Local band scores a national hit with “Surfin’ Bird” in 1963
(1962 to 1967)
1955 – 1957: Tony Andreason and Mike Jann are friends at school and both play guitar and are fans of bluegrass and country music. They listen on the radio to the “Sunset Valley Barn Dance” which features various local country music artists including guitar player Andy Walsh, whom Tony and Mike both admire. On occasion, they are able to attend the live shows of the “Barn Dance” which are held at various locations across the twin cities. In addition, the two listen to the radio broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry from Nashville on Saturday nights. Tony plays a Harmony 49 acoustic guitar, than upgrades to an electric Gold K played through a Premier Amp. Mike plays a Gene Autry acoustic guitar and adds an electric pick-up to the guitar and runs it through a radio amplifier. Tony and Mike learn to play a number of country songs that they hear on radio station KTCR, with Mike doing the vocals, and the duo plays for private parties, earning either $5.00 or $10.00 per performance. At a talent show held at a KC Hall located in downtown Minneapolis on 6th and Hennepin, the duo wins a $50.00 cash prize.
Tony and Mike book studio time at Kay Bank Recording Studio and record two songs: “I Couldn’t Care Less Than I Do Now” (written by Mike) and “Guitar Boogie Shuffle” (an instrumental written by Tony). Mike plays rhythm guitar on the two songs (and sings lead on “I Couldn’t Care Less.. ”) and Tony plays lead guitar. Two acetates are made of the songs.
Tony and Mike along with friend Larry Johnson decide to pay a visit to Nashville,Tennessee. Mike drives the three in his 1953 Oldsmobile. In Nashville, the three stop in at RCA Victor Studios and meet Chet Atkins who is producing a recording session with singer Skeeter Davis. The Chet Atkins Fan Club just happened to be there at the same time, so the guys join the fan club and get free tickets to the Grand Ole Opry that night, where they meet country artist Porter Waggoner.
Back in Minneapolis, Tony and Mike start going to the Crystal Coliseum where some of the very first local rock’n’roll bands are playing including Augie Garcia, Mike Waggoner and the Bops; The String Kings; and Ultraphonix. Tony takes an interest in the new rock’n’roll music, Mike still prefers country music.
At the Crystal Coliseum, Tony and Mike meet Steve Wahrer, a drummer and Dallas (“Dal”), a guitar player. Tony, Steve and Dal play together along with a sax player in The String Kings for a brief time period. Through Steve and Dale, the guys meet Jim Thaxter, a singer who is looking to front a new band.
1957/1958: Jim Thaxter and the Travelers come together with the following lineup: Jim Thaxter on lead vocals and guitar (tuned to a bass guitar); Tony Andreason on lead guitar; Dal Winslow on rhythm guitar; Tom Diehl on piano; and Steve Wahrer on drums.
Following a successful tryout to play at the Crystal Coliseum, the band is booked to play the venue and are paid $8.00 per performance. The band also plays at Bill’s Roller Rink in Anoka and for private parties, including parties at the Theodore Wirth Golf Course in Golden Valley.
1960: The band records two songs in the living room at the home of Jim Thaxter in Brooklyn Center, “Sally Jo” (written by Jim) and “Cyclone” (an instrumental written by Tony). On “Sally Jo” Tony, Dal, and Steve all sing back-up vocals. The band presses up a couple hundred 45’s of the two songs, with a typo in the B-Side title, “Cyclon.”
Spring, 1961: A few days after Tony graduates from High School, the band takes a hiatus, as both Tony and Jim enter the military service.
February/March, 1962: Tony and Jim return from military service and the band restarts. After playing a couple of jobs, Tony decides to leave the band due to differences in musical direction between Tony and Jim. After Tony leaves the band, Steve leaves, followed by Dal. The final job is at Bill’s Roller Rink in Anoka.
Tony, Steve and Dal want to continue to play together and they meet up with Don Woody, a bass player. The four had played around town with different bands. One night at Don Woody’s house, local musician Tony Kairay shows up with a record he had recorded called “The Trashmen’s Blues.” The guys toss around the idea of using The Trashmen as their band name but nothing is finalized. At the next band job, a school dance at Brooklyn Center High School, Steve Wahrer shows up with “The Trashmen” written on his drum head and the four musicians now officially have a new band name. The group plays mainly instrumentals with Steve singing lead on a few vocal songs including “Runaway” by Del Shannon. Tony joins Steve on vocals for a couple songs. After playing a small number of jobs, Don Woody decides to leave The Trashmen and join his brothers band The Startones.
