The Rip Chords Biography

One of the first rock acts signed to Columbia Records in the USA, the Rip Chords were best known for a ‘hot rod’ hit in early 1964, ‘Hey Little Cobra’, which reached the Top 5 just as the Beatles broke through in the USA. The band’s records were actually the work of singer/producer Terry Melcher (Terrence Jorden, 8 February 1942, New York City, New York, USA, d. 19 November 2004, Beverly Hills, California, USA), and singer Bruce Johnston (b. 27 June 1942, Los Angeles, California, USA), later of the Beach Boys. However, that duo did not represent the Rip Chords in concerts; a completely different set of musicians was sent out on the road. The Rip Chords were an already-existing group of musicians including Phil Stewart, Ernie Bringas, Arnie Marcus and Rich Rotkin. Stewart and Bringas approached Melcher, a staff producer at Columbia, and were signed to the label. Their first single, ‘Here I Stand’, was a minor chart hit in 1963, as was ‘Gone’, written by Melcher and Johnston and featuring the latter on background vocals. Melcher and Johnston heard ‘Hey Little Cobra’, written by former Teddy Bears member Annette Kleinbard under the name Carol Connors, and recorded it themselves. Although the pair had planned to record under the name Bruce And Terry, they decided to release the record under the Rip Chords’ name, since that band had already appeared in the charts. The single shot to number 4. Hey Little Cobra And Other Hot Rod Hits, was recorded in 1964, featuring Melcher and Johnston singing on nearly half the tracks. Another car-orientated single, ‘Three Window Coupe’, by Jan Berry of Jan And Dean and Roger Christian, was a Top 30 hit in the summer of 1964 and was followed with an album of the same name, which also featured Melcher and Johnston on most of the tracks. After one final chart single, ‘One Piece Topless Bathing Suit’, Melcher turned down the Brian Wilson composition ‘Help Me Rhonda’ for the Rip Chords and took on more production for Columbia, most notably for Paul Revere And The Raiders and the Byrds. From that point on the Rip Chords ceased to exist.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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