The Black ‘Godmother of Grunge’ Who Inspired Your Fav Bands

Seattle’s Tina Bell is forgotten no more

"Bam Bam’s sound straddled the line between punk and something so new that it didn’t have a name yet. Their music combined a driving, thrumming bass line; downtuned, sludgy guitars; thrashy, pulsing drums; melodic vocals that range from sultry to haunting to screamy; and lyrics about the existential tension of trying to exist in a world not designed for you". 

Stephanie Siek writing for ZORA : MEDIUM, March 24, 2021

pic by Michael Patnode

Tina Bell & Bam Bam - PLEASE KiLL ME top stories of 2020.


Tina Bell & Bam Bam #7, between The Rolling Stones #6, & Patty Smith #8 on PLEASE KiLL ME top stories of 2020.

Scotty Buttocks and Jack Endino

Well Alright; Bam Bam has just signed with Bric-a-Brac Records!! We're working with Jack Endino on some vinyl to be released later this year.

Bam Bam

The band that should have been

Founded in Seattle by guitarist/producer Tommy Martin in June 1983, Bam Bam's original line up included Pearl Jam & Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron*, Called In Sic singer/guitarist Scotty Buttocks, and the stunning rock Goddess Tina Bell on vocals; one of the first African American women to front a punk, grunge, hard rock band.

Bam Bam were musical pioneers in Seattle; experimenting with sludged rhythms, chopped timings, odd scales, tunings, and styles.

Bam Bam was the first Seattle band to work with Reciprocal Recording Studios and producer Chris Hanzsek.

Their 1984 EP "Villians (Also Wear White)" was one of the first recordings released on the early Seattle scene; the first from Reciprocal Recording Studio {Billboard Magazine: Sept 17, 2011}. Bam Bam's single "Ground Zero" came out later the same year (also produced by Hanzsek at Reciprocal Recording). 

{Billboard Magazine: The Lessons of Grunge. Sept 17, 2011, page 17}

~Producers Chris Hanzsek and Jack Endino refer to Bam Bam as "part of Seattle history" on the "D" Show April 2, 2015.

~Sopa Alternativa says: "The sound that Bam Bam made in the mid-1980s opened space for bands like Nirvana and Alice in Chains in the 1990s". {Oct 24, 2017}

~Sonic Mosquito Soup says:

"A year prior to the birth of Green River, Seattle made acquaintance with an equally sludgy sound, the sound of Bam Bam. Fronted by the powerful voice of Tina Bell..Bam Bam are definitely a hidden gem of the Northwest and one of the most influential bands of the ’80s’ Seattle." {Feb 19, 2019}


"Toying with off-kilter timings and slow, sludgy rhythms nearly ten years before the Seattle sound hit the mainstream, Bam Bam not only provided reference material for the movement, they were the first Seattle band to lay down tracks at Reciprocal Recording– the location of Nirvana’s famous demo session for songs featured on Bleach and Incesticide".
Jen Larson, writing for Please Kill Me.

~EastCoast Entertainment -  Black Music History Month: Punk, Metal, and Hardcore. 

"As we look to Black artists who contributed to music genres that have historically swept their names aside when the history books are written.. Bell is not the only Black trail blazer whose name has been strangely missing from the common rock music history". 
Jenny Langer.

~Om Johari writes: "..The unwritten voice of grunge in the Seattle scene...(Tina Bell's) presence and the band she fronted, Bam Bam, starting a musical genre that would later forget she existed."

~Never Mind The Nirvana & Pearl Jam, Here Is Bam Bam". 
Hrvoje Bubić -  

"It's so sad that even though they are among the first bands who made this style of rock music, Bam Bam has never received the recognition they deserve. It’s time to fix that"


"The music was unpolished, aggressive, and most of all, ahead of its time. They were laying the groundwork for the future of music whether they knew it or not". 
Kidman J. Williams, Gonzo Today, May 1, 2021.

~10 Things Zine, Dan Halligan.

"Bands like Bam Bam, Green River and The Fartz seemed to play Gorilla Gardens a lot, but the venue also pulled in good-sized touring bands like The Ramones, Circle Jerks, Guns'n'Roses, Sonic Youth, Violent Femmes, Hüsker Dü and Butthole Surfers". Dan Halligan 10 Things Zine, September 21, 2007.


With Kurt Cobain as roadie, The Melvins started their first tour opening for Bam Bam on May 5, 1984 at Behind The Grey Door in Seattle.

Bam Bam performed at the first two Hempfests, The Sounds Of Seattle Festival, the Pain In The Grass Festival, toured US, Europe, and/or played with Alice In Chains, Temple of the Dog, Guns n Roses, Ywengie Malsteen, Bob Mould, Soundgarden, Faith No More, No Means No, The Fastbacks, The U-Men, Skin Yard, Napalm Beach, SadHappy, The Refuzers, R Gang...

Friends in film school gave Bam Bam the rare opportunity to make videos in the 1980s, most notably for the 1984 single "Ground Zero".

Bam Bam were one of the first NW bands on the telly (NW Rocks, The Spud Goodman Show), and were twice honored as Best NW Band on KCMU/KEXP listener polls.

Tina Bell left in late 1990, and Bam Bam continued as a three piece instrumental with guitarist Tommy Martin, bassist Nick Rhinehart (Jerry Cantrell) and drummer Mike Peterson (the Accused). Both Nick & Mike had joined in 1989 after a series of temp players.**

In 2012 TJ Martin, son of Bam Bam's Tina Bell and Tommy Martin, won the Academy Award for Best Director of a Feature Length Documentary for his film Undefeated. Portions of Tina Bell's last interview were aired on ABC's broadcast of the Academy Awards that year.

Bam Bam endured for nearly ten years despite racism and misogyny, a "squatter" tour of Europe, busted in England, personnel changes, and passionate internal pressures. Plans for a Bam Bam reunion were quickly dashed with the heart wrenching death of singer Tina Bell on Oct 10, 2012. We carry her loving memory and her music forever in our hearts.

Bam Bam. The Band That Should Have Been.

*Replaced by Tom Hendrickson (Runaway  Trains, The Fuzz).  

**Paul Hinklin (SadHappy), Ted Szelag. Garey Sheldon, Galen Martindale, Tommy Gunns, and for 1 night; Duff McKagan at his own going away party hosted by Bam Bam..

For more on Bam Bam: 

"Grunge at Ground Zero: The Story Of Bam Bam".

"Solin Live interview with Scotty 'Buttocks' Ledgerwood".

"Rock Trio Adds Lead Singer, Turns Itself Into Mommy".