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Fall 1969. Huntington Beach at the Pier. U.S. Surfing Championships.

Fall 1969. Huntington Beach at the Pier. U.S. Surfing Championships: 50,000 people see Corky Carroll regain the title, Number One U.S. Surfer. Sunday, January 28, 1973. A typical Southern California beer bar and Mexican restaurant combination with natural wood facade, wedged into a tiny shopping center amid the oil wells near Huntington Beach. A small crowd of curious on-lookers and friends watch Corky Carroll and group play a bar gig.

Corky Carroll was a surfer. By his own word, he “retired” in October 1972. Up to this retirement from contest surfing, Corky Carroll bounced in and out of the number one spot. He started surfing in 1956 at age eight, won his first contest in 1960, and continued winning until his exit last fall. He won all three of the Smirnoff professional contests held on the mainland. (Smirnoff has since moved their big surfing contest from Steamer Cave, near Santa Cruz, to Hawaii.)

Carroll

Carroll is still rated as a 4A surfer. (Being rated 4A is similar to being a Grand Prix race car driver or a Michelin five-star restaurant — the best of the best.) And Corky Carroll has enjoyed a fair amount of public exposure in places where the term “4A” would sound like a midget cup size. He has been on several Wide World of Sports shows, and television’s The Thrillseekers has a number of different film clips featuring Carroll which seem to turn up every month or so.

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Despite his success on the contest circuit, Carroll as a surfer has his detractors. These non-believers claim that much of his success has come from the publicity generated by Hobie Surfboards (most winning surfers gain their livelihood from the board manufacturers who sponsor them.) Corky Carroll started out riding for Harbor Surfboards, then switched to Hobie in 1962. Hobie, a surfboard industry giant, has spent a lot of money promoting their product. And much of this promotional budget goes for advertising in the surfing magazines. And naturally the board manufacturers like to see articles and pictures on their products and the surfers they sponsor. Carroll, however, got heavy coverage when he rode for Harbor, for Hobie and even when he rode his own low-budget surfboard company, Corky Carroll “Space-Sticks”.

When you are on top, Carroll admits, surfing can be lucrative. He hesitantly concedes an income of around $30,000 a year while at the peak of his surfing career and says the bulk of his income came from promotional activities. In winning all three mainland Smirnoff contests, he received $10,000, but got $2500 and all the clothes he wanted from Jantzen, and got his board company money. He even got $100 for doing a Bongo Board ad.

During the World Surfing Championships at Ocean Beach last fall, an unknown album, Laidback, was constantly played over the public address system. The surfing waves were very small, and the master of ceremonies grew weary of talking about the non-existant surf; consequently Laidback got a lot of “air time”. The M.C. mentioned several times that the record was “by and for surfers — a collection put together by Corky Carroll, himself a top surfer.”

But Carroll, interviewed in his present home in San Juan Capistrano, says he is now a musician. “I only surf for fun; I play music for a living.” Laidback sounds like a quick promotional effort; Carroll admits that “it was just a bunch of friends. It wasn’t very serious; we just put it together for fun.’’ They pressed 1000 records and sold 1000, but it was a beginning.

Since the record was released early last fall, things have changed. First, Corky Carroll’s “retirement’’. Secondly, the mutual discovery of Carroll and local media personality Gabriel Wisdom. After meeting Carroll at the World Surfing Championship and hearing Carroll’s record, Gabriel Wisdom stepped in as his manager.

Carroll’s group, “Friends,” has been re-organized to better complement Carroll and April (the only hold-over from the period when Laidback was cut.) Added were Lindsay Farr, flute; Doug Farther, electric violin; and Glen Howard, electric bass. Pressed as to what the group sounds like, both Carroll and his manager Wisdom are somewhat evasive, saying that it is “kind of hard to put Carroll and Friends in a class,’’ that “they are somewhat like a refined Beautiful Day when LaFlamme was playing with ‘Day”.

The group’s sound can best be explained in terms of the group’s structure. First of all, there are no drums or electric guitars, the mainstream of the rock sound. Rhythm is maintained by an electric bass and two acoustical guitars. This use of stringed instruments to provide the rock, or rhythm, is an interesting relief from the repetitive percussion patterns of normal rock. It brings to mind “Eleanor Rigby” and how it took a couple of playings before one could put a finger on what was different about that song.

