DO MOST YOUNG PEOPLE know what “surf music” is? That’s REAL surf music, the kind played by a guitar-and-rhythm-section-and-no-singer group! Many people—including non-record collecting older folk—think of the Beach Boys’ early harmonies when they hear the term “surf music,” but that was never considered surf music by surfer guys and gals (dudes and bunnies?). 1
Instrumental surf music was dominated by a heavily reverbed Fender guitar supported by a prominent bass line, one of the few pop music genres that placed emphasis on what was often just a part of the rhythm section.
By the ’70s, many people didn’t take surf music seriously, including the record reviewers for the Rolling Stone Album Guide.
This music had its fifteen minutes of fame in the early 1960s, and then was gone from the radio waves, seemingly forever.
For most of us back then, this music was heard in the handful of 45s that found their way onto the charts—and there weren’t many!
Such hits as the Chantays’ haunting (and now immortal) Pipeline, the Surfaris’ irresistible Wipe Out, and Dick Dale & The Del-Tones’ Let’s Go Trippin’ (the record that started it all) and Misirlou are what surf music was all about. 2
Then there were the countless local bands that played all summer long, even if they were confined to the dance halls and radio stations of the California coast. And there were the records—usually singles on small labels with small press runs that few heard outside of the musicians’ family and friends.
Records that will never be played on any oldies station.
Records that only collectors know about today.
Dick Dale and his Fender Stratocaster making their presence known in the 1963 American International Pictures movie Beach Party. Released during the Summer of ’63, it was the first of many silly “beach movies” made in the mid-’60s and starred Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.
Blast from the past
In 1979, in sunny, funny Azusa, California, record collector Bob Dalley got the idea of putting together a rock & roll band. After all, what could a poor boy do? But Bob wasn’t interested in being just another street fighting man: he wanted to find a bunch of guys who wanted to play . . . instrumental surf music!
But by the ’70s, surf music was at best a novelty-like blast from the past—a music that many people didn’t even take seriously. This included most of the record reviewers for the taste-making Rolling Stone and other ‘hip’ magazines, many of whom misinterpreted a statement by the hippest, coolest spade in the world! 3
Bob Dalley wanted to bring back some of the infectious joy of those relatively young and innocent days.
Dalley wanted to bring back some of the infectious joy of those relatively young and innocent days, so he began his quest to form a genuine instrumental surf band.
Fellow record collector Neal Kuzee introduced him to John Blair’s book The Illustrated Discography Of Surf Music (1978), a treasure-trove for surf aficionados.
This book further fueled Bob’s ambitions: he bought a vintage Fender Stratocaster with a reverb unit (just like Dick Dale!) and a Fender Dual Showmen amplifier (just like Dick Dale!).
The Surf Raiders n June 1981: Larry Moore (sax), Neal Kuzee (rhythm guitar), Loyd Davis (bass), Dave Rodriguez (drums), and Bob Dalley (lead guitar).
Help Wanted to form surf band
In January 1980, Dalley placed an ad in a weekly paper looking for local like-minded musicians. Bass player and guitarist Loyd Davis and guitar player Steve Tanner were the first to respond. One guy called and asked if he had to have blonde hair and blue eyes to be in the band! Bob invited him to practice and Dave Rodriguez became the drummer.
By April, the musicians were practicing in Bob’s garage. As everyone had some experience playing with a group, they were quickly knocking out classic tunes such as Baja, Pipeline, and Wipe Out.
A few names were tossed around, including Surf Riders and Curl Riders before they settled on Surf Raiders. But after only a few gigs, Tanner left. The Surf Raiders needed another guitar.
And then Bob remembered that Neal Kuzee played guitar—and Neal loved surf music! In December, the new group débuted at punk emporium Madame Wong’s West. Shortly after, Larry Moore joined the group as the first sax player.
The die-cut picture disc of Erika/Azra SH-01, The Surf Raider, was done in different color vinyl. On a few, Dalley colored the image by hand. This one is on black vinyl with character hand-colored. Note that the blonde surfer dude owes a nod to Rick Griffin’s Murph the Surf cartoons of the early ’60s. This image has become an unofficial mascot for the Surf Raiders. 4
Revival of surfin’ USA
The Surf Raiders’ live performances were the heart of what they did, and the audiences at their gigs were full of screaming and dancing kids who had never heard instrumental surf music. Still, the guys talked about making records.
The first Surf Raiders record—a 45 rpm single, naturally—came from a recording session held in Neal’s front room: the A-side was The Curl Rider, an original tune penned by Dalley; the flip-side was Let There Be Surf, originally recorded by the Chevells in 1963.
