JIM MESSINA & HIS JESTERS – The Dragsters [1964]

JIM MESSINA

“Early in his career — right at the outset, in fact — 18-year-old Jim Messina was a devotee of surf music, enamored of the music of Dick Dale, the Champs et al. The Jesters was among his early professional efforts, a surf band that included, along with Messina, Bill Beckman and Ron House on guitars, Jim Sholstedt on bass, Dave Archuleta on saxophone, and Larry Cundieff on drums. They won a lot of local band competitions in California, where the competition in the field was still fierce in 1965 and 1966, and were good enough to get to record an entire LP for Audio Fidelity. It was re-released on the Thimble label in the mid-1970’s, to capitalize on Messina’s success as one half of Loggins & Messina”

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”The original Jesters LP was released sometime in ’64 and was credited to “Jim Messina and his Jesters” (notice the copy of “Dick Dale and HIS Del-tones”) and it was called The Dragsters. This is the LP that was reissued on CD on the semi-legit Euro label Surf in the ’90s. It’s great stuff, 14 songs, 11 of them written by Messina. The covers are: an uptempo version of the Breeze and I, and surf-guitar-led versions of fifties instro hits Honky Tonk and Raunchy. Messina’s guitar work is truly exceptional, sounding like DD’s flashier doppleganger, with a lot of nimble fingerwork full of fast hammer-ons and pull-offs, and not as much double-picking as you may expect. (I only recently started noticing how Dick-Dale-ish Messina’s playing was. Listen to “The Thing” – it’s a total rip-off of DD’s “Surfing Drums” – which of course was a Bo Diddley rip-off itself! – and the licks he’s playing are completely DD. Messina also uses the pickup position #4 (neck and middle pickups) a LOT, which is also something that DD pioneered in surf music.) I HIGHLY recommend this CD. The highlights for me are “The Jester”, which is as good as any surf song I think, “The Cossack”, “High Voltage” (an apt title!), and “Yang Bu”. If there is one criticism I would have of the material is that it’s a bit light on melody, instead relying on groove, energy and improvisation. But it works most of the time. There’s a really nice jazz and even blues influence throughout, especially evident on “Suspense Run” and “Hollywood Sound” (both very jazzy in rhythm and featuring some tasty surf-blues guitar playing, with the latter obviously influenced by Mel Torme’s “I’m Comin’ Home Baby”). And as Messina mentioned in his interview, almost every song has a bunch of engine revving and tires skidding noises overdubbed. A lot of songs also have the noises of the band shouting along with the music, as if they’re really into it. I suspect these were overdubbed later, along with the car-related noises.” [IvanP. Originally posted on Surf Guitar 101, June 25, 2004]

Jim Messina And The Jesters 1

Ok surfers! Here you gotta deal with two different versions of The Jesters 60’s stuff. The first is original ’64 ”The Dragsters” lp version with 14 trax + ”Hollywood Sound”, the other one is 10 cuts ’82 reissue with different mix. So, whatcha gonna do now?!? I think you must dig both, cause this is one of the best 60’s surfin’ instro slabs and it’s… pretty much A MUST!!!

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