1963 Jack Nitzsche – The Lonely Surfer

1963 Jack Nitzsche – The Lonely Surfer 

Bernard Nitzsche grew up on a farm in Michigan. After high school, he moved to Hollywood and attended the Westlake College of Music. In 1957, he began working for Sonny Bono of Sonny and Cher at Specialty Records. His initial job at the label had him working as a copyist (they took the notes written by other musicians and turned them into actual musical manuscripts).

He began using the name Jack and began writing songs himself. While working with Sonny, he wrote Bongo Bongo Bongo, which became a minor hit for Preston Epps in 1960 (you can read about Preston’s career in my blog:


Jack left Specialty to work at Capitol Records and then Original Sound Records and began finding work as an arranger. In the early sixties, he went to work for Phil Spector doing arrangements for many of his records, including work on the Wall of Sound.

In the early sixties, Surf Music gained strength as a growing genre. It began as instrumental music that was first popularized by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones with their 1961 single Let’s Go Trippin’.

Gene Pitney wrote He’s A Rebel and offered the song to the Shirelles in 1962. When they turned down the song, he offered it to Vicki Carr. Phil wanted to release the song before Vicki did. He had Jack arrange the song for the Blossoms (with Darlene Love on lead vocals) and produced and released the record crediting The Crystals. 

Jack tried his hand at creating his own Surf Music record. He wrote and recorded the song The Lonely Surfer on Reprise Records. The single reached the top forty on the Hot 100 in 1963. 

Jack’s follow-up, Rumble, stalled at #91, and he never reached the singles chart again. 

He did, however, have a long and successful career in the music field. He worked in the Wrecking Crew, played keyboards for the Rolling Stones (and arranged their choral backing on You Can’t Always Get What You Want), and worked with Neil Young. 

He later concentrated on creating soundtrack music for films. He and his second wife, Buffy Saint Marie, won an Academy Award when they co-wrote Up Where We Belong for the film An Officer and a Gentleman

Jack had a stroke in 1998 and a recurring bronchial infection led to his death from cardiac arrest two years later.


I have collected older articles about Lost or Forgotten Oldies in my books.

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