Rusty Willoughby

About Rusty Willoughby

Rusty Willoughby is one of Seattle's unsung alternative veterans. The vocalist/guitarist was an early favorite of the Emerald City's underground scene in the mid-'80s, leading the neo-psychedelic group Pure Joy. Although Pure Joy -- also consisting of bassist Lisa King and drummer Jim Hunnicutt -- distanced themselves from the collision of punk and heavy metal that characterized many of the Pacific Northwest's most popular acts, they managed to attract a cult following of their own as they toured with the Chameleons U.K. and received airplay on regional left-of-the-dial radio stations. However, the group -- named after a song by the Teardrop Explodes -- was still overshadowed by its louder, more aggressive peers. After releasing two albums, Pure Joy split up in the late '80s. Willoughby then started Flop with guitarist Bill Campbell, bassist Paul Schurr, and drummer Nate Johnson. With Flop, Willoughby ventured into pure power pop, recalling the punk-fueled energy of the Jam and the Buzzcocks. Unfortunately, Willoughby was again the victim of bad timing. Pure Joy was too late to capitalize on the psychedelic revival of the early '80s, and Flop's bright, high-octane guitars didn't quite fit in with the grim, angst-laden arena rock of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains when they released their debut album, Flop and the Fall of the Mopsqueezer!, in 1992. Released on the independent label Frontier Records, the LP's critical raves and the band's Seattle residency got them signed to Epic Records, but the dark clouds of grunge rendered Flop invisible on modern-rock radar. When Epic put out the group's second album, Whenever You're Ready, they didn't promote it enough and the band's name became the record's outcome. The group was quickly dropped. Flop recorded another full-length, World of Today, before disbanding. Willoughby, who also played drums for Seattle's new wave icons the Fastbacks in the '90s, reunited with King and Hunnicutt as Pure Joy in 1995. In 1998, they released Getz, the Worm. ~ Michael Sutton

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