Jazz Misrepresented As Surf?

The Australian All-Stars‘s 1959 album – Jazz for Beach-Niks – was originally released on Columbia Australia and picked up for US release four years later by King subsidiary label, Bethlehem (and reissued 2013 in Japan), subject of the previous history piece.  One can only presume Syd Nathan was trying to capitalize on the burgeoning surf sound via the misleading cover photo (strictly jazz – not a trace of surf).

Volume 1 = US release on Bethlehem in 1963

Billboard would deem Jazz for Beach-Niks “three stars” (indicating moderate sales potential) in the jazz section of the album reviews for its May 11, 1963 edition.

volume 2 = US release on Bethlehem in 1960

+Australian All-Stars = Beach-Nik Jazz LP

Vexingly, Bethlehem had already issued the Australian All-Stars sophomore album in 1960, three years prior to the US release of their first album.  Are you confused?

“Decidedly”     The Australian All-Stars     1960

Ruppli’s 2-volume King Labels recording sessions discography, sadly, is bereft of any information (“details not known”) about this release by The Australian All-Stars.  Fortunately, Discogs has the musician credits, with the following players listed on both albums:

Freddy Logan:   Bass
Ron Webber:      Drums
Terry Wilkinson: Piano
Don Burrows:     Saxes, Flutes & Clarinet
Dave Rutledge:   Tenor Sax & Flute

King Cash-In Surf LP #2

Zero to 180’s sprawling history trawl “Rare & Unreleased King” made passing reference to another surf-ploitation LP issued by King Records – 1963’s Surfin’ on Wave Nine – and even threatened to make that album the focus of a future history piece … whose time has come today.

Compared to Look Who’s Surfin’ Now (King LP previously celebrated hereSurfin’ on Wave Nine is a bit more of an organic affair, with only a modest amount of jiggery pokery involved.

Track Listing

  •                                 A1  The Vice-Roys – “Seagreen
  •                                 A2  The Nu-Trons – “Malibu Mal
  •                                 A3  The Tramps – “Maharadja
  •                                 A4  The Nu-Trons – “Tension
  •                                 A5  The Vice-Roys – “The Fox
  •                                 A6  Mickey Baker – “Gone
  •                                 B1  Mickey Baker – “Zanzie
  •                                 B2  The Vice-Roys – “Moasin’
  •                                 B3  The Nu-Trons – “Wild Side
  •                                 B4  The Wobblers – “The Wobble
  •                                 B5  The Nu-Trons – “Ninth Wave Out
  •                                 B6  The Vice-Roys – “Buzz Bomb

According to Ruppli’s 2-volume Kings recording sessionography, we can only be certain that two of these songs — “The Fox” and “Buzz Bomb” by The Vice-Roys — were recorded in Cincinnati.

The Vice-Roys would record their songs for King in three sessions:  c. Nov/Dec 1961 (“Moasin'”); c. September, 1962 (“Seagreen”); and April, 1963 (“The Fox” & “Buzz Bomb”).  Worth noting that King would issue a split single in 1963 with “Seagreen” by The Vice-Roys chosen as the flip side for “That Low Down Move” by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters.  But, as Discogs notes, “Seagreen” actually began life as an A-side issued on Bethlehem with the title “Seagram’s” – ostensibly a salute to the whiskey brand.  Both Sides Now Publications recounts the controversy:

In 1960, an instrumental rock band called the Viceroys brought Bethlehem an instrumental master they called “Seagrams,” apparently thinking the name of a hard liquor brand would be hip for teens.  Bethlehem liked the tune and released it. Unfortunately, Seagrams Corporation didn’t think it was funny and threatened to sue for trademark infringement, and some stations refused to play a song with the name of a commercial product without being paid for advertising time.  A sheepish notice in Billboard on March 23, 1960, said, “We Goofed!” and explained that “Seagrams” was now changed to “Seagreen.”

Worth noting that in that same March 23, 1960 edition of Billboard along with the official industry notice from King Records saying “We Goofed!” was this wink-wink news item:

Just Call This a Real Loaded Idea

SAN FRANCISCO— A novel record promotion originated by Bob Earl, San Francisco branch manager for King Records, has been picked up by the national record distributor and will be repeated in Cincinnati, Chicago and New York.

