The Beadhead Story
Terrance Simien tearin' it up with accordion and "rubber board" at 2003 Summerfest in Milwaukee WI.
The "Positively Beadhead" album title.
The Beadhead logo was designed by Matt Davis incorporating the spirit and colors of New Orleans Mardi Gras.
The original Beadhead lineup at the 2009 Hillsboro Tuesday Marketplace concert. Steve Karakas, Shakara, Bill Piland, John DiFalco, Shannon Walker and Bob Hawkins.
First gig at the legendary Bethany Grill.
Regulars on the 2011 Coyote's circuit. John DiFalco, Bill Piland, Shannon Walker, Jay Lundell, Shakara, Steve Karakas
We played a special gig at the Memorial Coliseum as a pre-show act for Jimmy Buffett. Of couse, he was playing in the adjacent Rose Garden and we were in the concourse of the Coliseum but it was a privilege to play for the Northwest Parrot Heads group. From left, Jay Lundell, Scotty Bickford, John DiFalco, anonymous "Censored" specialist, Steve Karakas, Shakara, and Margaret Linn.
The 2019 version of Beadhead at The Dublin Pub. Mike Suffin, Dave Rosenberg, Jay Lundell, Margaret Linn, and Steve Karakas.
Bass legend, John Mazzocco, joins Beadhead at an early Bethany Grill gig.
It's June, 2003 and the Portland Jimmy Buffett cover band was at a crossroads with personnel and music direction. While on a trip to Milwaukee, WI., Steve Karakas attended Summerfest, a massive music festival with dozens of stages, musical genres and attendance of over 1 million in the span of a week. One act caught his eye and ear. A sort of bluesy, New Orleans swamp music featuring--the accordion, but also electric guitar, organ, bass, drums. The genre was a cajun music called zydeco.
He looked around and noticed that many of the people in the crowd looked just like the ParrotHeads that attended his Buffett band gigs. The band on stage was Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience. The music was fun. He played accordion and maybe they could integrate this interesting sound into the Buffett set list. All they needed was somebody to play "rubberboard." It was different and Steve decided to morph his Buffett band into this zydeco sound.
Drawing upon some of the talent from the Buffett band--Bill Piland on bass, John DiFalco on guitar, Bob Hawkins on drums and Shakara on percussion and with the addition of Shannon Walker on vocals, Beadhead was born. How did the name come about? In learning many of the songs the band used Terrance Simien as a source. One of his albums was titled "Positively Beadhead" and the inspiration for the band's name was born. A fun, consistent symbol of the band were the New Orleans Mardi Gras beads that were handed out at gigs. Thousands of beads were handed out over the years but only one fan "earned" her beads.
The first gig was at a familiar place--Bleachers in Cedar Mill. Owner, Terry McGowan, had been very supportive of the Buffett band and open the doors for Beadhead's debut. It was fun, it was different and the band set out on their new direction. The band incorporated about 15 zydeco songs into their Buffett and classic rock set list. Soon they began playing at The Bethany Grill, a popular venue for local West Side musicians. Beadhead became regulars at the Bethany and soon took the coveted New Year's Eve gig.
Beadhead started branching out and playing gigs in downtown Portland--at The Thirsty Lion, Macadam Bar & Grill, The Bitter End. In 2008 the band played its first gig at Coyotes in Hillsboro. Beadhead would go on to become regulars at Coyotes--playing every five or six weeks through the year. There would still be regular appearances at Bleachers and occasional corporate and private events. A special highlight for the band was playing at downtown's "The City" bar for a Nike/Davis Cup event. John McEnroe Sr. sang a song with the band.
Beginning in 2009, Beadhead played the first of ten consecutive years at the Hillsboro Tuesday Market concert series. Beadhead's guitar player, John DiFalco, had a significant role in lining up those gigs--it didn't hurt that he was on the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce.
Midway through 2010, drummer Bob Hawkins, decided to pursue another musical direction and left the band. We were fortunate to enlist the services of Jay Lundell. Jay and Steve were in their first band together as high school freshmen and had stayed in contact over the years (Jay had done a stint with The Sludge Bros. one of Steve's bands in the 80s and 90s). A lifelong drummer as well as a PhD in high tech companies, Jay had played in a number of bands, doing the casino circuit in Nevada and then settled into some great Portland bands including funk band Rainbow in the 70s. He played a long time with blues artist, Ellen Whyte, gaining induction in the Cascade Blues Hall of Fame. Jay meshed seamlessly into Beadhead.
