Seafair Bolo History
Tom & Ellen met in high school in CleElum, Washington in 1937 where they both were involved in songwriting, This meeting turned into a romance and they eventually married. Their struggle to get recognition was discouraging. At that time the doors were closed to outside writers. If one wasn't an inhabitant of Tin Pan Alley, forget it. Before they married, Tom had been in the service and continued to compose. He also sang with a nationally known band led by Jimmie Grier.
After the war, Tom & Ellen opened a record store in Seattle and combined that with a recording studio. Recording was in its infancy. They had a mobile unit which they used on location recording DJ's interviewing guest celebrities like Sammy Kaye and others for stations like KJR in Seattle, Washington.
In their studio they encouraged bands to rehearse and sometimes record. A good friend was Bumps Blackwell who had his Junior Band featuring trumpeter & arranger, Quincy Jones; singer, Ernestine Anderson, Floyd Standifer and others. Bumps left Seattle and managed stars such as Little Richard, Sam Cooke and The Gospel Pioneers featuring Lou Rawls. These stars often visited the Ogilvy's home during promotional tours and one in particular, Sam Cooke, came with Bumps to dinner. Bumps played their new record which they were promoting to the radio stations the next day. Tom later pointed out that Ellen thought the B side should be the A side. That turned out to be "You Send Me".
Eventually Tom decided to form a record company called "Seafair Records" obtaining permission to use the famous northwest name. The goal of the company was to finally release their own songs which they did for a time. One of Tom's songs (Old Rooster Tail" which was about unlimited hydroplanes) attained limited local success which brought on recognition in the music world. Soon they were bombarded by groups wanting to get their acts on record. This changed the direction of the company. T & E decided that the material they composed was in the vein of the big band and big singers era and this was passe'. They were impressed by the new exciting sound of the young and began to help these new artists achieve their goals--a recognition which had been denied to artists such as those of the Ogilvy's era. Before they started the thrust of this new venture, they were involved with a composition reflecting the earlier age.
This piece of music became the Seafair release, "Meet Me In Seattle", a collaboration with Joe Boles who was a well-known Seattle audio engineer. Joe had recorded The Fleetwoods, The Ventures, Bobby Darren's "Dream Lover" and many others. With the success of the "Meet Me In Seattle" release, Joe called Tom saying," You have the company and I have the recording studio, let's join forces." Tom agreed and offered,"We'll call the label Bolo after Boles and Ogilvy." Done. Some of the first releases were on the Seafair label. Billy Saint whose "Polly Ann" was leased to Dot. And next local giant, Dave Lewis, was added to the label roster with a release of his R&B compositions "Candido/Untwistin(RC)" .
Big Jay McNeely a top Rhythm & Blues artist, called Tom wanting to record at Joe's. Tom set up the session at which Big Jay recorded his big hit,"There's Something On Your Mind", which went to No. 5 in the nation. After the session, Tom told Big Jay Seattle wouldn't support a heavy blues sound so Big Jay took the masters with him and made history. Tom couldn't honestly release it on Bolo or Seafair. Sad but true!
Joe died suddenly which was a great shock to everyone. After some time, Tom & Ellen with heavy hearts bought Joe's share of the company from Joe's wife, Virginia. They formed Seafair-Bolo,Inc.. and sailed on to many releases. A look at their catalog is an interesting testimonial to the music scene in Seattle during that time. With Joe gone, they had to find other studios. An old friend with whom they had worked extensively in the past was Chet Noland-- a fine audio engineer but with limited space for recording projects . They utilized Commercial Studios and Lyle Thompson in downtown Seattle. Ray Van Patten from Everett was another engineer they liked and even used in the Ogilvy basement to record a couple of Bolo releases. Fred Rasmussen in north Seattle had a studio and did some recording for them. Also they added more labels. Virgelle (Tom created this name from the monikers of the wives--Virginia and Ellen) was the country & western label. Nolta--a label for experiments. It stood for Northern Lights Talent Assoc. There was consideration for becoming a talent agency.
They released groups like The Viceroys. Their "Granny's Pad' was an immediate hit. Bolo enjoyed many other Viceroy hits plus their popular LP and recently a CD featuring all of their recordings with the label was released. The next hit group was The Dynamics with Jimmy Hanna---"J.A.J","Genevieve","Wild Girl","Busybody","Leavin' Here" are among their excellent singles and a fabulous selling LP. Tiny Tony and The Statics had a good record in "Hey Mrs. Jones" featuring Merrilee Rush who later became a national star. T & E were very proud of other groups also. The Exotics--leader Walt Wagner played for Peggy Fleming's big hit TV show as well as other top drawer artists. The Nitesounds and their "Get Clean" drew R&B attention and featured Luther Rabb who later played and sang with many national groups like War. See the catalog.
Masters were sold and leased to other companies such as Dot and also Atlantic who released Jimmy Hanna and The Dynamics.
With the advent of the psychedelic sound, markets were changing and all the music groups entered a new era. The friendly DJ's were moving on or weren't approachable on playing local releases. Without the Pat O'Days, Danny Holidays Lan Roberts,etc. business waned. T & E decided stop releases for a while. They did release a Dynamics & Jimmy Hanna LP in 1984 - "Memory Bank" which contained cuts from recordings of the 60's. The business was sold to a new group who had entered into a new era. It had been a great run -- exciting, full of new expression and fun! The audio engineers who have since renovated old masters for rerelease or have mastered new projects are Kearney Barton, George Geurin, Douglas B Holmes and Jim Ogilvy.