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Rip Chords, The

Phil Stewart and Ernie Bringas met while they were students at Inglewood High School in Los Angeles and struck up a friendship based on their musical talents and love of singing.

They came to the attention of Arwin Records and Daywin Music (both owned by Doris Day and her husband, film producer Marty Melcher) in 1962. Day’s son, Terry Melcher (an A&R man at Columbia Records) signed the pair to a recording contract at Columbia.

The duo was backed on their recordings by “the Wrecking Crew” – a group of prominent studio musicians including guitarist Glen Campbell, drummer Hal Blaine, and bassist Ray Pohlman.

Melcher produced their early singles – Here I Stand and Gone – and even stepped in as a vocalist while Ernie Bringas went away to study Divinity at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He and Phil Stewart were joined on vocals by his friend Bruce Johnston (a future member of The Beach Boys) for the next single, Hey Little Cobra.

The song peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1964 and when Bringas returned to Hollywood, Melcher and Johnston remained as “studio-only” members of The Rip Chords.

With Bringas still studying for his Master of Divinity degree, young singers Rich Rotkin and Arnie Marcus were brought in to tour with Stewart as The Rip Chords until the group disbanded in 1965.

And so The Rip Chords as a touring group comprised Phil Stewart, Rotkin and Marcus (although the latter were never involved in recording), and in the studio comprised Stewart, Bringas (when he was available), Melcher and Johnston. The “touring” version of the group performed in the 1965 film, A Swingin’ Summer, with Raquel Welch.


The Rip Chords’ first album was Hey Little Cobra and other Hot Rod Hits (1964) featuring contributions from Stewart, Bringas, Melcher, and Johnston with instrumental backing from the Wrecking Crew. The LP peaked at #56 on the US charts.

The album Three Window Coupe was released three weeks after the single of the same name. The Rip Chords’ last significant release was the single One Piece Topless Bathing Suit (June 1964) but it failed to generate major activity.

In February 1965 a final single – Don’t Be Scared – failed to chart nationally. The group disbanded shortly after.

Erstwhile touring members Rotkin and Marcus revived the group during the mid-1990s with new members (but without any of the original personnel).

Phil Stewart
Vocals (studio & touring)
Ernie Bringas
Vocals (studio only)
Terry Melcher
Vocals (studio only)
Bruce Johnston
Vocals (studio only)
Arnie Marcus
Vocals (touring only)
Rich Rotkin
Vocals (touring only)