The original band members were Ron Wilson (drums, vocals), Jim Fuller (lead guitar), Bob Berryhill (rhythm guitar) and Pat Connolly (bass).In the fall of 1962, Southern California high school students Jim Fuller and Pat Connolly called friend and guitarist Berryhill for a practice session at Berryhill's house. The trio practiced for about 4 hours and met drummer Wilson at a high school dance later that evening, whereupon the band was born. "Wipe Out" was written and recorded by the quartet later that winter, with the song reaching #2 nationally in 1963 before becoming an international hit.Saxophone player Jim Pash joined after their "Wipe Out" / "Surfer Joe" recording sessions at Pal Studios. Ken Forssi, later of Love, played bass with The Surfaris after Pat Connolly.
Wilson's energetic drum solo made "Wipe Out" one of the best-remembered instrumental songs of the period. "Wipe Out" is also remembered particularly for its introduction. Before the music starts, Berryhill's dad broke a board (imitating a breaking surf board) near the mic, followed by a maniacal laugh and the words "Wipe Out" spoken by band manager Dale Smallin. "Wipe Out" was written in the studio by the four original members (Berryhill, Connolly, Fuller & Wilson) and was originally going to be titled "Switchblade". It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc.
Disbanding and reformation
The band released a series of records, with two other singles, "Surfer Joe" (written and sung by Wilson) and "Point Panic" (another group-composed instrumental), having an impact on the charts. Point Panic is a renowned surfing venue in Hawaii after which the song was named.The original 1963 membership remained intact until August 1965 when Connolly departed before their Japanese tour. Ken Forssi replaced him on bass for the tour. Fuller resigned after the tour and the band folded in early 1966.The group has periodically reunited and are still active, performing and recording, often re-recording their old and new songs. Drummer Ron Wilson died on 12 May 1989, one month short of his 45th birthday. Wilson had released an album of his songs, entitled Lost It In The Surf
, on Bennet House Records of Grass Valley, California, which was recorded in June 1987. A very small number of cassettes of this album were produced. Lost It in the Surf
included a cover of "Louie Louie", complete with Scottish bagpipes. Forssi died from a brain tumor in 1998, and Pash died from heart failure in 2005.Bob Berryhill currently performs under the Surfaris banner as "Bob Berryhill's Surfaris." Jim Fuller currently plays with his own band, "Jim Fuller and the Beatnik." Connolly has since left the music business.
"Wipe Out" hoax
Following the death of television personality Morton Downey, Jr., news reports and obituaries incorrectly credited him as the composer of "Wipe Out" (as well as The Chantays' "Pipeline"). As of 2010, Downey's official website continued to make this claim but it has been changed to state he "also played major roles in the production of the hit surf music era songs Pipeline and Wipeout."