas portrait.

Christmas Card Photo Gallery
4 X 5 Photo Gallery

Steve was playing mostly with the Brian Butler Band on the weekends and working as a waiter and bartender during the weekdays. Brian wanted to change his image from a blues band to more rock and roll. They learned new material and did some cool originals. They mostly played in Pioneer Square, but then the venues started getting bigger and bigger. Brian had a handsome, boyish stage presence that was innocent, and sexy. It was a good show.

(Listen to Steve's solo with the Brian Butler Band, "Sweet Little Angel," recorded live at Pig Alley in the mid-70s)

Steve with Brian Butler

Brian was a funny guy sometimes, and for no apparent reason would just like to change things around every once in a while. One night Brian decided out of the blue to give Steve his notice — that he was going to change players and Steve was out of the band. On that very night a review by Patrick McDonald came out in the Seattle Times newspaper, citing Steve Flynn as one of the most happening musicians around the area, so Brian immediately asked him to stay in the band. “Just kidding man”.

After Laura Rose was born Steve signed on to a reconstitution of a band called “The Magnetics”. It would be composed of some musicians Steve admired, and he looked forward to working with them. Guitarist Tom Bergen was behind the idea.
The Magnetics
His wife Frieda Johnson was a wonderful lead singer. The plan was to go play Jump Blues and Rockabilly in England and get rich. Al Katz on guitar , John Seaburg on bass, both from the very popular Seattle area band “The Dynamic Logs,” with Darnell Kellerman of the “Nu-Vitations” on sax, and Steve, of course, on keyboards coming from the Brian Butler Band. They rehearsed for weeks and sounded really great, but the British booking schedule began to fall apart. None of these musicians were interested in sticking around the local Seattle scene any longer. The heyday for the club scene in the 1980s was once again fading slowly away.

Climate Changes

There were a number of factors involved in the club scene’s climate change. There had been great opportunities for working musicians in the 70s . By the mid-1980s home video came out on the market and people started staying home and renting movies. The AIDS epidemic influenced many peoples’ decision to get married and settle down. They began starting families. Alcohol awareness was kicking in and drunk driving laws tightened up, so people chose to drink at home, if at all. The “Peace and Love Generation” was now working 9 to 5 and wanted to move up the corporate ladder, so they were adopting healthier life styles — jogging more, drinking and drugging less, eating better, and going to bed earlier. The night life was becoming a thing of the past. Demographics were shifting too. While we were from the “baby-boomer” generation, we were followed by an absent generation. There was a lack of new club goers all because of a little thing called the birth control pill, invented in the 60s. Its invention gave millions of women new freedoms. Many postponed having kids so they could go to collage and build careers (and continue to party, at least for awhile.) So those kids that would have been born to keep the club scene thriving were basically non-existent. The club scene was beginning to dwindle. Six-night-a-week jobs turned into weekend gigs. Not enough work or money was available anymore to be a full-time musician, or to be a full-time performing bellydancer for that matter. Times were changing for artists.

As time went on, we would see it get worse for live performance artists. People would say “at least Steve’s a keyboard player,” because club owners found they could cut corners by hiring a guy with a synthesizer and drum machine. And even later up the road, a Kareoke machine would take the place of a live band. By the 90s, struggling bands even had to pay to be on stage in the most popular clubs!

Presently, the economic picture for the working musician/singer/songwriter is a bleak one. Add cheap and easy home dubbing equipment, overseas as well as in-house pirating of artists’ works and lame copyright enforcement. . .You wonder why anyone who hasn’t made it big by age 22 would ever continue to be a musician. This goes for rock, jazz, classical. . . you name it ! As a cultured society, we should be ashamed because a narrow and unsupported arts world diminishes all our prosperity. We all lose.

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