...by George Boccanfuso
In the mid '60s, I lived in Monterey Park, California. The town was about an hour inland from the waves. It was, at the time, a hotbed for instro surf music, at least at the local Recreation Center that held dances I attended. During this time, The Surfaris and The Lively Ones alternated shows on Saturday nights.
The Surfaris played this venue before and after their Wipe Out fame. They were a crowd favorite, both for their musicianship and for being about the same age as the audience.
Much has been written about the great Ron Wilson, the drummer for the band. Ron seemed to have more fun than any drummer I can think of. He had an excellent stage presence. One of his signature moves was to get up and work his way around his kit while still playing ala The Tielman Brothers. He was everything a surf drummer should be ... plus the cat could sing! For Surfer Joe, Ron would exit stage left and come back wearing baggy trunks, a t-shirt, no shoes and sporting an iron cross necklace (an icon worn by some surfers of that era). He was dripping wet, also! As Ron launched into the tale of the Doheny surfer, we always thought he would be electrocuted by the mic, but he always seemed to survive.
Jim Fuller, the lead guitarist, smoked. He mostly found a spot on stage and planted himself there as I recall, but had licks that we other guitarists really admired. I remember one evening they held a "Battle Of The Bands" between The Surfaris and a Latin Rock show style band. The Latin band won that night and I remember seeing Jim offering his congrats to the band after the show ... great player and a real gentleman ... the "Godfather of Surf Guitar".
The last time I saw Ron Wilson play was at a club in Glendale, California called The Ice House. He sported a baret and, as always, a big smile. The band, whose name I do not recall, played a cover of Creamís Sunshine Of Your Love and Ron was great.
The last time, prior to the resurrection of The Surfaris, that I saw Jim Fuller play was at a club in Hollywood called The Sea Witch (somewhat fitting). He was guitarist for a band named US and had given up his Stratocaster for a Guild (I believe) guitar. They did Yardbirds rave ups and the like.
On to The Lively Ones... To say that this band was polished would be a gross understatement. The "word" was they were jazz session players that had taken up the instro surf mantle. I have no idea regarding the truth to that, but it makes for a good story.
Jim Masoner played one hell of a lead guitar ... fantastic tone and style. Speaking of style, during the solo for Rumble Jim would get himself atop a pair of Fender Showman amps and just wail. It was a real crowd pleaser.
Tim Fitspatrick handled the drums and, like Ron Wilson, was called upon to sing ... in this case Ahab The Arab ... which was a current, if not somewhat politically incorrect, tune. To me, Tim is the best surf drummer of them all and is still a monster on the skins.
One of the last times I saw them play here was after the Surfaris' Wipe Out had hit. The crowd kept screaming for them to play Wipe Out, which one member of the band was not real happy about doing. Finally, near the end of the set, they did play it.
Dick Dale... Yep, The King. By this time the little venue was packing them in and was doing well enough to hire Dick Dale for a show. It was the first time I saw him play and it was a life changing moment. With the original Deltones (rhythm guitar, drums, bass and sax) behind him, it was the first time I had ever heard and physically FELT the music. The floors actually pulsated in tempo to the music. Dick was a young guy at the time, but had, and still has, total command of his instrument.
As many know, Dick has been bravely fighting colon cancer and is now cancer free. He's touring with his son's band, Forever Came Calling, opening. Dick has been an inspiration to many players and a good friend to my band, having written a revue of our CD for us.
Meanwhile, back at the Rec Center... My band at that time was called Rip Curl. We played a few dances and a couple of parties, but our "best gig" was for the 7/8 Club. These were small dances held for 7th and 8th grade students in the area.
We got a call one afternoon and were asked to play at the Rec Center, as The Lively Ones were not going to be able to make the gig. We were excited, also scared, as we knew like nine or ten songs at that point. We showed up, me with my Japanese built St. George guitar, a Danelectro reverb unit and a Magnatone (should have kept it) amplifier. We played about five tunes and the promoter told us that The Lively Ones would be playing the rest of the night after all. We played one or two more and left the stage. The audience was kind ... as we knew some of the faces ... so I guess we sort of opened for The Lively Ones back in the day, but I doubt they knew it!
Now and then a different surf band would be booked to play and that makes for my favorite story here...
The band this particular evening consisted of a very young and nervous lead guitarist playing a brand new Olympic White Fender Jaguar, a bass player, a drummer and a young lady on the ... accordian ... yep. As one might imagine, this band started off with a couple of strikes against them. The guitarist was having a very hard time trying to get his new Jag in tune. At last his father came on stage, took the guitar and tuned it for him ... in front of the whole crowd.
This was a pretty jaded audience who were used to seeing some hot bands. The group didnít stand a chance. They barely got into their first tune when the boos and cat calls all but drowned them out. The band gave up and walked off as the promoter came on stage and announced that he would try to get another band ... hopefully The Lively Ones ... to come right down. He could not deliver, so he came back on stage. To a less than happy group he stated that the original band, who got booed off stage, would give it another go and do their best for us.
Now, to any fellow musicians out there, how many of us would have the nerve to come back on stage? But come back they did! First song, Miserlou, and they nailed it to the wall. The guitar player was awesome and totally blew the doors off the place. They finished the song to cheers instead of jeers. I donít recall what else they played that night, but they were a hit.
I donít know what the name of the band was and never saw them play again, but thatís why we play or go to shows. So go to some shows, folks. See some LIVE music and make some memories...