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A Brief History of The Vara-Tones

The Vara-tones originated in 1961 when Rich Campbell and I were students at Wilson High School in L.A. The Fireballs, The Ventures, and Duane Eddy were some of the names on the charts and on the radio at the time and a band by the name of Dick Dale and The Del-Tones had a local hit called Let's Go Trippin'. We saw them play at the Pasadena Civic and were immediately awestruck. From that moment on, we dreamed of starting a group of our own. Only one small problem - neither one of us could really play anything! Well, that's not quite true - we both played the accordian, but we were eager to leave that beloved instrument behind. We faithfully attended surf band shows at all the local places - Harmony Park Ballroom, The Rendezvous Ballroom, Retail Clerks Hall, etc. The surf scene was booming! Every week we saw great bands like The Chantays, The Lively Ones, The Bel-Airs, The Rhythm Rockers, Dave Meyers and The Surf-tones, and countless others. We desperately wanted to learn how to play this kind of music. We would watch the players in these groups, hoping to pick up whatever the magic was that allowed them to get "that sound". I bought an electric guitar and amp (from Carvin for $120 each) and tried to convince Rich that he ought to take up the guitar too, but he wasn't buying it. One night as we were standing in front of the bandstand at the Rendezvous, Rich turned to me as though he had just had an epiphany and said "I could be a drummer - the drummer doesn't do &~#$%^@! ". At that moment, the Vara-Tones were born!

Now all we needed were some drums! Since Rich didn't have money for drums, he got some chemical fertilizer boxes from his dad's work. These things were just round boxes made out of thick cardboard. Next he bought some drumsticks and -- we were ready to rock! After he honed his chops on the boxes, he rented a real set of drums. We were still only a duo when we played our first "gig" - a New Years Eve party for a friend of Rich's cousin. We were a big hit -- we played all seven of our tunes and everyone was real impressed that just two people could be so loud!! After this astounding success, Rich bought his first set of drums (Ludwigs) and the search was on for more players. Pete Peterson and Gary Sunda joined us on guitar and bass, respectively, and we started practicing a lot and playing gigs whenever and wherever we could find them - at high schools, roller rinks, parks, etc. During the course of the next year, Pete was replaced by Randy Aiken, Gary was replaced by Terry Zimmerman, and Dick Smith was added on sax.

Shortly thereafter we acquired a manager in the form of our old P.E. teacher from our alma mater, Wilson High. He hooked us up with a singer who was looking for a band to back him up on his next record. We were allowed to do an original of ours on the flip side of his single. So we recorded `Repeto' which was written by Dick. The record was released on the Kay label in 1964. It bombed! But we continued to gig around Southern California and had a really good time. Then, in 1966, for all the usual reasons bands break up, the group disbanded. Then around 1994, due to the resurgence of surf music and the persistence of Rich, the band members who could be found were coerced into getting together for a reunion. This led eventually to the recording of our first album - Jetty Subject To High Surf - which was completed in late 1999. The album contains the type of music we first started out with during that magical surf music era of the early 60's. Four of the songs (Vara-Tone Stomp, Rendezvous Run, Sunset At The Wedge, Groo-V-Chicken) are originals which were actually written in the early 60's but never recorded (or remembered !!) - until now!! They were discovered on an old tape of one of our practice sessions and re-learned for this album. Repeto 2000 is a re-recording of the original song which was written by our sax player extraordinaire, Dick Smith. Since we lost Dick in 1989, we had to do the lead on guitar. Nobody could ever play it like Dick, but we tried to re-create it as best we could. We think it's a pretty good album and everbody who reads this should buy it!

We got such a great response for Jetty that we went nuts and did what we never dreamed of - a followup album!! For our second album, we included some of our favorite cover songs as well as ten new originals! We think everyone who reads this should buy this one too!