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Passings: Jim Fuller, Lead Guitarist For the Safaris

Jim Fuller (Second From Left)
by VVN Music

Jim Fuller, the lead guitarist on the Surfari's Wipe Out and one of the most influential surf guitar musicians, died on March 3 at the age of 69.

At the age of 15, Fuller joined Bob Berryhill (15), Pat Connolly (15) and Ron Wilson (17) to form the Surfaris in Glendora, CA.  In December of that year, the four entered a recording studio to record the song Surfer Joe and, almost as an after thought, wrote and recorded the now classic Wipe Out for the b-side.

The surf music scene was just growing on the west coast so the group started playing in teen centers and dance halls throughout Southern California. At the same time, their single was released on the tiny DFS label in January and, then, the Princess label in February. As momentum for the single grew, it finally got national distribution on Dot Records, going to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ironically, the teens were kept out of number one by an even younger artist, 12-year-old Stevie Wonder with Fingertips.

The single went on to be one of the rarities of the rock era, a record that had two separate runs in the top twenty.  Wipeout returned to the charts in 1966, this time peaking at number 16.

The Surfaris charted with two other minor hits. Surfer Joe finally hit on its own later in 1963, reaching 62, and the single Point Panic went to 49 a month later.

Fuller stayed with the band until their breakup in 1966 and returned periodically for reunions. He also had his own band, Jim Fuller and the Beatnik.