The Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest

A record put out in the 1960s by Pacific Northwest Bell

My name’s Julie Caine, and I’m a public radio reporter from San Francisco. KEXP invited me to Seattle this winter to produce some pieces for them that mixed music and storytelling in new ways. What a great gig, right? It’s part of a residency program sponsored by AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. My friend and colleague, AnnaBoiko-Weyrauch, created the series, Why Music Matters, as part of this same residency in the fall.

One thing I knew about KEXP was that they’ve got the big names and professional musicians really covered—both through the music they play, the in-studio videos they produce, and through the great music documentary series that Michele Myers makes.

I wanted to try something different, so I decided to make a set of stories that focused on local music and sounds that were hidden and probably off the radar for many KEXP listeners. I was particularly interested in stories about people for whom music making is part of everyday life.

Senior Programing Director, Kevin Cole, and I were talking about what to call the series, and he told me about an old 7-inch record put out by the phone company in the 1960s called, “The Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest.”  It was an early audio postcard, designed to tell visitors about all the great attractions in the region.

You can listen to the original record here:

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Seattle-based band, The Young Fresh Fellows, sampled this record and the great cover art in the 1980s for their album of the same name. Kevin and I really liked the idea of connecting my series with the Seattle music scene, and with the sonic postcard from the past, so we decided this was the perfect name for my series.

For me, producing the series was a process of discovery. too. I was a stranger in a strange town, so had to find great stories without really knowing where to look. My version of the Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest turned into a kind of sonic treasure hunt, and here’s what I found…

Co Lam Pagoda – Tucked behind a McDonald’s and kitty corner to a Circle K, the Co Lam Pagoda is almost hidden from view until you’re right in front of it. Then, suddenly, it jumps out at you. Impish, smiling dragons stand at the gate, and the temple doors are decorated in gold and fiery red. KEXP invites you inside to hear what it sounds like.


Ecstatic Music – Sometimes music just grabs you, it’s like a language you didn’t even know you spoke. Find out how a Bulgarian bagpipe hijacked one woman’s life, and tell KEXP about your own experiences with ecstatic music.

How to Make a Record – Ever wondered how a vinyl record is made? The recipe includes sapphires, nail polish, and the occasional pickle jar.

Luck Ngi Musical Club – Pay a visit to one of the oldest Cantonese opera clubs in America, still going strong in Seattle’s International District after 73 years.

All episodes produced by Julie Caine, AIR’s 2011 Live Interactive Resident. Editorial oversight by Kevin Cole. Engineering assistance by Matt Ogaz.  Thanks to Tom Smith for the Fabulous Sounds record. Live Interactive is a collaboration of KEXP and AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio, with financial support from AIR members worldwide, Recovery.gov, and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

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