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'Wipe Out' band to play at Rat Fink Reunion in Utah

A Rat Fink statue watching over the Ed "Big Daddy" Roth Rat Fink Museum in Manti. You'll be able to visit the museum and catch a performance from the Surfaris, the band behind the 1963 hit "Wipe Out," at this year's Rat Fink Reunion, running June 2-4.

A Rat Fink statue watching over the Ed "Big Daddy" Roth Rat Fink Museum in Manti. You'll be able to visit the museum and catch a performance from the Surfaris, the band behind the 1963 hit "Wipe Out," at this year's Rat Fink Reunion, running June 2-4. (Brian Champagne)


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MANTI — If you've seen the "The Sandlot," "Meet the Parents," "Dirty Dancing," "Back to the Beach," "Runaway Bride" or "Wayne's World 2," you've heard the song, "Wipe Out," by The Surfaris.

And, If you've seen car art with flames, smoking tires and monsters, you've seen the influence of Ed Roth.

Now you can see the two together at the Rat Fink Reunion in Manti, June 2-4.

The reunion honors the memory of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, who created Rat Fink, an alternative to a more cutesy Mickey Mouse, in 1962. At the annual event, pinstripers, artists, hot-rodders and "Finksters" gather in a laid-back atmosphere to share memories and ideas.

Maybe you've been to an arts or crafts fair where there are "no photographs, please" signs hung by artists worried you will steal their ideas. It is the opposite at Rat Fink: Ask an artist how he or she did something, and you'll probably get invited to sit down for a instruction session.

"Wipe Out" was recorded in 1962 by the Surfaris, but the song charted in 1963, according to group founder Bob Berryhill, who said they'll play it again for the 60th-anniversary tour. More details on the song later, but Rat Fink and "Wipe Out" are basically the same age.

Original band members have rotated, and now the Surfaris are a Berryhill family band with Bob's wife, Gene, on bass, and sons Joel and Deven rounding out the group. Bob is based in Nashville and is not on tour — the family is flying out to Utah just for the Rat Fink Reunion.

Rat Fink 2022

The influence of the stinky junkyard Rat Fink continues to grow, and post-COVID, it is drawing fans to Manti from all over the world. Roth passed away in 2001, but his work and attitude live on. He converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while living in Southern California.

On Friday, June 3, the Roth family will play the KSL News Special "A Shift of Heart," which covers his church conversion and influence on the automotive world. At the screening, George Nelson, who taught Roth the missionary discussions, is scheduled to speak, as is KSL-TV's Dan Rascon, who produced the special. There will also be outtakes and extra footage shown.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's Rat Fink Museum, at 404 E. 300 North in Manti, will be open all three days. The facility showcases Rat Fink toys and novelties, Ed's art and fan art. Admission is free. Viewing the artists at work is free. The car show on Saturday is free. And yes, the Surfaris Friday evening concert is free.

The store will be open, full of monster T-shirts; and artists will pinstripe about anything you bring that their paint will stick to. This year, the Roth family is working with University of Colorado Denver to create a Panel Jam — a bunch of artists painting on metal panels together — fundraiser for students working at its Emmanuel Art Gallery, which will feature Roth and Roth-influenced work.

How 'Wipe Out' was born

Berryhill said he and his bandmates were between 15 and 17 years old when the iconic song was created. They had worked out the song "Surfer Joe" and met with their manager, Dale Smallin, in Berryhill's Glendora driveway before heading to the studio.

Smallin asked who had $150 to pay for the recording, Berryhill said, but the teenagers' pockets were empty. Berryhill's mother wrote a check and the bandmates were supposed to pay her back (before her passing she pointed out that no one ever settled up).

With the money paid, the band headed to Cucamonga, California, in three vehicles, including Berryhill's metallic green 1956 Ford pickup that he fixed up, inspired by Roth's work. Berryhill didn't have his driver's license yet, so his dad came along. He said his parents were very supportive of his music.

They arrived at what was formerly a shoe store, with paper covering the windows, and knocked on the heavy wooden door, which creaked open. A guy greeted them, saying, "Hi, I'm Paul Buff." Buff became a pioneer of the surf music scene. Berryhill said San Gabriel Valley artists would come to his cheap location to record.

The boys used a Fender Jazzmaster guitar in an amplifier and a Harmony hollow-body bass plugged straight into the mixing board. "Surfer Joe" was finished in just a few takes, then Smallin told the boys they'd need a song for the other side of the 45 rpm single. They only had "Surfer Joe" ready to record.

Drummer Ron Wilson led his high school drum corps and started banging away. Berryhill and the rest started riffs to complement what was basically a drum solo, playing in the key of B. The third take was a keeper.

Now what to call it? Lead guitarist Jim Fuller suggested "Switchblade" and opened one right over the microphone. It wasn't enough.

Berryhill's dad went behind the store and came back with a piece of wood. They broke the wood in front of the microphone, sounding like a surfboard breaking. There was already a song called "Bustin' Surfboards," so they arrived at "Wipe Out." Smallin did the maniacal laugh at the beginning, and DFS Records — Smallin's initials — printed 100 copies.

The band members sold the records to friends to pay for instruments. Berryhill said the originals show up on Amazon now and then, selling for around $2,000.

"Wipe Out" hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts in 1963, then charted again in 1966, hitting No. 16. Dozens of other groups have covered it, including a Beach Boys/Fat Boys collaboration in 1987 that hit No. 12 on the charts. "Surfer Joe" peaked at No. 62.

The band started playing in Southern California, plugging all three guitars into one Bandmaster amplifier in the early days. Berryhill said they were a legit surf band that surfed before and after gigs. Legend is, only one of the Beach Boys actually surfed — Berryhill calls them a "vocal band."

Berryhill said the Surfaris were the heavy metal of surf music. In 1960 kids were still doing "the Bop." Surf music introduced the "Surfer Stomp," where couples danced together but did not touch. Surf clothing of the day was cutoffs, with huaraches from Tijuana. There were no Aloha shirts back then.

The Surfaris eventually got on Decca Records, which was owned by Universal, so they did soundtrack work in surf and hot rod movies. You can Google "Wipe Out" and hear all the versions people have come up with. You can come to Manti on June 3 and hear the original live.

For more information on the Rat Fink Reunion, visit ratfink.com.

Correction: A previous version said Bob Berryhill lived in Glendale, California, instead of Glenora, California.

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Brian Champagne has reported on cars since 1996. When he's not out driving something interesting, he teaches journalism at Utah State University.

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