Remembering Thurston County’s ‘Mystical and Magical’ Music of the Delphi

Members of the Freckles Brown Band, from left: Fred Doughty, Perry Hanchy, Lyall Smith, Tony Wickie and Pat Palmer. Photo courtesy: Fred Doughty

Home to its own landscapes, cultural heritage, myths and legends, the Delphi region in Thurston County also holds claim to its own subset of music. Local musician Fred Doughty grew up immersed in Delphi music, with his uncle, Stanley “Freckles” Brown, a pioneering figure in the Delphi music community.

Doughty remembers the little details of Delphi music and community get-togethers that were often at Brown’s home when growing up. Chocolate cake and coffee on the woodstove. Brown’s wife, Marie, made homemade fudge, a recipe that lives on today. Musicians brought fiddles and guitars to join the upright piano. Furniture was pushed to the side to make space for the main event: making noise and moving to the beat.

“The music was, it was just crazy,” says Doughty. “People could not, not tap their foot in it. Kids and some of the other folks would have percussion instruments and it was just a lot of fun noise. I don’t think anybody knew a whole song, but we’d go on, it would go on and on. And then even spoons, which became popular with a lot of the adults, they could slap those spoons on their knee, but all of that was just powerful to me.”

Thurston County’s Delphi Music and Culture Through the Decades

Doughty has researched the beginnings of Delphi music and culture, tracing its early roots back to the mid-1800s, when pioneer families started settling in the Delphi region near Black Lake. A tight-knit community continued to grow into the 20th Century and bonds between residents were said to strengthen during tough times, like the Great Depression. The Delphi music scene gained momentum in the years after World War II and was most active through the mid-1960s.

Local musician Fred Doughty grew up immersed in Delphi music, with his uncle, Stanley ‘Freckles’ Brown (pictured above), a pioneering figure in the Delphi music community. Photo courtesy: Fred Doughty

Doughty says these gatherings in his youth were a great influence, inspiring him to become a professional musician by the age of 15, and continue down the line through the formation of the Freckles Brown Band. For over two decades, Doughty says the Freckles Brown Band has been a tribute to Freckles Brown, and is a way to carry on the legacy of the Delphi.

The Delphi region spans multiple unique landscapes of Thurston County, says Doughty, beginning around Mud Bay and Mud Bay Road before reaching through the Black Hills and extending over to Black Lake and south toward Little Rock.

“It’s just full of magic.” explains Doughty. “I call it the four M’s. It’s mystical, magical, mysterious and memorable. And that’s the way the Delphi is. And I know a lot of people that have moved to the Delphi, I think they see it and feel it too.” 

The classic Delphi music is described as a genre unto its own, with elements that can be difficult to recapture. But through the Freckles Brown Band, Doughty draws from his musical roots of old country and rock ‘n’ roll, while also paying homage to the sound and spirit of the Delphi genre.

The Freckles Brown Band primarily plays original tunes, and some familiar covers for the crowd to join in and sing along. Over the years, the Freckles Brown Band has had many busy summer schedules filled with shows in Western Washington and beyond. Over time, the band slowly drifted apart to work on other projects, but in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the band reformed with members new and old.

‘Small Town America Summer Concerts’ Will Take Place Across Western Washington

In this new era of the Freckles Brown Band, Doughty is embarking on a fresh approach, to play for smaller crowds and for towns that may not be able to afford to hire a band for summer concerts. Doughty is calling this series the “Small Town America Summer Concerts” in 2024.

Storytelling was a key part of Delphi culture and many of Delphi’s most prominent legends are still alive through the lyrics of the Freckles Brown Band. Some of these tunes will be included in this summer’s lineup like, “Delphi Woman,” recounting a myth about the swamp witch of the Delphi. Other songs include “Twilight in the Delphi,” “Na Na Lanna,” “Old 99” and “Sweet Marie.”

For over two decades, local musician Fred Doughty says the Freckles Brown Band has been a tribute to his uncle, Stanley ‘Freckles’ Brown (pictured above), and is a way to carry on the legacy of the Delphi. Photo courtesy: Fred Doughty

Doughty describes “Twilight in the Delphi” as a swampy, blues-inspired song about two brothers setting out to catch a legendary catfish.

“‘Twilight in the Delphi’ though is really, is probably the closest thing to the real Delphi feeling, because it describes these two boys in the country and getting up early and grabbing their poles,” explains Doughty.

This summer, the Freckles Brown Band is already scheduled to play in Pe Ell, Allyn, Onalaska and Lacey with more concert dates being finalized. Doughty says he hopes these summer concerts can highlight the rural and simple life, and serve as a break for attendees to put aside the weight of the world and take in live music.

“Let’s just have fun and laugh and sing along and give them a little bit of time off,” says Doughty. “So they don’t have to worry about everything that’s going on.”

To learn more about the Freckles Brown Band and the “Small Town America Summer Concert” series, visit the Freckles Brown Band Facebook page.

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