After the departure of Don Woody, the band decides to hold auditions for a new bass player. The first person to show up for the audition is Bob Reed, from Oaks, North Dakota, who had moved to Minneapolis in order to attend the Brown Institute. The audition goes well and Bob Reed is hired to play bass guitar for the group.
1963: The Trashmen have no interest in surf music at the time, however, this all changes when they hear a song by Dick Dale. Inspired by Dick Dale, the band, along with Mike Jann, travel to Southern California in Dal’s new Pontiac. The guys stay at a hotel on Balboa Boulevard, across from the beach and near the Rendevous Ballroom in Newport Beach, a popular venue for local, regional and national bands. The Rendevous Ballroom is the venue where Dick Dale and his band (The Deltones) played in July, 1961 (the concerts were called “Stomps”), now considered to be the origination of the new “Surf Music”. The guys hang out at the beach and get to know some of the surfers. In addition, they meet the band members of The Chantays who had a national hit with the surf instrumental “Pipeline.” The group from Minnesota takes note that The Chantays are all driving new cars.
Back in Minnesota, The Trashmen move in a new musical direction and start learning surf songs including, “Stomp,” “Misirlou” and “Have Nigela.” The band starts playing some larger venues including Woodley’s Country Dam in Amery,Wisconsin, where they play a job with the Sorenson Brothers who cover a song recorded in 1962 by The Rivingtons called “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow.” The Trashmen hear the song for the first time and are impressed by it. The Rivingtons are a doo-wop band with a wacky sense of humor (most of their songs are in the novelty genre) and a peculiar fascination/obsession with writing and recording songs about birds, who released an album in 1962 on Liberty Records called “Doin’ the Bird.” The band had seven 45’s with numerous “bird songs” including the band’s fourth 45 called “The Bird’s the Word” which charted in 1963.
One week after hearing The Rivington’s song in Amery, Wisconsin, the band is playing a job at Chubb’s Ballroom in Maple Grove. At the job, Steve Wahrer experiments with the chorus from “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” and “The Bird’s the Word” and ad-libbs his own lyrics, including a rather bizarre vocal rant in the middle and comes up with a new song called “Surfin’ Bird.” The new song by The Trashmen bears no resemblance to the Rivingtons two songs as far as the music goes as the song is much faster and more in the raw garage band style compared to the slower paced doo-wop style. The nonsensical spirit of the two songs by The Rivingtons is bumped up several notches by Steve Wahrer with his own nonsensical vocal rant and his intense “off the wall” singing style. Steve coaches the band through the song on stage, nodding his head when it is time to change chords. Bill Diehl, the emcee for the show, takes note of the song and the reaction by the audience who demand the band play the song four times before the show is over and tells the band they should record the song. Taking Bill Diehl’s advice, the group goes into George Garrett’s recording studio located in the basement of his record store (Nic’o’Lake Records) and records “Surfin’ Bird.” The finished song is played for Bill Diehl who informs the band the song is too long and needs to be revised down to a shorter version. The group enters Kay Bank with George Garrett to record a second version of the song. Upon hearing the new, shorter version of the song, Bill Diehl proclaims, “It’s a hit.” Fifty promo copies of the song are pressed up and mailed to radio stations. Bill Diehl plays the song on WDGY as part of a “Battle of the Bands” where callers vote for their favorite song. “Surfin’ Bird” wins the battle. In Chicago, the record is played on the radio and wins a Battle of the Bands.
With “Surfin’ Bird” getting airplay on the radio, the band scrambles to come up with a B side for the record. Mike Jann decides to talk with a co-worker at the Star Tribune, Larry LaPole. Mike is aware that Larry had written and recorded a number of country songs, and is wondering if Larry may be interested in writing a surf song in a very short time frame. Just by coincidence, Will Jones, a write for the Star Tribune had recently published an article in the newspaper that listed numerous surfing words and phrases and explained what they meant. The “surfing craze” in Southern California is a national news story in the early 1960’s. Larry agrees to write a song for the band and Mike gives Larry a copy of the Will Jones article for reference. In a few days Larry writes his very first surf song, “King of the Surf” which is quickly recorded by the band and added as the flipside of “Surfin’ Bird.” The Garrett 45, distributed by Soma Records, takes off upon release on November 13, 1963 and sells 38,000 copies in the first week. The Trashmen have a hit record climbing the Billboard charts.
With the success of “Surfin’ Bird” both George Garrett and Amos Heilicher (Soma Records) want the band to record an album as soon as possible. Tony, Dal and Larry work at a frantic pace to come up with new material and the band learns new songs “on the spot” in Kay Bank, just prior to recording them. Larry LaPole meets with the band on his lunch breaks to go over new songs and then returns to work leaving the band members to work out the new songs.
