"BLUE CHEER DAYS"
By Mike Perry
My memory is 'iffy' at best so apologies in advance to anyone I've omitted. It's accidental and I wish I could remember more but I fried a lot of cells in that time and place. We all did. My time at Blue Cheer, AKA 'Blue Cheese' as referred to by the staff, was, I'm guessing, from around 1968'-69' to maybe '71'.I was in Hawaii in 1968 with Hank Miller, my neighbor from Culver City, who became my glasser when I started doing boards from home under the title "Progressive Surfboards".
We got that when a Hawaiian kid at Kaisers told us our boards were too long and we 'weren't ready for progress'. Our sticks were longer than the one he was riding but they were short for 67’-68'. Maybe 7'6" or less. I had gone on this, my 2nd trip to Hawaii, (1st trip was in 1964), with a Roberts that was 'sensible' after handing back the absolute finest Roberts ever made because I didn't think it would be long enough for Town.
That was a beautiful board. About 7' 2" long with a 3'8" balsa center stick and two offset T-bands made of balsa and red foam, each netting about 3/8" width. It had a turned up nose into a turned down tail, with a transparent amber color all over. Very ahead of it’s time. Damn, it was honestly the most beautiful board I ever owned and I gave it back because I didn't have the guts to try something different for Hawaii! Lame ass.
Back to Blue Cheer. I'd been shaping boards since 1964 having gotten my start from George Downing when I lived with the family in Hawaii for a few months in '64'. George was the impetus but more than that, he gave me the values and accuracy demands which I still hold close.
But in 68' I was still another garage hacker although I had done some commercial work at Roberts earlier. One day I was at Malibu trying out a new board when I met Jay Stone, owner of Blue Cheer at the walk down right off the highway. He checked out the stick and we discussed me doing some work for him.
That night I went to an address off Wilshire in Santa Monica, down an alley and he was set up in a garage there. He wanted to try my Skil planer on a board he was working on and I reluctantly let him. First off the board was on edge in the saddles of the shaping stands and had about 2" of foam to cut down to get to the outline he'd drawn.
Anyone would use a saw. 'Buzzy', as he was affectionately known by the crew later, (thanks to Steve Kroll), was trying to mow his way down to the pencil line in full cuts with myplaner-that's 1/8" a cut! I sussed that he wasn't too much of a shaper, just about then he ran over my planers' cord doing a pass and blew out the lights, everything. In the dark I got my axe back and said: "Check ya' to the guy. I was pretty pissed off. Hey, that planer cost me $25 and now I had to fix the cord and the burnt blades!
Not much later Stone convinced me that he wanted me to shape for him and he'd stay out of the way. I could glass too so we talked a bit about that. It was decided that I'd just shape and that was fine by me. Jay had just bought the Hobie shop on Wilshire and it was a well known business so I thought: 'Hello, we might make a buck here and get in some serious work too." I was right. At the time, all of us 'underground shapers' wanted to gain experience and the only way to do that was to grind LOTS of boards.
This was that chance for me. Over the next couple of years I shaped SO many boards. At one time, during the first twin fin era, we had me, Steve Kroll, (a fantastic master shaper from Dana Point), and the legendary Ralph Parker all grinding. Kroll and I lived in our cars right in the parking lot of the factory and did an honest 10 twins a day, EACH, 7 days a week, for 6 months solid.
That's not bullshit, there must be hundreds of them still around in Florida 'cause that's where we sent thousands. Many, many times I slept in my car, with my dog and with the days' foam dust all over me. Kroll taught me a very great deal and I admired his planer and shaping skills immensely.
He was making concave into vee three finners in 1971! We went on to work together on Kauai in '71' at Brewers' old place in Hanapepe. We were really tight. Parker was a mysto guy. He'd show up at night on the weekend and do a week's worth of good work in one weekend!
I learned a few tricks off of him but mainly I only saw the results of his work on Monday morning. He was a line shaper from Hobie. Not a surfer. Just a powerhouse grinder. A lot of his ideas made sense though. Like, why work harder?
He was the first guy I saw using a Skil saw to cut outlines. He was really good with his tools and his boards were clean and as good as anybodys'. There was no romantic nonsense about shaping to him, unlike us. He had figured out the way to systematize the job and get results. I didn't want to be like him but I thought he was smart as Hell.
At various times, other guys were brought in to shape too; especially when Buzzy got in bed with the Japanese. Then we mowed some foam, I can tell you. I can't remember the name of this one guy from Huntington but he had a colour TV on a chair in the end of his shaping bay and he'd watch soap operas on TV all day while he worked! Can you fucking believe that?! He wasn't bad either. I think he wound up in one of the later incarnations of Blue Cheer and was tight with Clyde Beatty Jr. in that phase. (Steve Braum? Maybe.)
