Riding the wave

Riding the wave

The Surfaris celebrate 50 years of ‘Wipeout’ at Glendale Cruise Night Saturday

By Carl Kozlowski 07/18/2013

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Saturday offers a swinging way to celebrate two major milestones with the city of Glendale hosting its 20th Annual Cruise Night, an event featuring the rock band The Surfaris, which is marking the 50th anniversary of its biggest hit, “Wipeout.”   

That combination — along with a performance by The Tokens, creators of the hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” — is expected to draw one of the biggest crowds of any Southern California event this year, with organizers predicting 35,000 people will come to admire the more than 400 classic pre-1979 cars on display. 

Featuring booths and activities for kids in addition to a stunning array of automobiles, Cruise Night has long been known for putting together terrific combinations of classic rock bands. Recent years have featured Beach Boys and Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute bands, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and a performance by Chubby Checker that resulted in the crowd setting the world record for the most people doing his signature dance “The Twist” at the same time. 

“It’s been a great life, playing songs that get crowds moving and having a good time for a full five decades after we wrote them,” Bob Berryhill, The Surfaris’ rhythm guitarist and sole remaining original member, says from a tour stop in Hawaii. “Whoever thought that a riff by four high school kids, built around a marching band drum solo, would stand the test of time like ‘Wipeout’ has?”

Indeed, the classic-rock staple came to life in the winter of 1962, shortly after Glendora-based Berryhill and three of his high school buddies formed the band after a practice session in his home. Quickly making an impression on the Southern California music scene, they wound up writing “Wipeout” on the spot during a studio recording session just months after their formation. 

While the song features an amazingly energetic drum solo and blazing guitar work, it stood out from the crowd of other surf-rock recordings due to its opening, in which Berryhill’s dad broke a board to simulate the sound of a surf board breaking, followed by a loud laugh and the words “wipe out” spoken by band manager Dale Smallin. 

The band originally wanted to name the song “Switchblade,” but the final tune surfed its way up to No. 2 on the Billboard charts en route to earning a gold disc from the Recording Industry Association of America for selling more than one million copies. While the song continues to play in heavy rotation on oldies radio stations and fuels a demand that keeps The Surfaris playing about 20 concerts a year on average, Berryhill is looking forward to next summer being even busier. 

“We’re in talks to team up with about five other great Sixties bands to do a world tour that will have a lot of shows,” he says. “It’s all about riding the wave. 

The 20th Annual Cruise Night takes place from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday on Brand Boulevard, between Broadway and Milford Street, in Glendale. Admission is free. For more information, visit glendalecruisenight.com.

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