Community, Scene and Heard

Everybody’s gone surfin’, Surfin’ USA.

Last week marked the final performance of the Cottage Grove Concerts in the park series hosted by the Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce, above. The headliners, The “Men from S.U.R.F.” brought the groovy tunes of the Beach Boys  to Bohemia Park. 

COTTAGE GROVE – It was 1963 and the Beach Boys had just released their first big hit, Surfin’ USA. Dick Dale is largely credited with creating surf music, which was especially popular from 1958-64, just before the Beatles came to America. Jan and Dean were immensely popular, and just about everyone liked surf music .. or at least could relate to it in some way. 

Now, nearly 50 years later, The Men From S.U.R.F. are more than happy to ride that wave and keep surf music’s popularity going strong. 

“(Guitar player) Dave (Thomas) and I started the band about 10 years ago,” drummer Dennis Duerst said Wednesday, Aug. 31 after the band played the final show of this year’s Concerts in the Park series at Bohemia Park. “We’re retired so we can play when we want to play. S.U.R.F. stands for Secret Underground Retro Fraternity, which basically means we’re old guys playing old music.

“One of the things I’m most entertained by is when somebody obviously very young comes up and they go, ‘Man, my Grandpa used to play these records all the time.’”

Just don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re all about the Beach Boys. 

“A lot of people when they think of surf music they think of the classic instrumental stuff – Dick Dale, The Ventures, The Chantays, The Astronauts – all of those original surf bands,” Thomas said. “A hardcore surf band, you mention the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, that’s more pop surf, but what we’ve found is that the Beach Boys stuff has more familiarity to a lot of people who come out to see us so we’ve gradually added more of the vocal stuff. 

“We have to explain to people that the Beach Boys aren’t a surf band, they just play some surf music.” 

Duerst, a 1973 Cottage Grove High School graduate, started playing in clubs at age 15, hit the road in 1975, then came back to Cottage Grove for good in the late 90s. He said he’s always glad to be involved with community events like Concerts in the Park. 

“One of the motivating things for me is continuing to bring music to people, instead of listening to it on records, it gives them a chance to hear this music live,” Duerst said. “And to let the kids hear it, it’s a thrill when they say they hear their Grandpa listening to our music. Well, now they’ve heard it live. 

“This kind of stuff is fun. I’ll probably keep doing this until they can’t prop me up behind the drum kit anymore.”