page is devoted to the man who, out of all of the Beach Boys
contemporaries, most closely matched Brian Wilson in style and
output. Gary Usher helped Brian Wilson shape the songs of
much of the early Beach Boys albums, from the hot-rod craze of "Fun,
Fun, Fun" to the deeply introspective "In My Room."
Usher's own recordings, most of which were released under pseudonyms,
are archetypes of the California sound, closely hewing to the sound and
style of early Beach Boys songs. For much more information
about this prolific artist, as well as a complete discography, check
The Hondells Vol. 1 -
1964: You're Gonna Ride With Us
Records 3811 AH [CD Only];
The Hondells were the outlet for most of Gary
Usher's early records. Created during Usher's tenure as music
director for the film The Girls On The Beach
(which had cameo appearances by the Beach Boys), Gary heard one of
Brian's new songs for the film "Little Honda" which he immediately
thought was a hit record. But Brian wasn't planning to issue
it as a single, so Usher decided to record his own version with
producer Nick Venet at Mercury Records. He asked some
professional studio musicians to cut the track,
and released the single under the name The
Hondells. The song was indeed a hit, and Usher had several
other tracks recorded, using sidemen like Glen Campbell and members of
the vocal group The Castells to help out. After the single
hit the top 30 on the charts, other tracks were quickly cut for an
album and the group The Hondells became a marketable name.
The studio and touring personnel shifted throughout the groups'
history, but the sounds and quality of The Hondells were
consistantly high. This disc, which chronicles The Hondells
output for 1964, is great - a thick slice of car/motorcycle/drag music
that sounds just as fun and vital today as when it was
written. Favorites of mine include "Little Honda," "Ridin'
Trails," "The Wild One," "Black Denim" and "My Buddy Seat."
The sound is firmly in early Beach Boys mold, with songs sounding as if
they could be b-sides or album tracks on Little Deuce Coupe
or Shut Down Vol. 2. Where the
Hondells veered away from other, similar groups is in
their use of vocals - unlike other surf/drag groups, the Hondells were
primarilly a vocal group, and Usher had a great vocalist in Chuck
Girard (sort of a less-nasal Mike Love), and backup vocals provided by
Usher, Glen Campbell, Joe Kelly, Richard Burns, Usher himself, and
others. This fine compilation, available only as an
import, sports a hefty thirty-six tracks (!) and excellent
liner notes by Stephen J. McParland and is highly recommended.
Vol. 2 - 1965-1970: California Sunshine
ATM Records 3814
AH [CD Only];
A strange thing
happened after the Hondells had their early success - Gary Usher gave
them up. Having accepted a post at Decca Records,
Usher handed the reigns of the Hondells over to producers Nick Venet
and Mike Curb at Mercury, who continued to milk the Hondells'
name and personnel, in the process turning away from the harder-edged
sound that had defined them in their first recordings, and making them
more "pop" oriented, with songs like "Ski Party" and "Winter A -Go-Go"
trying to find a new sport for the Hondells to latch onto,
and others like "You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda" (taken
from a commerical jingle) or the bouncy "Follow Your Heart" showing off
the slick, new sound that showed Curb trying to market the Hondells to
the widest possible audience. But instead of washing out with
this sleeker, more commercial Hondells, some very interesting
experiments occured, with a wall-of-sound-ish "Sea Of Love;" an
up-tempo "Endless Sleep" or the poppy "Do As I Say" (which has
no involvement from the Hondells touring or session players) being cut
and released under the Hondells name. Unfortunately, this
caused Dick Burns, who was the only consistant member of the Hondells
on the road, some tense moments, since he had no control over what the
Hondells were singing or putting out on 45s. This musical
pillaging of the Hondells name and sound continued throughout the
1960s, with the occasional single or commerical being cut and released,
and their sound constantly changing as the studio personnel came and
went. But the Hondells name continued to be used, and Gary
Usher even returned for some sessions, cutting several tracks in 1966
and '67, with Randy Thomas on lead vocals, and
pulling songs by Boyce & Hart ("Let's Dance On"), and
John Sebastian ("Younger Girl") into the mix. Volume
2 in the series contains a lighter sound, but is almost as
enjoyable as the first volume.
