Richard Delvy: April 20, 1942-February 6, 2010
Sundazed Music mourns the passing of our friend Richard Delvy, whose five-decade career exercised an immense impact upon popular music.
As a producer, musician and bandleader, Richard played a key role in the development of surf music in the 1960s. He first made his mark as drummer of pioneering surf combo The Bel-Airs, one of the first and most influential of California’s instrumental surf outfits. With The Bel-Airs, Delvy helped to build the foundations of the surf sound, scoring the immortal hit “Mr. Moto” while the band members were still in high school. Richard remained in the surf vanguard as leader of The Challengers, building a large and varied body of work beginning with the seminal 1963 album Surfbeat, and playing a key role in expanding the surfer culture from regional movement to national phenomenon.
Richard’s entrepreneurial spirit manifested itself early in his career, as he took a proactive role in managing and producing various local surf bands. As a producer, he oversaw albums for such diverse acts as the Chambers Brothers, the Fifth Dimension, the Outsiders, Buzz Clifford, the Clee-Shays, the Great Scots and Hamilton Streetcar. In the 1970s, Richard worked extensively in television, producing music for such beloved pop-culture landmarks as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and Groovie Goolies. He also served as an executive with the MGM, Bell and Carousel labels, toured the world as musical director for Tony Orlando and David Cassidy, and co-wrote Daddy Dewdrop’s 1971 novelty hit “Chick-A-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It).”
In the years since, Richard remained active in the music industry, running his publishing company Miraleste Music, which controlled the rights to numerous classic surf and hot-rod tunes, and running a busy recording studio that specialized in music for TV shows, commercials and jingles.
Check out these Sundazed titles featuring Richard Delvy:
The Belairs – Volcanic Action! CD
The Challengers – Surfbeat CD
The Challengers – Lloyd Thaxton Goes Surfing With the Challengers CD
The Challengers – The Challengers Go Sidewalk Surfing Digital Download
The Challengers – Tidal Wave! Digital Download
A video interview with Richard Delvy courtesy of our good friend Paul Johnson of the Belairs and P.J. & Artie (pjmoto.com). This is an excerpt from his outstanding DVD “Pounding Surf”.
Personal reflections on the music of Richard Delvy from Domenic Priore:
Richard Delvy, drummer, record producer, music publisher
Richard Delvy started out as the drummer for the Belairs, then left with pianist Jim Roberts to form The Challengers. He was replaced by Dick Dodd who later played drums and was the lead singer for The Standells. In ’62 Dodd left the Belairs with guitarist Eddie Bertrand to form Eddie & the Showmen. The lineup, after these changes became Paul Johnson (rhythm guitar), Chas Stuart (sax), Art Fisher (replacing Edddie on lead guitar), George Dumas or Al “Tiny” Schneider (replacing Delvy, then Dodd on drums)… and then the group added base player Steve Lotto. Paul Johnson left to form P.J. & the Galaxies, and he was replaced by Lonnie Fredricks on guitar. Lonnie and Art had been in The Journeymen, a South Bay surf group who actually had preceded the Belairs. Art Fisher then left to join The Challengers in ’64. Lonnie went to Dick Dale’s Del-Tones maybe with a member or two of the Belairs… that lineup is on his “Live at Ciro’s” album.
Richard was the businessman, he and Paul Johnson went around to shop “Mr. Moto” and Delvy would wind up with the publishing on “Wipe Out” as well as “Mr. Moto”. He went in that direction, and I’m not the expert on what else Delvy owned as a publisher.
The Challengers became sort of the “Hollywood” surf band, appearing every year at The Teen Age Fair. They played the Huntington Beach Surf Contest, were house band at a party thrown by The Grammys once, they appeared as the house band for this Dick Clark Dr. Pepper Party television show one night in 1963, all kinds of gigs like that for the Challengers… plus some soundtracking for television and house band on the TV show “Surf’s Up with Stan Richards” for KHJ-TV Channel 9. The Challengers were one of the house bands on “Hollywood a Go Go” and their LP “Challengers a Go Go” features nice, garagey covers recorded for the popular 1965 TV show cut at the KHJ-Channel 9 studios. “Hollywood a Go Go” was seen all over America and in many foreign countries via syndication.
Surfer magazine artist Rick Griffin had done the Belairs original card and would do much of the artwork for the first few years of the Challengers including a comic book where Rick created a charachter named “Delvy McNort.” The Challengers made more albums than any surf band of the ’60s and lasted longer as well, until at least the end of the ’60s. They went for more of a “stock” sound akin to the Ventures than the wilder sounds of say, Eddie & the Showmen, Dick Dale & his Del-Tones or The Original Surfaris. Eventually Delvy would hire Hal Blaine and other studio musicians to play many of the instruments on the Challengers records which gave Delvy better ability to produce. The best Challengers albums may be “K-39,” “Wipe Out/Pipeline” and the TV soundtrack “Surf’s Up.” Their “California Kicks” features great instrumental versions of songs made popular on the mid-’60s Sunset Strip scene including “Gloria,” “Kicks,” “One Track Mind” and others.
Delvy also started Vault Records which facillitated The Challengers but also a studio album featuring former Belairs guitarist Paul Johnson “Surf Beat Vol. II” by the Surfriders. Later Vault Records signed The Chambers Brothers and The Ashes, who would evolve to become The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. Rick Griffin did a proto-San Francisco artwork for the LP cover of a compilation featuring all three bands called “West Coast Love-In” (Vault 113). Vault released an early Chambers Brothers album featuring live recordings of the group at The Ash Grove. The Ashes and Peanut Butter Conspiracy music recorded for Vault has also been re-issued on Big Beat, featuring many great previously-unreleased tracks. Delvy also had a hand in bringing a band called The Great Scots down to L.A. from Nova Scotia, producing their records and landing the band on “Shindig!” and other teenage rock ‘n’ roll television shows shot in L.A. Back in the surf music realm, Delvy produced a masterful record called “Sidewalk Surfing” by The Good Guys in 1964 that featured Paul Johnson, Art Fisher, Phil Pruden of the Challengers, John Anderson of Eddie & the Showmen, studio drummer Hal Blaine and other top surf musicians for GNP-Cresendo Records… in mono. An inferior stereo mix of this album was re-released by GNP-Crescendo as “The Challengers” later on but this takes nothing away from the integrity of The Good Guys recordings. Many of Delvy’s productions and masters would be licensed to Sundazed Records and are being reissued, so groups like Thom Starr & the Galaxies and Vault compilations like the Rick Griffin artwork-laced “Oldies, Goodies and Woodies” are available today. Also, from the last Challengers LP “Vanilla Funk”… the song “Camel Back” would become the theme song to KHJ-Channel 9 television Go Go show “Groovy” when it moved indoors and had Robert W. Morgan as its host in 1969.
I kind of lose track of Delvy after 1966 really, and don’t have a complete Vault discography at hand, or any of the other companies he owned, or publishing interests information.
- Domenic Priore
(author of Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood, Look, Listen, Vibrate, Smile and editor of the Dumb Angel Gazette)