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.
- 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.