Back in junior high, I was really enamored with Jan & Dean (not so much with the Beach Boys, but I liked them also), and the various other one-hit wonder surf rock bands of that time period. I loved the hot rod songs and the surfing songs and all the cool lingo about woodies, shooting the curl, shutting someone down, etc. Jan & Dean were the hosts as I recall of one of the first big rock concert films, The T.A.M.I. Show (it stands for Teen Age Music International). I was starting to tire of the duo though, particularly when they resorted to covering British Invasion songs and started releasing tripe like Jan & Dean Meet Batman. I didn't know about the harder edged surf rock that was out there - e.g., Dick Dale - and it might have held my interest better if I had. But in retrospect, the surf music that I knew then was nothing but fun, and I have a lot of fond memories of it all.

THE RIP CHORDS had one of the biggest hits of the surf era in the early 1960's with "Hey Little Cobra" - maybe THE biggest outside of those by Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys - when it reached #4 on the charts in early 1964 (back in the early days of Beatlemania). They don't get a lot of respect though; since many people think that L.A. wunderkinds Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher - who later recorded as Bruce & Terry - bullied their way into the band, this led a lot of people to conclude that they were only a studio fiction.
In actuality, the Rip Chords - not related to a doo wop band from the 1950's called the Rip-Chords (with a hyphen) - were founded by Ernie Bringas and Phil Stewart, who began singing together in 1957. After auditioning with Terry Melcher (Doris Day's son), the band was signed to Columbia Records in 1962 - that's just one year after the Beach Boys were founded, for those who think that the surf craze started with them. (For that matter, Jan & Dean didn't form until 1958, so surf didn't completely start with them either). According to Bringas, despite personnel changes over the years, only he and Stewart are signed with Columbia, and they collect all of the royalties.
The first single by the Rip Chords, "Here I Stand" was moderately successful, reaching the Top 20 in some regional markets including Los Angeles and peaking at #51 nationally. Glen Campbell handled the lead guitar on the track. Most people know of Campbell's string of fine hits in the mid-1960's - "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", "Wichita Lineman", "Gentle on My Mind", "Galveston", and many more - but might not realize that he was one of the best session guitarists around for many years previously and had the most successful individual career among the loose aggregation of session players known as the Wrecking Crew. Campbell recently embarked on a farewell tour after acknowledging that he is suffering from Alzheimer's.
On the next single by the Rip Chords, "Gone", Bruce Johnston (who later became a member of the Beach Boys) was brought in as a secondary vocalist, though Ernie Bringas still sang lead. Terry Melcher's role was strictly as producer on both of these records. This single was not widely promoted but performed well where they received airplay; for instance, in the week of August 1, 1963, "Gone" made it to #2 in San Antonio, TX.
Meanwhile, Ernie Bringas had graduated from college and was about to go into United Theological Seminary for training as a minister. (Bringas did become a "Rev." and served as a minister in the United Methodist Church for almost 20 years; presently, he is a college professor teaching religious studies). He would be able to go back to the recording studio in Hollywood, but his ability to tour would be limited, so two additional members were brought in to tour with the band: Rich Rotkin and Arnie Marcus. They were never involved in any of their recordings, but - together with Phil Stewart - they were the public face of the Rip Chords, since Ernie Bringas was unavailable, and Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher were much too involved in record production to tour with a band. These Rip Chords had an appearance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand and joined his Caravan of Stars; they were even in a Hollywood movie, A Swingin' Summer.
There was one other little problem that readers who remember the era could well envision: The conservative Christian denomination that was affiliated with the seminary was averse to his continuing to record and perform with the Rip Chords, and one bishop flatly told Ernie Bringas to leave the band. However, and somewhat surprisingly, that pronouncement was over-ruled; and Bringas was able to rejoin the band after only three months' separation. Again, this is not well known; most sources, including Allmusic state that Bringas left the band for keeps.
The potential of "Hey Little Cobra" was recognized immediately (the song was co-written by Terry Melcher with Carol Connors; her many other songwriting credits include "Gonna Fly Now", the theme from Rocky); and both Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher were brought in as the vocalists on this song. Melcher was the lead vocalist on the track, and this was basically his debut as a singer. The Rip Chords released their first album in the same time period, Hey Little Cobra and Other Hot Rod Hits. As suggested by the title, and like other albums of that period, the album included their hit song "Hey Little Cobra" as well as several songs that had already been hits for other artists: "409", "Little Deuce Coupe", and "Drag City". However, several of the band's earlier songs are also there, including "Here I Stand" and "Gone".