Corky Carroll amplified on the differences between his group and a normal rock group: “Either the flute or the violin will play a lead line. The same as the lead line an electric guitar would play except that it’s more subtle on the violin. Then the other of the two (flute or violin) plays off those lines. Half the time they are playing classical riffs in and out of our songs.”

Gabriel Wisdom did not want one to expect too much from the band. He kept emphasizing that they had existed as a group only for a couple of months and had considerable work ahead. The worn-out cliché “got to pay their dues” finally seemed to Fit the situation.

Carroll was more definite about the type of material the band plays. He referred to the band as “Beach People”: “Instead of trying to do popular kinds of music that other people are doing, we are trying to come up with our own music that’s based on what we know, the beach, the sea... Mainly we’re trying to devise our own style, and our own songs... I can’t quite picture myself singing a song about lying in a gutter in Chicago. I’m no big-city blues singer and I don’t sing no rock and roll.”

The gig in the Huntington Beach bar gave me a chance to evaluate Carroll and Friends in the flesh. Carroll has picked exceptional follow-up musicians in the flautist and violinist. The lead and counterpoint provided by these two instruments is the most striking feature of the group. They had a light, clean sound. Technically, the singing, both by Carroll and by April, were not up to the performance of the flautist and violinist. But then one can’t expect a Paul Simon or Carly Simon with only three months out of the water. Although April’s voice is very strong and some of the lyrics are winsome (“L.A. Coma”: 90 miles an hour/I ain’t going no where/I seen all the people/With all their ghostlike stares/L.A. Coma’s gonna drive me insane/Gonna ruin my brain), both Carroll and April could stand to sort out some technical problems with their modulation at a live performance.

One thing that can’t but help the group is Corky Carroll’s name. It has already helped bring Dennis Dragon and his Malibu recording studio and Gabriel Wisdom and his management. And it can’t hurt in getting bookings. But probably the biggest advantage lies in the name being a household word in those homes with kids who know a skeg from a skag.

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Fall 1969. Huntington Beach at the Pier. U.S. Surfing Championships: 50,000 people see Corky Carroll regain the title, Number One U.S. Surfer. Sunday, January 28, 1973. A typical Southern California beer bar and Mexican restaurant combination with natural wood facade, wedged into a tiny shopping center amid the oil wells near Huntington Beach. A small crowd of curious on-lookers and friends watch Corky Carroll and group play a bar gig.

Corky Carroll was a surfer. By his own word, he “retired” in October 1972. Up to this retirement from contest surfing, Corky Carroll bounced in and out of the number one spot. He started surfing in 1956 at age eight, won his first contest in 1960, and continued winning until his exit last fall. He won all three of the Smirnoff professional contests held on the mainland. (Smirnoff has since moved their big surfing contest from Steamer Cave, near Santa Cruz, to Hawaii.)

Carroll

Carroll is still rated as a 4A surfer. (Being rated 4A is similar to being a Grand Prix race car driver or a Michelin five-star restaurant — the best of the best.) And Corky Carroll has enjoyed a fair amount of public exposure in places where the term “4A” would sound like a midget cup size. He has been on several Wide World of Sports shows, and television’s The Thrillseekers has a number of different film clips featuring Carroll which seem to turn up every month or so.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Despite his success on the contest circuit, Carroll as a surfer has his detractors. These non-believers claim that much of his success has come from the publicity generated by Hobie Surfboards (most winning surfers gain their livelihood from the board manufacturers who sponsor them.) Corky Carroll started out riding for Harbor Surfboards, then switched to Hobie in 1962. Hobie, a surfboard industry giant, has spent a lot of money promoting their product. And much of this promotional budget goes for advertising in the surfing magazines. And naturally the board manufacturers like to see articles and pictures on their products and the surfers they sponsor. Carroll, however, got heavy coverage when he rode for Harbor, for Hobie and even when he rode his own low-budget surfboard company, Corky Carroll “Space-Sticks”.