Vol. 3 - Aliases And Alternatives
3824-AH [CD Only];
By the time ATM
Records got to Volume 3 of their massive Hondells release program, the
law of diminishing returns was beginning to take effect.
Since The Hondells were essentially only session musicians and singers,
all under the auspices of producers Gary Usher and Mike Curb, the same
players showed up not only as the Hondells, but in different guises as
well. So on this third volume you not only have "The
Hondells" - you also have The Sunsets, The Four Speeds, Gary Usher and
The Usherettes (who are better known to Beach Boys fans as The Honeys),
The Competitors, The Go-Go's, The Devons, and some guy named Don
Brandon. And while the producers are able to create a
different sound for each group, the songs (nearly all bearing the
producing/writing stamp of Gary Usher) quickly begin to sound the same,
song after song after song. Granted, the music is supposed to
be juvenile, lightweight fun, but I got tired of listening to the same
rev-ving car sounds, with the same basic rhythm tracks over lyrics that
don't dig very deep: "The Chug-A-Lug," "Playmate Of The Year," "My
Little Beach Bunny," "Doin' The Swim" (a lame stab at creating a new
dance craze) and (my personal favorite title) "Bustin' Buns." Or
hearing car song after car song with no development of the genre:
"R.P.M.," "My Sting Ray," "Four On The Floor," "Cheater Slicks," ""Wide
Track," "Little Stick Nomad" and "The Ballad of Bonneville" are all
pretty generic entries in the car/drag canon - but then many of them
are simply re-recordings of earlier Super Stocks records; Usher had no
compulsion against recycling old songs over and over again, but after a
while it gets monotonous. But there are some good songs as
well: I especially liked the songs by the Go-Go's, which have a nice
bright sound compared to "The Competitors" who have a thicker
production sound. And the opening tracks by the
Hondells are fine, with alternate takes of "Sea Cruise," "Follow Your
Heart," "Endless Sleep," "Let's Dance On," "Yes To You," and "Another
Woman". This release, like all the others have exhaustive
liner notes by Gary Usher biographer Stephen McParland, as well as
pertinent discography, photographs and production notes.
Vol. 4 - More Aliases And Early
ATM Records 3829-AH [CD Only];
were still LOADS of stuff in the vaults to put out on yet one more
32-track collection of Hondells material. To be fair, most of
the tracks on this CD are not credited to "The Hondells" as such, but
to the many permeations of the session players who revolved in and out
of the group. The first twelve tracks on volume 4 are all
credited to "The Ghouls" with Dick Burns doing most of the Boris
Karloff impersonations, and a Beach Boys rip-offs present in
the form of "Be True To Your Ghoul" and a Jan & Dean parody on
"Little Old Lady From Transylvania." It's amusing once, and
generally well-produced (I especially like the dreamy, unsettling
instrumental "Dracula's Theme") but the album as a
whole fits firmly into the "novelty" bin. Also
included on this CD are a couple of takes of "School Is A Drag" from
the Super Stocks (more on them later), several cuts from a solo Gary
Usher, including his most famous song "Sacramento," but also several
rarities: "The Beetle," "(That's) Just The Way I Feel," "It's A Lie"
and "Rave On." Usher usually took backing vocal duties on his
productions, and for good reason: his voice just isn't up to par with
other vocalists. The Indigos also show up on a couple of
tracks - The Indigos were the original "touring" band for the
Hondells, but these tracks are pre-Hondells outings, with "Get Up And
Go" and "Inspiration" which are good for comparison with the early
Hondells recordings; and even earlier Indigos tracks show up in the
three Dick Burns and Bobby Fry numbers: "Daddy's Dice," "(Big) Molly,"
and "Crazy Blues" (credited only to Burns). The Hondells show
up in only five tracks: instrumental versions of "Younger Girl,"
"All-American Girl," "My Little Bike," and "The Pack" and then in a
live reunion which took place in 1981, and features an interview with
Gary Usher and Roger Christian, and a ragged performance of "Younger
Girl." A satisfying end to an illuminating series.
[LP], Sundazed SC 11025 [CD];
Released 1964, CD
Release September 29, 1995
Gary Usher and Richard Delvy, flush from their
success with the top-ten album Shut Down (which
they produced), was asked by Vault Records to try and duplicate that
success on their label. Vault had already contracted surf-rock band The
Challengers to play on the tracks, but never having written car tunes
before, Usher was brought in to lend an authentic touch.
