Groom ~ Guitar, Vocals
Tarry LaPoint ~ Drums
Charles "Robin" Menser ~ Guitar
Charlie Raymond ~ Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Danny Rivisto ~ Bass
Luis Valdesueso ~ Drums
In Memory of
I was one of the original members of The Solid Fuels, and I have quite a bit of information about the group's history.
Several months ago, I learned of the untimely death of Evan Groom, my best friend and band mate from our childhood. He and I met when his family moved into the large house across the street from mine at the Tacoma intersection of N. 29th and Lawrence Sts. We then became classmates in the fifth grade at Washington Elementary School. Mr. Roeder was our teacher and 1965-66 was the school year.
It was at this time that Evan and I decided to form a group; we both played 6-string acoustic guitars, and I recall that Mr. Schroeder let us play in front of the class one day. We knew only a few songs, instrumentals, and the songs we played that day were a cover of "Green Onions," and the theme song to a popular TV show of the time, "Secret Agent Man," originally sung by Johnny Rivers.
That same year, I was taking guitar lessons from an older man named Robert Keesling. He had a studio in the basement of his north Tacoma home, and at the end of each year there was a concert of all his students on the stage of Mt Tahoma High School. I recall plucking away at "Camp Town Races," and "Mack the Knife," among others.
By the time Evan and I were in the sixth grade (1966-67), we decided to form a real band. As this website shows, on lead guitar was an older boy who went by Robin Menser, although his real first name was Charles. He lived exactly one block from Evan and me at the corner of N. 29th and Warner Sts.
Our drummer was also added at this time. His name was Luis Valdesueso; my spelling is probably off, but his name is pronounced the way I've spelled it. Luis was the same age as Robin, and he lived a block away from Evan and me at the corner of N. 28th and Lawrence Sts.
With this expansion, Evan became the rhythm guitarist and lead singer. I became the bass guitarist (w/ some background vocals). It was also at this time that we named the group; the four of us had originally considered ourselves to be Count Down and The Solid Fuels, with Evan loosely regarded as Count Down. (In my defense, NASA's space program to the moon was in full swing at the time.) Somehow, however, we settled on the shortened version, The Solid Fuels.
While Evan and I were still in the sixth grade at Washington Elementary, the four of us were the final act of Mason Junior High's Talent Show on Feb 21, 1967. The two older members, Robin and Luis, were students at Mason at the time. I believed we performed three songs. I recall that one of them was a cover of Little Red Riding Hood (by Sam the Sham and the Pharohs.) Our final song was an original written by Evan called "She Came Back," and I remember all performers of this Talent Show came out on stage during this final song.
I have a vivid recollection of the audience's reaction to our performance: constant screams and thunderous applause. (It was along the same lines of The Beatles appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.) The Solid Fuels were pumped afterward, but I now realize that this enthusiasm was very much tongue in cheek. (Perhaps good-natured mockery might be a better way to put it).
With Evan and I entering seventh grade at Mason in the fall of 1967, the four lads from north Tacoma were still at it. We practiced every day after school in the basement of my family's home. We also performed a few more times, including at a birthday party for a classmate of ours. It was in her family home and her mother paid us $15, divided equally among the four of us. The girl's name was Lorraine, and I don't remember her last name.
Somewhere around that time we got another drummer. His name was Tarry LaPointe. He was a little older than Evan and me, and a little younger than Robin. I do not remember why or how he ended up replacing Luis as our drummer.
By the time Evan and I were in the eighth grade, my enthusiasm for being in the band had been waning. Also, I had been taking once-a-week guitar lessons from a man at Sherman & Clay in downtown Tacoma. I do not recall this man's name but I do remember his reaction to me quitting these lessons in 1968. He nearly read me The Riot Act (it was, after all, the 1960s), and among his exact words were, "Do want wanna be a finger banger all your life?" This was in the presence of my mother who'd come to pick me up from my final lesson!
It was sometime that year that I left the band too, and as the website shows, a boy in the neighborhood named Dan Rivisto (who lived on N 28th, between Lawrence and Warner Sts.) replaced me on bass guitar.
I ran into Dan at Northgate Shopping Mall in the early 90s. He was doing quite well as a real estate agent. I believe he still is employed as one in the Seattle area.
As for Robin Menser, I believe I have some sad news about him. Almost fifteen years ago, I saw a notice in the Seattle papers about a robbery-related fatal shooting at a gem shop on Aurora Ave. in North Seattle. The victim was a 37-yr-old man named Charles Menser, and I remember even as a young boy Robin had a keen interest in gemology. The age would have been right, and I couldn't help but think, sadly, the victim was the Robin that I knew.
In any case, my years with The Solid Fuels were irreplaceable. I have many fond memories of those times with my friends and band mates, and I will never forget any of them.
Charlie Raymond, Seattle, February 2004Evan Groom died suddenly of a heart attack on Feb. 10, 2002. He was a dear son, beloved brother and treasured friend. He spent his life and work in the local music scene as a working musician and teacher. He is the son of Joan Groom and the late Harry Groom. He is survived by his mother Joan, brother Gene and sisters Betty, Valerie and Claudia. A memorial gathering to celebrate Evan’s life will be held on Saturday, Feb. 16 from 1-3 PM at the Mountaineer Club House, 2302 N. 30th St., Tacoma, WA. Evan’s legacy lives in live music. Please remember him by supporting local musicians and their work.
Pub Date: 2/14/2002
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Patrick Wm. Dennis, October 2011