The last time surf-rock legends The Trashmen toured
California, we were fighting the Vietnam War, gas cost 30 cents per gallon and
Bob Dylan caused a folk music uproar by using an electric guitar. The Minneapolis-based garage band visited the
West Coast in the mid-'60s, promoting the release of their first album, which featured the hit single “Surfin' Bird.”
“We were kind of apprehensive going out there, being a surf
band from the Midwest. 'What are people going to think?”' guitarist Dal Winslow recalls. “But it turned out good. The tour went very well.”
The Trashmen roll into Anaheim on Jan. 15 for
the Eighth Annual Guitar Geek Festival.
Promoter Deke Dickerson says he thinks the Trashmen are the most talented and underrated surf-rock band, and before he dies, he has a personal goal to fulfill with his favorite band. “I know it's an overused term, but I've got this bucket list of things that I want to do before I pass away,” he says, “and one of those things is that I must sing 'Surfin' Bird' with the Trashmen.”
Fortunately, he will accompany the Trashmen on vocals for that hit. When Dickerson was 17 years old, he was in a sort of
Trashmen cover band. He was quick to point out the band's talents reach
far beyond the iconic song. “Everybody knows 'Surfin' Bird,' but not a lot of people have heard of their instrumental
work,” he says. “I would put Tony Andreason, the guitar player, in the top surf guitarists of all time. He's that good.”
In 2008, the song had half of an episode of Family Guy dedicated to
it. Peter Griffin received a single of “Surfin' Bird,” his favorite song, and drove his family insane by
constantly playing it. When Winslow was told their song would be on the show, he says, he completely underestimated how much the show would feature it. “I
figured it would be on there for two seconds or whatever. I never thought
there would be a whole story on it. That just took off, and it went bananas,” Winslow says.
After the “I Dream of
Jesus” episode of Family Guy aired, “Surfin' Bird” was the No. 1 downloaded
song on Amazon, according to Winslow. It also charted among the top 10 rock songs
on iTunes. “It's just like you're breathing new life and new blood into that
song,” he says.
It's a song that has kept popping up through the years. It was used in Full Metal
Jacket, Pink Flamingos and several commercials. It's been covered by acts such as The Ramones and The Cramps. “Isn't it ever going to go away? Well, no, probably not,” says Winslow. “It's still alive and healthy 40-some years later. As long as people request it, we'll keep
The Trashmen are playing with a near-original lineup. Bassist Robin Reed, the son of Bob Reed, will fill in on drums for Steve Wahrer, who died in 1989.
They call Rob “The Trashkid” because he was born in 1963, the same year “Surfin' Bird” was cut. Winslow and the rest of the band believe that playing shows now is not too different from how it was in the '60s. “We've always enjoyed it. Now it's
strictly because it's a lot of fun and people want to hear us play,” he says. More than 40 years later, people are still drawn to surf-rock music. Winslow believes “it's just the pure, raw rock & roll of it.”
Dickerson ran into the Trashmen at the Ponderosa Stomp music festival in New Orleans in September. It was there that Dickerson invited them to play
the Guitar Geek Festival. Winslow couldn't wait to play again. He recalls saying to Dickerson, “Sure, we will play. Why not? Sounds like fun!”
“It's the most ambitious lineup I've ever put together,”
Dickerson says. “Technically, I have two headliners: Junior Brown and the
Trashmen, who would be equally great on their own, but I figured why not go for
Winslow is also impressed with the lineup. “You know what I
look forward to most is all the other guys that are playing. We've played with
Davie Allan before. We're friends with him, and he's a great guitar player,” he says. “The guys who are backing him up–Dusty [Watson], he's from the
Slacktones. Looking forward to seeing Junior Brown. He's a phenomenon.”
Dickerson started the festival eight years ago because of dissatisfaction
with what other guitar festivals offer. “I grew up watching these terrible
guitar festivals, where you'd have these guys wanking onstage for 30 minutes,
playing solo after solo, and 19 guys all jamming some Lynyrd Skynyrd song,” he says.
“And I said, 'Man, you know, I want to see a guitar festival where Nokie
Edwards and the Ventures play and obscure guys you've never heard of, but are
equally as great. I realized that the only way that was going to happen was if
I did it myself.
“We jokingly call it the Guitar Geek Festival,” he continues. “It's
self-mockery to show that we don't take ourselves too seriously. It's a [group of people] who are woefully neglected in every
other aspect of American life, and that is the guitar nerds.”
Even though it is a guitar festival, he says, anyone with an appreciation for music
should enjoy it. “There's going to be a lot of people singing as well, so it's
not going to be just 10 hours of instrumental music, which I think would make
most people want to commit suicide,” he says.
In addition to the concert, the festival offers a guitar
raffle for charity, a “Stump the Geek” guitar trivia quiz and a guitar museum.
The museum started off showcasing Dickerson's collection, but audience members
began bringing their own instruments, and it now takes up one full wall of the
venue. “We've got some celebrity-owned instruments. Last year, we had Duane Eddy
play, and this year, we're going to have a double-neck guitar that was built for
Eddy in 1960. There's going to be an amplifier for Scotty Moore, who played for
Elvis Presley. Things that you won't see at any music store or might see in a
book and wouldn't see in person unless you came to something like this.”
The Eight Annual Guitar Geek Festival featuring Junior Brown, the Trashmen, Skipp
Pitts and more at the Anaheim Plaza Hotel, 1700 S. Harbor
Blvd., Anaheim. Jan. 15, 3 p.m. $35 in advance; $40 at the door.