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Wipe Out by The Surfaris

Album: Wipe OutReleased: 1963Charted:
2
5
  • This is a popular instrumental track with a continuous surf rhythm. The only vocal is the occasional phrase "Wipe Out."
  • The Surfaris were a band of teenagers with less than enough pocket money to record their work. The group was actually composed of the following young artists: Jim Fuller (lead guitar), Robert Berryhill (rhythm guitar), Ron Wilson (drums), Jim Pash (saxophone) and Pat Connolly (bass). Pash, however, did not take part in the initial recording. The breakthrough belongs to Wilson, who did such an excellent job on the long drum solos that it became one of the most famous drum solo breaks played and recorded.
    Jim Pash told Dan Forte of Vintage Guitar magazine that "the format of 'Wipe Out' was inspired by Preston Epps' "Bongo Rock," as suggested by Bob Berryhill." In fact, Drummer Ron Wilson was the head drummer in the Charter High School Marching Band at the time and, according to Pash, "the 'Wipe Out' solo is actually a drum cadence they'd use to march the band onto the football field at halftime." Wilson would later set the world record for continuous drum soloing at 104 1/2 hours! He died of a brain aneurysm in 1989.
  • The group gathered money from their parents while scouting for a place to carry out their rehearsals and came across Dale Smallin. Owner of a small studio in Cucamonga, California, Smallin later became the Surfaris' manager. At Samllin's studio, they record a song called "Surfer Joe." When the engineer reminded the group that it takes two songs to make a single, the Surfaris recorded "Wipe Out," which they considered the throwaway B-side - they certainly didn't consider themselves an instrumental band. Smallin pressed 100 copies of the single, which are rare collector's items today and about 10 seconds longer than the commercially released version. He released the song on his DFS record label, and also allowed the Princess label to put out the song. One of the Princess copies made its way to Dot records, a major label which purchased the master tapes, edited off the 10 seconds at the end, and released the single with "Wipe Out" as the A-side and "Surfer Joe" as the flip. In this release, "Wipe Out" became a huge hit and a surf classic. "Surfer Joe" charted at #61 a few months later.
  • After thinking about calling this song "Stiletto" (with the sound of a switchblade knife opening the song), The Surfaris decided to crack a half-broken 2-by-4 over the microphone and call the song "Wipe Out." It was the group's producer/manager Dale Smallin who performed the famous Witch Laugh at the beginning of the song, which he added just for fun, as no one expected the song to be more than just a throwaway B-side.
  • "Wipe Out" charted again in 1966 when it was re-released, this time hitting #16. It was released again in 1970, but didn't chart.
  • The story of The Surfaris is a little sticky, and there's some dispute over who played on their album and who owns the publishing rights. Apparently, "Wipe Out" and "Surfer Joe" are the only songs The Surfaris actually played on the album Wipe Out. The others were performed by another Surf-Rock group called The Challengers. Over the years, The Surfaris occasionally reformed, and even re-recorded "Wipe Out" for a K-Tel album in the '70s. According to The Billboard Book Of One-Hit Wonders, Berryhill and Pash are now both born-again Christians, Fuller became a guitarist for the Punk band The Seeds for a short time, and Pash also invented and manufactured an instrument called The Gitsitar. (Thanks to Kent Kotal at Forgotten Hits for help researching this.)
  • This song makes a great instrumental backdrop and radio stations often use it as a "bed," which can be background music for commercials or provide disc jockeys with a beat to talk over. The song has also been used in a number of movies, including Back To The Beach, Meet The Parents, Runaway Bride and Wayne's World 2.
  • Sha-Na-Na played this at the Woodstock festival in 1969. Notable bands who have covered the song include The Beach Boys, The Ventures and Johnny Thunders. In 1987, the comedy Rap trio The Fat Boys recorded it with The Beach Boys. This version charted in the US at #12.
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Comments: 21

