Brutus and The Bullies

Members of the Seattle '60's scene, Brutus & The Bullies were unfortunately too young to play in any of the local teen clubs. They were able to perform quite regularly throughout the South end of the city, however, and even recorded a demo of original songs. The band held a reunion in August, and is currently mulling over the possibility of jamming together for the first time in over 30 years.

An Interview With George Bryant, Rowland Brasch and Greg DeMers (60s): How did you first get interested in music?

George Bryant (GB): My family was pretty musical - everyone played an instrument. I started with a few years of piano lessons and then took up the saxophone around fourth grade. I didn't get into rock and roll much until the eigth grade (1964) and then got swept up in the British Invasion and the California Surf Bands. My brother played bass in a band for a short time and that introduced me to the concept of being in a band.

Rowland Brasch (RB): My mother was a talented pianist so it was in the family. One day, when I was twelve years old, she taught me how to play the Baby Elephant Walk and the rhythm line had a great boogie-woogie sound to it. That grabbed me. We had a Wurlitzer organ and I began to teach myself on that. I got books that showed chord placement and progression and taught myself how to play.

Greg DeMers (GD): Most everyone in my family was musical in one fashion or another. The biggest influence musically was my mother who raised us four brothers as a piano bar entertainer and show person. She really is a very gifted songwriter-musician that should have hit the big time but didn't due to situations and circumstances.

60s: Was Brutus & The Bullies your first band?

RB: No. The first band was The Marquis. It was formed at O'Dea High School in 1964. It consisted of Pete Sack on drums, Barney Armstrong on vocals, Ben Green on bass, and Dan on guitar. Pete Sack went on to play with The Trolley and Barney Armstrong played with a number of bands including Merrilee and The Turnabouts.

GD: Yes, I don't recall any others. At the time, The Beatles had started a avalanche of bands world wide. It was an era of bands like no other since. Brutus and The Bullies was outfitted in black double breasted suit coats and black slacks! We really were in the swing of things at that time. We were young and didn't know the importance of original music at that time. If we had had some original tunes then, who knows what might have happened. We really did have an exceptional combination of musicians and talent.

GB: Yes. Brutus and The Bullies lasted from 1965 to 1967.

60s: Where was Brutus & The Bullies formed, what year, and by whom?

GD: Well, as far as I can recollect, they were formed in Burien, Washington. I'm not quite clear on when I came into the picture. Rick Wright played lead guitar, Brian Williamson played bass guitar, George Bryant played alto sax, and Rowland Brasch played organ. We all were singers as I recall; some more than others.

GB: A classmate, Tony Tito, asked me if I would like to join his band in the spring of 1965. It wasn't really a band at that point. It was just Tony who played bass on a cheap Japanese six-string guitar; John Kennedy who had a borrowed set of drums; and me. We had a few other friends try out on guitar without much success. Tony asked Rowland Brasch to join on organ. Rowland had played in a previous group (NOTE: The Marquis) and was far more accomplished and had better equipment then any of the rest of us. We spent the summer practicing in a loft above Tony's garage in Burien, south of Seattle. This version of The Bullies played our one gig at birthday party for a girl we knew. It was not a particularly memorable performance. In September of 1965, a new Music City (musical instruments) store was opening in Burien and they were going to have some local bands play. Tony got us on the list. We showed up in the afternoon to rehearse and Tony and John got cold feet. Rowland and I met some other guys who were hanging out at the store who said they had part of a band together and asked us if we wanted to get together. We went back to Greg DeMers' (drummer) house and met up with Brian Williamson (bass) and an older guy from Hawaii (can't remember his name) who played guitar. We worked out some songs and decided to go back to Music City and play. We were pretty rough but the Hawaiian guy led us through some Chuck Berry and Little Richard tunes and he even played the guitar behind his back which caused a bit of a stir. This became the second version of The Bullies. The Hawaiian guy quit a couple of months later and Rick Wright took his place on guitar (NOTE: Rick Wright was in a Country and Western group with his brothers called The Wright Brothers. They were regulars on the local Country & Western TV show, EVERGREEN JUBLIEE). Somehow, I became the lead singer. Randy Johnson joined later for a short time on rhythm guitar. This group stayed together for about a year.

60s: Wasn't the Music City performance a "Battle of the Bands"?

GB: It really wasn't a battle in that there was no winner. We did play with some other bands at other dances and I think we did pretty well.

60s: How did John obtain the nickname "Brutus"?

GB: I am not sure but I believe Tony came up with it and the name of the band. No idea what lead up to it.

60s: Where did the band typically practice?

