Random Notes on the Trashmen:
- Despite their landlocked situation, three of the four band members actually did go to California, where they absorbed the Dick Dale sound and rode the waves.
- The famous album cover in front of the trash truck was taken at Wally McCarthy’s Lindahl Olds at 494 and Penn Ave. where scenes from “Fargo” were later shot. It’s now Best Buy headquarters.
- “Surfin’ Bird” entered the Billboard Charts on December 7, 1963 and stayed there for 13 weeks, peaking at #4.
- The song was originally to be called “Surfer Bird,” but Bill Diehl suggested that “Surfin'” leant a little more action to it.
- Reaction to the song was mixed; in January 1964 Will Jones reported that one Texas listener offered a radio station there “any amount of money” to take it off the air. “The station told him to send his money to the March of Dimes, and smashed its copy of the record….Meanwhile the Minneapolis record company that created the hit is lining up extra pressing plants in Michigan and California to keep up with the demand for the disk.”
- The B-side of “Surfin’ Bird” was “King of the Surf,” the best surfin’ song of all time, bar none! The sudden success of “Surfin’ Bird” required that a flip side be written quickly, and Larry LaPole was enlisted to write it. Larry had never been to California, but fellow Minneapolis Tribune writer Mike Jann gave Larry a column that Will Jones had done on July 28 with definitions of surf terms. The column, “Avast, Gremmies–Surfing Tide is Rolling In,” has virtually all the terms Larry used in the song.
- On December 8, 1963, Irv Letofsky wrote a two-page feature on the Trashmen for the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune – “Trashmen ‘Have the Beat Kids Love.'” Although Tribune music critic Dan Sullivan “applied the rare superlative ‘It’s the worst song I’ve ever heard,’ It matters not. The beat’s the thing. (Surfin music’s the thing, too, although surfing style of dancing hasn’t really reached the Midwest, informants say. It’s coming from the West Coast.)”
- George Garrett noted that the name the Trashmen might have come from a record about a trash man that was out about three years ago. [Maybe “My Old Man’s a Dustman” by Lonnie Donnegan?] “But we like what the disc jockeys do with the name… like ‘Back up and get a load of this.'”
- On January 12, 1964, a party at Kay Bank Studio celebrated 500,000 in sales for “Surfin’ Bird.” Will Jones reported it as “one of the more remarkable parties of the season,” hosted by officials from SOMA, distributor; Garrett Records, producer; and Kay Bank, where the record was made. It was also a launch party for “Bird Dance Beat” and the “Surfin’ Bird” LP. “The party was attended by disk jockeys, record peddlers, and a few young persons whose function was to dance The Bird.”
- “Bird Dance Beat” (b/w “A-Bone”) charted on February 8, 1964 and stayed for seven weeks, peaking at #30.
- The “Surfin’ Bird” album, on Soma Records, hit the Billboard Chart on February 15, 1964, and stayed there for 15 weeks, peaking at #48. It was available at Record Lane and Musicland for $2.88. 2013 ebay prices range from $120 to $1,000 for a copy autographed by all four members.
- A third single release, “Bad News” b/w “On the Move” hit the Billboard Bubbling Under charts on May 16, 1964, but by then the Beatles had hit and surf was over.
- The Trashmen were featured on “American Bandstand” – only the show was too cheap to fly out the entire band, so Steve Wahrer (the drummer and singer) was out there alone, doing the Bird. Now we know how to do it!
- In late 1964 the group went on a tour of South America. A planned tour of the UK in 1965 had to be postponed because of the British Invasion but they finally made it in 2010.
There is much more on the Trashmen in many places, including their page at minniepaulmusic.com.