Gnarly Reverb Swirl:

Phil Who?
About Phil Dirt

(originally written by
Ann Arbor QOP, EME & GMTB , for the Eclectic Ear,a publication of the
Coalition For Eclectic Radio)

The license plate reads "REVERB"

woodie You've undoubtedly seen him. He drives a black 1940 Ford Woody with a vintage long board sticking out of the back window and a '62 Fender Outboard Reverb stowed beside it. The license plate reads "REVERB." license plate He lives up in the Santa Cruz mountains on a dirt road within eye shot of the curl. He's 25 going on 50 with a big gray mustache and proxy locks. He's usually seen in a blue and black Pendleton over vintage Jansen yellow and white baggies, and huarache sandals with radial treads for soles. He's ridden Waimea, K38, Mavericks, The Hook, and Ocean Beach when it's ugly. Even if you've never seen him, on Saturday nights you can hear him on Surf's Up! from 7-10PM on KFJC 89.7FM - Phil Dirt.

Gnarly reverb swirl...

Surf's Up! is the longest running instrumental surf show in the world, and has been the catalyst for the Bay Area surf music scene. Surf's Up! is more than just surf music. Phil Dirt provides color with facts and rumors about the artists. pipline He doesn't just play "Pipeline" and "Wipe Out." Surf's Up is not the Ventures and the Beach Boys. It is REAL surf music--no vocals. It is filled with obscuros and unreleased gems, live performances, new releases, and special remixes. It is Surf Beat from all over the world, both historic and leading edge.

Surf beat's first heyday from 1961-'65 produced some 1200 singles by thousands of bands. These historic singles plus the work of more than 100 bands currently playing and recording surf music around the world provide the foundation for Surf's Up. Add to this foundation music from the numerous live radio concerts Phil produces, and you have an explosive gnarly reverb swirl of totally tubular radio.

...No Johnny come lately..

In high school, Phil spent his post-homework evenings listening to radio from all over North America: KFWB Los Angeles, KRLA Pasadena, KHJ Los Angeles, KOL Seattle, KJR Seattle, KSTN Stockton, KMEN San Bernardino, KAFY Bakersfield, KMAK Fresno, WLS Chicago, CJOC Lethbridge (Alberta, Canada), XERB Mexico (Wolfman Jack), WBKW Buffalo.

Phil first discovered Surf Beat on KFWB 980AM Los Angeles in 1961. He'd been a collector of instrumental guitar rock for a number of years (Link Wray, Johnny & The Hurricanes, Duane Eddy, et. al.), as well as an afficianado of regional radio markets. Surf Beat snuck into his consciousness quietly when he first heard the Belairs' "Mr. Moto" and Dick Dale & The Del-tones' "Let's Go Trippin'" on KFWB. Quickly, the fire spread, and by 1962, Dick Dale had the top five sown up on KFWB with "Miserlou," "Mr. Peppermint Man" coupled with "Surf Beat," "Let's Go Trippin'" and "Shake 'n' Stomp." KRLA's Reb Foster (Mr. Rebel) did a special on the scene in '62 featuring the Belairs, richie allen Richie Allen & The Pacific Surfers, Dick Dale, the Challengers, Eddie and the Showmen, and others, playing both singles and album tracks.

...summarily thrown out..

Phil joined KFJC in the Fall of 1964. By 1966, Phil and his cohorts cajoled the radically conservative station management to allow rock on Saturdays. The first song aired was the Sonics' "Louie Louie," followed by Dick Dale's "Surfin' Drums." Summarily thrown out of the station for shouting back when it became too much for the television-on-radio crowd in charge, his radio career was interrupted until punk/new wave brought him back in 1980.

Waves, a personal view of the evolution of rock - not the hits but the catalytic recordings...

In the early eighties, Phil rejoined KFJC with the sole intention of producing a perspective piece on the evolution of rock. The idea was to expose the evolution of the various rock genres through the music which was at the leading edge of the changes - not the hits, but the catalytic recordings. This seed came to full bloom as Waves, a series of 132 half hour episodes aired twice weekly on KFJC and KALX. Phil researched, wrote, and produced the series, which employed "voice extraordinare" Alan Dale.

Surf - the first punk movement

Waves provided a vehicle for Phil to explain his view of the evolution of rock genres. One of his key theories is that instrumental surf music was the first of three punk movements in music since the 1960s. He points out that, while most of the genres he studied developed in counter cultures or garages, the bands and the music quickly got absorbed into the mainstream and controlled by the major labels. As rock was dying at the hands of the Brill Building Swill Popsters and the Hollywood and New York hit factory system in the '60s, there was an innocent take-it-back movement beginning in the garages and living rooms of Southern California.

