Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Belairs - Origins Of Surf Musicdotdotdotdot
artworkQuestion: What band was playing what became known as surf in 1960?
Answer: The Belairs

Question: What band was the platform from which both the Challengers and Eddie & the Showmen would spring?
Answer: The Belairs

Question: What band did studio wizard Paul Johnson first play in and head up?
Answer: The Belairs

Question: What band released the first record considered a surf Classic?
Answer: The Belairs

If you haven't figured it out yet, the Belairs were there at the beginning. Paul Johnson and Eddie Bertrand formed the band as mere lads, with future Challengers Richard Delvy and Jim Roberts. They also recorded the surf classic "Mr. Moto" months before Dick Dale even opened up the Rendezvous Ballroom. They were the archetype of what t became the South Bay Surf Scene, spawning bands like Tom Starr & the Galaxies, the Vibrants, PJ & Artie, and many more. Paul Johnson was also the lead player on many of the Challengers' studio sessions, trading licks with Art Fisher. This is an all-important band. This is a must-have CD which compiles not only the few singles they cut, but also unreleased studio tracks, early garage sessions, and precious home recording of Paul & Eddie documenting their early writings not long after meeting on a school bus one afternoon in 1959 when they were 13 years of age. The liner notes are an incredibly thick book with a million details and plenty of great photos.
Picks: The Crawler, Stung, Peter Gunn, It Was I, Mr. Moto, Mr. Moto, Little Brown Jug, The Three Blind Mice Make It To Santa's Village, Vampire, Kamikaze, Runaway, Volcanic Action, Volcanic Action, Squirt, On Top Of Old Smokey, (Un Classe De) Chiflado, Davy Crockett Meets Mickey Mouse, Volcanic Action, Rampage, Flip Top Box, The Wayward Wind, (Un Classe De) Chiflado, Duck Waddle, Squad Car, The Shimmy

Track by Track Review


The Crawler dotdotdotdot
Home Style Surf (Instrumental)

This early home demo is just Paul & Eddie rhythmically grinding out a song that would become a standard in the Belairs sets, as well as other South Bay surf scene bands. It's rhythm oriented, infectious, and chunky. They go through it twice. Paul says it was derived from Little Anthony & the Imperials' "Shimmy Shimmy Koko Bop." This was recorded at Paul's house in 1960.

Stung dotdotdotdot
Home Style Surf (Instrumental)

This is fifties progression sorta song, with the two guitars doing what comes naturally for many of the fifties bison bop bands. It's an infectious if repetitious number, but, hey they were only 14. This was influenced by Johnny & the Hurricanes style, with Eddie replacing the organ melody with what he could do with his Sears Silvertone. Again, from Paul's house around 1960.

Peter Gunn dotdotdotdot
Home Style Surf (Instrumental)

With the two guitars being detectivists without a band, this song takes on a whole different character than any other version. Paul and Edie are doing inventive things with it, morphing into something more reminiscent of the Fendermen than Henry Mancini or Duane Eddy. Pretty cool. A home recording from Paul's house circa 1960.

It Was I dotdotdotdot
Home Style Surf (Instrumental)

When Skip & Flip recorded their Cherry Pie variation and had a hit with it, it is unlikely that they ever expected it to be a surf band standard. Yet, when Paul and Eddie put together their band, they played many standards and especially teen-tragedy songs, instrumentally. This is a very early precursors to their eventual sound. At this point, they were calling themselves the Cruisers with Richard Delvy added on drums. Again, a home recording from 1960. The live version from the South Bay Surfband Reunion is spectacular, and really quite close to this in texture.

Mr. Moto dotdotdotdotdot
Home Style Surf (Instrumental)

Paul says this was recorded within a week of it's creation in 1960, and recorded at home, with Chas Stuart now added on sax, but playing the second verse. It's very primitive, but this is the birth of surf, if ever there was one. This is an alternate take.

Mr. Moto dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is it, their claim to fame, their most familiar song, and the first surf release from May 1961 on Arvee Records. "Mr. Moto" is just about the most influential surf instro ever. "Mr. Moto" came to be a surf classic, and was recorded and released months before Dick Dale's "Let's Go Trippin'," before he opened the Rendezvous Ballroom, and before it was called surf. If you must draw a line in the sand, it must be drawn here. "Mr. Moto" was recorded at Liberty.

Covered by countless others, this song features 15 year olds Paul Johnson and Eddie Bertrand trading guitar parts in their trademark style on a prototypical PJ writing masterpiece. Jim Roberts' piano work is stunningly perfect for this song. A historical absolutely must have!

