In the early 90’s the Seattle music scene exploded, starting a worldwide music revolution affectionately referred to as “Grunge Rock.” Seattle was forever immortalized, producing such ground-breaking acts as Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. More than ten years before this revolution began, Seattle was already home to a field of rockers who were famous, although not so much because of their home-town, but rather their innovative music. Heart led the pack, changing music forever, followed by the eastside boys Rail, and then Queensryche. Rail made history by winning the very 1st “MTV Basement-Tape” awards, sending them touring the world with Heart, Van Halen, and many other worldwide acts. Queensryche started slow, but by the late 80’s were a force to be reckoned with, gaining worldwide fame in the Progressive Metal genre. Heart…well, nothing need be said about Heart; the music speaks for itself.
Out of that early Seattle rock scene came Archer, less “metal” than its Seattle contemporaries, but known throughout the NW for its searing guitars, incomparable keyboards, and signature 4-part harmonies. Archer came up through the same ranks as its predecessors Queensryche and Rail, and in fact shared vocal coaching with them. Seattle was blessed to have vocal teacher extraordinaire Maestro David Kyle, who was famed to have coached the likes of Liza Minnelli. Maestro Kyle moved to Seattle and settled on Alki Beach, where he worked from his home studio. As Geoff Tate from Queensryche would be leaving Maestro Kyle’s studio, Martin Smith with Archer would be arriving, and when Marty left, Terry Young with Rail would arrive. Archer also used Maestro Kyle for some group lessons, working on their group harmonies.
Archer was under contract with Unicam Booking Agency, and personally managed by its owner, Jim Smith. Jim had formerly managed Rail, and when they went national, Archer took their place as the top act in the local and NW scene. Under Unicam’s management Archer soared quickly to the top, and with its combination of powerhouse music coupled with an incredible stage production, was the most sought after act in the Pacific NW in the early 80’s. But it didn’t start that way…like most successful acts, Archer had its roots as a garage band…
Although time and perspective have a tendency to influence any story that is told over and over, these are the facts as accurately as I can recall them (the reader must also consider that this story, although true, happened many, many brain-cells ago);
Some time in 1978 Martin Smith and Doug Buell formed the band Mainline, along with vocalist Alice Guyot, drummer Jeff Allen, several bass players whose names are long forgotten, and Marty’s guitar player friend Marvin. The drummer’s mother, Ronnie Hurst, signed on to manage the band, and promptly dismissed her son.
She had an interesting influence on the band, as she was a drug and alcohol abuse counselor by day, and a drug and alcohol abuser by night. Marvin left the band shortly before Ronnie fired her son, leaving an opening for a rhythm guitar player. Doug, whose day-job was manager of the “Astro Gas Station” in Lynnwood, WA. had shared with one of his regular customers his need for a guitar player. That customer convinced Doug to try out her boyfriend, who she claimed to be a great guitarist, although she had never heard him play. After much convincing, Dave Sims, who hadn’t picked up his guitar in 2 years, agreed to audition. Trying to find a song to play that everyone knew proved fruitless, and just before giving up altogether, Dave asked if they knew “Stranglehold” by Ted Nugent. “Yeah, yeah, anybody can play that, but…”
Martin Smith; “He was auditioning to be our rhythm guitar player, but he played that whole song, like note-for-note, start-to-finish, by himself. It was really cool.”
Doug Buell; “That was amazing. Nothing was really said, it was just kinda’ like ‘that’s our guy’, and we gave him a song list.”
