Corky Carroll: The story behind Eddie and The Showmen
Eddie Bertrand is a surf guitar legend. About a month ago, I got an e-mail telling me that he was making a comeback.
So I got a hold of Eddie himself and asked him to tell his story in his own words. The following is The Eddie Story by Eddie.
"I began listening to Duane Eddy when I was 12. I had a six-string acoustic guitar and worked out the melodies from his records.
"About a year later, I started surfing. My first time on a surfboard was at Torrance Beach. I spent a lot of time surfing the South Bay beaches including Haggertys and Rat. After that, I surfed all the hot spots from Huntington Beach to Santa Barbara.
"Just after I started learning guitar, I met a guy named Paul Johnson on the school bus. He was also learning how to play the guitar. We got together at each other's houses and played our guitars. As we started playing together, we also started writing songs, one of which was 'Mr. Moto,' the first record The Bel Airs put out.
"I've been told that Malibu surfer Lance Carson, who was in the movie 'The Endless Summer,' heard 'Mr. Moto' and said, 'That's surf music.' After 'Mr. Moto' was released, The Bel Airs played TV shows and various venues in California, one of which was the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach. The weekend The Bel Airs played at The Rendezvous Ballroom, by the second night, I had blown the single speaker in my Fender Bandmaster amp.
"I knew where the Fender plant in Fullerton was so I decided to take my amp to Fender in hopes of meeting Mr. Fender. I had a thought that it might solve the problem if he could put two speakers in the cabinet instead of one.
"Leo was kind enough to see me, invited me into his office and said, 'How can I help you son?' I then told him of my thought about placing two speakers in the cabinet.
"After a brief moment of contemplation, he said to me, 'Leave your amp and cabinet here. I'll give you something to use in the meantime. Come back in two weeks.'
"When I went back, The Bandmaster had two 12- inch speakers and sounded awesome, and I thanked him with all my heart. Leo said to me, 'Please don't tell anyone as this is not a production amp.'
"However, with stage lights, people could see there were two speakers. Thus, the Fender Bandmaster with two 12- inch speakers became a production amp.
"After a short stint with The Bel Airs, Paul and I had a disagreement about our sound because I wanted to use a Fender Reverb Tank and create a bigger sound and Paul did not. So, I left The Bel Airs, taking Dickie Dodd with me to form a band that became Eddie and The Showmen. By the way, Paul and I have remained good friends through the years.
"I considered Eddie and The Showmen to be a 'surf band.' In fact, one of the songs I wrote, 'Toes on the Nose,' with the ascending guitar lines, I visualized as I walked to the nose of the board. I thank John Severson for the song title as it was one of the sections in Surfer Magazine.
"Eddie and The Showmen played weekly at a place called the Retail Clerks Hall in Buena Park. These shows were put on by Reb Foster and the Police Protective Association of Buena Park. Reb Foster was the program manager at a L.A. radio station called KRLA.
"To promote their current singles, Reb would have the artists come play the Retail Clerks Hall with Eddie and The Showmen. Artists included The Righteous Brothers, Sonny and Cher, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Coasters, The Rivingtons, Beach Boys and many more. I felt it a privilege to play with these stars.
"My biggest thrill of all is when Eddie and The Showmen did a concert at The Hollywood Bowl in front of more than 10,000 people and shared the stage with my all-time hero and mentor, Duane Eddy. It just so happened that when we were trying to leave, the police had to surround us in a circle to get us past the screaming fans. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
"In 2007, I have returned to my roots to play pure clean surf music as I did in the beginning. I was invited to play at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum.
"I can't believe the compliments I received from Internet Web sites surfguitar101.com, youtube.com and EddieBertrand.com.
"It was huge. I am humbled by it. Thank you to my surf music fans all over the world."
He told that way better than I could have.
Corky Carroll is a three-time international surfing champion. Read his "Ask the Expert" column at ocregister.com/beaches. Send ideas, suggestions, donations or rude comments to him by e-mail at email@example.com.