By this time we begin reducing the zydeco songs--nobody in the crowd knew what to do. We eventually began adding more classic 70s and 80s rock songs to the set lists. Hotel California proved to be a very popular song.
In 2011 Beadhead started playing at some new venues. The historic Tillicum became a regular spot for the band as well as the rotations at Coyotes and Bleachers and some interesting "casual" events for corporations. In 2011, singer Shannon Walker, who was an elementary school teacher, made the decision to devote her time to her profession and left the band. We were extremely fortunate to enlist the services of local vocal legend, Margaret Linn. Margaret with credits in the 80s band "Linn", Curtis Salgado, Bobby Torres and recording credits on countless local records brought an experienced front line vocal role to the band. Margaret had sung with The Sludge Bros. a couple of times so it was another comfortable transition.
As we eased into 2012 Beadhead played its first St. Josef's Winery gig in Canby. St. Josef's was a beautiful amphitheater setting and 2012 was the first of many years for the band at the winery. We also played a fundraiser in Stevens WA for injured cyclists. We did the "Friends of Jack" gig for three years. That summer we did another gig at Hillsboro Tuesday Market and we also did a corporate gig in Vernonia at an outdoor resort. Jay brought his portable digital recorder and we recorded a number of songs. As it would turn out, the recording of this gig would be more significant than we ever would have imagined.
That summer Beadhead played some fun private outdoor gigs and then we settled into the indoor circuit for the Fall season. With a weekend scheduled at Coyotes that October the band was expecting another exuberant Coyotes crowd. Just as Steve was loading his vehicle with equipment to go to the gig he received a call from a friend telling him that bassist Bill Piland was not going to be there tonight. What?! He wasn't going to be there?--he had passed away that morning. Needless to say we were in a state of shock and Jim Hemenway from Coyotes was able to find us a replacement bassist for that night. We'll never forget all of us having a shot of Jack Daniels--Bill's favorite, during one of the breaks. As we listened to the recording Jay had made in Vernonia we heard Bill singing the last song he would ever record, "Knockin' On Heaven's Door."
We scrambled to find a replacement for Bill and found someone who had the chops and stepped right in. Jeff Gadette filled in four six months before he committed back to full time teaching. Later in 2012 we were able to coax Scotty Bickford into the band. Scotty was a veteran bassist and was very familiar with a lot of the Buffett songs we did. He brought a good stage presence as well as vocals to the Beadhead show.
In 2013 we added some new venues to our circuit. They included The Lehrer, Hart Road Brewery and a special appearance at the Mt. Angel summer celebration. There were some interesting private events, weddings, etc. Rolling into 2014 we added gigs at Hillsboro Elks and Salishan at the Oregon coast.
In 2015 Scotty left Beadhead and we sought out a new bass player again. This time we found Dave Rosenberg. Dave was playing in a number of bands around town. He had impeccable credentials--Berklee College of Music, a nine year stint in Nashville. Dave was very easy to work with and he had the best musical chops. We were lucky to have him in the band. 2015 also saw us playing at the usual club gigs adding Tigardville Station and the summer of 2015 featured special gigs at the Portland Golf Club for a USGA Championship celebration as well as an interesting bike festival in Lake Oswego.
The start of 2016 was a shock. We were playing Tigardville Station in early January and something was wrong. John DiFalco was struggling through his usual impeccable solo during Hotel California. A visit to the doctor the following week revealed that he had brain cancer--the worst kind. He was in surgery in a matter of days and the doctors had removed 95% of the cancer. That was the good news. The bad news is that it grows back very quickly. We had a gig at the Hillsboro Elks the Saturday after the surgery and we were able to find an excellent substitute, Gary Lapado, to fill in on just a few days notice. Gary would fill in again for John that summer at Tuesday Market.
We were able to muster forces to play some new venues in 2017--the Pettygrove Park concert series as well as a special private gig we call "Sally's Backyard Buffett Bash." Beadhead also added Pizzario in a novel trio format--"The Eclectric Trio." We also started a fun gig at Bauman Farms fall festival.
