Washougal man creates musical memories

'King' Louis Pain likes playing with the greats and encouraging the next generation

A local man enjoys playing music in his “man cave” (three-car garage), and he has the support of his neighbors.

Louis Pain, a Washougal organist and keyboard player, recalls his first rehearsal in the garage with other members of Soul Vaccination in late June 2011. The band was rehearsing for the Waterfront Blues Festival with Bruce Conte, a guitarist with Tower of Power.

“I was concerned about how our new neighbors would react to the noise,” Pain said. “I gave the president of the homeowner’s association a heads up, but still throughout the rehearsal, I was braced for the sound of police knocking on the door. The next day, our neighbors told us that they had indeed had an issue with the volume. Namely, they’d wanted us to open the ‘man cave’ doors and windows so they could hear better.”

Pain and his wife Tracy purchased their current home in February 2011, after having trouble finding the kind of home they were looking for in Vancouver.

They expanded their search to Washougal to find “a nice neighborhood with a view, plenty of storage and a nice yard for us and the cats.”

“Tracy grew up in Kailua, Hawaii, and as a boy I spent my weekends and summer vacations in Point Richmond, Calif.,” Pain said. “Both towns are semi-rural but close to big cities — reminiscent of Washougal. We can’t believe that home prices are as low in Washougal as they are. It is such a beautiful place and only 30 minutes from downtown Portland.”

Since moving in, the Pains have thrown several parties that feature jam sessions by musicians and vocalists. Participants have included David K. Mathews, an organist with Santana; Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, a drummer; and Rob Paparozzi, a New Jersey vocalist/harmonica player who has worked with the Blues Brothers and with Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Pain, 60, enjoys performing when the music isn’t too “mapped out.”

“The Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group never rehearses,” he said. “It’s very spontaneous, but it doesn’t sound like a ‘jam’ due to the caliber of the musicians. When the ‘magic’ happens, we get excited, and the audience feeds off that.

“Regardless of what we’re going through personally at the time — or what audience members are dealing with — the music lifts us collectively,” he added. “It’s amazing and better than any drug.”

When Pain was a young boy, his older brothers Lincoln and Duncan enjoyed hearing a Hammond organ on a record.

“I couldn’t pick out the sound myself, but anything that my big brothers thought was cool was cool in my eyes,” Pain said. “When I was in my teens, Duncan played in a band with a Hammond player, reinforcing my interest in the instrument. My mom found a blues organ teacher in the newspaper, and the rest is history.”

Pain’s musical training involved the private lessons from blues and jazz keyboard players, starting when he was 16. He also took a few classical piano lessons in his 20s, but he never got serious about it.

“To this day, I play mainly by ear,” Pain said.

He started performing in front of people when he was 18, in a San Francisco nightclub.

Duncan grew up to become a successful songwriter, writing for Robbie Nevil, Paula Abdul and others.

Pain said his number one ambition as a young musician was to get good enough to play with great musicians. He includes Purdie and Brown in that group.

“They bring things out of you musically that you didn’t think you had in you,” Pain said. “One of my Bay Area band leaders, Jules Broussard, used to advise me ‘keep good musical company.’ That is great advice.”

Broussard has performed with Ray Charles and Santana.

After moving to Portland in 1986, Pain worked with blues and soul artists including Paul deLay, Curtis Salgado, Lloyd Jones and Linda Hornbuckle.

Pain usually performs Thursdays, at 8 p.m., with drummer and band leader Mel Brown and the B-3 Organ Group, at Jimmy Mak’s, 221 N.W. 10th Ave., Portland. There is a $5 cover charge. Their next performance is scheduled for Nov. 29.

Pain and saxophonist/vocalist Reggie Houston have performed at HEARTH Wood Oven Bistro, in Washougal, and K’Syrah Catering, Wine and Bistro, in Camas. Their next local performance is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 22, from 7 to 10 p.m., at K’Syrah, 316 N.E. Dallas St. There is no cover charge.

Houston, formerly of New Orleans, played with Fats Domino for more than 20 years, as well as the Neville Brothers and Irma Thomas.

For more information about upcoming performances, as well as private lessons and organ clinics and rentals, visit www.louispain.com.