On August 25th 1963, the B-side of "Wipe Out", "Surfer Joe", entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #92; and on September 22nd, 1963 it peaked at #62 {for 1 week} and spent 6 weeks on the Top 100...
The week it peaked at #62, the Beach Boys were at #11 with "Surfer Girl".
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On July 24th 1966, "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris re-entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #88...
Three years earlier in 1963 it peaked at #2 (for 1 week) and spent 16 weeks on the Top 100...
On its second time on the Top 100 in 1966 it would reached #16 and stay on the chart for 14 weeks, for a total of 30 weeks on the Top 100...
In 1963 during its one week at #2, the #1 record for that week was "Fingertips - Part 2" by Little Stevie Wonder.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I heard Merrell Fankhauser tell the true story behind this song, he was a guest of Mr. John B. Wells on Coast To Coast AM on the Saturday May 1, 2013 show. The song was originally recorded by his group in 1962. 2x4 over the microphone??? GET REAL. Whoever believes the crashing sound effect at the opening was "a half-broken 2-by-4 over the microphone", has absolutely ZERO clue about guitar amps: this noise comes from a Fender Tube Reverb effects unit getting smacked, the resultant cacophony caused by its internal springs clanging together is a very familiar sound to anyone from back in the day! A similar effect can be gotten from ANY Hammond-type spring reverb-equipped amp, by molesting the reverb pan with the amp turned on. Merrell Fankhauser is a brilliant "unknown" guitarist as well as an airplane pilot and a UFOlogist. Apologies to above posters who claim first-hand knowledge, I believe Fankhauser - who went on to enjoy a long career and is still producing Surf music (visit his website, this guy is as authentic as they get). ALSO - later in the same broadcast, a caller related a story about a post-show comment made personally by the one ad only King Of The Surf Guitar - Dick Dale (also a pilot, and a friend of Merrell's), that his traditional reverb tone was invented by someone named "Merle" - which happens to be the proper pronunciation of Merrell's name. EVERYONE knows how rampant unethical rip-offs were back in the early days of rock; Surfaris were a studio flash-in-the-pan, and they only "hit" with a copied version of a stolen song, played by studio musicians; they went nowhere after their minute of glory - UNLIKE the real man behind this most famous surf hit! I disagree with any statement about this being the best(?) drum solo ever - it is extremely elementary as well as sickeningly redundant/repetitive. Any beginning/intermediate drumming student can easily play this well-known basic lick. Just wanted to post Merrel's version of history behind one of the most famous Surf songs ever, and grant attribution to the original genius who penned it. -Mark the Shark, Aurora Colorado, USAMarkshark - Denver, Co
Oh my gosh! I am so glad someone else know about the Gitsitar. This was an instrument invented by Jim Pash and Ravi Shankar. I was actually in possession of the prototype of this instrument for several years, as it was stored in the trunk of my car. My ex-brother in law was one of Jim's best friends, and he somehow ended up with the prototype. as far as I know, my ex still has it. After Jim became a born-again Christian, he used the story of "Wipe Out" as part of his witness. According to him, he had been partying heavily the night before the recording session and was too messed up to make it. Without a sax player, the rest of the band had to improvise for the "B" side of the record...so they recorded "Wipe Out", which was never intended to be a "real" sonPam - Saint Louis, Mo
My grandpa broke the wood 2x4 on the original and my grandparents managed the band after the dirty labels showed thier true colors! Why dont you ask Bobby Berryhill or one of the other original members the real stories! My uncle and the surfaries played when I was growing up and they ARE the originators of their most famous songs......Great era.....right?Deb - Glendora, Ca
Perhaps the reason why this recording is attributed to people other than the kids from St Joe (see my other post "I too went...") is that the record companies probably had legal rights to boot the kids out and use studio musicians to do the almum (as others have explained). It WAS recorded by those 8th graders (perhaps Freshmen), the other poster and I were there.Robert - St Joseph, Mo
I too went to Pershing Elementary School and agree with the other poster said (Their opening line is "To set the records straight"). No mater what the internet says (errors copied and reposted), the "band" that did this record was a bunch of 8th graders who were taken by their parents to record the single. All of us knew that they had just sped-up the recording. But that didnt keep us 6th and 7th graders from admireing them. Quite a lession for us too in self promotion and inititive. Back then anybody could cut a record, promote it, and have a chance. They did. (Wonder if they are still getting paid?)
I wish this misinformation about the song and group would disappear.
(And "Hello" to my old classmate from Robert Hoenike)
Robert - St Joseph, Mo
I agree Wipe Out is a terrific instrumental and was played constantly on a jukebox at a small diner I used to frequent. The flip side "Surfer Joe" was the one I preferred and played it whenever I could get near the jukebox. I chucked a coin in for "Blue Bayou" by Roy Orbison and "Surf City" by Jan and Dean also. I believe they were all hits about the same time, late summer of ' 63.Alan - Sault Ste. Marie, On
To set the records straight.

I seen some comments on this song and had to join in to say that I was there when this song was being practiced in my grade school; Pershing Elementary, in Saint Joseph Missouri. I dont quite remeber all the band members, but there was Roger Hogland, Russell Allen, Richard Fobair to name a few that I can recall.

