Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Preston Epps - Bongo Rockdotdotdot
artworkPreston Epps was originally from Oakland, California. He was discovered playing bongos in an LA coffee house by DJ Art Laboe, who signed him to his Original Sound label, and issued singles from '59 through '61. Jack Nitzsche produced the sessions. The one hit they garnered was "Bongo Rock," which was insipid by Sandy Nelson's hit 1959 "Teen Beat." Some of this is session jam nonsense, some is fluffy exotica, some chilling jungle exotica, and some infectious rock instrumental. Preston Epps was one of many precursors that built the foundation from which surf emerged.
Picks: Bongo In The Congo, Bongo Rock, Jungle Drums, Doin' The Cha Cha Cha, Bongo Bongo Bongo, Bongos In Pastel, Call Of The Jungle (full version), Bongo Party, Hully Gully Bongo, Bongo Shuffle

Track by Track Review


Bongo In The Congo dot
Exotica (Instrumental)

Orchestral and monotonous, "Bongo In The Congo" relies on lush strings and flutes to create a scene to cover the vacuum of focus. Written by session guitarist Barney Kessel.

Bongo Rock dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This is a marvelous and fun classic rock 'n' roll single. The rhythm is totally infectious, and the simple melody line sticks in your memory cells despite any attempt to clear your head. This has almost nothing to do with surf music, though it was a staple among some of the bands. It predates the genre, and has no reverb at all. It is important for a couple of reasons. It was the first rock instro featuring the bongo drum as a central instrument, and it was the structure of this song that was one basis for the Surfaris' "Wipe Out."

Jungle Drums dotdot
Exotica (Instrumental)

Slow tribal drums bode dangerously under a soft flute melody. The strings give away the bachelor pad exotica roots of Preston Epps' music. "Jungle Drums" was written by Ernesto Lacuona.

Doin' The Cha Cha Cha dotdotdot
Exotica (Instrumental)

Archetypal South American cha cha cha sounds and percussion, with flute lead. "Doin' The Cha Cha Cha" is more interesting than most of the exotica here.

Bongo Bongo Bongo
Rock (Instrumental)

Mr. Bongo makes nice with ultra simple piano boogie. No melody, just a gimmick (the bongos).

Bongos In Pastel dot
Insipid Pop (Instrumental)

Jazz guitar chords open this loungy exotica piece. The chorus tells the story of late fifties insipid pop.

Call Of The Jungle (full version) dotdotdot
Jungle Exotica (Instrumental)

bird and monkey calls, tribal chants, bongo fury, co-written by Preston Epps and a young Jack Nitzsche. The flute calls like a siren scene from a black and white safari or voodoo film. It's all about percussion and jungle danger. A very effective girl dancing around the fire scene setter. At about 3:30, the flute begins to play a melody line that heightens the frenzy. At 12:42, it's quite unusual for the time and very cool!

Bongo Party dotdotdotdot
Jungle Exotica (Instrumental)

Much like its flip side, "Bongo Party" rocks and flows with guitar melodies and chords against furious bongo drums. Entirely cool, while being pretty minimalist in structure.

Hully Gully Bongo dotdot
Hully Gully Bandwagon (Instrumental)

"Hully Gully Bongo" is a direct rip off of the "Hully Gully" progression, with a few guitar licks, some chop chords, and bongo solos. Nothing to write home about.

Bongo Shuffle dotdotdot
Rock Exotica (Instrumental)

Furious bongos with guitar chord progressions floating beneath. Less than "Bongo Rock," yet interesting enough to catch your attention. With a surf guitar lead over the top, it could rock!