There is no Oregon Music Hall of Fame. No building with vaulted archways and gold records lining the halls. But for its board of directors and 87 past inductees—punk guitarists, jazz drummers and club owners alike—the hall of fame is very real.
Terry Currier is co-founder and president of the OMHOF. "I wanted it to be more than just an organization that honored people from the past," he says of its origins. "I wanted it to both preserve and promote music in Oregon."
These days, the OMHOF is hitting its stride. This week's fifth-annual induction ceremony also features a charity guitar auction, one of many fundraisers to try and get music back into Oregon schools. Still, Portlanders who don't share Currier and company's extensive knowledge of the state's musical history are bound to wonder: Who the hell are this year's inductees? We asked Currier to help answer that question.
A jangly, punk-leaning rock act that reminds of the Replacements, Hüsker Dü and—on its Scott McCaughey-produced debut, Haywire—R.E.M., the Dharma Bums were a staple of the late '80s/early '90s Portland music scene and one of the best rock bands of the era. "When I first met them, they were just teenagers," Currier says. "But they had lots of energy and drive, and their live shows were really, really dynamic." A reunion show in 2010 filled the Crystal Ballroom. "Nobody ever thought there would be a Dharma Bums reunion," Currier says.
Jeffrey Frederick and the Clamtones (1975ish-'77ish)
The Clamtones are recorded evidence that the old, weird America really existed. A sister band to the Holy Modal Rounders, the group played an unholy combination of freak folk, country and jam rock that put musicianship in the driver's seat, with the band's oddball sense of humor riding shotgun. "They packed the clubs—it was rootsy kind of music, but high energy on the dance floor," Currier says. Though Frederick died in 1997, many of his old bandmates are still making Portland dance as the Freak Mountain Ramblers.
This rock band's legacy is forever frozen in a state of suspended animation: It dissolved in 1983 while waiting for Elektra records to release its sophomore album. The band's self-titled debut, though, still stands up surprisingly well as a shining collection of Top-40 coulda-beens (think "Jessie's Girl" or "Sunglasses at Night"), and reunion shows in the past decade have proven that the band still has moxie. "Most of the Sequel gigs seemed to be in the suburbs," Currier says. "They had melodic sing-along songs but with a harder edge to them."
Norman Sylvester (1985-present)
Portland bluesman Norman Sylvester has staying power. For over 25 years he has entertained Oregonians with his blues band—a group that facilitates Sylvester's funky and soulful streaks alike, both of which play a hand in his party-friendly sound. Sylvester still plays gigs in Portland every weekend. He also has the best nickname in Oregon showbiz: the Boogie Cat. "He always had five to seven people onstage, and when he could do it, he'd have background singers and the whole thing," Currier says of Sylvester's early days. "It was blues boogie with a lot of soul."
Oregon's Wheatfield is a folk-rock outfit that gathered momentum in the early '80s on the back of its self-titled debut, a solid folk journey that takes some unexpected detours into gospel, string-based baroque instrumental and piano jazz. Wheatfield disbanded in 1982, citing family and road-weariness, but its 2010 comeback album, Odyssey—only the group's second disc—is proof of a recent comeback. "Dave Leiken down at Double Tee [Concerts] thought this was probably one of the best bands that ever came from Oregon," Currier says. "In the '70s, these guys were pretty huge in this state.â
SEE IT: The OMHOF induction ceremony is Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Newmark Theater, with Crazy 8s and Johnny and the Distractions. 7 pm. $25. All ages.