The Calhoun Surf

Written by Danny Amis

Danny Amis has recorded three studio versions of this neo-surf classic: the first was with his Minneapolis-based band the Overtones (on a Twin/Tone 45 released in 1980), the next was with the Raybeats on Guitar Beat, and the final was with Los Straitjackets on their debut album, The Utterly Fantastic and Totally Unbelievable Sound of Los Straitjackets (Upstart, 1995).  Amis claims he prefers Los Straitjackets’ rendition; Christensen and Irwin prefer the Overtones’ version.

Pat: I think it was Martin Rushent’s idea to add organ to “Calhoun Surf.” I think the Raybeats did a pretty good version of it but I’ll never forget hearing it done by Danny’s band when they opened for the Raybeats in Minneapolis. They tore it up. When the Raybeats started to do the tune, Dan Dryden would play the organ part from the sound board.

Don: The organ put the Raybeats’ own stamp on the song, but I think the Overtones’ version is the definitive one.

Danny: I thought the Raybeats’ version was a big improvement [over the Overtones’ version], as I think the rhythm section was more solid.  The reason I give the Los Straitjackets’ version the edge is that the recording itself doesn’t seem to have a date stamped on it.  The Raybeats’ version was recorded in the ’80s, and it sounds that way, as it should.  I think it would be difficult for anyone to hear Los Straitjackets’ version for the first time and be able to guess what year it was recorded.  I like that.

Here’s The Raybeats’ version from Guitar Beat:

Here are Los Straitjackets performing it live in 2009:


3 Responses to “The Calhoun Surf”

  1. Tim O'Toole Says:

    Here’s my Raybeats story. Probably the same as everyone else’s.
    Sept 1982. Minneapolis. Raybeats playing the mainroom @ First Ave. My roommates and I loved Guitar Beat. Bought our tickets to the show @ Hot Licks on Henn Ave. Noticed some pesky band named R.E.M. was also playing. OK. Sure. An “initials” band. Thankfully we got there early and saw Danny and the boys play. Terrific. Danced like hell. Then realized that R.E.M. was the headliner. What the…? But they won us over too that night. Stipe was like an electrified snake and Peter Buck couldn’t have been cooler. Ironically, that was the last time seeing The Raybeats live. Ended up seeing Pete Buck and his pals about a dozen times after that. They sure liked playing Minneapolis/St Paul. Hope Danny’s OK with his health. I own the Overtones 45 and cherish it. Early 80s in MN: an amazing time in the history of American music.

  2. Neil F George Says:

    Was this written about Marge Calhoun – Glamorous surfer who became the first woman world champion in 1958

    • Here’s what I heard from Danny Amis:

      Calhoun Surf was about Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. I lived near there and it has virtually no waves at all, making it a funny idea. I never heard of Marge Calhoun, but that’s a pretty cool angle!

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