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
60sgaragebands.com (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 ( http://pnwbands.com/nwtributes60.html