GB: The new band practiced in Greg's basement for awhile and then we bounced around to everyone else's basements or garages. This spread the noise around so all the parents could share.

GD: The only place that I personally remember vividly is in the basement of our house in Normandy Park, and occasionally on the deck outside.

60s: What type of gigs did the band typically land?

GD: I don't recall all the places that we played, but I do remember we did play a good number of places with some pretty decent crowds.

GB: We mostly played at YMCA dances, CYO dances and community club dances. We also played at several school dances including one at a community college.

60s: How far was the band's "touring" territory?

GB: We played around the south end of Seattle.

60s: How would you describe the band's sound? What band's influenced you?

GB: We started out playing a lot of Northwest standards by The Viceroys, The Wailers and The Dynamics. We added to these a mix of The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Paul Revere and The Raiders and The Sonics. We also did the odd James Brown (Rowland was a fan) or Sam The Sham covers. The Sonics were definitely the model and we used to go see them play at the Target Ballroom. 60s: What are your recollections of a live Sonics show? Were they as wild on stage as they came acrosos in their recordings? GB: The Sonics were great! Unlike Paul Revere, Don & The Goodtimes and all the other costume bands of the same period, The Sonics were very cool or 'tough', as we said in those days. They were all business on stage and their sound was unlike anyone else. Their first album was the first rock & roll album I bought.

Since all bands at the time had uniforms we decided we needed something so we all went downtown to try and find something we could all wear. We found a bunch of double breasted tuxedo jackets in a thrift shop for fifty cents each. We bought some lace fronted white shirts and that was our 'look'. Classy on the cheap!

60s: What other local groups of the era do you especially recall?

GB: The two bands who seemed to be in the same league as us and playing the same places were The Vampires and Don & Company. They are both also listed on the Northwest Rock and Roll bands website (

60s: Did you play any of the local Northwest teen clubs?

GB: We never joined the musicians union which kept us from playing in the major clubs but we kept busy playing at local community halls and schools. We were all only 15 or 16 years old so we were pretty young.

60s: Did Brutus & The Bullies have a manager?

GB: No, but Mike Cowles was our roadie because he was one of our few friends who had a car.

60s: How popular locally did Brutus & The Bullies become?

GB: We were able to keep pretty busy so I guess people liked us.

60s: Brutus & The Bullies recorded a demo in Tacoma. What do you recall about this?

GB: Greg moved back to California and John Agostino joined on drums. John's older brother worked for a TV station in Tacoma and through his contacts arranged for some studio time at a local recording studio. We recorded two songs. The first - The Pendulum of Time - was written by me and in hindsight is a pretty gloomy slice of teenage angst although at the time I just thought it was 'heavy'. The second song was an untitled instrumental that we worked out in the studio. It is sort of jazz-like with some very good solo piano by Rowland. We overdubbed a background talking track to make it sound like it was done live in a club.

RB: I've heard The Pendulum of Time used as backing track for commercials on Channel 13 over the years. Maybe we are owed some royalties.

60s: Do any (other) '60's Brutus & The Bullies recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings?

GB: Unfortunately, no.

60s: Did the band make any local TV appearances, or foes any 8mm or 16mm film footage exist?

GB: That would be fun to see but there isn't any.

60s: What were the circumstances leading to the band breaking up in 1967?

GB: Rick left the band and his replacement never really clicked although he did play on the demo. We were rehearsing in my basement and things weren't going well. We couldn't seem to get anything new to sound good. After an aborted attempt at one of our better songs, John threw his sticks in the air and said, "I quit." We all looked at each other decided that was it.

60s: Why did Rick Wright leave the band?

GB: Rick got into some trouble and his parents made him quit the band. Rick was kind of a wild guy in addition to being a really good guitarist and was really missed.

60s: Did you join or form any bands after Brutus & The Bullies?

RB: After the Bullies I played with several groups: Clock Work Orange, a small stint with The Turnabouts when Marilee went out on her own, and another group called Vision. I went into the Air Force and played for the USO at radar sights all along the DEW Line in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, etc. The name of that group was Titus Oaks. It was named after a bookstore in New York City. After the service I toured with Titus Oaks for one year then due to some hearing loss called it quits. I came back to Seattle and played with some jazz groups for two years. Now I just play for myself to enjoy music.