Little Brown Jug dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This was the B-side to "Mr. Moto." It shows the rhythmic nature of Paul and Eddie's synergy, and their penchant for familiar childhood tunes reconstructed to fit their need. ItŐs easily the best version of this tune around. Recorded at Liberty, this is the original unedited version, without the removal of the botched line from Paul.

The Three Blind Mice Make It To Santa's Village dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Again with the silliness of their tastes. This was both an attempt at holiday music, and a variation on "Three Blind Mice." This is a previously unreleased track from the Liberty sessions. The use of "Jingle Bells" is priceless.

Vampire dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This stroll was issued as a single on Richard Delvy's label after the end of the group. It was "borrowed" from Johnny and The Hurricanes, and is a fine slow dance dumber, with the plinky fifties piano work from Jim Roberts.

Kamikaze dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Originally called "Whiplash," this fine song is typically Paul & Eddie interplaying their two guitars for a rhythmic holistic sound. A fine infectious track, this is a lot like "Mr. Moto." The groovy piano work in the middle is cool.

Runaway dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a Chas Stuart lead number, and is intense, if not particularly interesting. It's rhythmic and moody. It's a cover of Del Shannon's hit.

Volcanic Action dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A Richard Delvy produced track, with plenty of energy and urgency. A strong melody, and mean sound. A primal surf tune from an essential band that was there at the very beginning.

Volcanic Action dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A Richard Delvy produced track, with plenty of energy and urgency. A strong melody, and mean sound. A primal surf tune from an essential band that was there at the very beginning.

Squirt dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is the other track from the "warehouse," and shows the continuing influence of Paul's balancing of instruments to create a sense of ensemble, rather than a band to support a lead player, another difference that emerged between Paul and Eddie. This is an interesting track, full of energy and guts.

On Top Of Old Smokey dot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a 1962 home recording, with the band in Paul's living room in Redondo Beach. By now, Richard Delvy has been replaced by Mouseketeer Dickie Dodd (future Standells), and Jim Roberts is also gone, having left with Delvy to form the Challengers. This is another sign of Paul's like for songs from childhood. These sorts of songs were popular at their shows, despite their hokiness. It has that classic Belairs chunky rhythm, and Chas Stuart's classic sax lines. Still no bass player in the band.

(Un Classe De) Chiflado dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This home demo version of what was to become a South Bay surf scene classic, performed by many of the other bands in the area. It's a melodic, rhythmic and infectious tune. "Chiflado" is actually "Un Clase de Chiflado" and means "some kinda nut."

Davy Crockett Meets Mickey Mouse dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another classic example of Paul's sense of humor about material to cover, and in this case, there's a certain extra dimension given drummer Dick Dodd's former membership as a Mouseketeer. It's just cute and funny.

Volcanic Action dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A Richard Delvy produced track, with plenty of energy and urgency. A strong melody, and mean sound. A primal surf tune from an essential band that was there at the very beginning.

Rampage dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This was an experiment platform they developed to allow Eddie to go off on. It's highly jungle beat oriented, and very infectious. This was cut in '62, before the peak of surf hit, before "Wipe Out."

Flip Top Box dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This crude recording shows the the interplay between the sax and guitars that Paul liked. It has a certain raw appeal, but is a relatively unmelodic number for Paul. Honky R&B with a bit of reverb.

The Wayward Wind dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Again demonstrating how a good melody, regardless of it's source (in this case Gogi Grant's MOR hit), can be brought into a surf set,and made to fit the genre and work well. When they break into the middle part, the pace picks up, and the song gets really strong.

(Un Classe De) Chiflado dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This home demo version of what was to become a South Bay surf scene classic, performed by many of the other bands in the area. It's a melodic, rhythmic and infectious tune. "Chiflado" is actually "Un Clase de Chiflado" and means "some kinda nut."

Duck Waddle dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another Gold Star session, this is a song that was quite popular at Belairs shows. It's cute, choppy, and unusually structured.

Squad Car dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This version of Paul's classic is starkly different from the better known Eddie & the Showmen version. It relies on the delicate interplay between the two guitars, where as the "hit" version relies on Eddie's pure power. This approach is totally different, almost like a different song. This is very infectious. Chas Stuart plays the sax reed to simulate the police siren.

The Shimmy dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a funky tune, also quite popular at Belairs shows. Steve lotto's bass lines hold it all together.