History isn’t Jason Webley’s first love. His passion is music, translating story into song. He did that with a concert based on the life of Margaret Rucker, a daughter of early Everett. Webley’s unique musical talents are now turned toward the darkest chapter in local history — the Everett Massacre.
An Everett songwriter whose world travels have garnered him thousands of fans, Webley is enlisting local and national musicians to perform with him at a concert titled “100 Years Ago Tomorrow: Music and Reflection on the Centennial Eve of Everett’s Bloodiest Day.” The show is scheduled for 8 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Historic Everett Theatre.
It’s the same venue where in 2014 Webley first staged “Margaret,” a collection of songs originating from a chance discovery. The Everett native’s scrapbook was found in a garbage bin by Webley’s friend “Chicken” John Rinaldi in San Francisco.
Now, Webley and other musicians are at work on original songs exploring aspects of Everett’s bloody Sunday. On Nov. 5, 1916, shots rang out on Everett’s waterfront with the arrival of the Verona and the Calista. The two boats from Seattle carried hundreds of Industrial Workers of World members known as Wobblies.
At least five Wobblies were killed, along with two local deputies. No one knows for certain which side fired first, Wobblies or armed members of Everett’s ruling class. During a local shingle weavers strike, Wobblies had been coming to town to speak up for workers. Days before the killings, citizen deputies beat up dozens of IWW members south of town near the interurban trolley station at Beverly Park.
“I’ve been trying to get into the heads of both sides,” Webley said Monday. “History has favored the Wobbly viewpoint, but my objective isn’t to form my own view. I’m hoping to tease out what feels alive and resonant today. How do I tell the layers of this story?”
A onetime street musician, Webley plays accordion, guitar and other instruments, and has his own label, Eleven Records. He said it was Carol Thomas, Everett’s cultural arts manager, who first suggested an Everett Massacre centennial show.
The life of Margaret Rucker Armstrong is a poignant, personal tale. Born into one of Everett’s first families, she died in California in 1959, nine years after the suicide of her husband. “Nobody knew about it. It was my little secret, revealed over the course of the night. I got to be the storyteller,” said Webley, 42, a graduate of Mariner High School and the University of Washington.
With the Everett Massacre, “a lot of people know varying amounts about it,” he said. That’s a challenge for Webley and the other songwriters. In the audience are sure to be history buffs familiar with every known detail of the 1916 labor strife. There will also be people with little knowledge of the Massacre.
Among musicians on the “100 Years Ago Tomorrow” bill with Webley are: Tomo Nakayama, lead singer of the Seattle band Grand Hallway; Johanna Warren, a singer-songwriter based in Portland, Oregon; Bradford Loomis, part of the Snohomish folk band the Banner Days; Kate Copeland, a New York City singer-songwriter and composer; and Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies, an Everett rock band.
The Jawbone Puppet Theatre and musicians gathering as the Milltown String Quartet will also perform. “It’s going to be a good show,” said Webley, who recalls learning about lumber history in school.
He said the World Trade Organization protests and the Occupy Wall Street movement are recent events that may be likened to 1916 Everett.
“I’ve never been part of an organized labor movement, and fortunately I’ve never been close to that kind of violence,” he said. “It’s interesting to wonder who I might have been if I’d been born 100 years ago. Could I have ended up on that boat? Could I have ended up shooting at that boat?”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Concert on eve of Massacre anniversary
Everett musician Jason Webley and other singer-songwriters are scheduled to perform a concert of original songs based on the Everett Massacre. Titled “100 Years Ago Tomorrow,” the all-ages show is scheduled for 8 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Historic Everett Theatre, 2911 Colby Ave. Tickets, $15, are available at www.100YearsAgoTomorrow.com.