Saturday, March 07, 2009

Digitally Dusting Off An Oldie But Goodie

Jim Weller And The Deltas
Surfin' Wild
Original Release Date 1963
Digitally Remastered 2008

Biography by Steve Leggett

Arranger, producer, recording engineer, and multi-instrumentalist (tenor, alto and soprano saxophone, trombone, piano, organ, guitar) Jim Waller spent his childhood in Cleveland, moving to Fresno, CA, in 1961 with his family. While attending Fresno State College that same year he formed the surf group the Deltas. The Deltas, an R&B-steeped band featuring an upbeat organ and saxophone approach, released an LP of instrumentals called Surfin' Wild on Arvee Records in 1963 (Sundazed reissued Surfin' Wild on CD in 1995). A 45 single, "Bells Are Ringing"/"Super Hawk," appeared later in 1963 from Warner Brothers while the Four Seasons-like vocal side "Give My Love a Chance" was issued in 1964 by Cambridge Records. Following the break up of the Deltas in 1967, Waller joined the San Antonio-based jazz-rock combo Los Blues until 1973, and then relocated back to California, where he finished a music degree at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Waller moved once again to San Antonio in 1977 to join the band Road Apple (essentially a reconstitution of Los Blues) and has made the city his home base ever since. He built his own studio, Digital Image, in San Antonio in 1985, where he produces CDs and commercial jingles.
An R&B-inflected surf combo, Jim Waller & the Deltas formed at Fresno State College in 1961 and featured a lineup of Waller on piano and organ, Terry Christofsen on guitar, Ray Carlson on saxophone, Terry Christenson on drums and Eddie Atkinson on bass. This energetic little gem is a CD reissue of the band's sole LP on Arvee Records from 1963. Raucous and fun, these dozen instrumentals sound more like King Curtis then they do Dick Dale, and they underscore how much pure surf instrumentals were influenced by straight, horn-driven R&B. Christofsen does get in his share of reverb-laden guitar riffs, but the Deltas were mostly about the sax and organ mix, and it is a sound that is both refreshing and familiar. Highlights include the title track, "Surfin' Wild," the lovely and intricate "Latin'ia" and the room-rattling stomp of "Body Wompin'."

1 Surfin' Wild
2 Exotic Morgan
3 Trippin' at Trestle's
4 Work Song
5 Latin'ia
6 Church Key
7 Body Wompin'
8 Surfin'
9 Surf Walk
10 Vesuvius
11 Waikiki Wipeout
12 "Bal" Beat