Northwest Dance & Music Venues

The Embers - Not long before it was torn down - Courtesy of Mick Flynn
The Embers
1317 Harbor Ave. S.W.
West Seattle, Washington

Some of the bands that performed at this place during those great years of NW music were:
 

Captain Jack
Corky Corkran
Larry Coryell
Dynamic Duo
The Electrics
Bill Franklin
Freddy Pink
Gemini
George Griffin
His Majesties Shorts
Dave Holden
Jr. Cadillac
Johnny King
The Kingsmen
Lodestar (78-79)
Mike Cox Band
Mike Mandell
The Nitemates
Ovation
Sausalito
Jim Brady and the Sonics
Merrilee and the Turnabouts
 

Others?

The Embers, West Seattle: Virtually every top Northwest rock act of the late 1960’s - 1970’s played this great club on Harbor Avenue.

Mike McElhoe, December 2005


Although it sounds like a hot spot, The Embers was cool.

Hollywood couldn't dream up a better setting for a nightclub, on the edge of Elliott Bay reflecting the pinnacled skyline downtown.

There was a canopy over the sidewalk, torches, a maitre d'.

The Embers opened in 1964 at 1317 Harbor Ave. S.W. It offered drinks by the fireplace, dining, dancing and live jazz.

Bill Cosby and Robert Culp went there. So did Quincy Jones and West Seattle's own Dyan Cannon. But musicians were the real stars at The Embers. Guys like George Griffin, Corky Corkran, Bill Franklin and Mike Mandell performed there.

"(Guitarist) Larry Coryell played The Embers for six months. Two weeks later he was on 'Ed Sullivan,'" said Kerry Kinsey, owner of the popular jazz club.

As the '60s wound down, The Embers shifted its focus to rock 'n' roll. Entertainers like the Kingsmen, Junior Cadillac and Merrilee Rush performed there.

A reunion of "Embers Members" was held at the West Seattle Eagles lodge on August 4.

David Enroth, a former employee and fan of The Embers, was reminiscing earlier this summer with friends about the nightclub. Then the Admiral Benbow Inn closed abruptly with the death of owner Neysa Longmire in late May.

Enroth attended Longmire's memorial service, where he talked over old times with another Embers' alum, Red James. Both could feel the past slipping away so, while still at the memorial for Neysa Longmire, they decided to organize an Embers reunion.

"There was not another place in West Seattle that was more famous than The Embers," Enroth said.

The spark for The Embers actually came from another West Seattle establishment called The Happy Hour. It opened in 1960 in the Admiral District, where TNT's Place is today. It too was owned by Kerry Kinsey, along with his father, Ken.

"The Hour," as it was affectionately known, was a jazz hangout. Charlie Byrd, Woody Woodhouse, Mike Mandell and Stan Getz all jammed there. But The Hour was more of a sports bar than a jazz venue, Kinsey said.

"I sponsored every sport but tiddlywinks really," he chuckled.

One Happy Hour team came within a single run of reaching the World Series of Softball in Stamford, Conn.

Kinsey always wanted to own a jazz club. He grew up in Tacoma and started high school at Stadium High. Then his dad moved the family to West Seattle, where he had a vending machine business. Kerry enrolled at West Seattle High School and graduated in 1950.

"I grew up with the big bands in the '40s," Kinsey said. "That's really what attracted me to it. Music has an effect on you if you have any kind of soul at all."

The nightclub scene came into being partly due to economics, he said.

"The expense of traveling with a 14-, 16-, 18-piece band got too high," Kinsey said. "Then the halls went away."

Many of the auditoriums and theaters where big bands performed were demolished or remodeled into large retail stores.

In the 1950s, combos of three or four musicians started playing jazz together in smaller, more intimate venues. That's also when rock 'n' roll started and its groups had just three or four musicians too, Kinsey pointed out.

He opened The Embers in a building that was constructed in 1907. It once housed a tavern called the West Seattle Inn. There were also four apartments on the second floor.

"It was a pretty active jazz club," said Gary Bannister, who does the booking at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley in Belltown. Other Seattle jazz clubs popular at the time were The Langelin, Pete's Poop Deck, The Penthouse and the College Inn Pub.

"The Embers was the only jazz club in West Seattle and probably the only one not downtown or in the University District," Bannister said.

Much of the reason for the demise of The Embers was the construction of Don Armeni boat ramp and its big parking lot across the street, Kinsey said. That was where Embers' customers used to park.

The wooden building where The Embers once glowed still stands on Harbor Avenue. The brownish-gray structure is but a sagging semblance of its former glory. Gravity and rain have eroded the bottoms of the white-paint letters that spell "Embers."

"It gave people a place where a guy could bring his girlfriend, they could enjoy music, dance, see name entertainment," Kinsey said. "There was nothing like that in West Seattle."

Tim St. Clair, West Seattle Herald-News, 2002


West Seattle Herald/White Center News Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Kerry Kinsey, entertainment pioneer, dies at 72

by David Enroth

Seattle rock n' roll legend Pat O'Day called Kerry Kinsey a pioneer. He was. Some of Seattle's best early music was played at places Kinsey created in West Seattle: The Embers, and Happy Hour Tavern.

