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.