It came as a submission to The Herald’s weekly showcase of reader photos. The picture shows an electronic drum kit, an unoccupied drum-throne stool, and a microphone. In its silence, it makes a statement. Someone is missing.
Who? There’s an answer in the simple label used by Phil Mitchell, the Everett musician who took the photo and shared it: “Dave’sdrums.”
David Andrew Allbee, a drummer with a local band called the Love Handles, died May 17. The Arlington man was 63. He had suffered from COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He had worked for boat-building companies, once owned an auto repair shop, had co-owned a music store, and toiled at other jobs. Drumming, though, was his passion.
”He was a very good drummer,” Mitchell said. “He always liked to talk, cracking jokes between songs. He was kind of the personality of the band.” A bass player, the 76-year-old Mitchell is the oldest member of the Love Handles, a band name sure to make his generation’s music fans smile.
The band plays several times a year at the Fleet Reserve Association Branch 170, which has a social club on Everett’s Beverly Boulevard. Along with Mitchell, the other members of the Love Handles are band leader Ralph Carr, Jim Peso, Tom Wesley and Al Pignataro.
Bandmates and longtime friends Carr, Peso and Mitchell were with Allbee when he died at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. In early July, Allbee’s friends and loved ones celebrated the drummer’s life with a gathering at Danny’s Midway Pub &Grill in Marysville. They called the memorial “Davestock.”
“We used to call him ‘Animal.’ We took it from the Muppets. He was skinny with bushy hair,” Mitchell said. In Allbee’s obituary, Mitchell wrote that his friend had “often been compared to the famous drummer for Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem,” the rock band on “The Muppet Show.”
Sandy Allbee met her future husband through music. While at Everett High School, she had her own band, Cycle 2. It was November 1971, and she was then Sandy Riel, when Cycle 2 was in need of a drummer. “They auditioned him while I was at my part-time job. They hired him before I met him,” she said.
They married little more than a year later, in December 1972. “We were married 44 years, five months and two days,” the Arlington woman said. The couple had no children.
In the 1980s, she said, they had two music stores, the Drum Key and Ray’s Music Exchange in Shoreline. Ray’s Music Exchange was also the name of the shop where Ray Charles performed in “The Blues Brothers” movie.
Dave Allbee grew up in north Seattle before his family moved to Alderwood Manor. He graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School in 1971.
Before the Love Handles, which has been around more than a decade, Mitchell and Allbee played in another group, Red Thelin’s Country Starlighters. “I was the bass player, Dave was the drummer,” said Mitchell, recalling that he was with the country band from 1978 to 1986, minus a year or so.
Mitchell also had a teen band, the Cherchers, while he was at Everett High in the late 1950s and early ’60s. The Cherchers (he pronounced it “sher-shays”) got together for a reunion in 2009.
The Country Starlighters, Sandy Allbee said, was for years the house band for Everett’s Fraternal Order of Eagles when the lodge was at 3726 Broadway. In 2005, the Eagles moved to 1216 Broadway, the old Cookbook Restaurant building.
Allbee had spent more than 20 years in the boat-building business. He worked for the company that made Bayliner boats in Arlington before its closure, and later for Cutwater Boats. “He kept working until he couldn’t,” Sandy Allbee said. Performing in the band “kind of invigorated him,” she said. “That helped, being able to keep playing as long as he could.”
Mitchell said his drummer friend also did a lot of singing. The Love Handles, he said, “do a variety — country, rock, some blues, even some old standards out of the ’40s.”
“Dave sang Ray Charles’ ‘Unchain My Heart’ and he did a few things from Santana,” Mitchell said.
The band rarely has formal practices, but gets together to play. “It’s mainly for the social aspect, a nice potluck thing,” he said. Mitchell took that picture of the unused drums at Carr’s house in Snohomish.
The Love Handles will go on, but a man at the heart of it is missing.
“He’s a hard guy to replace,” Mitchell said. More than a drummer, “we did lose a good friend.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.