We were in either the sixth or seventh grade when they produced their only record "Wipe Out" and that is the rest of the story

Later

J.D. SNAPP, age 56, Graham, Wa.
John - Saint Joseph , Mo
My stage name back in the 50's was "Steve". I played guitar, sax, keyboard, harmonica with this group for a short period, then with Link Wray and the "Raymen". I recall our days "on the road to promote our records. This was of course, many years ago and I am now in my late 60's, living in Centerville, GA., remembering those years with great artists. I have some photos taken back then which I would share with you. Most of the comments I have read on this site are factual and bring back fond memories. May God bless each of you, as most of our old friends have since passed.Steve - Atlanta, Ga
The Wipeout song was also used in The Hollywood Knights' Movie and an episode of "Crime Story" in the story of "Pauli Tagila's Dreams" where mobster, Pauli Taglia recalls how he and his boss, Ray Luca survived a nuclear blast & broguht to a hospital & how they managed to escape. In the song "Wipeout" Pauli poses as a sloppy, MP with corporal stripes to man a 1960 Ford Panel Truck to put the "stiff" in the panel truck & the stiff was his boss & managed to escape. However the back doors opened & out went Luca & Pauli went for his boss & managed to get recused in a plane while the ending of the "Wipeout" is played. Also there is an updated verison of the song that continues to pay beyond the 2:10 Minute track. Also there is a 5 verse verison of Surfer Joe on CDs also. Marcus Brainard, Columbus, OhioMarcus - Columbus, Oh
It's such a great and enduring piece of music, and endlessly controversial. Over the years the number of people who have claimed to be the musicians on this record would make up a fair-sized symphony orchestra.Mark - Lancaster, Oh
Many years ago I played with this group and Link Wray. It's very flattering to read the comments and see how many fans are still out there. God bless you all.Steve - Atlanta, Ga
A cover version released by an unlikely collaboration of short-lived rap outfit The Fat Boys and rock legends The Beach Boys went to #1 in the UK in 1987Dave - Cardiff, Wales
DOT records was the national distributer of "Wipe Out" & the label quickly wanted to capitolise on it's success,but rather than use the Surfaris they had The Challengers do covers of other intrumental hits.
The only songs that are from the SURFARIS on the "WIPE OUT" LP are the 2 sides of that single.

After the single took off they were quickly brought in to tape an album. It was in the can 12 hrs later.
Merely a week went by before it was out in the record bins.
This was a big surprise.
They were even more surprised realise that aside from "WIPE OUT" & "SURFER JOE" the remainder of the LP was not them!

When they confronted their manager ( The Laugh guy in Wipe Out's intro) he told them the producers had to add a few overdubs and to listen closer.
The more they listened the more they doubted this story. Finally the manager admitted that union musicians had been brought in to do the songs they had recorded.
But as it turned out, the Union musicians (The Challengers) had recorded the album filler even before they did!

Then on finding that they had no legal binding contract from DOT records they went off in a huff to Decca records & this time had their real debut LP, "The Sufaris Play".

Unfortunatly, they were reqired to re -record "Wipe Out" as DOT did have the rights to it!

Ahhh, the wiles of the record bizz!
Steve - Salt Lake City, Ut
The Challengers - NOT the members of the Surfaris - actually played the music on the Surfaris debut album titled "Surfaris?"

Also, Merrell Fankhauser, the guitarist for a group called The Impacts claims "wipeout" was ripped off from a song of the same name that HE wrote.
Jay - Long Island, Ny
This song is also played when Benny the Jet is being chased by the "beast" in the movie "The Sandlot".Vic - Wheeling, Il
Frank Zappa didn't record the Sufaris doing Wipe Out. He recorded another surf group, the Tornadoes. There are a couple of places online where this is given incorrectly, but most sources correctly identify the Tornadoes as the band he recorded in his early studio.
By the way, Morton Downey, Jr., contrary to what his website says, did not write "Wipe Out," or "Pipeline."
Alan - Chesterfield, Mi
Wipe Out is the best drum solo in Rock history!
I head the "Godfather of Surf Music" Jim Fuller lead guitar of the Surfaris play it a week ago. I was looking at the Kahuna of SURF MUSIC! He be the coolest!!
Linda - Malibu, Ca
"Wipe Out" has to be one of the greatest songs ever "invented" by mankind. I was born & raised in Gary, Indiana. In my early years, I learned to surf on the coastline of Texas, right on the Gulf of Mexico. This crazy surf song helped join two worlds together. Gary and Galveston- two completely different places, cultures, atmospheres, etc. This song evokes some of the deepest primal feelings that us humans have stored inside us. No matter who we are, where we live, what we do for a living, etc., that driving tom-tom drumbeat we hear in "Wipe out" stirs up feral emotions in us all!!Big Mike - Merrillville, In
Considered one of the best musical openings to a film. The music is played in the film "The Wanderers" as the gang are chased down alleyways by the rival gang the 'Baldies'. The music seems to blend perfectly with the fugitives and their antagonists in pursuit.Jed - Somerset. Uk, England