Bethlehem’s new recording of “Seagram,” sung by the Vice-roys, prompted Earl to include a half pint of Seagram’s VO whiskey and a package of Vice-roy cigarettes when delivery the disk, all wrapped up in gay “Mardi Gras” gift paper. Uniformed messenger delivery personnel called upon local deejays in the four top r & b and rock and roll stations in San Francisco and Oakland — KSAN, KEWB, KDIA and KYA.

The Nu-Trons would record two sessions for King — the first (“Tension” and “Wild Side”) in May, 1963 (possibly in Cincinnati — Ruppli is uncertain) and the second (“Malibu Mal” and “Ninth Wave Out” in June, 1963.

The Tramps‘s sole contribution “Maharadja” is the earliest contribution to this various artists compilation (August, 1961), but alas — the recording is leased from another label.

Mickey Baker‘s guitar instrumental classic “Zanzie” (previously celebrated here) was recorded – along with “Gone” – June, 1962 in Paris.

Without a doubt, the song most likely to grab your attention is “The Wobbler” which likely was recorded late (November?) in 1961 by The Wobblers:

“The Wobble”     The Wobblers     1961

Listen to King Surf Albums on the Radio!

This Saturday – September 8, 2018 from 6-8 PM – there will be a King Surf Party!  In 1963, King Records released several surf albums, Surfin’ on Wave NineLook Who Surfin’ Now and Freddie King Goes Surfin’, in response to the California craze.  Join WAIF FM radio hosts, Rock-it Rick, Midwest Surf Guy and Handsome Dan, as they play tracks from these King compilations on the legendary “Rockin’ & Surfin’ Show.”  Those who live outside Cincinnati can tune in on the web – click on the link to WAIF 88.3 FM.

King Cash-In Surf LP #1

In the course of sleuthing, I stumbled upon a King surf cash-in compilation from 1964 that, upon closer inspection, revealed a trio of “mystery bands” — The Surf Jumpers, The Wild Kats and The King Surfers — that are mysteriously absent from Ruppli’s otherwise fairly comprehensive 2-volume discography of King Records and its associated labels.  Further examination revealed the curious fact that every song title can only be found on this one King album with the one exception being “Low Tide” by Freddy King.

Track Listing

  •                          A1  James Brown – “Surfin’ Along”
  •                          A2  The Surf Jumpers – “Surfin’ Party”
  •                          A3  Albert King – Surfin’ the Blues Away
  •                          A4  Gene Redd – Surfin’ Beat
  •                          A5  The King Surfers – Surfin’ in the Far East
  •                          A6  The Wild Kats – Wild Surfin’
  •                          B1  Freddy King – Low Tide
  •                          B2  Little Willie John – High Tide
  •                          B3  King Curtis – Surfin’ in Blue
  •                          B4  Hank Moore – Cool Feet
  •                          B5  Johnny Otis – Let’s Surf Awhile
  •                          B6  Tonni Kalash – The Surf

Given what we’ve learned from the Philip Paul history piece about Gene Redd‘s 1959 recording “Zeen Beat” getting re-branded as “Surfin’ Beat,” I suspect that Syd Nathan simply re-titled 9 instrumentals from the King catalog that might possibly be mistaken for “surf beat” to go with the three new spiffy original surf-flavored tracks hastily thrown together by The Surf Jumpers, The Wild Kats, and especially The King Surfers.  One Discogs contributor even entreats:  “If anyone knows the original track names of these tracks which were re-titled for this release .. it would be very helpful.”

For example, I would bet big money that “Joggin’ Along” – from 1962’s James Brown and His Famous Flames Tour the U.S.A. – is the recording used for “Surfin’ Along,” a James Brown song title found nowhere else but here.

“Joggin’ [i.e., Surfin’] Along”     James Brown & His Famous Flames     1962

Ruppli’s discography indicates the Albert King recording to have taken place in St. Louis sometime in 1961 and even notes the song title as “Surfin’ the Blues Away.”  Nevertheless, I feel burned by Ruppli having titled the 1959 Gene Redd track as “Surfin’ Beat,” plus I’m highly dubious that Albert King was moved by the earliest surf strains of 1961 while located in the Midwest.