Around the same time that the single was released on Dalley’s own Surf Wax Records in early 1981, live versions of the two songs were also released on Surfin’ 81.” This was an extended-play album (EP) released on Moxie Records and featured six songs recorded live at the Ice House. And both records were getting airplay on the local radio stations.
The records also came to the attention of collectors and enthusiasts outside the US., including several glowing articles in the Australian magazine California Music.
So naturally plans for an album were started.
This copy of the picture sleeve for Surf Wax 104, Gum Dipper Slicks / Squad Car, was signed by rhythm guitar player Neal Kuzee. Notice that the artwork again emulates Rick Griffin’s Murph the Surf of the early ’60s.4
Raiders of the lost surf
In June of ’81, Moore left and Emmett O’Sullivan was recruited as the new saxophonist. In August, the Raiders laid down fourteen tracks at The Garage, a recording studio in West Covina run by Pat Woertink. The songs were a mix of oldies and group originals.
After the session, Gum Dipped Slicks and Let There Be Surf were rerecorded in Bob’s garage while Scratch was recorded live at Knott’s Berry Farm. These recordings became the basis for the group’s first album.
In late 1981, the group released three new singles from these sessions: Point Conception ’63 / Crash (Surf Wax 102), Unknown / Point Conception (Surf Wax 103), and Gum Dipped Slicks / Squad Car (Surf Wax 104).
The Raiders shopped their album around to several companies that had the record collector’s market in their sights, including Rhino and Bomp. But as both companies had their own surf groups (Jon & The Nightriders and The Wedge, respectively), the Surf Raiders released their album on their own Surf Wax Records.
In February 1982, RAIDERS OF THE LOST SURF was released, the title was a very clever homage to Steven Spielberg’ Raiders Of The Lost Ark, the biggest hit movie of 1981. Having an album really established the group: they found themselves working every weekend at places as diverse as Knott’s Berry Farm and the Whisky-A-Go-Go!
In March, the Surf Raiders recorded their second album, SURF BOUND. Two songs from that album’s sessions (Shortin’ Bread and Steel Pier) were not used but turned up later on Bobbette Records as a single.
Changes in the group’s personnel continued: O’Sullivan left and was replaced by Linda Dalley, who played the sax parts on keyboards. Kuzee left and Tom Moncrieff became the new rhythm guitarist. He had played with both Stevie Nicks and Walter Egan’s bands and was recently a member of the Malibooz.
First pressings of Surf Wax SW-1001, RAIDERS OF THE LOST SURF, were pressed on marbleized-blue vinyl for a ‘surf-colored’ record! This is probably the most sought-after Surf Raiders record and can easily sell for more than $100 in NM condition. Later pressings on translucent blue and black vinyl are worth considerably less.
Girls on the beach are still within reach
In April 1984, the Surf Raiders released their last album, ON THE BEACH, which included vocals for the first time, with Bob and Linda singing on several tracks. As Moncrieff was unable to make the session, the Davie Allan supplied rhythm guitar and added some vocals.
The sax parts were played by 19-year-old Brian Thompson. He had sent a demo tape of his surf band the Sound Waves to Dalley, which led to an invitation to play on the album. He also made a few gigs as a Surf Raider before moving on.
While they cut no more records, the Surf Raiders continued performing live as a 5-piece ensemble, with original members Bob Dalley, Loyd Davis, and Dave Rodriguez along with Linda Dalley and Tom Moncrieff.
In February 1988, Loyd’s job required him to move to Texas. As Bob really didn’t want to start over with another bass player, he instead dissolved the Surf Raiders.
If you want an affordable introduction to the wet world of the Surf Raiders, find a copy of the compact disc SURFIN’ FEVER. It contains twenty-five tracks from the vaults of the Surf Raiders.
The Surf Raiders then
The original group on the first Surf Raiders records was a quartet: Bob Dalley, Steve Tanner, Loyd Davis, and Dave Rodriguez. There were six other members of the band that played on records or in live performances. Here is a breakdown of the group’s personnel with their primary instrument and the years in which they participated:
Bob Dalley, lead guitar 1979 1988
Steve Tanner, rhythm guitar 1979 1981
Loyd Davis, bass guitar 1979 1988
Dave Rodriguez, drums 1979 1988
Larry Moore, saxophone 1980 1981
Neal Kuzee, rhythm guitar 1981 1983
Linda Dalley, keyboards 1981 1988
Emmett O’Sullivan, saxophone 1981 1983
Tom Moncrieff, rhythm guitar 1983 1988
Brian Thompson, saxophone 1984 1985
The musicians were not confined to their primary role: the rhythm guitarists often took leads and one even honked on sax occasionally.