As a young boy Kerry Kinsey took an early interest in music playing 78s on a hand-cranked Victrola in an upstairs bedroom at his Tacoma home. Several years later, after starting a career at Boeing, Kerry and father Ken opened the Happy Hour Tavern in 1960 on Admiral Way in West Seattle. Family members and friends helped with construction, and forty well-known jazz artists, including Charlie Byrd, Stan Getz, Woody Woodhouse and Mike Mandell, jammed before overflowing crowds of music lovers. Quick success at the Happy Hour led to the opening of the elegant Embers on the western shore of Elliott Bay with its signature breathtaking view of downtown Seattle.

In a 2002 West Seattle Herald story, Kinsey said, "I always wanted to own a jazz club."

Kinsey, who sold the Embers 20 years ago, died on Memorial Day in Scottsdale, Ariz. He had recently been hospitalized and had suffered heart problems for several years.

He grew up in Tacoma and started high school at Stadium High. Then his dad moved the family to West Seattle, where he had a vending machine business. Kerry enrolled at West Seattle High School and graduated in 1950.

"I grew up with the big bands in the '40s," Kinsey said. "That's really what attracted me to it. Music has an effect on you if you have any kind of soul at all."

He opened The Embers in a building that was constructed in 1907. It once housed a tavern called the West Side Inn. There were also four apartments on the second floor.

The Embers was a place where lifelong friendships were formed.

"Friends met friends after work and guys brought girls to enjoy music, dance, see name entertainment," Kinsey said. "There was nothing like that in West Seattle."

Bill Cosby and Robert Culp went there. So did Quincy Jones and West Seattle's own Dyan Cannon. Musicians were the real stars at The Embers and some, like Cal Tjader and George Griffin, became personal friends of Mr. Kinsey. Corky Corkran, Bill Franklin, Johnny King, Sarge West and Mike Mandell performed there. Guitarist Larry Coryell played The Embers for six months. Two weeks later he was on Ed Sullivan. As the '60s wound down, The Embers shifted its focus to rock 'n' roll. Entertainers like Jim Brady and the Sonics, The Kingsmen, Junior Cadillac and Merrilee Rush performed there.

Hollywood couldn't dream up a better setting for a nightclub. There was a canopy over the sidewalk, torches, a maitre d'. Long lines of music lovers from throughout the Pacific Northwest enjoyed a moonlit Elliott Bay while waiting to gain entrance to West Seattle's most popular place.

In addition to live music, Kerry Kinsey sponsored athletic teams. All-world fastball player Bobby Fesler, the only softball pitcher ever signed to a Triple-A professional baseball contract by the Seattle Rainiers, once played for the Happy Hour Tavern. One of its teams came within one run of reaching the World Series of Softball at Stamford, Connecticut.

Kinsey was born in Roslyn, Washington in 1931 to Ken (Welsh) and Frances (Swedish) Kinsey. He served in the Navy reserve during the Korean War era. His brother and sister-in-law, Bill and Bertha Kinsey of Tacoma, and nephews Chris and Lee, survive him.

A celebration of Kerry's life was held in the banquet room at West Seattle Golf Course on Thursday, July 15,2004.

David Enroth was a friend of Kerry Kinsey for over 30 years, organized his memorial service, and worked with him at the Embers on Harbor Drive in the late sixties, early seventies.


Web Slave's Note:  The building that once housed The Embers was reported as demolished in about early 2003

Sammy Carlson, December 2006


One of the bands I was in played the Embers in the mid 70's. The band was named Sausalito. We were 6 piece had a couple of horns and played funk.  Glenn McCarty was in the band with me.  He has been playing guitar with the Galaxies recently.  A friend of mine has been playing some bass for Larry Coryell (Chuck Deardorf).  He brought Larry over to my table at the Triple Door and we reminisced about Kerry and the Embers.

Jack Dolan, September 2008


I played The Embers early 80’s with Freddy Pink and The Hightops (www.freddypink.com). Kerry was very cool. I remember the built in speakers underneath the seats/benches that screamed from another era.

I got Marcus (Mark) Doubleday from Electric Flag to play with us for a few nights when I broke my foot.  I remember the stories about Cal Tjader playing there in the late 60’s and many others. Thanks for the memories.

Sincerely,

Steve Swanson
(Buddy Rich, Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders, Lionel Hampton, Lou Rawls, Johnny Mathis, Gladys Knight, Temptations, Frank Sinatra and others who I played for.)


According to the entertainment sections of the Seattle Times during the 1960s, The Dynamic Duo played at The Embers from July 1966 to July 11th, 1969.

John England, January 2013


The Mike Cox Band" played at the "Embers" (for an audition for an agent in Fairbanks) and the next week we were on a plane with an "igloo" of equipment to play for 6 weeks at "The Rendezvous".

Joel Johnson, February 2013


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Last Update:  19 November 2013
Credits: Craig Brandt, Mike McElhoe, Tim St. Clair, David Enroth, Jack Dolan, Steve Berman, John England, Mick Flynn, Steven Swanson, Joel Johnson, Mike Srok