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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Ditto (AKA Writer Boy's Ditto Tavern), Seattle - 9/6/1986

This is an entry on bar already counted in the starting list for this project.

For a good period and particularly in 1986 and several years following, Richard Pauletti's hole in the wall under the monorail, the Writer Boy's Ditto tavern, was the most dependable venue in Seattle for interesting, alternative live music.  Such venues were rare in Seattle in the 80s.  Most bars featured cover bands playing Beatles medleys, while more original, cutting edge music had two mainstays in the Central Tavern and The Vogue (on weekdays), were temporarily joined by a churn of less consistent and/or shorter lived venues like Scoundrel's Lair, Squid Row, Gorilla Gardens, Club Fiasco, The Boom Boom Room, etc. etc.)  In the mid 80s, the prevailing punk and art band ethic at the Ditto and alternative bands like Pure Joy and Chemistry Set started to make way for what we would later call "grunge."  (I distinctly remember the first time I saw a band with hippy-like long hair at the Ditto -- though I can't remember which one it was -- and wondering how in the hell they even got in.)

I started seeing bands like Green River, Skinyard, Sound Garden and later Nirvana, playing the Ditto along with a huge assortment of alternative groups like Vexed, Melting Fish, Handful of Dust, Bundle of Hiss, and Weather Theater.  While I confess to seeing little of this myself, the Ditto also catered to a poetry crowd.  In additions to readings and slams there were a few typewriters in the place, including one bolted to the ceiling.  For a small, divey place, the Ditto had a wide selection of beers on tap, well before the craft beer heyday.  If the bands were playing, it was easy to find, but visually it had little hint of it's existence beyond the neon " sign in the window.  The Ditto lasted from 1986 to 1998.

Richard Pauletti


Unknown said...

I was the lead singer and songwriter for Handful of Dust. Yes, we played the Ditto many times - the manager Dean was a great guy and open to new music, an unheralded instigator of musical change in Seattle. Often wonder what he's up to today. It's good to be remembered because once Nirvana, et al, hit the jackpot, the early progenitors of grunge were easily forgotten. Handful of Dust had about three hours of original music and Dean at the Ditto was one of the few proprietors who was interested ion hearing all of it. Another thing that made us stand out in that tiny early scene was that we had two women in the band, Patty Vail on lead guitar, and Sue Anderson on bass, pretty much unheard of at the time. HOD was a melodic band but we were loud, and almost every gig asked to turn down, but not at the Ditto. Dean enjoyed being blown out of his socks. Here's to Dean, wherever he is. Todd Davis

peterga said...

Thanks for the note, Todd. My memory generally fails me, but I do remember a night in 1986 when I saw you guys at the Ditto. I think Camper Van Beethoven were playing at the Central the same night and you mentioned people missing it and the girls going "Shhhhhh!"

D.S. Gusting said...

I loved the Ditto. First show I saw there was Crisis Party with the Buck Pets. When one of my bands Cannibal Lunchbox (I was lead guitarist and songwriter) got to play there nearly a decade later it felt like we had really made it. Thanks for writing this.

D.A. Sebasstian said...

I worked the door at the Ditto for a few months back in 1990. My band Kill Switch...Klick played our second show there. Great little dive bar and Pauletti came across like a character from the film Good Fellas.

Tim McGraw said...

I loved the Ditto Tavern. The owner Richard Pauletti was a great guy who loved stories. I would read my stories from the Brazilian Amazon there for the Seattle Writers Guild back in '91 and '92. I really miss those days and the Ditto. I loved the two little Helium sign ditto marks over the door as the only signage.
I have many fond memories of the Ditto, alas, no more, but the Monorail remains.
Tim McGraw