“Between 1980 and 1988, we played a lot of places, almost too many to count. We played up and down the coast of Southern California—Malibu, The Country Club, The Whisky-A-Go-Go, Knott’s Berry Farm, Madame Wong’s East and West, The 321 Club.
We played on the same bill with the Surfaris a few times, as well as Jon & The Nightriders and Dick Dale. In the end, it was mostly parties, which were great! The band ended in 1988 when I decided to devote my time to complete Surfin’ Guitars.” (adapted from MusicDish)
“Since I heard Pipeline on the radio for the first time, I knew that instrumental surf music was going to be in my life forever. I am glad to have played a small part in the revival of the music and the documentation of the bands that played it. I hope others follow and keep the guitars wet with reverb and the music alive forever.” (adapted from MusicDish)
The Surf Raiders now
Dalley has kept in touch with or tracked down several former Raiders. Here is an update on a few of them:
Bob Dalley published a Surfin’ Guitars in October 1988, a book on instrumental surf groups of the early ’60s. In 1989, he and Linda moved to Salt Lake City. Due to a pair of carpal-tunnel operations, Bob had to take time off from playing. So instead he started the Salt Lake City Surf Music Appreciation Society, published their monthly newsletter Surf Music USA, and even had a show devoted to surf music on public radio in Utah!
For several years, Bob had a regular monthly column in Goldmine magazine. He has helped put together numerous compilations, many of which feature the Surf Raiders. Bob was also a consultant on many projects over the years, including the COWABUNGA! boxed set for Rhino.
Linda Dalley now has the time to pursue her hobby of hanging wall quilts and teaching piano.
Loyd Davis moved back to LA in 1989 and formed the Sultans of Surf with Dave Rodriguez and Neal Kuzee.
Neal Kuzee retired from his high school teaching position and occasionally performs with the Sultans of Surf.
Dave Rodriguez kept busy for a while playing with the Sultans of Surf, the Hillbilly Soul Surfers, and a variety of other groups. Alas, his current whereabouts unknown.
Anybody knowing the whereabouts of the other former members, please send the info to me via the Comments section at the bottom of this page.
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is of Florida-based power surfer Peter Mendia. “Peter is one of the surf industry’s most beloved goofy-footers known for his show stopping cutbacks, for packing massive barrels and for putting it on rail like none other. He is the perfect combination of high performance and lifestyle surfing, marrying athleticism with fun.” (Surfer)
Finally, This article is a rewrite of an autobiographical piece written by Bob Dalley and used elsewhere by him for promotional purposes. I don’t intend this to be definitive; it’s complementary to the article on Bob’s book Surfin’ Guitars and the Surf Raiders’ discography and price guide. Be the first on your block to read the complete “Lord of the Surf” trilogy here on Rather Rare Records!
1 A better question is probably, “Do most young people give a damn about any music older than six months?” Hell’s Belles, an even better question is, “Do most young people give a damn about anything older than six months?”
2 Even the Beach Boys cut instrumental surf tunes for their first two albums, including rude versions of Capitol Records label-mate Dick Dale’s Misirlou and Let’s Go Trippin’ (the latter referring to physical trips that kids took to The Rendezvous to hear Dale, not trips on the astral-plane).
3 It was long believed that Jimi Hendrix cackled over the demise of surf music in the song Third Stone From The Sun, where he is heard to say, “And you’ll never hear surf music again.” Released on his first album ARE YOU EXPERIENCED in 1967, the song is an experimental instrumental with a brief spoken part that represent the perspective of an invading alien with superior technology.
After communicating with his superiors regarding his position in time and space, he ruminates about the life on the planet beneath him, which is the third planet from the sun:
Strange, beautiful, grass of green,
with your majestic silken seas,
your mysterious mountains I wish to see closer.
May I land my kinky machine?
Although your world wonders me,
with your majestic and superior cackling hen,
your people I do not understand.
So to you I wish to put an end
and you’ll never hear surf music again.
That is, the alien appears to have decided to exterminate humanity, thus depriving us of all pleasures, including listening to surf music.
4 Rick Griffin’s surfing art of the early ’60s was popular around the world due his ubiquitous surfer dude Murph the Surf being the mascot of The Surfer magazine, “The International Surfing magazine.” Below is the cover of the August/September 1962 issue with Murph in all his splay-toed glory!