Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 30

 Sand Surfing

The arrival in 1957 of itinerant blues guitarist, Long John Hunter (who set up shop at the Lobby Club across the river in Juarez) helped to kick things off. Much like Al Hurricane in Albuquerque, Hunter was grounded in another genre, yet still played a part in helping rock & roll gain a toehold. His single “El Paso Rock” released on Calvin Boles' Yucca Records in 1961 helped spark El Paso's pre-Beatles infatuation with instrumental rock. Countless El Paso musicians made nightly treks across the border to the Lobby No. 2 Cafe and Night Club to watch Long John lay down some rattlesnake moan. A disciple of the East Texas blues guitar tradition, Hunter would often allow young musicians who could work up the nerve, to take the stage with him (including a very young and nervous Bobby Fuller)

Then in 1963 a funny thing happened... El Paso went bonkers for surf music. No easy way to explain this. The Gulf of Mexico is 700 plus miles away (though the closest beach to El Paso is actually Puerto Peñasco in Mexico...about 500 miles) Almost overnight, every band worth a lick in El Chuco, started playing like Dick Dale and The Deltones. A period well documented by Norton Records' compilation series “El Paso Rocks” Having tossed aside his aspirations towards emulating Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. Bobby Fuller planted himself firmly at the forefront of this curious turn towards instrumental surf music in the desert. “The Bobby Fuller Instrumental Album” compiled by Rockhouse Records (a label based in the Netherlands) adds further credence to this strange turn of events.

I realize that historically, El Paso has ties to Cali, specifically Los Angeles. But this is fucking nuts. If not for the British Invasion, who knows how far this “sand surfing” craze may have gone. One thing for certain, this odd mix of borderland bands produced instrumental surf music roughly the equal of what was streaming out of SoCal at the time. Bobby Fuller's “Thunder Reef” “Our Favorite Martian” “Wolfman” and “Stringer” The Pawns “South Bay” The Sherwoods “Tickler” The Impostors' Surfaris spoof “Wipe In” Four Dimensions “Sand Surfin” The Four Frogs “Mr. Big” The Chandelles “El Gato” The dichotomy of “surf in the desert” was resurrected in 1978, when for some strange reason “Big Wednesday” John Milius' coming of age surf movie filmed several scenes in El Paso.

El Paso Rocks- Long John Hunter
Sand Surfin'- Four Dimensions
Stringer- Bobby Fuller
Bogus- Scavengers
Surf Beat 65- The Beach Nuts
Surfer's Paradise- Counts
Wolfman- Bobby Fuller
Mr. Big- Four Frogs
Dance to the Palisades- Frank Gonzales & the Palisades
Vaquero- The Fireballs
Canutillo Stomp- The Embers
King of the Beach- Bobby Fuller
The Last Ride- The Beach Nuts
Moonbeam- The Knights
Rik-A-Tik – The Fireballs
El Gato- The Chandelles
Sky Diver- Steve Cooper & The Avantis
I'm Going Surfin'- The Embers
Our Favorite Martian- Bobby Fuller
South Bay- The Pawns
Tickler- The Sherwoods
Sweet Surfin' Little Girl- Frank Gonzales & the Palisades
Wipe In- The Impostors
Thunder Reef- Bobby Fuller
Jetster- The Chandelles
Podunk- The Sherwoods
The Chase- Bobby Fuller
Torquay- The Fireballs
Lonely by the Sea- The Knights
Lonely Sea/Lolita- Bobby Fuller