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Lake Minnetonka’s ’60s Surf Band — The Yetti-men

“On the frozen shores of Lake Minnetonka, in the darkest hours of the night, when the shriek of the snowmobiles has been hushed, the locals say that if you listen long enough you can still hear the cry of the fabled Yettimen echoing off the surrounding hills, and over the icy snowpack… Close your eyes and listen hard, and you too might hear…”

Let’s go way back…

It’s Summer, 1963. President Kennedy flashes his boyish smile in the White House, Gidget splashes across the nation’s drive-in movie screens, and surf music, a strange hybrid of twangy, reverb guitar and pounding drums, streams out of a gazillion teenage transistor radios in every town. Surf music was BIG in 1963. With groups like the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean verbally extolling the California virtues of sun, surf and surfer girls, and with more primitive, non-vocalist surf-rockers like Dick Dale and The Surfaris letting their guitars do the talking, everybody was cashing in on the wave-riding sport. It would take an international invasion-a British one, specifically – to send the surf crashing back to earth. This would happen in 1964 when The Beatles and Rolling Stones came over to conquer America.

But in 1963, while the entire nation went ga-ga over surfing and surfing music, it was only natural that surf bands would sprout up like weeds in garages all across the USA, from Rincon to Cape Cod. No place was immune. Even land-locked Omaha had a “surf scene,” with local Fender guitar wielding bands battling it out.

We Lake Minnetonkans, never being ones to hide our heads in the cultural sand, were quick to catch the surf wave. If Minneapolis could spawn a surf group like The Trashmen, and they could have a nationwide top ten hit with “Surfin’ Bird” – a silly surf tune if there ever was one – well, we’d have to show them that Lake Minnetonka wasn’t a place to be ignored, twangily-speaking.

Enter the Yettimen:

Five young Minnetonka men about to make history…or at the very least, some gnarly surf music. Very little is known about the group today. The line-up consisted of: Lee Hanson (lead guitar), Henry “Skip” Webster (rhythm guitar), Joel Peterson (bass), Brian Mahin (sax, keyboards), and Jim Robinson (drums). Lacking in big promotion and executive pull, the boys recorded right here, in the Minnetonka High School auditorium, in early 1964. At least six tracks were laid on tape in February and March. These were: High Himalaya, Wine Wine Wine, My Baby Left Me, Blue Surfer, and two instrumentals: Yep, and Break Time. These six songs were then taken by Mike Kramer and David Leitzman to the Kay Bank Pressing Plant in Minneapolis, to be immortalized on vinyl. The end result was an album (well, half of an album to be precise) on the KAL label. The Yettimen would share billing with a folk group, The Uppa Trio, whose songs would fill the other side of the lp.

What happened next?

Did The Yettimen get scouted by Dick Clark and go onto American Bandstand, or reach the Top 40 radio charts and national fame? Well, not exactly. But their music lives on today, on a few obscure multiple artist cds, and on some web radio broadcasts like Radio Rumpus Room. So while the waves of Lake Minnetonka may not be tubular enough to get a good ride with a longboard, the surf music waves made by The Yettimen will reverberate for all time.

Read Part Two of The Beachcomber’s series on the Yetti-Men.
Read Part Three of The Beachcomber’s series on the Yetti-Men.
Visit The Beachcomber’s virtual hut at: www.SnyderConcepts.com.

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