Most sources believe that Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher basically took over vocal duties for almost all of their recordings by the Rip Chords thereafter. Allmusic claims that Phil Stewart (who has a distinctive bass/baritone voice) was the vocalist on only two songs on Three Window Coupe, the band's second album - "Bonneville Bonnie" and "Old Car Made in '52" - and that Ernie Bringas didn't perform at all on the album. However, Bringas insists that all four vocalists collaborated as to who would handle the singing, and that the hit song "Hey Little Cobra" is about the only song where neither he nor Stewart sang at all. For instance, both he and Bruce Johnston were singing the falsetto part on the Top 30 follow-up to their big hit, "Three Window Coupe" (co-written by Jan Berry of Jan & Dean). (The full list of vocalists and their parts on various songs is provided on Ernie Bringas's website, www.ripchords.info).
After one more charting single, "One-Piece Topless Bathing Suit" (which appears on neither album), Terry Melcher ceased working with the Rip Chords and in the process turned down what would have been their next single, a Brian Wilson composition called "Help Me, Rhonda". It was recorded instead by the Beach Boys and became their second Number One song. (Musicians in the surf era were quite generous and often shared songwriters and producers with their strongest competitors).
Like many (I am beginning to think most!) 1960's bands, the Rip Chords reformed in the mid-1990's, led by the two men who were brought in for the touring band, Rich Rotkin and Arnie Marcus, with a rotating line-up of five other men.
I purchased the Rip Chords' first album a long time ago, but I came across their second album just recently, and I have really been enjoying it. Unlike the first album, Three Window Coupe doesn't recycle a lot of the same old surf songs; instead, the songs are all unfamiliar to me - except the title song, which I definitely remember - and that makes it a lot more special. That "California Sound" a la Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys is there in force, and it was fun to refamiliarize myself with all those good times.
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The Honor Roll of the Under Appreciated Rock Bands and Artists follows, in date order, including a link to the original Facebook posts and the theme of the article.
Dec 2009 - BEAST; Lot to Learn
Jan 2010 - WENDY WALDMAN; Los Angeles Singer-Songwriters
Feb 2010 - CYRUS ERIE; Cleveland
Mar 2010 - BANG; Record Collecting I
Apr 2010 - THE BREAKAWAYS; Power Pop
May 2010 - THE NOT QUITE; Katrina Clean-Up
Jun 2010 - WATERLILLIES; Electronica
Jul 2010 - THE EYES; Los Angeles Punk Rock
Aug 2010 - QUEEN ANNE'S LACE; Psychedelic Pop
Sep 2010 - THE STILLROVEN; Minnesota
Oct 2010 - THE PILTDOWN MEN; Record Collecting II
Nov 2010 - SLOVENLY; Slovenly Peter
Dec 2010 - THE POPPEES; New York Punk/New Wave
Jan 2011 - HACIENDA; Latinos in Rock
Feb 2011 - THE WANDERERS; Punk Rock (1970's/1980's)
Mar 2011 - INDEX; Psychedelic Rock (1960's)
Apr 2011 - BOHEMIAN VENDETTA; Punk Rock (1960's)
May 2011 - THE LONESOME DRIFTER; Rockabilly
Jun 2011 - THE UNKNOWNS; Disabled Musicians
Jul 2011 - THE RIP CHORDS; Surf Rock I
Aug 2011 - ANDY COLQUHOUN; Side Men
Sep 2011 - ULTRA; Texas
Oct 2011 - JIM SULLIVAN; Mystery
Nov 2011 - THE UGLY; Punk Rock (1970's)
Dec 2011 - THE MAGICIANS; Garage Rock (1960's)
Jan 2012 - RON FRANKLIN; Why Celebrate Under Appreciated?
