The Standells are a garage rock band from Los AngelesCalifornia, US, formed in the 1960s, who have been referred to as the "punk band of the 1960’s", and said to have inspired such groups as the Sex Pistols and Ramones.[1] They are best known for their 1966 hit "Dirty Water", now the anthem of several Boston sports teams.


 [hide*1 The 1960s

The 1960s[edit]Edit

The original Standells band was formed in 1962 by bass guitarist Jody Rich,[2] with lead vocalist and keyboard player Larry Tamblyn (born Lawrence A. Tamblyn, February 5, 1943, in Los Angeles),[3] guitarist Tony Valentino (born May 24, 1941,[4] aka Emilio Bellissimo), and drummer Benny King (aka Hernandez). Tamblyn had previously been a solo performer, recording several 45 singles in the late 1950s and early 1960s including "Dearest", "Patty Ann", "This Is The Night", "My Bride To Be" and "Destiny" for Faro and Linda Records. He is the brother of actor Russ Tamblyn and the uncle of Amber Tamblyn, star of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

The Standells band name was created by Larry Tamblyn,[5] derived from standing around booking agents' offices trying to get work.[6] In early 1962, drummer Benny King (aka Hernandez) joined the group, and as "the Standels", their first major performance was in Honolulu at the Oasis Club. After several months, Rich and King departed. Tamblyn then assumed leadership of the group. He and Valentino re-formed the Standels, adding bass guitarist Gary Lane and drummer Gary Leeds, later known as Gary Walker of The Walker Brothers. Later that year, the band lengthened its name to "Larry Tamblyn & the Standels". In 1963 an extra "L" was added, and as "Larry Tamblyn and the Standells" the group made its first recording "You'll Be Mine Someday/Girl In My Heart" for Linda Records (released in 1964).[7] In the latter part of the year, the band permanently shortened its name to "the Standells".[6] After the Standells signed with Liberty in 1964, Leeds left the group, and was replaced by lead vocalist and drummer Dick Dodd.[8] Dodd was a former Mouseketeer[9] who had been the original drummer for The Bel-Airs, known for the hit surf rock song "Mr. Moto".

In 1964, Liberty Records released three singles and an album, The Standells In Person At P.J.'s. The album was later re-issued as The Standells Live and Out of Sight. The band also appeared on The Munsters TV show, performing "I Want to Hold Your Hand".[10] In late 1964, they signed with Vee Jay and released two singles in 1965. Later in the year they signed with MGM for one single.

The group appeared in several low-budget films of the 1960s, including Get Yourself a College Girl and cult classic Riot on Sunset Strip. The Standells played the part of the fictional rock group the "Love Bugs" on the television sitcom Bing Crosby Show in the episode "Bugged by the Love Bugs". They also appeared as themselves on the television sitcom The Munsters in the episode "Far Out Munster," wherein the band performed "Come On and Ringo" and a version of The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand", in addition to performing an instrumental in the background in a Ben Casey episode "Three 'Lil Lambs". The Standells performed incidental music in the Connie Francis movieFollow the Boys, which coincidentally co-starred Larry Tamblyn's brother, Russ Tamblyn. The band also performed the title song for the movie Zebra in the Kitchen. Some reports state that early versions of the band had a relatively clean image and performed only cover songs.[10] However, early 1964 photos counter that notion, showing the Standells with long hair, making them one of the first American rock groups to adopt that style. In order to work in conservative nightclubs like PJ’s, the group members were forced to cut their shaggy locks.[11] Like the Beatles, early rock groups did mostly cover songs in nightclubs.

In 1965 the group - Dodd, Tamblyn, Valentino and Lane - signed with Capitol Records' label Tower, teaming up with producer Ed Cobb. Cobb wrote the group's most popular song, "Dirty Water", which the band recorded in late 1965. The song's references to the city of Boston are owed to Cobb's experiences with a mugger in Boston. The song also makes reference to the Boston Strangler and the dorm curfews for college women in those days.[12]

In early 1966, after recording "Dirty Water", Dodd briefly left the Standells, and was replaced by Dewey Martin, who became a member of Buffalo Springfield. Dodd returned to the group several months later, as the song began to climb the charts.[11] "Dirty Water" reached No. 11 on the Billboard charts on June 11, 1966, No. 8 on the Cashbox charts on July 9, 1966 and No. 1 on the Record World charts. "Dirty Water" was on the WLS playlist for 17 total weeks, tied only by "California Dreamin'" for most weeks on that playlist during the 1960s. Though the song is credited solely to Cobb, band members Dodd, Valentino and Tamblyn have claimed substantial material-of-fact song composition copyright contributions to it as well as contributing to its arrangement.[citation needed] According to critic Richie Unterberger,[10]

" 'Dirty Water' [was] an archetypal garage rock hit with its Stones-ish riff, lecherous vocal, and combination of raunchy guitar and organ. While they never again reached the Top 40, they cut a number of strong, similar tunes in the 1966–1967 era that have belatedly been recognized as 1960s punk classics. 'Garage rock' may not have been a really accurate term for them in the first place, as the production on their best material was full and polished, with some imaginative touches of period psychedelia and pop."

