Merrell Fankhauser is considered one of the main innovators of surf music and psychedelic folk rock, and is widely known as the leader of the instrumental surf group The Impacts who had the international hit “Wipeout”. His travels from Hollywood to his 15 year jungle experience on the island of Maui have been documented in numerous music books and magazines in the US and Europe. Merrell has gained legendary international status throughout the field of rock music; his credits include over 250 songs published and released.
I interviewed him about this classic album he made with legendary drummer Ed Cassidy: “We started on the first one I think in 1994 and he and I were friends for years. We met back in 1969 in passing back stage at a concert but never really had a conversation and then we bumped into each other again around 1990 and his spirit was kind of in a low then and he said ‘Hey we ought to do some recording together’. And at the time I was doing a national satellite TV show called California Music and so I had him on that show and then Randy said ‘Oh I’d like to be on that show’, so I interviewed Randy and then I ended up jamming with them all. And then Cass decided he wanted to move further out of the Los Angeles area and he moved up here to the central coast, and I helped find him a house not even a mile from my house, so it was perfect and he wanted to do something blues oriented. So I started writing a bunch of tunes and then we did some classic covers of songs like ‘High Heel Sneakers’ and the Muddy Waters’ song ‘Going Down to Louisiana’ and ‘Walking the Dog’ and then I wrote a bunch of songs that were in a similar vein that was perfect for me to play slide on. I loved it.
I think in about four-and-a-half/five months we cranked out the first album, ‘On the Blue Road’, and my son Tim was singing and playing on a few tunes and we had a regular bass player Leroy Richards at the time who did all of the bass. So we finished that first album and I sent it to Alligator Records in Chicago and they loved it, but they were full up with releases and I made a deal with D-Town Records from Detroit at the time, and they put out groups like the Ohio Players and Lee Rogers, and even one on the football player Rosey Greer. And they loved it and issued it out and it got out I think near the end of ’94 and it started getting a lot of airplay and all over the place even in Australia and then it was nominated for a Memphis Blues Award which surprised me. And we didn’t win but it was just great to do the nomination”.