The Rivingtons and The Trashmen!

Now here are two groups who had individual hits, had different singing styles but two of the songs where very similar.  When you look at them, there songs are similar but, boy, are they different groups!



The Rivingtons

Rivingtons (1967): Lead Singer (seated) Virgil Gibson


The only video I could find was by the Beach Boys, who where really good friends with the Rivingtons and did help to promote the one song:

    1. The Rivingtons – Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow/ Liberty / 1962/ #48

The Rivingtons were a doo-wop group noted for being one of the most loud and raucous of the genre. Their first hit, “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” (1962), like many such songs, began with the bass chanting nonsense syllables (in this case the title), followed by the tenor singing over repetitions of it. “Mama-Oom-Mow-Mow”, an even more baroque rewrite of the theme, failed to sell, but they returned to the charts the following year with the similar “The Bird’s The Word”.

Previously the Rivingtons had been known as “The Sharps” and had already tasted chart action via Thurston Harris’ “Little Bitty Pretty One” in 1957, after which they appeared on several Duane Eddy recordings when any extraneous sounds of rebel yells were required.

After the two hit singles, the Rivingtons struggled till the mid 60s to find another hit but after the Columbia single “A Rose Growing In The Ruins” flopped they called it a day.

The two Rivington hits entered a life of their own, courtesy of a Minnesota group called The Trashmen, who recorded a song made up from the nonsense syllables, calling it Surfin’ Bird. The band cut the disc over a record shop and passed it off as their own work because it was a medley of the choruses without the verses.

However the Rivingtons’ management reported it to their lawyers and the group were ordered to add the surnames of the Rivingtons to the credits, having the effect of causing the first pressings without the Rivingtons credit to become collectors items.

After the publicity surrounding the allegations in Billboard the Trashmen had to share the writing credits on not only this recording but a later one as a sign of good faith. Surfin’ Bird itself was revived in the 70s by the Ramones and the Cramps.

The Trashmen

Video American Bandstand:

    1. The Trashmen – Surfin’ Bird/ Garrett 4002/ December 1963/ #4
    1. The Trashmen – Bird Dance Beat/ Garrett 4003/ February 1964/ #30

The Trashmen began in 1962 as a Rock and Roll band. The line-up at that time was Tony Andreason: Lead guitarist and vocalist; Dal Winslow on rhythm guitar and vocals; Bob Reed, bass guitarist and vocals; and Steve Wahrer on drums and vocals. The group disbanded in 1967, reunited in the 1980’s, and continued to play together until the untimely death of Steve Wahrer. Some time after esophageal cancer claimed Steve in 1989, Tony Andreason’s younger brother, Mark, took over as drummer for the group. In 2007, The Trashmen joined the revival movement of the popular groups of the 60’s …with the original members.

The Trashmen’s major hit was 1963’s “Surfin’ Bird,” which reached #1 coast to coast in the United States and in Canada. They were #1 in Caracas, Venezuela for 6 weeks and are still listed as the top rock band of all time in that country. In Sweden, “Surfin’ Bird” came out of its cage, flying up the record play list to #2 and to #5 in Australia. Mexico called it “El Surf Del Pajaro por LosTrashmen” where it flapped its way to the top of the charts.

The Trashmen continued to release great follow up singles. In 1964, “Bird Dance Beat” reached #30 in The United States, becoming a mega hit in Brazil. In Canada, “Bird Dance Beat” was a top 10 hit, as well. The Trashmen went on to have 5 other charting singles and 14 albums.

In the time period between JFK’s assassination and the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, The Trashmen ruled teenage America: “Surfin’ Bird” was THE soundtrack of 1964. The Trashmen are revered as the #1 garage band of all time and the all time cult rock band of the mid 60’s. Garage rock is a raw form of rock and roll that enjoyed its original period of success in the U.S. and Canada from 1963 to 1967. In 1963, garage bands were all the products of local scenes such as The Kingsmen (Portland), Paul Revere and The Raiders (Boise), and The Trashmen (Minneapolis).

The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” LP album is recognized by 60’s collectors as the Holy Grail of garage rock. Their original Trashmen LP which originally sold for $2.88, as well as largely unavailable 45’s, are selling today on ebay for stratospheric prices.

Surfin’ Bird” has been covered by many artists, including The Ramones, The Cramps, Sodom, and Pee-Wee Herman. The song has been featured in full feature movies such as Full Metal Jacket, Sleeper and Pink Flamingos. It has been heard on television commercials for Mervyns’s, Reebok and as a ring tone on Sony’s Erickson cellular phones. It has even been used in the soundtrack of the video game “Battlefield Vietnam”! Their “Bird Is The Word” was used on the popular TV series, “Moonlighting”.

In the November 2006 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, “Weird Al” Yankovic said of Surfin’ Bird, “It’s everything that’s great about Rock And Roll distilled into one song.”



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