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Music of Washington

 This article is a supplemental part of the 
Music of the United States series.
 Roots music: before 1940
 1940s and 50s
 1960s and 70s
 1980s to the present
 African-American music
 Native American music
 Latin, Tejano, Hawaiian,
Cajun, Puerto Rican and other immigrants
The U.S. state of Washington includes several major hotbeds of musical innovation. The largest city in the state, Seattle, is known most famously for being the birthplace of grunge music, while nearby Tacoma and Olympia have also proven influential.

Table of contents
1 Punk rock
2 Garage Rock
3 Twee pop
4 Riot Grrl
5 Grunge Music
6 Hip-Hop
7 References

Punk rock

Seattle's punk rock scene was always limited, but is important for its influence on grunge music's development. In the 1970s, Ze Whiz Kids made a unique and bizarre variety of confrontational music and helped launch a hardcore punk scene that included The Mentors, RPA, The Rejectors, The Lewd, The Enemy and, most influentially, Solger and The Fartz, and New Wave bands like The Heats, The Cowboys, The Mice, The Telepaths, Visible Targets, Chinas Comidas and X-15. Hardcore skinhead bands like Extreme Hate, The Boot Boys and Firing Squad also gained a following. Green River, a hardcore band, launched the seeds of grunge as well as the bands Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone. Drawing on the hardcore scene was the first grunge bands, including The Melvins and Nirvana.

Garage Rock

In the early 1960s, several garage bands achieved regional and some national fame. Perhaps the most famous of these are The Wailers, whose regional fame was paramount for several years in the early 1960s and are often considered the fathers of Seattle's rock scene.

Another influential garage rock band, The Regents, of Tacoma, were local icons, but the original incarnation never signed to a record label. The Regents are known for a technological innovation, after they fed the rhythm guitar through a Leslie organ speaker during a concert at the University of Puget Sound; this gave them their original sound.

Another Tacoma band, The Sonics, proved to be influential, and are still a cult favorite. Their name was inspired by one of Seattle's most important employers, Boeing, an aircraft manufacturer, and The Sonics' brand of aggressive guitar rock made them icons in the later development of music in and around Seattle.

Record producer Jerry Dennon of Jerdon Records was responsible for bringing The Kingsmen (of Portland, Oregon), best known for their national hit "Louie, Louie," to the ears of northwest audiences. The Kingsmen soon found themselves embroiled in a rivalry with local favorite Paul Revere & the Raiders, who also released a version of "Louie, Louie". Local music fans were split between the two groups, and the city's music scene polarized as a result. The Kingsmen's version caught on nationally after a Boston radio station picked up the song and Dennon negotiated distributing rights with Wand Records out of New York City. The song's supposedly suggestive lyrics led to it being banned in some localities, including Indiana.

Twee pop

In the late 1980s, a form of alternative rock called twee pop was popular in the United Kingdom. A small cult following around bands like The Orchids and Heavenly formed in the US, centered around Olympia's K Records and the band Beat Happening.

Riot Grrl

Riot grrl is a form of hardcore punk which arose in Olympia, Washington in the 1990s and was led by bands like Bikini Kill, known for their militant feminism and raw, uncompromising sound. The genre never achieved much success and soon died out, though stalwarts Sleater-Kinney did stick together and found themselves approaching mainstream audiences after the turn of the millennium.

Grunge Music

Grunge music began as a mixture of heavy metal and punk rock, and arose from the hesher scene in Seattle during the 1980s. The earliest bands included Green River, The Posies and Soundgarden, among others, most signed to legendary indie rock label Sub Pop. By the late 1980s, several future stars had begun performing, including Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Mudhoney, while the death of Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone led to that band's disintegration and subsequent reformation as Pearl Jam. In 1991 (see 1991 in music), Nirvana's Nevermind, along with Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, Pearl Jam's Ten and Alice in Chains' Dirt brought grunge to the top of the national charts, where it stayed for several years, until Kurt Cobain's suicide and the departure of several major bands.


The most famous hip-hop star to come out of Washington state has been Sir Mix-A-Lot, best known for "Baby Got Back", an early nineties novelty hit. He also had another, less well-known song, "Bremeloes" (referring to the women of Bremerton, Washington), that achieved some fame. Later regional acts include Source of Labor and Oldominion.


Blush, Steven. ‘’American Hardcore: A Tribal History’’. Feral House. 2001. ISBN 0-922915-717-7