Jon & the Nightriders

  • Jon & the Nightriders
  • Surf Beat '80 (Voxx) 1980 
  • Recorded Live at Hollywood's Famous Whisky A Go-Go (Voxx) 1981 
  • Splashback! EP (Invasion) 1982 
  • Charge of the Nightriders (Enigma) 1983 
  • Stempedell (Norton) 1990 

Although probably still in nursery school when guitar instrumentals last filled the American record charts, Southern California twang-bar king John Blair and his three cohorts brilliantly re-create the innocence and excitement of that long-lost genre. With resplendent, ringing tones, vibrato and mountains of reverb, Surf Beat ’80 pays homage with 14 numbers, including a few soundalike originals and a selection of covers that proves the band’s dedication to — and familiarity with — their forebears. All of the tracks sound the same, but that’s the idea. Great!

The live LP reprises some of the studio record’s items, but incorporates new material and spot-on renditions of additional classics like “Pipeline” and “Hawaii Five-0.” Splashback!, produced by the legendary Shel Talmy (to no particular effect, other than perhaps spiritual), features a six-minute medley that touches on eleven instantly recognizable melodies in one seamless nostalgia romp. Charge of the Nightriders is a compilation.

Self-billed as “America’s No. 9 Surfing Band,” the unshakably orthodox Nightriders reclaimed their piece of the beach on the self-produced Stampede!!, another cleanly played, reverb-soaked collection of standards (“Wild Weekend”), originals (“Beneath the Reef,” “Storm Dancer”) and obscurities (“Minor Chaos,” “The Breeze and I”), some goosed by George White’s period sax work.

As if any further proof of scholarship in his chosen field were needed, Blair put down his guitar long enough to assemble The Illustrated Discography of Surf Music (1961- 1965).

[Ira Robbins]