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POP MUSIC : Salty Survivors Translated the Surf Sensation

June 25, 1992|JIM WASHBURN | Jim Washburn is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition.

Even though demographic studies don't bear out the contention that there are "two girls for every boy," Huntington Beach may well live up to the image of the "Surf City" depicted in the Jan and Dean song. It's close enough that the group's Dean Torrance even moved to Huntington Beach recently, and the duo is taking part Sunday in a Battle of the Surf Bands that heralds the opening in July of the new HB pier.

While Jan and Dean sang about surfing in the '60s, Orange County performers actually were surfing, and translated the sensation into some of the first and best music in the surfing idiom. Sharing the bill Sunday with Jan and Dean, the Surfaris and Papa Doo Run Run are two such local legends: Dick Dale and the Chantays.

Surf guitar king Dale's tale is pretty much common legend now, how he strode from the ocean one day (he says it was in the '50s, though others insist it was the early '60s) intent on finding a sonic equivalent of shooting the curl. To that end, he is credited with pioneering the palpably loud, reverb-drenched instrumental style that came to be known as surf music. He introduced it in dance halls on the Balboa Peninsula and soon was attracting thousands of teen-agers on the weekends.

He's no stranger to Huntington Beach, having both surfed its beaches and headlined its old Pavilon Ballroom (originally a roller-skating rink and now the site of Maxwell's Restaurant). He often did both in the same afternoon. Speaking from his current desert home near Twentynine Palms, Dale recalled that "the afternoons were really good for surfing under the pier, between the pilings. I'd step right out of the water soaking wet with my surfboard, trying to get onstage in time to play.

"I got severely shocked many times. Once a blue gap sparked about two inches from the mike to my mouth, and the next thing I knew, when I picked up my trumpet to play (Dale's a multi-instrumentalist), blood was coming out of the bell of my horn."

Events of such mythic proportion always seem to happen when one is a surf guitar king, and it's little wonder that Dale was miffed to find that Sunday's show is billed as a surf "battle."

"If I'd known it was titled like that I would never have played it," Dale said. "I mean, why should the originator be involved in a battle of the surf bands? I'm the guy who created the stuff. The originators don't play battles of the bands."

The concert won't actually be a competition, organizer Bill Hollingshead said. He just gave it the contentious title so it would remind people of the old days, when surf band battles (albeit without Dale) were the rage.

The Chantays' Bob Spickard is a veteran of many such shows, and says that even in the '60s, they often weren't real competitions.

"It isn't like were going to war or anything," Spickard said recently. "It was more of an excuse for bands to get together and play. There wasn't any animosity between the bands. Usually there wasn't even a contest or a prize."

The Chantays' tale is one of the great music-biz stories of the '60s. Less than six months after getting their first guitars, Santa Ana High students Spickard and Brian Carmen got together after school and wrote "Pipeline," which--along with the Surfaris' "Wipe Out"--is one of the world's most enduring and copied instrumentals. The song originally was titled "Liberty's Whip" after the film "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence," but they changed it after seeing a Bruce Brown surf film.

When first released in 1963, it became the No. 4 tune in the nation. Its success took the group to such disparate destinations as Japan and the Lawrence Welk Show. In the '80s, a Grammy-nominated cover version was waxed by Dale with the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

What: Surf City's First Annual Battle of the Surf Bands with Jan and Dean, Dick Dale and the Deltones, the Chantays, the Surfaris and Papa Doo Run Run.

When: Sunday, June 28, at 3 p.m. (gates open at 1).

Where: Huntington Beach High School football stadium, corner Main and Yorktown.

Whereabouts: Pacific Coast Highway to Main Street, head inland. Or take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Beach Boulevard and go south, and turn right onto Main.

Wherewithal: $10. Children 9 and under free.

Where to Call: (714) 969-3492.

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