Given three fictional group names to work with - The Customs,
The Quads, The Grand Prix, and the aforementioned backing group, The
Challengers, Usher also brought in friends Dick Burns (The Hondells),
Paul Johnson, Bobby Hart, Paul Johnson, Dennis McCarthy
and others to quickly shape an album of hot rod tunes in order
to strike while the iron was hot. The resulting album, Hot
Rod City, while no masterpiece, captures the raw energy of
the drag-racing circuit, and includes several songs of interest to
Beach Boys fans. Included are the previous Usher compositions "RPM", a
cover of Chuck Berry's "Maybelline," and three Beach Boys songs,
"Little Deuce Coupe," "Shut Down," and "409." In comparison
with the originals by the Beach Boys, these covers are pretty weak,
with the vocalists unable to match the harmonies and vocal prowess of
Brian Wilson, and Co., but otherwise are competently played.
Other songs, like "Competition Coupe" with a miscast lead vocal by
keyboardist Dennis McCarthy, fail completely, but other songs, namely
"Nifty '50" and "'54 Corvette," are fun slices of
mid-sixties Americana. Sundazed Records has added
eight bonus tracks to the original LP, using the same session musicians
as the album, and there are several tracks here which are
better than what was released on the album, with
the "Fun, Fun, Fun" clone "The Blonde in the 406" which is a
great story-song, and also a rare Brian Wilson song which was
originally written for teen-idol Paul Petersen "She Rides With Me,"
which receives a faithful reading here. But overall,
this album will sound like Beach Boys cast-offs from their
early days, with little here that matches the artistry or performance
chops of The Beach Boys.
The Super Stocks
(Featuring Gary Usher): The Complete Recordings
One Way Records
S22-18680 [CD Only];
Released 1964, CD Release December 1, 1995
The Super Stocks
were the fictional group which Gary Usher used (along with Hondells) to
release his material. So prolific was the producer, that all three
Super Stocks LPs were released within the space of a year! This
double-CD, now out of print and commanding outrageous prices, collects
not only the contents of the three records the Super Stocks released,
but also sundry tracks which appeared on various Surf/Drag
compilations like Shut Down, Hot Rod
Rally, and Big Hot Rod Hits as well as
a dozen unreleased and alternate tracks.
The core members of the Super Stocks were Glen Campbell, Richie
Podolor, and Paul Johnson on guitars; Hal Blaine on drums; and Steve
Douglas on sax. Usher sang some of the early vocals, with Chuck Girard,
Ritchie Burns, and Joe Kelly also singing; but Girard
eventually took over most of the vocal duties. The Super Stocks
intially had a tougher sound than the Hondells, with strong
garage-rock/surf-rock roots in their playing, and while their first LP,
Thunder Road, is a
routine entry in the car/drag genre, with lots of reverb guitar, sax
breaks, and drum breaks, a few of the songs stand out - especially the
last three, "Draggin' Deuce," "Hot To Trot" (with a vocal reminiscent
of Dennis Wilson's early singing), and "Custom Caravan" closing out the
album with a nice hook. The second album, Surf Route 101 has
a richer sound to the production and sweeter harmony vocals which
stands up well with the Beach Boys efforts at this time. The
songs run the gamut from straight ahead Surf-Rock ("Ventura,"
"Oceanside" and a ticking "Midnight Run") to a thinly-disguised rewrite
of Brian Wilson's "Pamela Jean" (here called "Muscle Beach Party") to a
subtly-flavored "Balboa Island." As an album, Surf
Route 101 is far more enjoyable than its predecessor, and
shows a real increase in songwriting and production skills by
Usher. The final album, School Is A Drag,
leans even more strongly in the Beach Boys direction, with the addition
of falsetto vocals, and several songs all patterned after the rah-rah
attitude of "Be True To Your School." Besides the title song,
you'll also find "School Bus Blues," "Let Freedom Ring" (about waiting
for the school bell to ring) "Hot Rod High," "Class Day," and "Gridiorn
Goodie." Side B of the album reverts back to
drag-racing and cars as it's theme, with the songs "Saturday's Hero,"
"Readin' Ridin' and Racin'," "A Guy Without Wheels," "Wild One,"
"Little Honda," and "The Last Walk" finishing the long-play careers of
The Super Stocks. Finishing out the set are several
unreleased tracks, including "Surfer's Holiday," "This Bike Of Mine" (a
remake of the Beach Boys "This Car Of Mine" with a faster take),
"Coffin Nails," "Beat '65," "Free Fall" and several untitled
instrumentals. The quality of the songs and production rises
noticably with each album, and this collection is a fascinating foray
into how Gary Usher grew as a producer and artist.