As they finished the song and rolled open the door to the storage-unit/studio they used to rehearse in, a couple of other bands who shared adjacent units were standing outside the door waiting to see who was playing. One of the guys standing outside the roll-up door was Brian Elslip, a bass player from another garage band. No one knew at the time that he was destined to play for Archer, as well. After a period of revolving drummers and bass players, Brian joined the band permanently, along with a drummer friend of his named Todd Mitchell. The band hooked up with Unicam Booking agency after Marty and Dave hounded them for months (dozens of bands every month tried to get signed with the agency, all proclaiming how “good” they were. Most never saw an audition.) One Friday afternoon the phone rang. Unicam had a band cancel at the last minute for a high-school dance in Lynden, WA, a town dominated by Mennonite Christians along the Canadian border. The gig paid $200, but took place that very day, about 100 miles away. Seizing the opportunity to bail the agency out in hopes of future work, the band hastily went, and played that first professional show. One week later it was reported in the news that the City Council of Lynden, Wa. voted to outlaw dancing within the city limits. A new era was born! Archer had run dancing completely out of an entire town! Read the. old newspaper archives from around 1979 or 80…just as real as the movie “Footloose”, but much more gratifying because it happened to us…a great “badge of honor” , and one we used unapologetically in our advertising strategy!
Unicam Booking Agency quickly informed the band that the name “Mainline”, intended to have a “railway” feel to it, had too much of a perceived drug connotation. The name had to be changed if the band wanted more work. Like a business trying to be 1st in the phonebook, the band realized that the Agency’s band list was presented to it’s clients in alphabetical order. Only names starting with the letter “A” were considered, and the name “Archer” was hastily chosen. The following months brought a string of $150-$200 engagements, and Marty soon grew disillusioned with the whole thing and quit. Dave took over lead guitar duties, and “Lucky Lawrence” aka Larry Najar was chosen to briefly replace Marty’s guitar. At the end of that 1st “season”, it was apparent that major changes were needed to succeed in the market. Doug, Dave, and Brian came together with Marty and formed a plan with new Management Unicam. It was decided to part ways with , Alice, Larry, and Todd. Marty agreed to rejoin as Lead Vocalist. They all agreed to let Ronnie go as manager, and Unicam hooked the group up with accomplished former “Airborne” drummer Mark Hedstrom. The final lineup was born.
Many road crew came and went over the years, Andy (was a ferry boat) Byam, and Pizza-Face, to name a few of the stand-outs. A special appreciation, though, must be paid to Mike (Mikey) Lambert and Dean (Dean-o) Onsum, who faithfully traveled with the band for years handling sound, lights, and production. We couldn’t have done it without them (or at least it wouldn’t have been as much fun without them!) Marty, Dave, Doug, Brian, and Mark went on to rock the Pacific NW for the next several years, rising to the top of the 80’s Seattle music scene.
After hanging up the instruments, most of the band remained friends and attempted to stay in touch for the next decade. Eventually, however, life took over and the 5 members were separated by time and distance. Marty, Dave, and Brian were reunited on stage in 1987 at Dave’s wedding, when the hired live band at the reception invited them on stage, handing over their guitars. A stirring rendition of “Rock-N-Roll” by Led Zeppelin ensued (ok, maybe it wasn’t so much “stirring” as it was “drunk and disorderly!”) At various times in the late 80’s and early 90’s Marty, Dave, and Doug got together to play music, but wives, kids, business, and mortgages prevented them from reuniting as Archer. Brian and Dave remained “backpacking” buddies for the next 15 years, until a bicycle accident took the use of Dave’s legs and hands in 1998.
Although the glory days appeared to be gone forever, the spirit of lifelong friendships and memories that can only be explained by those who have experienced them, do endure.
CD is produced. As hard as it is to believe 25 years have passed, this reunion reminds me of a bond that can never be broken. I have nothing but fond memories of the years spent on the road with the 5 of us.
Like a fisherman, the stories may grow bigger over the years, but I will carry them to my grave. Thanks for the memories…
What 2 famous events happened on 911?
(Hint; 1 catastrophic event rocked the world, 1 triumphant event rocked a community.)
(Answer on inside back cover)
Answer to Trivia Question;
9/11/01, Terrorist attacks on the United States rocked the world, changing the nation forever.
9/11/82, Rail opens for Archer at Chelan Co. Fairgrounds for an outdoor rock extravaganza. The community and over 2000 spectators get their socks rocked off!