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


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 surfbands 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 delights in the widespread myth 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!, but is quick to point out that The Stones played the night before The Trashmen in the same venue, which is not quite the same thing!