Unfortunately the slim fold-out booklet which reproduces the three
album covers contains no other notes on the group or recordings, and
although I was album to purchase it for under $15, this set is
getting hard to find at reasonable prices.
& The Weirdos: The Rat Fink Collection
LP Releases: Hot Rod Hootenanny - Capitol
ST-2010 [LP] (1963);
Rods and Ratfinks - Capitol ST-2057 [LP] (1964);
Surfink! - Capitol ST-2114 [LP] (1964);
CD Release: One-Way Records 18319 [CD]; Released May 30, 1995
1. Hot Rod Hootenanny
2. Fastest Shift Alive
3. You Ain't Nothing But A Honda
4. Mr. Gasser
6. Termites In My Woody
7. Eefen It Don't Go Chrome It
9. Weirdo Wiggle
12. My Coupe Eefen Talks
13. Three Kats In A Tub
15. Hey, Ratfink
16. 1947 Avanti
17. Cherry-Top Charlie
18. Lonely Stocker
1. Ballad Of Eefin Fink
2. Cool, Cool Rod
3. Hearse With A Curse
4. Waltz Of The Ratfinks
5. Fink Rod 409
7. Well, I'm Goin'
8. Surfer Ghoul
9. Doin' The Surfink
10. Little Fink Surfs Again
11. Ratfink High
12. Phantom Surfer
13. There's A Dog-Gone Ding In My Ding-Dong Board
14. Big Bad Surfink
15. Surfink Blues
16. Finksville U.S.A.
17. Santa Barbara
18. Midnight Run
REVIEW: Whereas Brian Wilson was
struggling to break out of the artistic confines of the surf and drag
music scene, becoming more musically adventurous with every album, Gary
Usher remained firmly in the genre which he had gained the most
success. In 1964, he left producing the studio bands
that had gained him notoriety and jumped on the commercial bandwagon
with this triple-LP collection of songs which were tied into the
creations of illustrator Ed
"Big Daddy" Roth, whose warped characters were all the rage
during the mid-1960s, gracing decals, posters, t-shirts, and eventually
were made into a very popular series of plastic models. In
the best traditions of corporate greed, it was decided to expand the
characters into the music market, and this trio of albums was quickly
made, and Gary Usher, Columbia Records local hod-rod music impresario,
was tapped to help write, produce, and sing on these hot-rod themed
platters. While not breaking any new ground musically, the
albums definitely have a sense of fun, with the first album Hod
Rod Hootenanny sporting a redneck aura and songs like
"Termites in My Woody" and "Eefen It Don't Go, Chrome It" which have
a sly humor tied to groovy surf 'n' drag music which ranks
among the best of the era. Unfortunately, the albums
themselves have no information on who sings or plays on these tracks,
and unless you want to spend hundreds of dollars for Stephen
MacParland's excellent series of musical biographies on Gary Usher,
you're left like me to simply sit back and enjoy the music.
The songs are generally bright invocations of car worship, with the
unique addition of prominent female vocalists in the backing
vocals. Songs I especially like are the fun "Cool, Cool Rod"
which is about a supercharged ice-cream truck, the frenetic
instrumental "Surfink," the very funny Beach Boys parody "Surfer Ghoul"
and the rocking "Ratfink High." One-Way Records released all
three LPs on a double CD set in 1995, which has since gone out of
print, and is ridiculously over-priced, but unlike the later "Big
Daddy" Roth tie-ins below, this set is actually worth checking out.
