Merrell Fankhauser has led one of the most diverse and interesting careers in music. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and moved to California when he was 13 years old. Merrell went on to become one of the innovators of surf music and psychedelic folk rock.
His travels from Hollywood to his 15 year jungle experience on the island of Maui have been documented in numerous music books and magazines in the United States and Europe. Merrell has gained legendary international status throughout the field of rock music; his credits include over 250 songs published and released. He is a multi-talented singer/songwriter and unique guitar player whose sound has delighted listeners for over 35 years.
In the early 60s, Merrell led the instrumental surf group The Impacts who had a hit with their album titled “WIPE OUT”, which was reissued in 1994 on Del Fi Records in the United States and in 1995 on Repertoire Records in Germany. They returned in 1996 and 1997 with two stunning CDs titled “SURFIN 101” and “ETERNAL SURF”. Their Surf Music crossed over into the new Millenium with the release of “SEX WAX & SURF”!
In the late 60s, Merrell led his group H.M.S. Bounty to several hits with their album “THINGS” which was released on Uni/Shamley Records.
Merrell joined forces with Jeff Cotton (aka Antenna Jimmy Semens) from Captain Beefheart’s Band in 1970 to form the group MU. In 1971 their first album was released in the United States on Era/RTV Records and became a FM radio hit. It was also released on United Artists Records in 1974.
In 1973, Merrell and his group MU moved to the island of Maui to further their studies of the fabled Lost Continent of Mu or Lemuria. American Indian and Hawaiian legend says this continent existed some 11,500 years ago in the Pacific Ocean where the Hawaiian Islands now exist. Mu’s second album, “END OF AN ERA” was recorded on the island of Maui in 1974. The recording was done in their jungle “studio house” and was engineered by ex-Quicksilver engineer, Barry Mayo. This music took on a more mystical, tropical feel. MU was home! This album finally came out in 1988 on Recklesss Records of London and San Francisco; and again, in an exquisite double CD package, on Sundazed Records of New York in 1997. These albums gained the attention of Billboard Magazine and reached the charts in England.
In 1975, after MU disbanded, Merrell began work on a group of songs for a solo album that described perfectly the feeling of his lifestyle in his jungle house beside a free-flowing stream in the Maui rainforest. These songs were released in 1976 by a small, independent Hawaiian label and was titled “The Maui Album”.
In 1977, Merrell returned to Hollywood to record several songs with Gary Malabar, drummer from Steve Miller’s Band: studio guitarists Ben Benay and Art Munson: and bassist Colin Cameron. One of the songs, “Calling From A Star” featured Peter Noone singing with Merrell. This song and “Dharmic Connection” are part of the 1998 re-issue CD of “The Maui Album” on Subliminal Sounds of Sweden.
The following years found Merrell spending his time writing songs and performing in the Hawaiian Islands. During this period, several re-issues of the older LPs came out. However, all were not legal releases. Several were bootlegs, both foreign and domestic.
In 1986, Merrell teamed up with the late John Cipollina (ex-Quicksiver Messenger Service member) to record “DR. FANKHAUSER”, which went to #1 on French radio charts.
On October 3, 1990, Merrell began hosting a national television show, “California Music” which was shown nationally via satellite to over 100 stations. The show incorporated interviews, performances, and videos featuring many stars from the 60s to the 90s, and ran for three years.
Merrell’s 1991 album, “BACK THIS WAY AGAIN” included the song “Only A Woman” which was used in the film “SHADOWS IN THE STORM” starring Ned Beatty. This album also featured 1991 Grammy award winner, Louie Ortega, guitarist with the Texas Tornados.
In 1994 ,with the release of the film “PULP FICTION”, instrumental surf music came back in a big way. Del Fi Records re-issued all of The Impacts material on CD and several other foreign and domestic labels also released Impacts CDs.
In 1995, Merrell and Ed Cassidy, drummer from the group Spirit recorded a great blues rock CD titled “ON THE BLUE ROAD” that received substantial airplay around the world.
From 1995 to 1997, Merrell hosted a local California TV show called “Route 66 TV Live”. This show was a very popular music talk show on the central coast.
During the same period of time, Merrell started a weekly radio show called “Surf Beat” at a small FM radio station in Grover Beach, California. This led to regular shows on larger stations in San Luis Obispo County which evolved into “Surf Music News” radio segments. These segments can currently be heard on select stations nationally.
Merrell’s project, produced by movie and record producer William E. McEuen, is titled “RETURN TO MU”. This project features a stellar cast of musicians including John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean, Nicky Hopkins, and many others.
In 2001, Merrell began hosting a music TV show called, “Tiki Lounge” that airs on the California Central Coast, Southern California, Hawaii, and parts of the East Coast.
In 2004, Merrell returns with a great solo surf instrumental CD, called “ROCKIN’ AND SURFIN”, that contained an outstanding instrumental version of Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” Merrell’s song, “On Our Way to Hana,” was included on Hawaii’s best-selling commpilation CD, “ISLAND SUMMER ’60’S AND 70’S,” which also includes legendary Hawwaiian groups Kalapana, and Cecilio and Kapono.
If you would like to know more about Merrell’s interesting musical career we suggest you read the April 16, 1996 issue of Goldmine Magazine, and the books “UNKNOWN LEGENDS OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL”; (Miller Freeman Publishing, San Francisco, California); and “ALIEN ROCK” THE ROCK N ROLL EXTRATERRESTRIAL CONNECTION (VH1/Doubleday Publishing, 2005)
Merrell Fankhauser – Calling From A Star
Uploaded on Oct 27, 2006
Shot in 1978 on 16 mm film high atop Haleakala Crater on the island of Maui. Gary Malabar of Steve Millers band plays drums and Peter Noone sings backup with Merrell.
“Calling From a Star” by Merrell Fankhauser (Google Play • eMusic • AmazonMP3 • iTunes)
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