1964: With the success of “Surfin’ Bird” the band is now booked by Jimmy Thomas out of Luverne, Minnesota. Jim often travels with the band to jobs.
On January 25 “Surfin’ Bird” reaches its peak chart position at Number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. The record is on the Billboard charts for a total of 13 weeks.
Dick Clark invites The Trashmen to appear on his popular television show, American Bandstand. The cost to fly all four band members out to do the show is an issue and as a result only Steve Wahrer appears on the show (reluctantly), lip-synching the words to “Surfin’ Bird” and doing a “bird dance.”
The Trashmen album “Surfin’ Bird” is released on the Garrett label (GA-200). The album includes 12 songs:
1. “Surfin’ Bird” (Steve Wahrer)
2. “Misirlou” (Dick Dale)
3. “Money” (Barrett Strong)
4. “Tube City” (credited to Steve Wahrer, written by Tony Andreason)
5. “Kuk” (Dick Dale)
6. “It’s So Easy” (Buddy Holly)
1. “King of the Surf” (Larry LaPole)
2. “Henrietta” (Jimmy Dee and the Offbeats)
3. “Malaguena” (Traditional/Roy Clark)
4. “My Woodie” (Larry LaPole)
5. “Bird Bath” (Dal Winslow)
6. “The Sleeper” (Larry LaPole)
On the front of the album cover is a color photo of the band taken by photographer Mike Thuele, whose father, John Thuele, worked at the Star Tribune, and organized the album cover and the came up with the lettering. The band members are photographed (in matching suites purchased at Kiefer’s in downtown Minneapolis) on and around an old truck parked in a car lot, Lindahl Olds. Dal has one hand on a garbage pail, Tony is holding a push broom, Bob has a shovel in hand and Steve is standing on some car tires. Steve’s bass drum with The Trashmen logo is sitting in the back of the truck. Dal, Tony and Bob are all holding their guitars.
On the back side of the album jacket are two black and white photos of the band playing live at Mister Lucky’s in Minneapolis. The lower photo shows two people recording the band live, however the live recording did not turn out well according to the band. The liner notes are written by Bill Diehl, a DJ on WDGY and a concert promoter and emcee. In the liner notes, Bill Diehl writes about the origins of the song “Surfin’ Bird.” Tom Jung is credited as the engineer on the album and George Garrett is credited as the producer.
The band releases their second 45, “Bird Dance Beat” (George Garrett) backed with “A-Bone” (Larry Lapole). The record spends seven weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaks at number 30 on March, 7, 1964. The record is on the Garrett label.
The band releases their third 45, ““Bad News” (Link Wray) backed with “On the Move” (Tony Andreason). The record is on the Garrett label.
The band releases their fourth 45, “Peppermint Man” (Dick Dale song written by A. Lewis) backed with “New Generation” (Tony Kai-Ray). The A-side has crowd noise added in at the studio to give it a “live” feel. The B-side has a sound effect of a hydrogen bomb. The record is on the Garrett label.
The band releases their fifth 45, “Whoa Dad!” (F. Bryant and B. Bryant) backed with “Walking My Baby” (L. Mathis and M. Mathis). The record is on the Garrett label.
The band releases their sixth 45, “Dancin’ with Santa” (Larry LaPole) backed with “Real Live Doll” (Steve Wahrer). The B-side is also a Christmas song, about a special request to Santa Claus for a “real live doll.” The record is on the Garrett label and features a cover sleeve with a photo of the band inside a Christmas wreath. The sleeve is printed in the green and red colors of Christmas. Photo cover sleeves on local 45’s are very rare at this time.
The band plays a total of 292 one-night jobs in 1964, traveling in a station wagon and hauling a trailer with the band equipment. A typical day involves driving between 50 and 150 miles and the band stays at Holiday Inn’s or Howard Johnson hotels.
1965: The band releases their seventh 45, “Keep Your hands off My Baby” (Gerry Goffin and Carole King) backed with “Lost Angel” (Larry LaPole). This is the first 45 by the band that is not on the Garrett label, the record is on the Bear label, a label affiliated with Lieberman Enterprises based in Bloomington, Minnesota. On the record the names of the songwriters are incorrectly spelled as Jerry Goffin and Carl King.
The band releases their eighth 45: “Bird 65” (Rivingtons) backed with “Ubangi Stomp” (Jerry Lee Lewis). The record is released on the Argo label.
The band finishes up the year with 270 one-night jobs.