Amazingly, John would be able to come back very quickly after a brain surgery but we were soon to learn that the cancer would return and return again. John bravely came back--sometimes playing on stage the same week he had brain surgery! He began to decline at the end of 2017 and the band serenaded him at his home for his birthday. He passed away just a few days after his birthday. Most of the band played music at John's funeral service. The highlight was "My Guitar Gently Weeps." Dave Rosenberg played an inspired, other-worldy solo for that song that Dave insists was inspired by John's presence. John had been an energetic spirit for Beadhead and would be deeply missed.
The band went dark for a while after John's passing. We eventually were able to get Mike Suffin to handle guitar duties for the band. Mike played in Rekless Kompany with Dave Rosenberg and Mike had actually substituted for John during one of his surgeries. Mike was a pro. Many years doing the club circuit, sometimes playing in Eddie Money's band. It was about this time that Shakara decided to retire from the music scene--an increased teaching workload proved to be the reason she hung up her percussion instruments.
In 2019 Beadhead added the legendary Dublin Pub to its list of venues. We also played a weekend at The Ghost Hole in Garibaldi at the Oregon coast. The Eclectric Trio saw action at Hillsboro Saturday Market and the Hillsboro Brewfest.
2020 started with a new idea. Beadhead, with roots in tropical rock, saw an evolution into a new strain of music called "Yacht Rock". We started to consider a migration towards yacht rock--a very technically demanding style with harmonies and complex chord progressions. Then it hit--COVID. The world pretty much stopped and so did Beadhead's gigs. We managed to get a few gigs in January and February but that was pretty much it. There was time to practice some of the yacht rock songs at home but nobody was going out--nothing was open. We received a call in December of 2020 from Hillsboro Tuesday Market and they offered to make up for the lost summer gig with a special video recording for the band. Margaret was at the Oregon coast so Amy Jacobsen, who had filled in a few times, sang in the recording session.
Things started to thaw out in 2021. An April gig at The Dublin Pub was played behind plexiglas and we did an outdoor gig at Paradise Harley Davidson. It was in 2021 that Margaret left the band for a number of reasons. She was spending a lot of time at the Oregon coast and the disruption caused by COVID proved to be too much.
We held auditions for a few people to replace Margaret and hit paydirt when Chris Timberlake came to sing with us. Chris had been at the top of the Phoenix market including two CDs of original songs. She was really into the Yacht Rock music and we found the perfect singer to help Beadhead launch into the Yacht Rock genre--Michael McDonald, Toto, Steely Dan, The Doobie Bros., Fleetwood Mac, etc. Chris had a mastery of all those vocal styles and the band stepped up to deliver on the new songs. It was quite an overhaul of material for the band.
By 2022 things were getting back to normal. The regular club circuit was back and the band played at the Forest Heights concert series during the summer. Yacht Rock was starting to become a part of the band's identity and brand.
On the big stage At The Garages. Mike Suffin, Dave Rosenberg, Chris Timberlake, Jay Lundell and Steve Karakas
2023 became a breakthrough year. Honing the yacht rock songs and the right amount of promotion got Beadhead into some desired venues: Coyotes and At The Garages. Kells Brewery also became one of the band's venues. Two years with Chris Timberlake and a focus on Yacht Rock and the band had an energy that is poised to carry over into 2024.
We really appreciate the support of the people who have been with us since our first gig at Bleachers and we thank the new friends we've made in the recent past. We look forward to bringing joy to everyone we share our music with.
We also want to thank the musicians who have substituted--usually without a whole lot of notice. They include John Mazzocco, Dan Pred, John Linn, Amy Jacobsen, Teri Arnett, Mike Klaver, Beth Britton, Gary Ogan, Keith Collins, Katie Lou Ellen, Terry Baber. We've made some great friends with club owners, Terry McGowan (RIP) Toby Harris at Bleachers, Brad Lehrer from The Lehrer, Jim Hemenway at Coyotes, JT at Dublin Pub, Karen Torres at TIgardville Station, Kent Drangsholt At The Garages, Garret MacLeese at Kells, Mike Soto at Pizzario, Sally Plympton, Daryl Polaski at Paradise Harley-Davidson, Kristy Kummer-Pred at Bauman Farms, and so many more.
A lot has happened in 20 years. Here's to 20 more!