Unlike the long tradition of instrumentals in Minneapolis, Portland, and Seattle, the guitar had been largely ignored in other regions. Organ, piano, and sax dominated the few and far between instro hits. Phil points to two separate developments, which, in his view, catalyzed a new (guitar-oriented) sound: new ways of playing the guitar, and new guitar technology. The first, most obvious, development was the simultaneous and unconnected evolution of two very different guitar instrumental styles: paul johnson Paul Johnson and Eddie Bertrand's delicate lead/rhythm interplay with the Belairs, and Dick Dale's staccato double picked onslaught with the Del-tones. Both were heavily melodic, and both were adopted by the new surf culture. The other development was technological. Two new pieces of gear: Leo Fender's Showman amplifier, and the defining first outboard effect, the Outboard Reverb helped to create the characteristic sounds of instrumental surf. All of this came together in the archetypal surf instro "Pipeline" by the Chantays in '62.

Most of the great tracks from the golden years of Surf Beat were recorded by bands of teenagers. The people (kids in this case) had taken the music back. Band names were mostly innocent period handles like Dave & The Customs, the Pyramids, the Goldtones, the Blue Boys, the Lively Ones, and Dave Myers & the Surftones.

Phil is quick to point out that, as always with rock n roll, the themes of sex and social deviance were prevalent. Songs like the Blazers' "Beaver Patrol" were actually banned from their local airwaves due to their "indecent" titles. And of course, there were the ominous songs in the tradition of "Rumble" like "Rumble On The Docks" and "Ray Bay" that simply oozed evil.

The bands often couldn't play in clubs (because they were under age) and weren't signed by labels. They rented halls and released their own records to sell at shows (dances). All of this was to be repeated in 1976 with the coming of the DIY (Do It Yourself) punk bands. To Phil, the surf bands of the '60s were the first punks, the garage/psych/punk bands that followed the second wave, and the '76 punks the third wave.

Phil laments Surf Beat's fall from grace in the mid to late '60s. Without the British invasion in 1963, Surf Beat's popularity would have carried on a bit longer. Some of the bands stayed with surf into '67, but most were gone by the end of '65. Some just changed their name and style, like Dave Myers & the Surftones became Dave Myers & the Disciples then the Dave Myers Effect, and Arthur Lee & The L.A.G.s (L. A. Group) became Love.

The Rolling Stones Opened for The Trashmen

Phil revels in the trivia of the surf genre. He delights in reporting that most of the surf bands who were worth their salt didn't surf. Occasionally, there would be a lone surfer in the band ron wison (Ron Wilson of the Surfaris), but mostly they were musicians first. Another of Phil's favorite facts is that half of the surf bands didn't come from anywhere near an ocean... the Trashmen, the Titans and the Treasures were from Minneapolis, Jim Waller and the Deltas from Fresno, the Clashmen from Tucson, the Fender Four from Berkeley, the Astronauts from Boulder, the Venturas from Chicago, the Citations from Milwaukee, and the Royal Flairs from Council Bluffs, Iowa. Phil also recounts with glee that the Rolling Stones had to play second bill to the Trashmen when they played Minneapolis on their first U.S. tour...the only time that happened!

Dirt Plowed Under

Marshall Stacks, Editor Reverberations Magazine


Last Friday, when I caught up with Phil Dirt, King of surf radio, he was emerging from Taco Bell wearing a plaid dress shirt (2 sizes too large), with a torn pocket protector containing 3 pens, a mechanical pencil, and his bifocals, and what looked like a shred of lettuce hitching a ride on his left sleeve. His khaki pants displayed a week's worth of wrinkles, and sported a fashionable 3 inch gap displaying his off-white socks and penny loafers. At 4 foot 6 190, I have to tell you he seemed much larger on the radio. I employed that tried and true journalism 101 tool of casual conversation to gain his trust. I told him how much I liked his show, and was grateful he didn't quiz me, since I've never actually heard it. We chatted about O. J. Simpson's glove, Lynn Russell's wigs, and digital editing. After a decent interval, a concept I've been personally burned by, I slipped into the heart of the interview.

I asked Phil if the biography I'd seen on Reverb Central was accurate. Actually, I'd been snail mailed a copy by a disgruntled net surfer who had been repulsed by John Revolta's flab exposure in Pulp Fiction, and had blamed it all on Dick Dale. dick dale I thought network was like CBS, or something. I still use a typewriter. Anyway, I began the hard questions about the laughable bio that's been circulating, even appeared on the front page of Eclectic Ear Piercing, or some such rag.

So I asked about the accuracy in the most delicate way I could. After all, I wanted an answer. No not just an answer, a scoop. I asked "So Phil, I read that hilarious bio on your homeboy page, and I was wondering just how much of that is true?"