GD: Well...where do I start? The bands were numerous with a wide variety of music. Actually, one of the groups was formed with my mother and myself with just keyboard and drums as a duo playing and singing in many different clubs in Washington State. This was when I was in my early to mid-twenties. I also played in a psychedelic band called the Green Day Goods just after Brutus and The Bullies down in Oregon while residing with my Dad in Corvallis, Oregon - which is the home of the Oregon State University. Consequently, the band was all college musicians except myself and the bass player. The lead guitar player was from San Francisco and played his guitar upside down like Hendrix. We had a knock out gal from New York as the lead singer. When we gigged we had heavy psychedelic projection behind us with a big overhead projector. After all, this was in the beginning of the heavy psychedelic drug era. We became popular and played all over, especially college parties as I recollect. We did at one time open for The Weeds and Buffalo Springfield. I played off and on for years in various different bands for extra money - country and country rock bands, disco bands, hard rock bands. (But) I tried to stay away from the hard rock bands, due to the volume.

GB: I tried out with a few other bands over the following year but nothing came of it. I joined an eleven-piece soul band and played through the summer of '68 with them. I got into electronic music while I was in college and made some attempts to get a recording deal but nothing came of it beyond some interesting experience. Rowland played in several bands after high school and while he was in the Air Force. John Agostino played in a number of other bands in Seattle. Greg DeMers played in a band who once opened for Buffalo Springfield and also toured with a band called Meatball. Rick played in a band called The Great Society (not the San Francisco band) for a few years.

60s: What was the name of the soul band you joined?

GB: The Kings of Soul. I guess it was sort of a black garage band although we practiced in the leader's basement. I was the only white guy and for a kid who grew up in the white suburbs playing in a soul band in Seattle's Central District in 1968 was a real cultural wake-up call. We played almost every weekend throughout the summer and I wish there were recordings of the group. There were two altos, two tenors, two trumpets, a trombone, guitar, bass, organ and two drummers and we put out quite a sound - I guess that adds up to 12 instead of 11.

60s: What about today? How often, and where, do you perform (if at all)? If not, what keeps you busy?

GB: After my failed attempts to get a recording deal with the electronic music, I stopped making music and concentrated on pursing a career as an architect. And that is what I do now. I still listen to a lot of music and go to hear live music.

RB: I have a midi studio at home. Last year I played with a local retro group here in my hometown of Carnation, Washington. We were doing some of our own arrangements and some cover stuff from Santana, War, etc. It was fun but they were not very serious so I faded away. Rick has returned to his Country & Western roots and plays for fun. Greg writes and performs contemporary Christian music.

GD: Well - as far as the music goes - I won't ever give up on it. I have been delayed somewhat raising four children and everything that goes along with raising four children. For a good number of years now, I have played drums, congas, and all kinds of different percussion instruments, in orchestra form and smaller band form. I have found that playing in the Church in the form of worship to our Creator gives me more satisfaction and peace to my soul. For me, the no smoking element is a big attraction to church performing verses bar room performing. Not that I don't enjoy all types of music, because I truly do - excluding the profanity of course. I have played the guitar for many years now, along with the piano and my goal is to publish a contemporary Christian CD in the next couple of years, hopefully sooner. I enjoy songwriting and know that God has given me that gift to pursue, to touch other peoples lives. I am very thankful for everything that I have today including the many years of playing in groups as a drummer. It has been hard on my hearing. However, not so hard that I can't hear. Thank God!

60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with Brutus & The Bullies?

GD: An adventure into the unknown! It was great - the possibility of becoming a rock star! WOW! At fifteen years old it was a thrill to be in the public eye as a musician. We were on the cutting edge I believe. We just lacked direction. Our choices could have created a different destiny - who knows what? - the sky is the limit! Brutus and The Bullies was the first actual band that I was in. There will always be a place in my heart soul and mind for Brutus and The Bullies and each one of its members.

GB: It was a really great time. We didn't make a whole lot of money but we had a whole lot of fun. Being in the band was sort of like being in a gang. For that short period of time we were all really good friends and hung out together even when we weren't practicing or playing. It was a very formative time for all of us and I would like to think that being in that band triggered some things in each of us that had an impact on who we are today.

RB: I totally agree with George on this. Money was not the object. We were young, impressionable and just having fun playing music for people. There was not a better feeling that standing on that stage playing music with friends and having people dance to it.

POSTCRIPT (from George): We had a reunion in August with George, Rowland, Brian, and Rick. We just missed seeing Greg as he was out of town (some of us are going to see him in the future). It was great seeing these guys. Sharing memories (good and goofy), remembering the different places we played (many of us had forgotten some of them). It was good laughs, great memories and the possibility exists that we will get together sometime in the future and jam. Wouldn't that be something?

"Copyrighted and originally printed on by Mike Dugo".
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