The New Sounds of The Weird-Ohs
Hairy Records/Mercury 60977 [LP];
Released May 1964
1. Huey's Hut
2. Leaky Boat Louie
3. Daddy the Swingin' Suburbanite
4. Francis the Foul
5. Drag Hag
6. Flame Out Freddie
7. Sling Rave Corvette
8. Killer Mcbash
9. Davey the Psycho Cyclist
10. Wade a Minute
12. Endsville Eddie
Sounds of The Silly Surfers
Hairy Records/Mercury 20977 [LP];
Hearse on a Surfari
2. Gremmie Out of Control
3. Hot Dogger and Surf Bunny Ridin' Tandem
4. Hot Dogger Hangin' Ten
5. Wave Hog
6. Hodad Makin' the Scene With a Six Pack
7. Monster Surfer Hangin' Six
8. Woodie on a Surfari
9. Gremmie Scared Plenty Hangin' Twenty
10. Beach Bunnie Catchin' Rays
11. Hot Dogger Ridin' the Wake
12. Cowabunga Surf's Up
REVIEW: This fifth (!) collection of
songs which were tied in to the creations of illustrator Ed "Big Daddy"
Roth and the commercial tie-in plastic models is a pretty weak affair,
with songs that sound derivative of everything from the Beach Boys
first album (which it most strongly resembles), to every other surf and
drag record which Gary Usher was involved with. A collection
of songs tied around the two-dimensional stereotypes of surfer guys and
gals, the music is strictly fourth-tier stuff, with clunky melody lines
tied to lyrics that are grade-school level, at best:
There's a real cool
head who makin' the scene
with a six-pack in hand, he's a cola fiend
with dirty hair and greasy fingernails
you can follow him by his messy trails. ["Hodad Making The Scene With A
Christian, Nick Venet, Jimmie Haskell, David Weiss, Gary Usher and
producer Reuben Klamer fill the grooves with as many sound-effects and
topical references as they can, but for an album that's aimed mostly at
young teenagers, the songs are sorely lacking in humor and are bereft
of catchy hooks. Exceptions include the melodic drive of "A
Woodie On A Surfari" and the ultra-sexist "Beach Bunny Catchin'
Rays." For some strange reason, the writers also include
several "monster" references in their songs, with "Monster Surfer
Hangin' Six," and "Hearse On A Surfari" all employing "Monster Mash"
rip-offs which quickly grow old. For a collection of songs
which are demanding $300 on collector's circuits, I'd expect more
quality from the artists involved, but The Silly Surfers sound more
like Gremmies than Hot-Doggers. About half of the songs are
this album were later merged with half from the Weird-Ohs album above
to create a dual platter of both artists, Music to Make
The GO Sound Of The
Records RC-6160 [LP], Sundazed
Records SC 6067 [CD];
Released 1965, CD
Release September 29, 1995
This has to be one of the
goofiest ideas for an album that I've ever come across. Gary
Usher was tapped by then-current Reprise/Warner exec Jimmy Bowen to
capitalize on what he perceived was the next "big thing" among teen
males: Slot Car Racing. Today, I imagine it would be an album
devoted to the X-Box, but hey, this was 1965... Gary Usher
used many of the same personnel from the Hondells at a December 1964
recording session including Glen Campbell, Richie Podolor, Bill
Cooper and Jerry LeMire on Guitars, Dick Burns on bass, Randy
Thomas on Keyboards and Hal Blaine on drums. The rushed
nature of the project for the fictional Revells was evidenced in the
song selection, most of which were quick rewrites of earlier Usher
releases: The Hondells "My Little Bike" became "My Ferrari GTO"; The
Super Stocks "The Wild One" morphed into "Wait 'Til Next Time"; "Two
Wheel Show Stopper" showed up as "Little Stockers" and "School Is A
Drag" was recast as "School Is A/Gas." Despite the
inherent goofiness of an album devoted to a slot car racing, The
Go Sound Of The Slots! is actually a fair album, with
professional playing, bright vocals and songs that
only ocassionally embarrass themselves: "Slot City?" "My Baby Digs Slot
Car Racing?" - it's more than made up for by the cool chorus on
"Fastest Little Racer" or the bluesy-Righteous Brothers-like take on
"My Little Slot Coupe," or the sidewinding feel of
"Wait 'Til Next Time". Sure, it still sounds like second-rate
Beach Boys, but even that's better than most.
1. Death Valley Run 2.
Hill Climb 3.
Mean Streak 4.
