Skinny Jimmy Stingray is a veteran South Florida surf guitarist and instrumental music enthusiast. His bands have shared the bill with Dick Dale, The Surfaris, Los Straitjackets and many more legends of surf. He performs throughout the South Florida area and is a regular at The Hukilau, the annual Tiki weekender held every June in Fort Lauderdale. You can find more info - including links to music and video plus extensive surf music resources - at SkinnyJimmyStingray.com
Among the many topics discussed were Jimmy’s favorite bands of the first wave of instrumental surf (late ’50s through mid-’60s) that may not have achieved the fame of some of the genre’s more widely known artists. Before the live set, we treated the attendees to vintage recordings of songs from these artists, whose achievements are no less influential and memorable than their more popular peers.
Here’s the list along with some select YouTube audio. We urge to you find more vintage recordings by these overlooked artists.
Skinny Jimmy’s Picks: 5 underappreciated surf bands of the first wave
By Skinny Jimmy Stingray
My love of instrumental surf music has made me something of an archaeologist, searching for the next obscurity from the vintage surf era that I haven’t yet heard. I couldn’t begin to count just how many bands released instrumental rock ‘n’ roll guitar singles between 1958 and 1964 that are still worth seeking out, if not worth owning in one’s collection.
During this era, there was a vast amount of serious bands producing music – both professionally and as D.I.Y. artists. Many of these bands were important and vital to the scene during their day. However, over the years, they have remained under the radar and lack the notoriety they deserve.
Skinny Jimmy’s Picks: The all-time top 5 Dick Dale songs
Dick Dale, the King of the Surf Guitar, was a rock ‘n’ roll legend for more than 60 years until he sadly passed away in March at age 81. He has been a major influence on the music I have played and written for the past 15 years. Of all the music he created, I have chosen these five songs that stand out as my favorites.
Undisputedly THE Dick Dale song of all time. Upon its release it was uncommon, ground-breaking, and some serious wild-ass aggressive guitar for 1962. Miserlou turned heads all over the country and became an inspiration to every rock ‘n’ roll guitarist, then and now. Its musical impact has not diminished with time. Miserlou will always live on as the legacy of Dick Dale.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of special features on instro surf music by Skinny Jimmy Stingray, a guitarist and longtime fan of vintage instrumental rock. This and all of his future columns can be found here.
When the moon is bright and the shadows grow long, sounds that echo send a chill through the night. Nothing echoes quite as ghoulishly as the sound of a reverb-soaked electric guitar.
Let me strike a chord to remind you, the surf guitar world is full of sinister sounding musical creations. The nature of this music lends itself to a foreboding intensity. This has always been a part of my intrigue with instrumental surf guitar. The five songs featured here are only a sampling of a much larger banquet of spine-tingling offerings surf music provides.
1. Peter Lorre by Satan’s Pilgrims
As surf bands go, Satan’s Pilgrims is definitely one of the best out there and has been going strong since the early ’90s. It’s clear that the band is heavily into horror and sci-fi. Peter Lorre is one of my personal favorites. The riffs are ominous, but the music never gets too loud. The lovely, creepy Hammond organ provides the lifeblood that courses through the song. Give it a listen and you will feel what I mean.
2. Unknown by the Vy-Dels
Not much is known about the band but this 1965 song is awesome! Their use of reverb is vital, and the interplay between the lead and rhythm guitars is impeccable. I liked this song so much when I discovered it, I insisted on playing it with my band back in 2013 at The Mai-Kai for Hulaween. It turned out to be a good idea. The band’s obscurity does not undermine the impact of Unknown.