Phil Dirt looked around, lowered his voice to a whisper, and sent his answer drifting lightly toward me on a breeze of green jalapeno sauce. He said "Can I trust you? I mean, if my publicist ever found out, he shoot me, but it's all lies. I don't even know who wrote that stuff. It might not even be from the head publicity babe. Probably some hacker. Anyway, that's it. There, I've cleared my conscience."


nerd license plate Seeing pewlitzer (is that some kind of organ?) flash before my eyes in recognition of a Leonard & Bernstein style expose, I egged the trusting Dirt into another corner. I asked about his cool woodie. I mean, I always wanted one of those things. When I was in high school, I could have gotten a date and the accompanying show of status from Mary Lou Soughtafter. Oh, the thought of opportunity lost. Anyway, enough about me. I queried "What's it like driving around in that bitchin' woodie? You must be shovin' the babes out at every turn!"

Phil shook his head slightly, panning left to right, then back again, then went on to say "(sigh) I've never owned a Woody, and besides, I ride the bus! I like the camaraderie of rubbing shoulders (and a lot more if size is any measure) with the common man, or on rare occasion, woman."

Seething with anticipation of even more revelations to come, I asked with convincing mock concern about the inconvenience of public transportation, especially in rural areas like Felton. Phil looked a bit sheepish, saying "I live in Alviso, and I'm a junior programmer at Cisco Systems."

"A programmer?" I asked. I could have guessed as much. Those tiny orbs were probably once near normal size, but have been reduced to mere pinpoints of colorless pupil. Phil said "You may have used my music editor software." I had gone along with his earlier talk about digital editing during my effective disarming small talk, but I didn't think he'd want to actually consult with me about it. I cautiously asked "What's it called?" Phil answered with great pride "I wrote a simple little subroutine that reduced the operating overhead by 90%. The Vice President put it in his new music manipulation software offering, and he expects to move 500,000 pieces the first year. I asked Phil "Which VP?" to which he replied "Our VP." I said "You mean..." and Phil said "Yes, Al Gore."

Now, I had to wonder if this guy had all his cookies, but he just seemed too innocent and genuine, so I bit the bait. "You mean, our Vice President, Al Gore, writer of fantasy stories and architect of the information stupor highway, has his own software?" Phil responded with a firm "Of course! I mean, he used ghost writers, I was one, but it was his idea." So I had to ask "What's it called?" Phil momentarily dodged the question, with a slight clarification, admitting that "Al really only had the idea. Well not the whole idea, just the title, but he was so inspiring, I don't even care if gets all the royalties." So, I said "and the name is?". Phil paused for a second, then said "I'm really bad with trade names... its called... uh... oh yes, AlGoreRhythms."

Well, now I wasn't sure what to think. After all, Dan Quayle thought people in Latin America spoke Latin, so maybe this is for real. Wanting not to stop the flow of incredibly valuable insights into the real Phil Dirt, I proceeded without missing a beat.


So, Phil, your show must be a magnet for the women, huh? Do you date much with women who call you while you're doing your show?

dirt girlfriend Phil looks down at his unfinished Dr, Pepper, and says "I get a lot of come-ons, alright, but I try to be loyal to the girlfriend du jour." Phil takes out his wallet, an almost two inch thick moth eaten denim thing bulging with frayed and torn pieces of paper. He scrounge around for a while, and then offers "Here's a picture of my grilfriend right now. Her name is Patsy, er uh. Peggy - yeah, Peggy Sue."

I've seen this girl before somewhere... but I figure I should just move on to the next subject.


"Your Bio said you were 25 going on 50 with a big gray mustache and proxy locks. That seems to be a slight overstatement." Phil responded without batting an eye "Overstatement, Hell that's my brother, not me. He's the one who wears the gnarly blue and black Pendletons, vintage Jansen baggies, and huarache sandals. I've always like the professional look, you know, neat business clothes and a snappy pocket protector. You probably didn't notice this one. I had a really rough day today. To make things worse, I tore the corner of my PockyPouch (his favorite brand of pocket protector) on my keyboard while trying to do a save as my herb tea slid off my desk into my top drawer, soaking yesterday's tuna fish sandwich and my monthly report. This was my favorite, but I guess this is its last day on earth. I am not a happy camper."

I begged with surprise "Does this mean you don't surf much?" Phil looked indignant. He snarled "Don't I look like I can surf? I spend about 50 hours a week on the net!"


I felt I had enough to blow the lid off the entire caper. I could be the Paul Revereware of surfdome. I excused myself politely with a tale of tardy for dinner. man in white coat As I began to float out the door, a distinguished gentleman in a lab coat approached Phil and said "There you are. You're a naughty boy. You know you aren't supposed to leave your room without an escort. Phil will be very upset to hear we misplaced his favorite brother for a whole hour."


I hung my head. All hope of fame and misfortune dashed, I wiped my oh-poor-me tears from my cheeks, and dragged my reduced person back to the paper. I mused aloud "What will I write about now?"