"Dirty Water" is listed in the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll."[13]

Other popular tracks included "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" (later covered by Washington, D.C. hardcore band Minor ThreatNew York City punk band the Cramps, and Swedish garage band The Nomads), "Why Pick on Me", "Riot on Sunset Strip" and "Try It", which was later covered by Ohio Express. Picked by Billboard magazine to be the Standells' next hit, the song was banned by Texas radio mogulGordon McLendon, who deemed the record to have sexually suggestive lyrics.[14] The Standells were asked by Art Linkletter to debate with McLendon on his House Party TV show in 1967. By most accounts, McLendon was handily defeated,[5][15] but, by then, most radio stations had followed McLendon's suggestion not to play the record.

Gary Lane left the group in 1966, and was replaced by bass guitarist Dave Burke. John Fleck (born John William Fleckenstein in Los Angeles, August 2, 1946),[16] formerly of Love, replaced Burke in early 1967. In 1968, Dick Dodd left the band to pursue a solo career. The Standells continued to perform with a varying line-up thereafter, briefly including guitarist Lowell George who went on to play with Little Feat.[10]

Later reformations and versions of the band[edit]Edit

[1][2]The band in 2012

(L-R: Larry Tamblyn, Mark Adrian, John Fleck, Greg Burnham, Dick Dodd)

In the 1980s, Dodd, Tamblyn and Valentino performed at a few shows with the likes of The Fleshtones. In the late 1980s, the Standells, with Tamblyn and Valentino, recorded and released an independent single featuring Tamblyn singing "60's Band"[6] In 1999, the Standells, featuring Dodd, Valentino and Tamblyn, along with bass player Peter Stuart,[17] appeared at the Cavestomp festival in New York, and their performance was subsequently released as an album called Ban THIS!. As the title suggests, the Standells were thumbing their noses at McLendon. Between 2004 and 2007 the band was called upon to reform to make several appearances at majorBoston sporting events. In 2006 the band sued Anheuser Busch for over $1 million after the company used "Dirty Water" in sports-related beer commercials without permission.[18]

After a show at the Cannery Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas in May 2009, The Standells reformed with Tamblyn and former bassist John Fleck, along with guitarist Paul Downing and veteran drummer Greg Burnham. The group went on to make appearances at Los Angeles venues Amoeba RecordsEchoplex and the Whisky a Go Go. In 2010 they toured in Europe, performing in several countries. In late 2010, Downing was replaced by guitarist Adam Marsland. In 2011, the band decided to record the first new album in over 40 years. Through Kickstarter, the Standells raised money towards the cost of the album.[19] Marsland left the group shortly thereafter. He was replaced by singer/guitarist Mark Adrian, a former member of the rock group Artica. In March 2012, the Standells performed at the SXSW Festival.[20]

In September 2012, Dick Dodd rejoined the group, and they appeared at the Monterey Summer of Love "45 Years On" Festival that month.[21][22][23] In August 9, 2013 they released a new album, Bump, on GRA Records.[24] Dodd does not appear on the album, and the band announced that he has again left the group effective June 12.[25] The group (without Dodd) headlined at the Satellite Club in Los Angeles, CA, August 9,[26] the Adams Ave. St. Fair, San Diego, CA on September 28,[26] and at the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans, LA, October 5, 2013.[27] Dick Dodd died on November 29, 2013.[28]

Boston connection[edit]Edit

Despite the references to Boston and the Charles River in "Dirty Water," the Standells are not from Massachusetts. Tower Records producer Ed Cobb wrote the song after a visit to Boston, during which he was robbed on a bridge over the Charles River. None of the Standells had been to Boston before the song was released.[29]

In 1997, "Dirty Water" was decreed the "official victory anthem" of the Red Sox, and is played after every home victory won by the Boston Red Sox.[29] Also, in 1997 two Boston area music-related chain stores celebrated their joint 25th anniversary by assembling over 1500 guitarists, plus a handful of singers and drummers, to perform "Dirty Water" for over 76 minutes at the Hatch Shell adjacent to the Charles River.[30]At short notice, at the invitation of the Red Sox, The Standells played "Dirty Water" before the second game of the 2004 World Series at Fenway Park.[31] The band played at Fenway Park again in 2005 and 2006. In 2007, the Standells performed the National Anthem at the first game of the 2007 American League Division Series, also at Fenway Park.[32]

In 2007, "Dirty Water, as sung by the Standells" was honored by official decree of The Massachusetts General Court. The song is now played not only at Red Sox games, but also those of the Boston Celtics, theBoston Bruins, and the Northeastern Huskies' hockey games.

The song is also played at the end of every home game win by the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.


Chart singles[edit]Edit

Year Title U.S. Hot 100[33]
1966 "Dirty Water" 11
"Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White" 43
"Why Pick On Me" 54
1967 "Can't Help But Love You" 78


  • The Standells In Person At P.J.'s. 1964
  • Dirty Water 1966
  • Why Pick On Me Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White 1966
  • The Hot Ones! 1967
  • Try It 1967
  • Riot on Sunset Strip (sound track from the movie of the same name) 1967
  • Best Of The Standells 1983 Rhino Records RNLP 107
  • Rarities 1984
  • LIve and Out of Sight (The Standells in Person at P.J.'s with two bonus songs) 1966, 1990
  • Ban This! (1999 live recordings) 2000
  • The Live Ones (1967 live recordings) 2001
  • Bump (2013)
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