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”
3 thoughts on “The Tornadoes – Not The Tornados”
I just heard that Jesse Sanders passed away. I lived in Redlands, CA for many years and would get to watch/listen to the Tornadoes several times, including once on Gerald Sanders front porch. They were pretty influential on my son and his continued love of music. He even has an album of the Tornadoes! Wondering how the rest of the band members are doing.
Hi Liz, I’m Jesse Sanders sister, Amy Holcombe, he was the first one of five children in our family to pass away. It’s hard to believe that he is still gone. I feel that I should be able to call him at any time just to visit and let him know how much a love him. Jesse had an amazing personality. He was always the jokester of the family. When we were young, on vacations, there was never a dull moment because he was always up to something. And a good time was always had by all!
Out of the original five Tornadoes band members, Leonard Delaney (drummer) was the first to pass, and Jesse Sanders (rhythm guitar) passed this year. Gerald Sanders (lead vocal/bass) is doing very well. Norman (Roly) Sanders (lead guitar) is also healthy and active. George White (original saxaphone) lives near the beach area is all is doing very well. Gerald and Norman (Roly) are brothers, and Jesse was their double-first-cousin. Our families were always very close. Our families often living on the same block. Gerald and Norman were more like brothers to Jesse, and the rest of our family, than double-first-cousins.
Jesse will be terribly missed by many. Fortunately, we have wonderful memories of our amazing past, and the experience of living the exciting journey of The Tornadoes with him. Thank you for asking about them.