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Surfaris Guitarist Jim Fuller Dead at 69

Decca
Decca

Jim Fuller, a co-founding member of the Surfaris whose lead guitar work is heard on the band’s signature hit “Wipe Out,” has died at the age of 69.

Fuller’s cause of death has yet to be publicly reported, but he’d apparently been battling health issues for some time. A 2012 San Diego Reader retrospective quotes Surfaris co-founder Bob Berryhill as saying Fuller was “very ill” and “not expected to ever play music again,” although the website for his current group, Jim Fuller and the Beatnik, remained active.

The Surfaris’ moment in the limelight was brief but influential. Formed while the band members were still teenagers, the group was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the surf-rock craze, charting “Wipe Out” twice — once in 1963, when it soared to No. 2, and again three years later, when it peaked at No. 16. Ironically, the song wasn’t even supposed to be the single; as recounted many times by various Surfaris over the years, they’d gone into the studio to record one song, “Surfer Joe,” and didn’t realize they’d need another one to fill up the B-side of their 45. Pressed to come up with another number, they jammed out “Wipe Out” on the spot, ran through a few takes and the rest was rock history.

Fueled by the success of their biggest hit, the Surfaris recorded a string of LPs throughout the early ’60s, but disbanded in 1966. Fuller went on to perform with the Seeds, and put together a new Surfaris lineup in the ’80s with guitarist Jim Pash. Fuller and Pash’s version of the band competed on the live circuit with Berryhill’s for a period, taking part in nostalgia package tours, but in recent years, Fuller focused on his band the Beatnik.

Young as they were when they started, the Surfaris’ original lineup has sadly had to deal with a number of deaths over the years. Drummer Ron Wilson died in 1989, and Pash succumbed to heart failure in 2005. Berryhill continues to tour and record with the current incarnation of the group.

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