Ace UK, meanwhile, helped me figure out that 1961’s “Let’s Rock” by Johnny Otis (recorded in Los Angeles, with Johnny Guitar Watson) is the original recording used for “Let’s Surf Awhile” (which Ruppli notes as the title, not “Let’s Rock”).

I’m just guessing that “The Boss” by Tonni Kalash is plausibly surf sounding to pass as “The Surf” to less discerning ears.

Ruppli’s discography indicates the King Curtis track (“Surfin’ in Blue”) to be a 1957 blues instrumental recorded in NYC that originally bore the title “Wicky Wacky” (and, alternatively, “King Curtis Stomp”).

Dying to know whether “Katanga” – an instrumental attributed to Little Willie John from December, 1961 that was laid down in King’s Cincinnati studios – is the recording that was renamed “High Tide” for this album.  Can’t imagine King included many instrumentals (if any) on a Little Willie John LP or 45.

Tenor saxophonist session player Hank Moore stepped out as bandleader on a few tracks that were recorded in Cincinnati.  “Cool Feet” is one such track from March 9, 1961 that appears, miraculously, to have retained its original title – although, it figures that this instrumental would appear on Look Who’s Surfin’ Now and nowhere else.

Listen to King Surf Albums on the Radio!

This Saturday – September 8, 2018 from 6-8 PM – there will be a King Surf Party!  In 1963, King Records released several surf albums, Surfin’ on Wave Nine, Look Who Surfin’ Now and Freddie King Goes Surfin’, in response to the California craze.  Join WAIF FM radio hosts, Rock-it Rick, Midwest Surf Guy and Handsome Dan, as they play tracks from these King compilations on the legendary “Rockin’ & Surfin’ Show.”  Those who live outside Cincinnati can tune in on the web – click on the link to WAIF 88.3 FM.

King Records: Safety Conscious

King Records, as noted in last year’s piece about The Impacs, was not known for its twangin’ surf sounds.  “Seat Belts Please” by The Exports, intriguingly, would straddle the same line between garage and surf as The Impacs and include a secondary riff [beginning at the 0:34 mark] that would sound right at home on a Los Straitjackets album:

“Seat Belts Please”      The Exports     1964

This instrumental B-side would serve in a supporting role for the first of two 45s released on King by The Exports.  Note the hilariously slower playback speed of this other version of “Seat Belts Please” uploaded onto YouTube.  Or, try a third version that’s closer in pitch to the first one but still noticeably slower.

Ruppli’s King Labels discography informs me that Syd Nathan leased the two sides of this first Exports 45, which doesn’t surprise me, since this twangin’ surf sound is out of character for King.

Exports 45-aaRuppli also tells me that The Exports would record four sides for King, who would only issue two of them for their second and final single “Always It’s You” b/w “Mustang ’65.”

Exports 45-bb“Seat Belts Please” was co-written by prolific composer & King artist, Sonny Thompson, with Chuck Bernard, who also released quite a few singles from the late 1950 to the mid-70s under his own name.

Hang Twelve!  This is the 12th piece tagged as Surf

“Batmobile”: Ohio Surf

Once upon a time, American automobile designs were the envy of the world.  Today’s piece is a tribute to the creative genius who not only designed Batman and Robin’s iconic mode of transport but also the Munster Koach, and the unbelievably spectacular Voxmobile that guitarist extraordinaire, Jimmy Bryant, once befriended.  As Barris’s son, Brett, sadly informed the world this week, “Sorry to have to post that my father, legendary kustom car king, George Barris, has moved to the bigger garage in the sky.”

Apparently, I wasn’t the only Ohioan who was smitten in the 1960s with Barris’s radical design for the Batmobile.  Youngstown’s The Squires would bequeath to future generations their musical interpretation of Barris’s most famous creation in pop’s peak year, 1967:

“Batmobile”     The Squires     1967

Guitar:   Phil Keaggy
Guitar:   Al Frano
Drums:  Jim Love
Bass:    Bob Flamisch

Wow, I just discovered that the lead guitar work on “Batmobile” is from that Phil Keaggy – here’s a link to the bio on his website.