Side Car 5.
Two Wheel Show Stopper 6.
Haulin’ Honda 7.
Devil on Wheels 8.
Ridin’ Trails 9.
Slow Ride South 10.
Johnny Take Care 11.
Kickstands and The Knights were two more pseudonyms for Gary Usher's
usual group of studio musicians and singers who had been working for
him as the Hondells, The Super Stocks, and countless other incarnations
of hot rod/surf groups. They were essentially Capitol Records
"house band" and the first album here by The Kickstands, Black
Boots & Bikes, was released in 1964, and
has recently been remastered and released by pop label Sundazed, and
contained several of Usher's compositions which had
seen release under other guises, including "Death Valley Run,"
"Mean Streak," "Devil On Wheels," and "Ridin' Trails". Other
cuts on the album include the competent instrumentals "Hill Climb,"
"Haulin' Honda," "Side Car," "Slow Ride South," and "Scrambler" making
this a fairly routine collection of vocal/instrumental garage
rock. Both Usher and Dick Burns take lead vocal duties, while
Jerry Cole, Glen Cass are on guitar, William A. Oden and Steve Douglas
blow saxophones (which gives the album a grittier
brass sound than other, similar albums), with Earl Palmer on drums, and
Stephen LaFever on bass. It's a good, vibrant slice of
mid-sixties hot-rod music.
Knights: Hot Rod High Capitol ST-2189 [Hot Rod High]
[LP]; Released 1964
1. Hot Rod High 2.
Midnight Auto 3.
Lonely Little Stocker 4.
School Days 5.
Three Wheeler 6.
Be True to Your School 7.
Hot Rod, U.S.A. 8.
I Get Around 9.
Ditch Day 10.
Rock Around the Clock 11.
Theme for Teen Love 12.
REVIEW: The Knights
album (also available
separately through Sundazed), taking the title Hot Rod High
from the Usher/Christian song, is a slicker piece of work, with smooth
vocals, stinging guitar work (thanks to Glen Campbell and
Tommy Tedesco) and a couple of Beach Boys cover songs ("Be True To Your
School" and "I Get Around" - as well as a cover of Chuck Berry's
"School Days" (Ring Ring Goes The Bell), which the Beach Boys would get
around to covering themselves in 1979). Also found is a fine
cover of The Rip Chords "Hot Rod U.S.A." There are also some
real groaners of songs included here, from the embarassing "Lonely
Little Stocker" (with a plaintive vocal provided by Gary Usher) and the
icky "Theme For Teen Love" which was penned by album producer
Jim Economides. The Knights are given a teeny-bopper sound
with high, sweet harmonies that are given a big boost by the engaging
vocals of former Castells member Chuck Girard, but
otherwise car-music fans might be put off by the almost
too-clean approach taken here. These majority of
songs here were recorded in a single days' session on
July 23rd, 1964 at Capitol Studios, but nothing here sounds
rushed or sloppy - it's all very slick and professional.
Closing out the album are the original "Happy
Days" theme - "Rock Around The Clock" and the campy "Skippin'
School" which has the virtue of some goofy horn-honking sounds and
"Ooo-Ooh!" backing vocals that make it a fun
Usher: Hot Rod U.S.A.
