Surfs Up

Woodie on the Wharf

Photo of what a woodie may have looker like in the 1950's & 60's


In September 1961 Life magazine commented

Surfing has become an established craze in California. There are some 30,000 teenagers who revel in the delights of mounting their boards on waves hundreds of feet out and riding them in.

If you are not a surfer, explained one high school boy, you’re not in, but if you’re a good surfer, you’re always in. All you you’ve got to do is walk up and down the beach with a board, and you’ve got girls


            This new group of mostly teenage males slowly began to develop their own culture. The adopted their own language and dress, across the nation at high schools everywhere, bleach blonde surfers wore Pendleton shirts, sandals, white, tight and somewhat short levis] and baggies. Once school was out the teens would hope into their Woodies (oversized station wagons with wooden sides) and drove to the beach. The boys would make a made dash toward the ocean with their polys, and sticks (surfboards) and plunged into the soup (foaming water near the beach).Regardless of fun surfers of the serious type they both had issues with the poorly skilled and referred to them as “gremlins of kooks”. Upon returning home these boys would read surf magazines or watch a new genre of film popping up. These films became extremely commercialized and starred teen idols such as Sandra Dee, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.  Bands and music acts such as The Beach Boys and Dick Dale and the Deltones, pioneered this new sound that soon swept across the country. 


Beach Boys

Early photoof the Beach Boys circa 1960

The Beach Boys

These photos showcase the longevity in pop cutlture that Surf Music has maintained into the 21st cetntury. The Beach Boys orginating in the late 1950's early 1960's were one of the first California based rock bands to adopt the new style of guitar rifts. tkaen for the melodic stylings of Polynesian rythms and motown/dowop style vocals. This new rock music quickly took over the surf and beach party scene.


Beach Boys and Hot Rods

Video performance of Little Duece Coupe

Surf Rock

evolves into Hot Rod Rock

Much like the surf culture evolved, the music scene also transformed moviing further into the sixties. The idea of independence and social status brought about by the surf board, quickly changes. The idea of inclusion and sense of beloning takes hold of GI's. Masculinity also plays a big role. Auto Clubs and Motorcycle clubs begin to pop up as a way for GI's to fel a sense of belonging and have others around who have had the same experience as them. In order to to adapt to this change, Surf Rock icons begin to shift their lyrics to fit with the changing of intrest. Thus Hot Rod Music is born 

The King of Surf Rock

Surfers truly had their own unique style that differed from the rest of the nation. From clothing to slang, this culture was vastly different from anything America had every seen. One of the first performers to become associated with the surfing subculture was Dick Dale.  Born in Beirut under the name (Rick Monsour) Dale was brought to California at a young age and grew up on the southern coastline. Much like all the other teens of this era, Dale too would be drawn in and joined the masses of other young beach going California youth. Dale was also a huge guitar enthusiast as well. Dale knew that this new type of music had to have a sound that would separate it from the other mainstream music out there. Folk music was dying and the youth needed a new style to latch onto. Something that would mesh with the new found image and style of the surf scene. Unfortunately an instrument to give such a sound had not been made yet. Dale began working closely with Leo Fender (the manufacturer of the first mass-produced, solid body, electric guitar and the eventual owner and president of the famed Fender Guitar Company) to improve the Showman amplifier system and to develop a reverberation unit that would give surf music its distinctly fuzzy sound. Dale would take his two loves guitar and surfing to create a style so distinct that nothing similar has ever been done. Dale has been quoted in regards to what he felt about his development of this new Surf sound.

“There was a tremendous amount of power I felt while surfing

and that feeling of power was simply transferred into my

guitar while I was playing surf music, the style of music

I developed, to me at the time was the feeling I got when I was out

there on the waves. It was that good rambling feeling I got when I was

locked in a tube with the whitewater caving in over my head.

I was trying to project the power of the ocean to the people.

I couldn’t get the feeling by signing, so the music

took instrumental form”.


Enjoying regional popularity due to his live performances and early recordings, Dale released and album in 1962 called surfers choice, but it failed to make any national impact. Dale would eventually gain accolades for his melodic style as being named one of Rolling Stones magazines hundred greatest guitar player of the 20th century. Dale also saw resurgence in popularity with the release of the 1994 box office smash Pulp Fiction. Dale’s song Miserlou would be featured on the films soundtrack, this song soon took on the persona of the films theme and Dale was thrust into national popularity for the first time.


The First Duo of Surf Rock

Enjoying more success the Dale were Jan and Dean. Jan Berry, Dean Torrence and Arnie Ginsberg had formed their band in high school and had early success with Jennie Lee, which made it all the way to number eight on the billboard charts of 1958. Early songs would be released under the name Jan and Arnie, however they would soon change to the more recognized Jan and Dean. Jan and Dean had further success with songs including Baby Talk and Heart and Soul. It wasn’t until Jan and Dean took a song written by fellow Surf Rocker Brian Wilson that there popularity would peak. Surf City became the duos only #1 but they followed that up with fifteen top forty songs, Jan and Dean’s music career ended when Jan was nearly killed in an automobile wreck in 1966.



Surfs Up