Reader view: Music, cool stereo gear and the Edmonds connection

An undated photo of Parker’s Nightclub  on Aurora Avenue North. (Courtesy King County Department of Assessments)

Music stirs many great memories from my youth growing up in Edmonds and our region. Sadly, I will show my age and some of you may be able to recall some of the same memories from the many live early venues and establishments. These are just a few locations.

The Spanish Castle Ballroom in Seattle offered a wide variety of performers. Herb Alpert, Roy Orbison, to name just a few, along with many early rock bands of the day. The Wailers, The Sonics, and Merrillee Rush are just a few names that played there. A young guitar player named Jimmy Hendrix (later changed name to Jimi) would show up regularly to try to jam with the bands to master his craft. On his album Axis Bold as Love, Hendrix wrote a song titled “Spanish Castle Magic.”

The Aquarius Tavern on Aurora was also a great place to listen to live music, dance and drink pitchers of beer — not necessarily in that order. Heart, Elvin Bishop and Muddy Waters are a few acts playing the Aquarius, which later became Parkers.

In early spring and summer of 1968, The Bummer was located on 238th and Highway 99. Also called Pat O’Day’s North, the popular local radio DJ booked the talent. Known for a psychedelic theme painted black with black lights throughout, The Turtles, Pied Pipers, Every Mothers Son, and Don and the Goodtimes were among performers. One always knew The Bummer was rocking. The car shook while driving by on Highway 99. It was really loud and cool, which may explain the short life of the facility.

Further, Edmonds’ claim to fame in all this excellent music was hosting Phase Linear Corporation, a manufacturer of some of the most powerful stereo amplifiers, and later state-of-the-art preamps, tuners and Andromeda loudspeaker. In 1970, Phase Linear — formed by Bob Carver and Steve Johnston — was located at 405 Howell Way. Rumor has it that Carver started the business in 1969 at his home, sold some amplifiers, needed more room and moved to Edmonds.

The Phase Linear 700 was the first amp produced with 350W per channel at $749 retail. Such powerful amplifiers were possible utilizing the new high-power transistors of the day used for high-voltage auto electronic ignition. These amps were very distinguished, with brushed aluminum panels and two large VU Meters in the front. Due to the large power capability, this amplifier became extremely popular with musicians, and in recording studios and homes. One story says that rock bands used to put dry ice on the stacks to keep them cool. I remember wanting one badly, but $750 was a lot of money in the day for a poor college student — plus one still needed a preamp, tuner, etc. Phase Linear was definitely high end for that time. Carver was also said to have developed an extremely high-powered amp called the “earthquake amp.” He believed he could build anything with the collaboration of his staff.

The author’s system: a 700 series two.

The next amplifier produced was the 200W-per-channel Phase Linear 400, which sold at retail $500 with 4000 preamp next. In 1978, the D-500 amplifier was introduced with a monster 505 watts per channel, selling at retail for $1,395.  All these amps are very clean, distortion-free and just play louder and louder to help enhance the speaker technology of the time. Sound great on low to normal volumes too. I love this vintage gear! Helps remind me of another time.

As the company’s reputation grew around the globe with higher demand for products, Phase Linear moved to Lynnwood in 1974. Carver left the company in 1977 to later form Carver Corporation. A.P. Van Meter, the company’s chief design engineer, introduced the 400 and 700 series 2 models in 1978. The company was sold to Pioneer in 1979, which added a cassette player to the system. With the loss of Carver and rising costs, business declined and the company sold again to Jensen in early 1980s.

The great music here during this time of my youth and the stereo equipment manufactured right here in Edmonds and Lynnwood provide great memories, perhaps of simpler times.

— By Mike Murdock

Reader Mike Murdock lives in Edmonds

 

5 Replies to “Reader view: Music, cool stereo gear and the Edmonds connection”

  1. Great times to be young. Definitely miss the analog systems. Any party we were lucky enough to be at that had a great system with a Phase Linear (loved the lighted meters and the classy brushed aluminum) was a gathering spot for discussing music.
    Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Dick Parker’s Pavilion aka Parker’s Ballroom at 170th Aurora North, opened in 1930, during prohibition, and the Great Depression. It had a much different look then. In the 1940s, it featured the big band sound and at times had some famous names playing for the dancers. When the young men came back from the battles of WWII, Parker’s was a popular place to take your date. It went on to have a long history, featuring the current music sounds of each generation. HistoryLink.org has a great history of this long-lasting night spot once located at what is now Shoreline.

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