Usher 201 [CD];
A quasi-legitimate release that
collects 30 rare tracks by various groups, all overseen by Gary Usher,
including The Timers, The Sunsets, Dave Myers & his Surftones,
The Pendletons, The Wheel Men, The Pyramids, The Silly Surfers, The
Wierd-Ohs, The Neptunes, The Marketts, The Go-Go's, Mr. Gasser
& The Weirdos, Rachel & The Revolvers, The Road
Runners, Gary Usher himself, and The Super Stocks. Although
many of these tracks can be found on the exhaustive Hondells discs
listed above, many have never seen the light of day on CD before, and
with excellent sound and track-by-track liner notes, this rare release
is worth seeking out for fans of the genre. The majority of
tracks here are penned by Usher, from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"
rip-off "Lonely Surfer Boy", to two 1960 singles released under Gary
Usher's own name: "You're The Girl" (which was his first 45, released
on the Titan label) and its b-side "Driven Insane" which has backing
vocals by future Honeys member Ginger Blake; solo compositions like The
Wheel Men's "School Is A Gas," the instrumental "Gear!" and The
Pyramids "Custom Caravan." An unusual chord
structure and prominent piano solo distinguish The Pendletons "Barefoot
Adventure" and the ultra-rare comedy track "Wave Hog" which is sung by
Gary Usher - is credited to the Silly Surfers and was commissioned for
a model-kit building company! Following this is two follow-up
tracks: "Francis The Foul" (which is about a cheating football player)
and "Leaky Boat Louie", both taken from a 1965 comedy album by the
Weird-Ohs. Other highlights are the Four Seasons-inspired
"Shame Girl" b/w "I've Got Plans" by the Neptunes and what is credited
as "the only enjoyable cut" from the comedy album Rod's N'
Ratfink by Mr. Gasser & The Weirdos: "The Lonely
Stocker" - which was strangely enough the weakest track on the Knights
album above. Also found are a Gary Usher vocal on the
Wilson-Usher collaboration "Shut Down" which was released under the
name The Road Runners. The CD is a real grab bag of songs,
but all of them are worth hearing - unfortunately, again this CD is
floating around on the fringes, but can be found at used CD shops and
rare record dealers.
Adventure: The Four Star Sessions 1962-1966 Sundazed Music, Inc [LP, CD]; Released August
1. R.P.M. (The Four Speeds)
2. My Little Surfin' Woodie (The Sunsets)*
3. Barefoot Adventure (The Four Speeds)*
4. Four On the Floor (The Four Speeds)
5. Cheater Slicks (The Four Speeds)
6. C.C. Cinder (The Sunsets)
7. The Chug-A-Lug (The Sunsets)
8. Gary Usher Interview Part 1*
9. My Little Beach Bunny (The Sunsets)
10. Playmate of the Year (The Sunsets)
11. Lonely Surfer Boy (The Sunsets)
12. Soul Stompin'*
13. Nifty '50*
14. Power Shift
15. Mag Wheels
16. Gary Usher I nterview Part 2*
17. My Sting Ray (The Four Speeds)
18. 426 Super Stock (The Competitors)
1. Wax, Board and Woodie*
2. Draggin' Deuce*
3. '54 Corvette*
4. My Little Surfin' Woodie (The Sunsets)
5. Gary Usher Interview Part 3*
7. Barefoot Adventure (The Four Speeds)
8. Cactus Juice*
9. Coney Island Wild Child*
10. Sugar and Spice*
12. Milky Way
14. Gary Usher Interview Part 4*
15. You Made a Believer Out of Me (with The Honeys)*
16. Waiting for t he Day (with The Honeys)*
17. Tied Down*
18. Harder and Harder*
Gary Usher has never had the critical respect of some of his
starrier peers, such as, say, Brian Wilson, although that's not
entirely fair. In the beginning of his career as a
writer/producer, he was hired to duplicate the surf and hot rod sounds
that were being pushed to the teenagers of the time, and he did so with
an uncanny ear; hiring top session players and performers, and
releasing the songs under a variety of monikers: The Four Speeds, The
Sunsets, The Knights, The Kickstands, The Hondells, and others.
And when, in the mid-1960s, the music began to change and
more introspective, more adventurous, Gary Usher's music followed
along, with often stunning results, when he paired with artists most
notably, Curt Boettcher. This double-disc retrospective from
Sundazed is an ideal introduction to Usher's output - although
necessarily brief, Barefoot Adventure
is an blast-from-the-past time-capsule of California sounds which will
send the listener straight back to Southern California, circa 1962.
From fuzzy, reverb-drenched race songs like "R.P.M." and
the Floor" to girl and boy surfer odes "My Little Beach Bunny" and
"Lonely Surfer Boy", Usher was consistently able to tap into the SoCal
zeitgeist much like The Wilsons and their contemporaries did so
successfully. For collector's, this set is filled out with a
bunch of bonus tracks, many of which are making their CD debut here,
including two rarities from The Honeys, which should light up the eyes
of Beach Boys fans. And sprinkled among the rarities are
snippets of interviews with Gary Usher, where he talks about the songs,
the times, and the people involved. A great double CD, with a
fabulous booklet (notes by music historian Stephen McParland),
fantastic sound, and enough gems to rate a high recommendation.