As it turns, landlocked musical combos can create credible surf sounds – not just West Coast bands.  Cincinnati’s King Records, you might recall, even delved into the “surf rock” genre via The Impacs, whom Zero to 180 profiled just over a year ago.

Squires 45

Los Straitjackets: ¡Viva La Instrumental!

Bless those masked marauders, Los Straitjackets, whose first two albums – 1995’s The Utterly Fantastic and Totally Unbelievable Sound and 1996’s ¡Viva Los Straitjackets! – would give the instrumental an outsized and much needed shot in the arm.

debut 45 – “Gate Crasher” b/w “Lonely Apache” – 1995

Straitjackets 45

Utterly FantasticViva

The B-side of the band’s first single was a spare arrangement of an original western theme – “Lonely Apache” – for indie garage/punk label, Sympathy for the Record Industry, that was issued February 1995, one month before their debut full-length release.  The group would record a suitably more elaborate arrangement of “Lonely Apache” for their second album:

“Lonely Apache”     Los Straitjackets     1996

Eddie Angel – noted rockabilly guitarist with Tex Rubinowitz and the Bad Boys, and later, the Planet Rockers, Neanderthals & Eddie Angel’s Dinosaurs – and Danny Amis – guitarist for (Twin/Tone’s) Overtones and The Raybeats, and later, engineer for the Grand Old Opry and Hee Haw – would link up with Nashville session drummer, Jimmy Lester, to form an (unmasked) aggregation as The Straitjackets in 1988 that played locally for a few shows.

                 1981 Eddie Angel 45                      1982 Mitch Easter-produced 12-inch 45

Eddie Angel 7-inchDanny Amis maxi-45

In 1994 when the trio reassembled, Danny Amis would introduce the wrestling masks – and thus, Los Straitjackets.  Conan O’Brien, an early fan, would have the group perform fairly regularly on his Late Night show, one appearance each for the first two albums.  By the late 1990s, Conan would have Los Straitjackets perform Christmas songs during the holidays.  2003 would find Los Straitjackets as Grammy-nominated artists for their collaboration with Eddie “The Chief” Clearwater on Rock ‘n’ Roll City.

Hard to believe that Los Straitjackets are over 20 albums into their career.  More recently, Los Straitjackets would join forces with Southern Culture on the Skids and The Fleshtones in 2013 for Halloween stocking-stuffer, Mondo Zombie Boogaloo.  The Straitjackets would also reveal themselves to be surprisingly nimble breakdancers in their video for 2012’s “Brooklyn Slide” – from standout album, Jet Set.

Los Straitjackets – DC’s 9:30 Club – May 15, 2009 (playing DI PINTO GUITARS)

Los Straitjackets-2009a

Eddie Angel (L)  & Danny Amis (R)Los Straitjackets-2009b

This instrumental band, it bears noting, is not afraid to collaborate with vocalists, and has worked in the past with such singers as Big Sandy, Freddy Cannon, Mark Lindsay, Exene Cervenka, Dave Alvin, and Deke Dickerson, most recently, who teamed up with Los Straitjackets in 2014 to record an album of famous instrumental songs with lost or rewritten lyrics – such as “Apache,” “Sleepwalk,” “Popcorn,” and even “Hawaii Five-O” (see Sammy Davis Jr.’s 1976 vocal A-side).

Los Straitjackets & Deke Dickerson Link to Eddie Angel interview from the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website — Eddie Angel’s own discography available here.  Also, Danny Amis tells the LA Weekly that the Mexican surf scene is “by far bigger than anyone else’s in the world.”  Amis – or, “The Godfather of Mexican Surf” as he is also known – reports in his bio that over 50,000 fans attended each performance at Mexico City’s Foro Sol.  Check out the band’s back catalog at Yep Roc.

