This surf group from Glendora, California are remembered for Wipe Out – the #2 hit from 1963 that ranks as one of the great rock instrumentals, featuring a classic up-and-down guitar riff and a classic solo drum roll break, both of which have been emulated by millions (the number is no exaggeration) of beginning rock & rollers.
The song was written on the spot and recorded in only two takes as a B-side.
Their follow-up single, a track called Point Panic – named after a renowned surfing location in Hawaii – was their only other single to struggle up to the middle of the charts and The Surfaris were soon displaced by the British Invaders.
The Surfaris were not extraordinary, but they were more talented than the typical one-shot surf group.
Drummer Ron Wilson was praised by session stick-man extraordinaire Hal Blaine, and his uninhibited splashing style sounds like a direct ancestor to Keith Moon. He also took the lead vocals on the group’s occasional passable Beach Boy imitations.
Wilson died on 7 May 1989, at the age of 43.
After five albums, The Surfaris broke up in 1966 but have re-formed periodically, often with different lineups led by a single original member, usually Bob Berryhill, Jim Fuller or saxophonist Jim Pash.
Pash served in Vietnam and converted to Christianity after a spell in the LA County psychiatric ward as a result of his drug experimentation.
At the time, Pash claimed he was “communicating by ESP with other beings,” who notified him that they were going to destroy the planet and offered him sanctuary as their ‘specimen’.
He died on 29 April 2005, from congestive heart failure while waiting for a liver transplant.