Surfin’ Bird – The Trashmen

THIS DAY IN MUSIC……………………………………on December 28th of 1963 a quartet from Minneapolis, Minnesota who called themselves The Trashmen saw their first release, “Surfin’ Bird”, enter the Billboard Hot 100 where it would reach #4 during the first week of February, next year. This is a medley made up of the choruses of two R&B classics by the ’60s doo-wop group The Rivingtons: “The Bird Is the Word” and “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow.” The brainchild of Trashmen drummer Steve Wahrer, the song was a quirky and consumable hit, boldly combining surf music with novelty R&B. The Trashmen were a garage band from Minneapolis, which isn’t surfing territory. How did a band from Minnesota create a surf-rock classic? The quartet soaked up the sunshine and sounds of California when they took a road trip there in spring, 1963. Returning home, they incorporated the surf sound into their shows when they played local gigs, and eventually worked up “Surfin’ Bird.”Despite critical acclaim, they managed just one more minor hit before disbanding in the late ’60s: the 1964 #30 “Bird Dance Beat.” When this became a hit, The Rivingtons were awarded writing credit for the song, since it was based on their compositions. This was a huge financial benefit, as they receive royalties every time the song is used in a movie, TV show or commercial. The Trashmen were left with the performance royalties, which while certainly not scraps, were far less lucrative. The band says that for their first payment, they each received a check for $1.88, but they eventually got a lump sum of $4,500 each. A full album was quickly recorded, and the band was dispatched on a tour, traveling the country in a Chevy Greenbrier van. They played 292 gigs that year, but couldn’t get higher than #30 with any of their subsequent releases. In 1967, they called it quits as their sound fell out of favour. Though it was a surf flavoured song “Surfin’ Bird” actually charted higher in the UK where it peaked at #3.