1966: Jimmy Thomas has a connection with record producer Huey Meaux and the band travels to Houston, Texas to record a 45 with Huey. The band releases their ninth 45, “Same Lines” (Tony Andreason) backed with “Hangin’ on Me” (Mark Charron). The A-side is in a very different musical style for the band and has a folk-rock style to it. Tony sings the lead vocals. This is the first recording by the band that was not recorded at Kay Bank in Minneapolis. Both songs are co-produced by Huey Meaux and Jim Thomas. The record is on the Tribe label, distributed by London Records.
The band plays over 200 one night jobs in 1966.
1967: The band releases their tenth and final 45, “Green Green Backs Back Home” (Curly Putnam and Larry LaPole) backed with “Address Enclosed” (Larry LaPole). The record is on the Metrobeat label, a label owned by Mike Jann, Tony Andreason and David Anthony Wachter. The Trashmen are listed as the artists on the A-side only, a humorous/parody song based on two tear jerker hit songs, “Old Rivers” by Walter Brennan (1962) and “Green, Green Grass of Home” by Tom Jones (1966). The B-side states Tony Jones and Nancy Montgomery as the artists. The country style song is written by Larry Lapole. Both songs are produced by Mike Jann.
The band plays at The Gables (Lyndale and Franklin in Minneapolis) on weekends for a few months.
After a five year run including a national hit song, one of the first rock’n’roll albums recorded in Minnesota, ten 45’s, hundreds of jobs, and thousands of miles on the road, the band members decide to move on to other pursuits and The Trashmen come to an end.
In the later 1970’s, The Trashmen began playing a number of reunion concerts, mostly in the twin cities area.
The song “Surfin’ Bird” has been recorded by numerous recording artists over the years. Some of the cover versions are by: The Ramones (1977); The Cramps (1978); Charly Lownoise and Mental Theo (1993); Sodom (2001); and Silvercarft (1997).
The song “Surfin’ Bird” has been included in numerous movie soundtracks over the years. Some of the movies are as follows: Pink Flamingos (1972); Full Metal Jacket (1987); Fred Claus (2007); and The Big Year (2011).
The song “Surfin’ Bird” has been included in numerous video games over the years.
The song “Surfin’ Bird” has been included in numerous TV shows over the years, the most popular show to feature the song was “Family Guy” (October 5, 2008). The entire show revolved around the song and brought new worldwide attention to the song and to The Trashmen.
In 2009, The Trashmen’s original recording of “Surfin’ Bird” was released in the UK and went up to Number 3 on their Top 100 chart.
Over the recent years The Trashmen have made numerous tours of Europe and have played to fans in Germany, England, France and Spain.
K U K
It’s So Easy
King of the Surf
Surfin’ Bird – 45 Record – Side – A
King of the Surf – 45 Record – Side – B
Bird Dance Beat – 45 Record – Side – A
A – Bone – 45 Record – Side – B
Bad News – 45 Record – Side – A
On The Move – 45 Record – Side – B
Peppermint Man – 45 Record – Side – A
New Generation – 45 Record – Side – B
Whoa Dad ! – 45 Record – Side – A
Walkin’ My Baby – 45 Record – Side – B
Dancin’ With Santa – 45 Record – Side – A
Real Live Doll – 45 Record – Side – B
Keep Your Hands Off My Baby – 45 Record – Side – A
Lost Angel – 45 Record – Side – B
Bird 65′ – 45 Record – Side – A
Ubangi Stomp – 45 Record – Side – B
Hangin’ On Me – 45 Record – Side – A
Same Lines – 45 Record – Side – B
Green Green Backs of Home – 45 Record – Side – A
Address Enclosed- 45 Record – Side – B
TRASHMEN BAND TREE
Trashmen 1962 to Current
Tony Andreeason Lead Guitar / Vocals
1962 to Current
Jim Thaxter and The Travelers
Dal Winslow Rhythm Guitar / Vocals
1962 to Current
Jim Thaxter and The Travelers
Bob Reed Bass Guitar / Vocals
1962 to Current
Steve Wahrer Drums / Vocals
1962 to 1989
Jim Thaxter and The Travelers
Jim Woody Bass / Vocals
1962 to 1962
Tony Andreason – Playing with The Trashmen – Living in Minnesota
Dal Winslow – Playing with The Trashmen – Living in Minnesota
Bob Reed – Playing with The Trashmen – Living in Minnesota
Steve Wahrer – Passed away in 1989. Rob Reed now on drums for the band
Interview PART ONE – Time = 20:05
Interview PART TWO – Time = 19:31
Interview PART THREE – Time = 24:08
Interview PART FOUR – Time = 24:36
Interview PART FIVE – Time = 26:22
Interview PART SIX – Time = 29:51