If you’re a fan of guitar instrumentals from the early 1960s, you might remember a group known as the Tornados, a British combo that had a #1 record with “Telstar” in 1962. But we’re instead going to spotlight the Tornadoes, an American band that also had a couple of hits (although not as highly charted), one of which — “Bustin’ Surfboards” — has been called the earliest pure surf instrumental.
It was almost exclusively a family affair when the Southern California combo first appeared on the local music scene. Brothers Gerald and Norman Sanders, cousin Jesse Sanders, and their friend Leonard Delaney called themselves the Vaqueros initially, but then added a fifth member — saxophonist George White — and became the Tornadoes.
It didn’t take long for the Tornadoes to get noticed. Although the Marketts’ “Surfer’s Stomp” was technically the first surf instrumental to become a hit record, that group was more or less an anonymous bunch of session musicians. Most authorities now consider the Tornadoes to have been the first established band to do it, when “Bustin’ Surfboards” — with a no-name echo unit because the Fender reverb hadn’t been invented yet — rocketed up the charts and became a national hit in 1962.
As it turned out, that would be the combo’s biggest hit by far. The guys soon changed their group’s name to the Hollywood Tornadoes (because of the British Tornados’ success) and continued to make music, on stage and in the recording studio. Some of those records were pretty listenable, including one that was often banned from radio airplay because of its suggestive title (below). Aside from the name thing, it’s actually a rockin’ good song — in my opinion, better than the band’s big hit record.
Although the group was relatively inactive in later years, when “Bustin’ Surfboards” appeared on the iconic soundtrack of the 1994 film, Pulp Fiction, it triggered a new level of interest among modern fans. Some of the original members of the band restarted things and had — and continue to have — a lot of fun on the oldies tour.
The (Hollywood) Tornadoes – “Shootin’ Beavers”
Although most would now remember Eddie Albert as the actor who played the city-bred farmer on TV’s Green Acres in the late 1960s, some of us will also recall that he had a long career that stretched from big movie roles in the 1940s and 1950s to countless TV appearances well into the 1990s. But what you might not know is that he also tried his hand at singing for a while, and even had a hit record – sort of.
Edward Albert Heimberger was a native of Rock Island, Illinois, and even though he had some acting experience in school he didn’t really start out with a show business career in mind. He instead began his adult working life in the business world, but that ended when the stock market crashed and the depression began.
During the 1930s he tried a variety of jobs that in some cases seem almost apocryphal. Among his activities were singing on the radio as part of a trio (after dropping his awkward last name), and co-hosting a show in New York, where it’s said he also appeared in the first live test of a new technology — television. Additionally, he apparently spent some time sailing the coast off of Baja California and then working as a trapeze artist in a Mexican circus — but it was all as an undercover agent for the US government, worried about Axis activities in the area. He had a few other jobs too, but by the late 1930s, Eddie Albert was in Hollywood and finding parts in movies.
Although his film career was interrupted by his service in World War II (during which he was awarded a bronze star), Albert made a number of successful appearances in movies through the 1940s and into the 1950s. It was about then that he began returning to the medium he’d been a part of earlier — TV — where he found plenty of work, and he also began developing a singing career. He not only recorded a number of songs as a solo singer, but also enjoyed a lot of success paired up with his wife Margo in a night club act. But strangely enough his only charted record — “Little Child” — was a decidedly saccharin novelty song performed in a duet with the baby-voiced Sondra Lee.
Eddie Albert continued to find TV work well into the 1990s, and even though he developed Alzheimer’s in his later years he was always vibrant and physically active. And he was still that way right up until his death at age 99 in 2005. His son, actor/singer Edward Albert, took care of him in his last years and tragically died himself less than a year later.
Eddie Albert – “I Believe”
One of the most fascinating stories from the early jazz age would have to that of Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, who left behind a budding career in the US in fear of the Ku Klux Klan, only to become a star in Europe. In fact, during the 1920s and 1930s he was one of the biggest cabaret performers around; a handsome, charismatic singer and pianist whose lifestyle led to him being called ‘high society’s favorite gigolo’.
Born in 1900 on the Caribbean island of Grenada, Leslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson was the son of a church organist who made sure his offspring had a musical background, even though he had higher hopes for him. While still in his teens, young Leslie moved to New York to study but found himself drawn to a musical career. He began by playing piano and singing in bars, and within a few years he was playing in area bands and beginning to make records.
Unfortunately, the band Hutch played for was so popular with high society fans that it was targeted by the KKK, and he fled to Europe. Shortly before that he had married and fathered a daughter, but it’s unclear whether they made the trip with him. In any case, it didn’t take long for him to become a cabaret star — first in Paris, and then in London — while also becoming the favorite of many of his upper class female fans. (And possibly a few men too — he was rumored to be bisexual.) At least one of his affairs with a British socialite resulted in a scandal when it produced another of what would eventually be his eight children (with seven different women).
Although Hutch continued to be a popular attraction in England for many years, he did have a setback in the mid-1930s when he was romantically linked with a titled member of the British aristocracy. Some of his previous fans deserted him after that, and he was no longer welcome to perform at any royal functions. Still, he continued to stay busy on stage, radio, and TV as the years passed, but eventually his career wound down and he was also dogged by ill health. He died in 1969.
Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson – “Begin the Beguine”