Click here to see the photo of the Hard Rock Cafe in New Orleans with Bob Berryhill's Jassman/Jansen guitar he played on tour in Australia--1964.
Instrumental surf music was unique during the sixties, developing within the
culture of the sport and attempting to convey the feeling and rhythm of surfing through music. This music was a regional phenomenon known mostly to the west coast of Southern California. ( Dalley, Gold Mine) One group to emerge to international status was the Surfaris from Glendora, CA writers, recording artists and performers of the hit song, Wipe Out.
During the recording session in late 1962, it was suggested that a gimmick sound indicating a wipe out off a surfboard be emulated. The final result was the sound of cracking boards and that crazy laugh for the introduction. The song was written quickly on the spot, because a B side was needed for Surfer Joe. The single was born that night at Pal Studios in Cucamonga, California. The four members recording were Bob Berryhill, Pat Connolly, Jim Fuller, and Ron Wilson.
Wipe Out was initially released on an independent label named DFS. It was picked up by Dot records where it became a million-seller and MCA has licensed it to different labels for distribution, like Varese Sarabande and Rhino. Wipe Out has been covered by artists such as the Ventures, drummer for The Scorpions, plus others, and has been widely used in commercials and movie sound tracks such as Meet the Parents, starring Robert de Niro.
Most Popular Question: Who wrote Wipe Out?
Answer: Bob Berryhill, Pat Connolly, Jim Fuller, Ron Wilson. ALL other claims are bogus, including those that say they helped write the song before the Wipe Out/Surfer Joe recording session in Dec.'62.
(The questions below were compiled from an interview Bob Berryhill gave to journalist/editor, Mary Owen.)
1. How did the band come about?
In the fall of 1962 Jim Fuller called me on the phone and asked if he and Pat Connolly could come over and practice. We played for about 4 hours. Pat said he was attending Pomona Catholic High School and we could play for an after football game dance. I said we need a drummer. Pat said we would meet the drummer at the dance. So I asked my dad to drive us as none of us had a car or drivers license; we were only 15 years old. We met Ron Wilson there and played a 4 hour dance and thus the Surfaris were born.
2. Briefly, what happened from then to the split?
Winter of 1962, Jim Fuller, Pat Connolly, Ron Wilson and I recorded Wipe Out. In '63 Wipe Out went #2 nationally as well as becoming an international hit. Several albums were recorded. Gigs/Tours were played in Japan, Hawaii Australia and the US with artists such as Roy Orbison, The Beach Boys, The Crystals, Bobby Vinton, Eddie Hodges, Righteous Bros., Jay and the Americans, The Turtles, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Ventures and many others. ('64-'65). The British Invasion changed music to focus more on the introspective needs of the "Me Generation."
Surf music was pure energy and Wipe Out was and still is the reason for The Surfaris' existence; without it there would be no Surfaris' story. From the start, our acceptance was amazing, even before we did any recording. We started by playing teen center dances where everybody danced a new step called the surfer stomp. In order to expand our music we added a young saxophonist by the name of Jim Pash. We needed a manager if we were going to get better places to play. We met at Dale Smallen's photo studio and auditioned for him; he agreed to help us.
One night at Smallen's studio, Ronnie came up to me and said he had dream about a new song called Surfer Joe. He sang us the song and we helped him with some of the new verses, worked out the music and an arrangement. On a cold night in January 1963 armed with my learners permit, I packed the gear in my restored '56 ford pickup accompanied by my dad. My uncle brought Ronnie and his drums (Jim Pash was not at the session as his father needed him to work at their family business that night. Later, when his picture was printed on the back of the Wipe Out album with the rest of the band, he sued for damages and to have his picture and name removed, as he did not want any connection with the album).
We met at a place in the California desert called Cucamonga, and recorded Surfer Joe. In those days 45's required a B side so Dale asked us to play another song. We had not written a song before Surfer Joe so I suggested a drum solo type of song with simple guitar breaks. Ronnie started playing the famous Wipe Out solo and in about 10 minutes we had the song together. We needed a gimmick introduction so my Dad broke a plaster soaked board close to the mic and Dale Smallen let out a laugh and screamed wipe out. We gave Dale the master tape and he took it to Hollywood, and by July 1963 it was #2 on the Billboard top 100.
We kept the band's original membership until August 1965 when we toured Japan without Pat Connolly who left the group due to personal problems. By the first of January 1966 much of the music industry was taken over by the British invasion which meant it would be harder to get record air play and the larger live concert venues.
Gene and I decided to get married in August 1966, after a long friendship that began when we were 12 years old, which eventually became a romantic relationship at 17. The Surfaris' recording contract was about to expire so it made sense to disband the group. Jim Fuller went to Hollywood and played with other bands, Ron Wilson and Jim Pash a few months later tried to record some new material but nothing came of it. In the summer of 1973 the band reunited for the First International Surfer Stomp concert in Los Angeles which brought back 20 surf bands from the 60s, including Dick Dale and Jan and Dean.
In 1980, the punk/new wave movement revived Wipe Out, which gave it a new audience. Around 1987, movies and commercials were picking it up, and other artists starting covering Wipe Out, such as the drummer for the Scorpions, and there was The Fat Boys'/Beach Boys' release of a vocal version of the song, which went platinum. Even the Muppets recorded their version.
3. How did it feel having a hit song?
As with most teenage stars you don't really know the magnitude of your acceptance until you see thousands of people greeting you at an airport and following you to your hotel and waiting outside the back entrance after a performance and wanting your autograph. It was pretty overwhelming and sometimes hard to believe that it actually happened.
4. How exactly did Wipe Out come about?
Perhaps musical influences and energy of youth can create a song like Wipe Out. It was a challenge from our manager to come up with a B side for Surfer Joe. We could have simply recorded a song from our performances but something inside us said let's come up with our own music. Ronnie loved Scottish marches and played with our high school Tartan marching band; that came into play coupled with my suggestion of bongo rock type breaks for an arrangement, a drum solo type of song with a simple guitar melody. As was mentioned earlier, Ronnie started playing the famous Wipe Out solo and in about 10 minutes we had the song together. We needed a gimmick introduction so my dad broke a plaster soaked board close to the mic and Dale let out a laugh and screamed, Wipe Out. We gave Dale the master tape and he took it to Hollywood, and by July 1963 it was #2 on the Billboard top 100.
5. How did the split affect the group?
The split caused each member of the band to go in different directions searching for further meaning and purpose for life. I started performing and dealing with the music business as a professional by the age of 15. It may sound funny but at 18 I didn't feel the same about music as I once had, and the other members had similar feelings. This I think brought an end to the surf music side of the Surfaris. We each had other interests at this point and together as a group we didn't feel we could create the same magic in a different style of music, as we were being pressured to do by our management and record companies.
6. Where are the others and what are they doing now?
Jim Fuller has his own group performing as The Surfaris. Pat Connolly is not playing music at this time and lives out of state. Sadly, Jim Pash died in 2005 due to a congestive heart failure and Ron Wilson died in 1989 due to a brain hemorrhage.
7. What have you done recently?
In the last ten years I have been performing nationally and internationally including tours in Europe and the Pacific Rim. Wipe Out has lived for over 40 years now. Due to its popularity in commercials, movies, and nostalgia air play, it has been like having a relative that is always with you in some form or another. Physically, since Ron Wilson the original drummer of the band and Jim Pash the original saxophone player are dead, it is hard to reunite with the authenticity of the original band. However, as my music is still loved to this day, it gives me the energy to play with a feeling of new life for a new generation.