The story of “Surfin’ Bird,” the most influential novelty song ever (and Peter Griffin’s favourite song)

If you’re not quite old enough, you might have been confused by this episode of Family Guy. Was this for real?

Surfin’ Bird” was a real hit single recorded in 1963 by The Trashmen.

But that was actually a cover of the original by The Rivingtons, which was definitely more doo-woppy and soulful.

It was punk before there was any such thing as punk. Even the Ramones covered it. has the story of the most influential novelty song of all time.

It all began with a garage band from Minnesota called The Trashmen, whom—contrary to some accounts—were not Trash men themselves. The name was based on a song they wrote as teens called “Trashmen Blues.”The band started playing both songs at local shows. The band heard “Papa-oom-mow-mow” and “Bird’s the Word” performed by a Wisconsin cover band one night and decided to incorporate the tunes into their own set.

The band’s drummer and singer, Steve Wahrer, decided to experiment with combining the two songs during a gig and “Surfin’ Bird” was the result. The band then recorded the song, which became popular on local radio, eventually hitting the national charts. The band recorded a 12-song album named after their famous song.

The album is mostly instrumental, fun and readily available on streaming services and online. It’s worth every reverb-soaked minute of surf music goodness.

Keep reading.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “The story of “Surfin’ Bird,” the most influential novelty song ever (and Peter Griffin’s favourite song)

  • February 7, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Alan, thank you so much for sharing my piece about “Surfin’ Bird!” I’ve always loved both surf and novelty music and I hope you enjoyed reading the piece as much as I enjoyed writing and researching it.

  • June 19, 2021 at 8:18 pm

    We played surfin bird 6 songs for a quarter for hours at our local hangout in Iowa. Drove the owner, a lady , insane I’m sure.


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