hill of beans

Santa Cruz is known as Surf City. You'd think it was a haven for surf music, but it has never been. There is little awareness among musicians, and even less among the clubs and the general population. Still, there have been some bright moments.

In the late seventies, Santa Cruz Dojo operator and guitarist Douglas Eaton aka Soave Loco formed the Surf Pistols, blending the edge and style of the Sex Pistols with Surf instrumentals with his love for surfing. After the first wave of UK punk bands faded, the Surf Pistols dissolved.

In the mid eighties, Soave formed a new unit called the Thrusters, adding a keyboard player and sax player to drums and his highly charged guitar & stylized vocals. They were an awesome band to behold. Soave's approach was a bit like Jimi Hendrix meets Dick Dale and the Sex Pistols at Pleasure Point... high energy, melodic, and highly original music. About half instrumental, they mixed surf classics like "The Wedge" and "Church Key" with Soave's originals like "The Landing," plus his powerful vocal numbers like "Soul Surf Stomp," "Sunshine Rider," and "Beirut Surf."

Towards the end of the band's existence, his keyboard player was Roger Rush, a veteran of many a Midwest band and stage sound genius at the Catalyst. Roger added to the huge commanding sound of the Thrusters with smoothing fills and effects. They recorded a handful of tracks, including "Bombora" and "The Landing" (named after local surf spot and fishing port Moss Landing). "The Landing" appeared on the third volume of the acclaimed What? Records / Iloki Records series "What Surf."

When the end came for the Thrusters, Roger landed a gig as rhythm guitarist with San Jose surf monsters the Shockwaves, recording "Surfin' Louie" with them which was issued on Rhino's "The Best of Louie Louie Volume 2." The Shockwaves were the first San Jose band, almost the first Bay Area band to take on the surf mantle in the eighties. They were the caldron from which emerged the Mallards and others. It was not long after Roger joined that the Shockwaves fractured and Roger was on his own again.

He set about forming his own band with John Anderson (ex-Baymen, Eddie & the Showmen, the Humans, Ed Hatch, Ed) as a strictly instrumental outfit. They would merge surf traditional music with John's post-surf Humans guitar sounds, and new originals. For a number of years, they were the only working surfband in Santa Cruz, and were quite good. I recorded numerous live sets with them, resulting in many hours of great material. John's intense energy and his creativity were a good match for Roger's precision on rhythm, Sam Bam's machine-like drumming, and Keith's precise bass lines. They would be called the Neon Spores.

When the end came for the Spores, Roger went back to doing sound, both as an independent and an employee at the Catalyst. As with the thousands that had gone before, years of sluggin' it out in the garage and in clubs hadn't amounted to a hill of beans. Roger would change all that, but quite unexpectedly.

One of his favorite hangouts, Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company, was running a series of ads in the local press which included some answers to commonly asked questions about his near-favorite brew coffee. Roger, being almost as adept at operating scissors as he is with his other chosen instruments, carefully snipped out the ads and kept them in a coffee can (of course). The ad series ended with a contest of six questions, requiring answers included in the prior ads. Roger was the first one on his block (or the world, for that matter) to submit his answers. That got him into the drawing. When the mighty mitt of fate dipped into the jar and pulled out the winner, it was Roger's name that was scrawled on the entry slip. Roger had won himself a pound of his favorite blend every week for a year. He was a happy man, satisfied that he was the one that had finally proven a surf guitarist COULD amount to a hill of beans!