In this first phase though, Kroll and I were shaping, The glass shop changed over time and what was Orlando's scene soon became entwined with Zephyr and Buzzy's deal just grew into a warehouse up the street. John Orlando and later Doug Marshall were glassing. Skip was always around and I think he was Orlandos' sander. And of course C.R. (Stecyk) was orbiting around a fair bit as well. Ho, Skip, Orlando and Stecyk and I had a long history. I just don't remember so many other details. That would be because of the beer and the smoking. There was a LOT of beer going down.
Wayne Miyata was our glosser / pinliner and it was really a fantastic thing to have worked with him. I told him how he once was going to throw me down the stairs at the SM Civic at a surf film because I was swearing over him and his date at some friends. He smiled and softly said: I would have too. But you apologised, right?" Correct he was and lucky I was!
We became fast friends and did a bit of socializing after hours in, of all places, Hollywood. Oh...the dingey bars! He was a good man, loved the absolute best things in life and wouldn't settle for less than first class, ever. This helped our work ethic in the factory. Having a true legend glossing our work was tough.
If the outlines were faulty he would be the first to know and it could affect his work. Having Wayne there made us all try harder. And he knew the most stories of anyone I have ever known. Just a one man encyclopedia of amazing first hand experiences. Imagine!
One day he'd had a board built that he was going to put into his own new shop in Hermosa. It was coal black with about a million little red pinlines all over it. Every pinline had an arrowhead at the top and feathers at the tail-all done with tape and a straight edged razor blade! While he was taping the last few we all watched him in silence.
His sticker was round and he was shooting two pins around the sticker. Ever laid tape for pins? It's fucking hard. 2 lines of tape for 1 pinline of resin.To do it evenly around a round sticker is nearly impossible. Down the board would come Waynes' hand peeling off and smoothing tape like butter.
Rip! Up would come what appeared to us to be a perfect line of tape and down he'd come again. Over and over until it was just insanely perfect. We were impressed. I think Glen Kennedy was in on this show and he just looked at me and rolled his eyes up like he'd seen Da Vinci at work.
Doug Marshall was ex-Gordie / Huntington and tight with Guy Okazaki. Doug was the finest glasser I have ever had the privilege to work with. A great sander and a very wise man as well. He once led a quiet revolution at the factory when he just got sick and tired of looking at that stupid sticker with that stupid name: "Blue Cheer." We all agreed that no boards would get made until Stone changed the name and the sticker. Stone caved in and we became "Ocean" surfboards. Much better!
But then Stone got a deal on a big bucket of this pigment colour called'Aqua Pool' and we had to produce several hundred boards that were coloured like opaque swimming pools! Yuk! There was always something! I worked with Dougie in Australia too and was so sad to see him die at just 45; a victim of Agent Orange and possibly, the glassers' lifestyle.
Bob Petty came in on a later version of Blue Cheer. His shop 'Boy' was a guy named Pat Rawson. Ex Roberts too and later to become one of the greatest North Shore shapers ever. We remain good friends today. Jeff Ho blew in and out at various times but when Orlando had the glassing concession, Ho was very busy there. Ho and I went all the way back to '65'-'66' when he was bringing his first 'Innovations' into Roberts for glassing while I was apprenticed to Bob 'Roberts' Milner.
Ho was / is a true original. He was eccentric as Hell and I loved his ass. I've known him since the very beginning of my career and respect him greatly. He has an original mind. We had some very fun times together over the years. There was also a guy named Craig Moody .
This guy was Petty's first "Shop Boy" and hand sander. He worked hard for not much dough and was just one of the guys. Then one day he says to me: " My old Boy Scout leader has put me onto a job possibility and I think I might have a crack at it. It involves this new stuff called computer software and the bosses have given me a stack of computer magsto check out over the weekend. I start selling next week. I don't know anything about it but they say it sells itself."
2 years later and he's got an apartment in the heart of the most happening part of New York and another in L.A. and his career is just rocketing skyward. He must be a billionaire by now! We were all really glad to see a brother make it out of the surfing ghetto. Still other versions had Fred Stangle and Bob Erspalmer onboard in the glass shop and Rich Reed, (another really gifted shaper), shaping.
Man, this is just unfair...I'm sure I'm forgetting a few people here. Sorry boys. These were very crazy times with super great guys. Truly worthy of making a movie from-for real! And Jay Stone? He was just a really nice guy who wanted to make surfing his business and make a success of it. No secret agendas-nothing sinister.
He often stressed the shit out of all of us and we often stressed the shit out of him. It was kind of like a marriage without the sex. (Well, actually, that's marriage all over, isn't it? Hah!) We made Stone a lot of money and he paid us heaps in return. I have only good memories. And at the bottom of it all, I knew that he cared more about us and our well being than almost any other guy I ever worked for. Thanks for everything Buzzy!