When you are on top, Carroll admits, surfing can be lucrative. He hesitantly concedes an income of around $30,000 a year while at the peak of his surfing career and says the bulk of his income came from promotional activities. In winning all three mainland Smirnoff contests, he received $10,000, but got $2500 and all the clothes he wanted from Jantzen, and got his board company money. He even got $100 for doing a Bongo Board ad.

During the World Surfing Championships at Ocean Beach last fall, an unknown album, Laidback, was constantly played over the public address system. The surfing waves were very small, and the master of ceremonies grew weary of talking about the non-existant surf; consequently Laidback got a lot of “air time”. The M.C. mentioned several times that the record was “by and for surfers — a collection put together by Corky Carroll, himself a top surfer.”

But Carroll, interviewed in his present home in San Juan Capistrano, says he is now a musician. “I only surf for fun; I play music for a living.” Laidback sounds like a quick promotional effort; Carroll admits that “it was just a bunch of friends. It wasn’t very serious; we just put it together for fun.’’ They pressed 1000 records and sold 1000, but it was a beginning.

Since the record was released early last fall, things have changed. First, Corky Carroll’s “retirement’’. Secondly, the mutual discovery of Carroll and local media personality Gabriel Wisdom. After meeting Carroll at the World Surfing Championship and hearing Carroll’s record, Gabriel Wisdom stepped in as his manager.

Carroll’s group, “Friends,” has been re-organized to better complement Carroll and April (the only hold-over from the period when Laidback was cut.) Added were Lindsay Farr, flute; Doug Farther, electric violin; and Glen Howard, electric bass. Pressed as to what the group sounds like, both Carroll and his manager Wisdom are somewhat evasive, saying that it is “kind of hard to put Carroll and Friends in a class,’’ that “they are somewhat like a refined Beautiful Day when LaFlamme was playing with ‘Day”.

The group’s sound can best be explained in terms of the group’s structure. First of all, there are no drums or electric guitars, the mainstream of the rock sound. Rhythm is maintained by an electric bass and two acoustical guitars. This use of stringed instruments to provide the rock, or rhythm, is an interesting relief from the repetitive percussion patterns of normal rock. It brings to mind “Eleanor Rigby” and how it took a couple of playings before one could put a finger on what was different about that song.

Corky Carroll amplified on the differences between his group and a normal rock group: “Either the flute or the violin will play a lead line. The same as the lead line an electric guitar would play except that it’s more subtle on the violin. Then the other of the two (flute or violin) plays off those lines. Half the time they are playing classical riffs in and out of our songs.”

Gabriel Wisdom did not want one to expect too much from the band. He kept emphasizing that they had existed as a group only for a couple of months and had considerable work ahead. The worn-out cliché “got to pay their dues” finally seemed to Fit the situation.

Carroll was more definite about the type of material the band plays. He referred to the band as “Beach People”: “Instead of trying to do popular kinds of music that other people are doing, we are trying to come up with our own music that’s based on what we know, the beach, the sea... Mainly we’re trying to devise our own style, and our own songs... I can’t quite picture myself singing a song about lying in a gutter in Chicago. I’m no big-city blues singer and I don’t sing no rock and roll.”

The gig in the Huntington Beach bar gave me a chance to evaluate Carroll and Friends in the flesh. Carroll has picked exceptional follow-up musicians in the flautist and violinist. The lead and counterpoint provided by these two instruments is the most striking feature of the group. They had a light, clean sound. Technically, the singing, both by Carroll and by April, were not up to the performance of the flautist and violinist. But then one can’t expect a Paul Simon or Carly Simon with only three months out of the water. Although April’s voice is very strong and some of the lyrics are winsome (“L.A. Coma”: 90 miles an hour/I ain’t going no where/I seen all the people/With all their ghostlike stares/L.A. Coma’s gonna drive me insane/Gonna ruin my brain), both Carroll and April could stand to sort out some technical problems with their modulation at a live performance.

One thing that can’t but help the group is Corky Carroll’s name. It has already helped bring Dennis Dragon and his Malibu recording studio and Gabriel Wisdom and his management. And it can’t hurt in getting bookings. But probably the biggest advantage lies in the name being a household word in those homes with kids who know a skeg from a skag.

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