To say Kearney Barton helped create the Northwest sound would be an understatement. Inventor or pioneer would be more like it. Whatever the tag, we miss the man.
The legendary sound engineer, who died last week at the age of 81, taught us about the Soul Swingers, Little Bill, the Frantics, Don & The Good Times, the Sonics, and so many more. The man had a heart of gold and a sense of humor that would make your grandfather proud. He was a genuine sweetheart who loved to work and record and record some more, making his famous cookies for guests, and watching a hydroplane race now and then.
It's a rare thing to master your craft at any point in your life. To do it in your thirties and stick with it for another 45 years, up until almost the day you die, is a beautiful thing. RIP Kearney. We'll miss you.
Here's a look at three of the songs that I feel best demonstrate his work.
Light In The Attic Records
The Frantics, "Werewolf"
Arguably the greatest Northwest Halloween jam. Originally released on the Dolton label in 1959, "Werewolf" featured Kearney on the creepy vocal "snarl" heard throughout the tune. He always loved reminiscing about recording this single.
Black On White Affair, "Bold Soul Sister, Bold Soul Brother"
By way of Supreme La Rock's introduction, this is the song that opened our eyes to Seattle's rich soul history. Recorded in February 1970 and released on Kearney's very own Topaz label. It's the tune that led me to Kearney's doorstep in 2003, hoping to convince the wizard to let us license the single for inclusion on a comp of Seattle soul from back in the day, eventually entitled Wheedle's Groove.
I remember Kearney mentioning that he had a great deal of interest from reissue labels overseas, but he was reluctant. The man liked the idea of working with a local label. Bless his soul.
The Sonics, "The Witch"
What can you say about "The Witch" that hasn't been said before? It's truly mind-blowing to think Kearney cut this as far back as 1964 for the Etiquette label. Greatest all time Northwest rock song?