Eddie Angel - 9 30 Club-2009Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions:  Zero to 180 Q&A with Eddie Angel

Q:   Is there a back story behind the inspiration to “Lonely Apache” (e.g., did the song come to you in a dream)?
A:  i was listening to a lot of duane eddy at the time and really liked his version of the song “high noon”

Q:  Curious to know why “Lonely Apache” was not included on your first album even though I recall hearing it at some of your earliest shows (if I’m not mistaken)?
A:  i can’t recall…i think i didn’t play it for the other guys until after we had recorded our first CD.

Q:  Do you get any particularly strong reaction to that song [which, by the way, is Eddie’s mother-in-law’s favorite] when you play it live?
A:  hmm, i don’t think so, but we don’t play it often…i guess we should tho, huh.

Q:  Where are some of the more far-flung (or “surprisingly distant”) places that the Straitjackets have played?
A:  australia, moscow, helsinki ….moscow was the by far the weirdest. we had a 2 week residency at a club called chesterfields and we lived in an apartment a block from red square, it was in 1998 and it felt like the wild west there.

Q:  How much support were you getting from Upstart/Rounder during those early years?   Is Yep Roc treating you guys well?
A:  upstart was great, they really helped us get going on those early tours and they got our songs in movies and tv, one of the upstart guys is now our manager jake guralnick…yep roc is a really good label and they’re friends of ours, the owners used to work for rounder (upstart was part of rounder).

Q: I get the sense that being a band that primarily plays instrumentals (when not touring with a vocalist like Big Sandy) means that your music is able to transcend language barriers that might inhibit the reach of more traditional bands that sing vocal tunes – is this in any way true?
A:  i think its true in mexico, that’s where we have our largest audience by far. in mexico we’re credited with starting a new genre of music, “surf mexicano”…surf instros with mexican wrestling masks and one big difference is young kids are into it, its almost like punk rock there.

Did the Straitjackets Unknowingly Back Bruce Channel in 1962?

When I playfully inquired whether the Straitjackets – as it clearly says on the 45 – backed Bruce Channel in 1962 on “Number One Man,” follow-up to #1 hit, “Hey Baby,” Eddie Angel wryly responded —

Bruce Channel lived across the street from me for 16 yrs, we just moved but still own the house across from him….he never mentioned the straitjackets ; )

Bruce Channel 45Bruce Channel … and Straitjackets?!

Belated tip of the hat to Bill Hanke for putting this band on my radar from the earliest.

“Competition Coupe”: The Many Faces of Gary Usher

My friend – the gifted record collector, Tom Avazian – found this fairly obscure hot rod album – 1963’s Hot Rod City on the Vault label – for sale on the streets of Washington, DC:

Hot Rod LP“Competition Coupe” by The Customs was one track that particularly tickled my ear:

Tip of the hat to AllButForgottenOldies for the background story on the band:

“The Customs were one of several studio groups put together by Richard Delvy for the 1963 LP, Hot Rod City (Vault 104).  This LP included the Customs’ noncharting ’54 Corvette’ and another Customs’ song entitled ‘RPM,’ plus ’41 Ford’ by the Grand Prix as also heard today.  Key members of the Customs included Gary Usher who wrote most of the Customs’ songs and was the lead vocalist.  Usher was a major songwriter and producer throughout the 1960s who worked with the Beach Boys and many other top bands and artists.  Usher also recorded and/or produced many other surf rock, hot-rod, and other songs under different band names.”

The Impacs: King Goes Garage Surf

King wasn’t the only independent label in the early rock era to dabble in various sounds and musical genres; nevertheless, it’s still pretty hard to beat King for its sheer stylistic breadth.  While never really considered much of a “rock” label, King nevertheless signed another Beatle-sounding group (besides Them) called The Impacs, who – judging by the Fender guitars on their two King album covers – look like they might also have a little west coast surf in their sound.

Impacs LP b1Impacs LP a1

The Impacs first recording session on December 10, 1963 yielded 28 songs, of which 12 (including “Cat Walk”; “The Grab”; “Hamburger”; “Ambush”; “Love Struck” & “The Breeze”) would remain unreleased.  One more round of recording on May 12-13, 1964 would yield 8 more songs, all of them seeing light of day as single and/or album tracks.  All recording was done “principally” in Miami.

