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The Big Huerta and The Challengers in Winter


challengers 002a

I bet the first thing many folks will ask is why is this guy writing an article in the dead of winter about a surf band when it’s like 3 degrees outside? Well, two things, The Challengers were a great band and a lot of foks don’t even know about them!. The second thing is that I need to write something. I haven’t written an article in awhile and it sort of gets to you. It’s like you spend your energy at a job and come Friday night you want to break out into the streets and have some fun. But these days, I don’t hit the streets. I hit the garage where my records are and thus they lead me into putting stuff on canvas. Soooo, I have a painting here of the cover of The Challengers first LP that rocked California and was an integral part of growing up in Southern California. Of course, this website is based in NYC, I get that…but you guys have the jump on us with your Tin Pan Alley and your CBGB’s punk band thang. Sure we have our early punk scene, do NOT think that we are less special over here…but dig, we have the weather to play sports and to leisure year round and also the wherewithal to start an entirely new sound.

Stick with me peeps, the sound of surfing a wave and being in the middle of some tubular action (exciting stuff for us gremmies) was first explored by Mr. Dick (King of the Surf Guitar) Dale as he relied heavily on reverb from his Fender amp. The Challengers formed in late 1962, from a surf band called The Bel-Airs, that had a hit called “Mr. Moto”. They heard what Dale was laying down and promptly issued forth some tuneage too. Dig, The Bel-Airs were in high school at the time of their hit. Unfortunately, The Bel-Airs had some inner turmoil squabbles (imagine that!) and played some gigs as The Challengers and saved some bucks to record their first LP on Vault Records in about three and a half hours. Are you with me so far??? Ok, just a few months before, an unknown band named The Beach Boys released “Surfin’ Safari”…also Dick Dale’s “Surfer’s Choice” was released before The Challengers lp. But dig folks, The Challengers album “Surfbeat” is the all-time biggest selling surf album of all-time! This cemented surf music not only in Southern California but upon the entire nation. The Challengers ruled the TV airwaves also. Appearing on local dance shows and even had their own TV show called “Hollywood A Go-Go”. They even had famed artist Rick Griffin designing flyers and fan club paraphernalia. The Challengers lasted up into the late 70’s but did reunion shows every once in awhile. Respects to the late Richard Delvy, Randy Nauert, Jim Roberts, Don Landis, Glenn Grey, Nick Hefner, Art Fisher and Ed Fournier, The Challengers.

My brothers had this LP when it came out. They played it all of the time, along with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Ventures etc..I would sneak into their room when they were gone and listen to this album over and over…. thoroughly entranced by the LP cover art. I wanted to be where this guy was…where the water was blue/green and shimmering…where I could ride a wave in my long board shorts and be tan with sun bleached hair. The orange color on this LP was out of this world! And it was glossy!!! I seriously stared at this cover in wonder ( this photo was also used on a Bud Shank lp cover, Thanks Don Butler for that!) and was transported away with every song that played. It is a great LP that still stands the test of time…and it is an amazing fact that it was recorded in 3 ½ hours. Vault Records really hit the goldmine with this one. I believe there were many more kids than myself that fell in love with this LP cover and with this record. They inspired soooo many kids to pick up a guitar and a Fender amp and go do some damage. Spotify these guys you east coast dudes..if this doesn’t warm you up and put you out there on the waves all amped out and hangin ten, well these dudes ain’t ankle busters.. so next time it’s blown out and choppy, put on some Challengers and don’t be no hodad!
I used acrylic paint with this one. I tried to get this thing as much orange as humanly possible. I freehanded the lettering and put my own beatnik spin on this beatnik-y cover. The beats had a hand in influencing this surf genre too. I used glitter paint also…to try to capture the sun glistening on the ocean is pretty damn choppy…no one in their right mind would be out there riding these waves. I take that back. Surfers are an extreme fearless bunch…my hats off to them….nothing but respect for the cats that ride the waves. I hope this mentally warmed a few of you peeps that are out there in this winter weather. Stay safe.Until next time, this grey belly sez see ya! TBH

1 Comment

  1. Jack on February 14, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Killer review of a killer album!

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