Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Fulminators cover "Stampede" - the raucous 1959 instrumental that may very well have been the first surf music single

This is my take on one of the greatest - and certainly one of the wildest - rock 'n' roll instrumentals ever released. The Scarlets recorded "Stampede" at Allegro Sound Studios in New York in 1959. Dot Records released it. When I discovered these facts yesterday, I was surprised - I'd always assumed it was a West Coast surf classic from 1962 or thereabouts. It certainly sounds like a surf/hot-rod era classic, and, indeed, it's original title was "Dragstrip" - but that got changed to "Stampede" during the recording session. Ahead of its time, I'd say.

Several websites claim that The Scarlets were the 1950s black doo-wop group that recorded "Dear One". I found that impossible to believe. The vocal Scarlets were certainly very accomplished - but in the unlikely event they produced "Stampede", it couldn't sound any more different from their standard fare. This sounds like young white boys' music. I then found a reference to the record on another site which assured us that the two Scarlets are not to be confused -  so I won't. 

Rootling around the web again this morning (I don't waste my precious time!) I finally unearthed this on the Spectropop site (here):

PETE ANTELL grew up as Peter Blaise Antonio in St. Albans, Queens, home to musical luminaries like Count Basie. When Pete was 10, his family moved to Levittown, Long Island. Pete took up playing the guitar. By the time he was in high school, Pete had expanded his musical horizons by writing his own songs. His first band was called Tony Leopard and the Spots. This band was fortunate enough to make several 45s as the backing band for the Charades and other vocal groups recording at Allegro Studio in New York City. The Spots became the Escorts, changing their name again to the Scarlets. The Scarlets recorded an instrumental for Dot Records entitled 'Stampede'. For Pete, there were other musical prospects fast approaching. 

Thanks, Spectropop - finally something that made sense! From there, I went on to find Pete Antell's own website (here). He turns out to have been a very busy musical boy.

So why all this obsessing about the origins of an obscure - albeit much-covered - instrumental? Simply because I like to give credit where it's due. As far as I can see, if anyone can claim to have invented surf guitar - in fact, the whole surf music genre - it was Pete Antell (née Antonio) and his young chums in New York in 1959.

Thanks, Pete!

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