An avid collector of 45s once described The Impacs as “surf rock” within the context of “pre 65 garage” music.  Of the five King 45s released, only one is available for preview, however, on YouTube – but it’s classic:

I suspect the B-side, “Cape Kennedy Fla,” and album track, “Music for a Space Station,” are both instrumentals, as I know “Kool It” and “Zot” both to be.

The Impacs King Discography

King 45 #5851 “Two Strangers” b/w “Jo-Ann” 1964

King 45 #5863 “Shimmy Shimmy” b/w “Zot” 1964

King 45 #5891 “Kool It” b/w “She Didn’t Even Say Hello” 1964

King 45 #5910 “Ain’t That the Way Life Is” b/w “Don’t Cry Baby” 1964

King 45 #5965 “Your Mama Put the Hurt on Me” b/w “Cape Kennedy Fla” 1964

King LP #886 Impact 1964

King LP #916 A Week-End with The Impacs 1964

“Surf Finger”: Lost Surf Classic

Surf Finger,” such an obvious candidate for the A-side of a 45, alas, was never issued on wax and seems only to have surfaced with the release of Ace’s 2006 CD anthology, Hard Workin’ Man – The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 2:

“Surf Finger”     Jack Nitzsche     1966

Video features “Surf Finger” paired with vintage footage of Sunset Strip in its 60s heyday.

Spectropop‘s detailed Jack Nitzsche discography affirms that this track was recorded in 1966, thus forty years consigned to the can.  Thanks to Scene of Screen 13 cinema blog, I learned that this instrumental served as part of the soundtrack for “documentary” film, Mondo Bizarro —– to hear the “Surf Finger” segment in the documentary, click on the triangle (media player) below.

Could this possibly be Jack Nitzsche’s abstract response to the classic Bar Kays near-instrumental, “Soul Finger,” I wondered.  Highly unlikely, I had to conclude, since that Stax/Volt 45 did not come into being until the following year, 1967.

Jack Nitzsche, T.A.M.I. Show Arranger & conductor, with Jan berry – 1964

Jack Nitzsche on the TAMI Show

“When I Go to the Beach”: The East Coast Surf Sound

June 1967’s single release, “Hit the Surf” by The Sea Shells, may or may not have been the last recording of surf music’s original Golden Age:  Sgt. Pepper‘s release that same month might well have been the final nail in surf’s fiberglass coffin.

The music scholars at Rhino Records — in the liner notes to their surf music box set, Cowabunga! — inform me that “In 1980, a surprisingly large number of surf bands appeared in major cities across the country and overseas.  However, most of the action was smack dab in Southern California.”   DC’s Slickee Boys, fortunately for the rest of humanity, pioneered an East Coast surf sound in 1983 with the release of their seminal single, “When I Go to the Beach”:

Second-place winner of MTV’s Basement Tapes in 1983, “When I Go to the Beach” consequently gave The Slickee Boys the distinction of being the first DC-area band to appear on the burgeoning music network (it’s true:  MTV once played music videos).  “When I Go to the Beach” – written by Mark Noone and featuring the twin guitar attack of Kim Kane & Marshall Keith – was included on The Slickee Boys second long-playing release, Cybernetic Dreams of Pi, a Twin/Tone album that also enjoyed release in Germany and France.  Voted Record of the Year in 1985 at the first Washington Area Music Association Awards, “When I Go to the Beach” would also be featured, thrillingly enough, in Frankie and Annette “retro-surf” film, Back to the Beach from 1987.

Slickee Boys LP

All Roads Lead to Mark Noone

If Pete Frame – pioneer of the Rock Family Tree – were to map out the DC music scene of the 1970s, 80s and beyond, Mark Noone would certainly be in the thick of things.  In addition to his work with The Slickee Boys, Mark has not only sung and/or held down bass duties for The Wanktones, The Hula Monsters, Ruthie & the Wranglers, and The Rhodes Tavern Troubadours but is once again tapping into the Zeitgeist via current side project, The Yachtsmen – “dock rockers” for our New Gilded Age.

don’t make me tell you again:  Dc’s the telecaster town

Mark Noone & Andy Rutherford

Mark Noone (left) with Andy Rutherford

[photo courtesy gerald martineau]