December 5, 2015


Soaking up the surf and the sun: Don Smith, Walt Marston, Brandon Harris, Bill Silliker, Steve Penney.

The Tidal Waves were already a popular live attraction in Maine and New Hampshire when they joined forces with up-and-coming record label honcho Brandon Harris. Combining Harris’ songwriting with the Tidal Waves’ performances, this collaboration tackled both merseybeat pop (“You Name It”) and tough garage punk (“Laugh”) on their two Strafford/Right! releases. The no less than TWO frantic extended guitar breaks on “Laugh” — crank it up below! — come courtesy of lead guitarist Don Smith, who recounts the ebb and flow of the Tidal Waves

The Tidal Waves formed 1964 in Sanford, Maine: Walt Marston (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), Steve Penney (bass guitar, vocals), Don Smith (lead guitar, vocals) and Bill Silliker (drums), managed by Alexander "Sandy" MacDonald of WTSN radio in Dover, N.H.

We connected with Brandon Harris and Russ Hamm [of the Strafford and Right! record labels] through Sandy in 1965, and began recording at the studio in the basement of the UNH Memorial Union Building. Released “You Name It” in 1965 and “Laugh” in 1966. (Brandon brought me the lyrics and idea for an angry break-up blues tune “I Ain't Ruined,” which I turned into the driving pop-ditty “Laugh.”)

Opened for numerous national acts during 1965-1966 including: The Kingsmen, Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs, The Searchers, The Zombies, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Beau Brummels, Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, Freddy Cannon and more. 

“You Name It” got airplay in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. “Laugh” Got airplay in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachussetts and was “Pick of the Week” on several stations including WMEX in Boston (with Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg).

For reasons that seem quite foolish in hindsight, we left Sandy and signed on with Bill Spence at The Surf. While part of the The Surf organizition we rotated through the three Surf venues — Salisbury, Nantasket, and Hyannis — as well as playing frequently in and around Boston with occasional appearances in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

In 1967 we recorded “Little Boy Sad” at Fleetwood Studios in Revere, engineered by Russ Hamm and produced by Brian Interland. At this point we added my brother Norman Smith on keyboards and vocals. (He played the piano track on “Little Boy Sad.”)

During this time we continued to work with national acts including The Doors, The Yardbirds, Fats Domino, The Shirelles, Jimmy Clanton, The Tremeloes, The Grass Roots, and more appearances with The Kingsmen.

In the summer of 1968, Bill Silliker left the band and moved to the Washington, D.C., area to become a photo analyst for the CIA. He was replaced on drums by Bobby Cunningham.

In the fall of 1968, Walt Marston left to work for The Surf as a booking agent and to front his own band. He was replaced as lead singer by Steve Penney, who put away his bass to work as a front man while Norman Smith added the keyboard bass with his left hand.

In late 1968 and early 1969 we were at Third World (Lightfoot) Studios in Jamaica Plain, Mass., with Charlie Dryer working on a remake of Curtis Mayfield’s “Got A Right To Cry” with horn tracks done by Lenny Baker (Sha Na Na) and the horn guys from The Pilgrims. Then Steve and Norm were involved in a serious car accident which was almost fatal to Steve. By the time Steve recovered from his injuries, things had changed such that we never finished “Got A Right To Cry.”

— Don Smith, July 2015

You Name It / So I Guess
(SRM 6503 • SK4M 3308/09) 1965

Laugh / Farmer John
(RRM 6607 • T5KM-3039/46) 1966

Little Boy Sad / I Don't Want To Lose You Now
(2967/68 • U4KM-8928/29) 1967

1 comment:

  1. was there ever a girl in the Tidal Waves?? I remember one..curious If I am mistaken..I am from the era and also the area at the time...