1964 The Rip Chords – Three Window Coupe
Bruce Johnston grew up in the Los Angeles area and played keyboards and sang in several groups while still a teenager. He was only 17 when he arranged and played on Sandy Nelson’s top ten hit Teen Beat. He became a member of The Gamblers in 1959 and played on Moon Dawg!, which is often cited as the first surf record. In 1960, Bruce started work as a producer for Del-Fi Records. He produced Ron Holden’s first album and co-wrote many of the songs. He also recorded some solo records.
Terry Melcher was the son of Doris Day. He lived in New York and Connecticut before moving to the Los Angeles area for his last two years of high school. He and Bruce became friends in the late fifties or early sixties.
Columbia Records hired Terry as an A&R producer. After an audition, Terry signed the duo of Phil Stewart and Ernie Bringas to a recording contract with Columbia. They recorded as The Opposites. The pair were simply vocalists, so Terry hired members of the Wrecking Crew to play music behind a few songs he produced with the pair. He renamed the group The Rip Chords, and the first single the group released was Here I Stand. The single peaked at #51 on the Hot 100 in 1963.
When he produced the group’s second single, Ernie again sang lead and Terry had Bruce sing some falsetto vocals. Members of the Blossoms also worked on the record as background singers. The record reached the Hot 100, but did not do as well as their first single.
Ernie enrolled full time in a seminary program and his schedule prevented him from attending recording sessions for new singles. Terry and Bruce produced Hey Little Cobra and supplied all the vocals on the recording. The single peaked at #4 on the Hot 100.
Rich Rotkin and Arnie Marcus were hired to join with Phil to tour as the Rip Chords while Terry and Bruce remained in the studio to record the group’s records. Pictures and biographies of the group never included Terry or Bruce.
The Rip Chords reached the top forty one last time in 1964. Three Window Coupe was co-written by Jan (of Jan and Dean) and again included vocals by Ernie, but the single only got as high as #28 on the Hot 100 in 1964.
The group disbanded in 1965.
Bruce and Terry released a half-dozen singles in 1964 and 1965 as Bruce and Terry. Two of the records got as high as #85 and #72, but the others failed to reach the Hot 100 at all.
Bruce sang on the Beach Boys recording of California Girls and joined the group full time for the recording of Pet Sounds.
Terry also sang background vocals on Pet Sounds, but mostly continued working as a producer for Columbia. He produced records for the Byrds, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Glen Campbell, Mark Lindsay, and the Mamas & the Papas.
Rich and Arnie began touring as The Rip Chords in the mid-nineties. The band has had several different additional members through the years and even recorded a new album in 2010. The band still continues to tour.
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