Local Current Blog

Ten things you should know about the Trashmen, Minneapolis garage rock legends

1. The Trashmen are a garage and surf rock group from Minneapolis that formed in 1962.

2. Their 1963 hit “Surfin’ Bird” reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 later that year. It has since been recorded by artists like the Ramones, the Cramps, Silverchair and Pee-Wee Herman. The song was used in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket and on a Family Guy episode that launched it to number 8 on the iTunes Top 10 Rock songs chart in 2009.

3.  “Surfin’ Bird” was a mash-up of the songs “The Bird’s the Word” and “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” by R&B group the Rivingtons, who eventually caught on and ultimately received writing credits for the song.

4. Their lineup has changed over the years but stayed in the family: when drummer Steve Wahrer died of cancer in 1989, guitarist Tony Andreason’s brother Mark took his place.

5. The group have recently teamed up with singer-songwriter Deke Dickerson, an alt-country, blues and rock n’ roll artist originally from Missouri.

Joel Paterson via dekedickerson.com
Photo: Joel Paterson via dekedickerson.com

6. With Dickerson, the band recently released its first album in 25 years, Bringing Back The Trash. You’ve been hearing tracks from this album on the Current.

7. Artist and music critic Cub Koda argued the band shouldn’t be dismissed as one-hit wonders. “Unfairly depicted as a novelty act,” Koda wrote, “the Trashmen were in actuality a top-notch rock n’ roll combo, enormously popular on the teen-club circuit, playing primarily surf music to a landlocked Minnesota audience.”

8. The band plays all over: touring Europe and performing at fairs and festivals in the U.S. They performed with Dickerson at the Minnesota State Fair this past August.

9. Their logo has not changed since the ’60s, and it still looks awesome.

The Trashmen via allmusic.com

10. In 2010, Facebook campaigners tried to get “Surfin’ Bird” to the top of the United Kingdom charts over Christmas, selling 68,000 copies the week before Dec. 25. It came in third, behind Rihanna and Matt Cardle, the X Factor winner for that year.

Hailey Colwell is a journalism major at the University of Minnesota and a co-director of Theatre Corrobora.

  • The complete history of the Trashmen, as well as many other top Minnesota rock groups of the 1960s, will be told in a book I’m writing for the University of Minnesota Press, scheduled for Fall 2015 — title TBD.

  • timinbovey

    Years ago I had tried in vain to convince the Minnesota legislature to declare “Surfin’ Bird” the official state Rock and Roll Song. My argument was basically — first song rock and roll to be created, recorded, and distributed from Minnesota to top the charts. One Senator suggested perhaps a song by Bob Dylan would be a better choice (Bob didnt’ have any hit songs produced in Minnesota) one suggested perhaps something from a polka band would be better. One suggested such a frivolous effort would be a waste of their time. Although I note they managed to declare an official State muffin (Blueberry) dance (square dance) and the list goes on. Somewhere around here I still have the original letters I sent and the replies. I tried for several years. Even made the news on the Minnesota New Network once.

  • Nick Antro

    And let’s not forget the ‘surfin bird’ theme used in the arseole scene in John Waters cult classic ‘Pink Flamingoes’. Divine! lol

    • Johnny Bravo

      How can you not forget this amazing moment in movie history? Even years after first seeing it, it’s the first visual that comes to mind when I hear the song. Thankfully, the details have become fuzzy.

  • Mark Schroepfer

    Among my ten things to know about the Trashmen is the
    weekend they drew ten times as many fans as the Rolling Stones!

    On Friday night June 12, 1964, the Rolling Stones drew
    somewhere between 200 and 300 fans to the 2,000 or so person capacity Danceland
    ballroom in Excelsior. Further, the vast
    majority of the ticket buyers did not arrive until after 10:00 pm when the
    ticket prices were cut in half (and the show half over). The next night, the Trashmen played Danceland
    to a sold-out, capacity crowd.

    At this time, the Trashmen were riding near the peak of
    their surf music popularity. Their Surfin’ Bird single had peaked at #4 early
    in 1964 during its 13 week run on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. (It first appeared on the charts on
    12/7/63). Their Surfin’ Bird LP peaked at #48 during a run of 15 weeks on Billboard’s
    Popular Albums charts.