Feb 2012 - JA JA JA; German New Wave
Mar 2012 - STRATAVARIOUS; Disco Music
Apr 2012 - LINDA PIERRE KING; Record Collecting III
May 2012 - TINA AND THE TOTAL BABES; One Hit Wonders
Jun 2012 - WILD BLUE; Band Names I
Jul 2012 - DEAD HIPPIE; Band Names II
Aug 2012 - PHIL AND THE FRANTICS; Wikipedia I
Sep 2012 - CODE BLUE; Hidden History
Oct 2012 - TRILLION; Wikipedia II
Nov 2012 - THOMAS ANDERSON; Martin Winfree's Record Buying Guide
Dec 2012 - THE INVISIBLE EYES; Record Collecting IV
Jan 2013 - THE SKYWALKERS; Garage Rock Revival
Mar 2013 - THE GILES BROTHERS; Novelty Songs
Apr 2013 - LES SINNERS; Universal Language
May 2013 - HOLLIS BROWN; Greg Shaw / Bob Dylan
Jun 2013 (I) - FUR (Part One); What Might Have Been I
Jun 2013 (II) - FUR (Part Two); What Might Have Been II
Jul 2013 - THE KLUBS; Record Collecting V
Aug 2013 - SILVERBIRD; Native Americans in Rock
Sep 2013 - BLAIR 1523; Wikipedia III
Oct 2013 - MUSIC EMPORIUM; Women in Rock I
Nov 2013 - CHIMERA; Women in Rock II
Dec 2013 - LES HELL ON HEELS; Women in Rock III
Jan 2014 - BOYSKOUT; (Lesbian) Women in Rock IV
Feb 2014 - LIQUID FAERIES; Women in Rock V
Mar 2014 (I) - THE SONS OF FRED (Part 1); Tribute to Mick Farren
Mar 2014 (II) - THE SONS OF FRED (Part 2); Tribute to Mick Farren
Apr 2014 - HOMER; Creating New Bands out of Old Ones
May 2014 - THE SOUL AGENTS; The Cream Family Tree
Jun 2014 - THE RICHMOND SLUTS and BIG MIDNIGHT; Band Names (Changes) III
Jul 2014 - MIKKI; Rock and Religion I (Early CCM Music)
Aug 2014 - THE HOLY GHOST RECEPTION COMMITTEE #9; Rock and Religion II (Bob Dylan)
Sep 2014 - NICK FREUND; Rock and Religion III (The Beatles)
Oct 2014 - MOTOCHRIST; Rock and Religion IV
Nov 2014 - WENDY BAGWELL AND THE SUNLITERS; Rock and Religion V
Dec 2014 - THE SILENCERS; Surf Rock II
Jan 2015 (I) - THE CRAWDADDYS (Part 1); Tribute to Kim Fowley
Jan 2015 (II) - THE CRAWDADDYS (Part 2); Tribute to Kim Fowley
Feb 2015 - BRIAN OLIVE; Songwriting I (Country Music)
Mar 2015 - PHIL GAMMAGE; Songwriting II (Woody Guthrie/Bob Dylan)
Apr 2015 (I) - BLACK RUSSIAN (Part 1); Songwriting III (Partnerships)
Apr 2015 (II) - BLACK RUSSIAN (Part 2); Songwriting III (Partnerships)
May 2015 - MAL RYDER and THE PRIMITIVES; Songwriting IV (Rolling Stones)
Jun 2015 - HAYMARKET SQUARE; Songwriting V (Beatles)
Jul 2015 - THE HUMAN ZOO; Songwriting VI (Psychedelic Rock)
Aug 2015 - CRYSTAL MANSION; Martin Winfree's Record Cleaning Guide
Dec 2015 - AMANDA JONES; So Many Rock Bands
Mar 2016 - THE LOVEMASTERS; Fun Rock Music
Jun 2016 - THE GYNECOLOGISTS; Offensive Rock Music Lyrics
Sep 2016 - LIGHTNING STRIKE; Rap and Hip Hop
Dec 2016 - THE IGUANAS; Iggy and the Stooges; Proto-Punk Rock
Mar 2017 - THE LAZY COWGIRLS; Iggy and the Stooges; First Wave Punk Rock
Jun 2017 - THE LOONS; Punk Revival and Other New Bands
Sep 2017 - THE TELL-TALE HEARTS; Bootleg Albums
Dec 2017 - SS-20; The Iguana Chronicles
(Year 10 Review)
Last edited: April 7, 2021