A collection of Pacific Northwest musical history will soon be made available to the music-loving public.
“I’ve been a longtime friend of former Salem resident Gary Nieland, who now lives in Las Vegas, and was always impressed with the fact that he had his own professional home recording studio,” says Chuck Stenberg, who was instrumental in rescuing the music tracks and preserving Nieland’s work.
Nieland recorded various local bands and artists in his studio dating back to 1967 with the release of a 45-RPM record on his record label, Garland Records, Stenberg says.
“This first release was his own band at the time, Prince Charles and The Crusaders with ‘Mr. Love’ on the ‘A’ side,” Stenberg says. “Unlike today, back then there was a lot of local music talent creating the demand for a recording service. Gary kept busy recording local artists right through the ‘60s, ‘70s and into the ‘80s.”
Nieland recorded such groups as the Morning Reign, Zero End, LAWE, Dart, TYME, The Ultimate, The Wild Side, Raining Love and Fatt Twice Together, according to Stenberg.
“In 1969, he recorded four songs by early rock-and-roll legend Gene Vincent,” he says. “Gary and Gene were friends from back in the day when Gary played drums in The Champs of ‘Tequila’ fame.
“Gary grew up in Salem and became a professional musician at a young age,” he says. “He was the drummer in The Champs, playing alongside Jimmie Seals, later of Seals and Crofts fame, touring around the country in the early ‘60s. When that ended, he returned to the Salem area and was involved in several bands of his own, and then started his home recording studio in Salem in 1967.”
About three years ago, Stenberg started thinking about the work Nieland had done and wondered if the old master tapes still existed. He began to think “what a fun project it would be good to go through those old tapes and transfer them to digital files. My motivation at the time was to preserve what he had done, preserve the local music history that he created,” he says.
In July 2017, Stenberg contacted Nieland, who really wanted to have the recordings transferred to digital to preserve the tapes.
“So, I went out to the old warehouse building in Dallas, where the tapes had been for decades in dusty, damp, freezing winter and hot summer conditions,” Stenberg says. “I also got the original 1967 4-track AMPEX tape recording machine that was in poor condition.”
But after hauling it home, Stenberg was surprised to see it power up after he plugged it in and pushed the power button.
“The machine wasn’t in condition to actually play tapes like it should,” he says. “I had to track down some workable used parts on eBay to get it running properly before I could start to work on transferring the tapes.”
When he moved the machine into his office to connect it to his computer, Stenberg says that’s when the fun began.
“It was like a treasure hunt going through the tapes,” he says. “You never knew what the next one would have on it. I was amazed at the talent and variety of music styles — everything from garage band to country and even a KISS-style band called Eclipse. All very good talent.”
Stenberg also enjoyed searching and reaching out to people who recorded the music.
“For example, there is John Baxter, a Salem resident that I know of but never met,” he says. “I knew that he played in a band called LAWE back in the early ‘70s. I had two songs in the collection that LAWE recorded at Garland Studios. I contacted John to tell him what I had, and he was overjoyed that the tape his band recorded back in 1971 still existed. He told me that I had made his day and that he hadn’t heard the tape since the day it was recorded.”
Stenberg was about halfway through the project when he began to think how great it would be to get the tapes into the hands of someone with the ability to release them to the public.
He contacted Sundazed Music, an independent music company that specializes in obscure and rare recordings from the 1950s to the 1970s. After almost a year of back-and-forth communications, a deal was made and in March, the tapes were on their way to Sundazed to be digitized for release to the public.
“After completing this project, I feel good that I have succeeded in rescuing this collection of Northwest music history and was instrumental in getting these tracks out to the public so they can be enjoyed,” Stenberg says. “I also feel good that I was able to do this for Gary, to preserve the work that he put his heart into.” ☸
The first two vinyl albums will be released Sept. 27 as Pacific Northwest FuzzBox and Pacific Northwest StashBox. The next two will be Pacific Northwest SnuffBox (country) and Pacific Northwest JukeBox (soul). They will be available at sundazed.com.