The Astronauts (band)

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The Astronauts
The band in 1966
The band in 1966
Background information
OriginBoulder, Colorado, U.S.
Years active1961–1968
LabelsPalladium, RCA Victor
Past membersRich Fifield
Jon "Storm" Patterson
Bob Demmon
Dennis Lindsey
Jim Gallagher
Dick Sellars
Mark Bretz
Rod Jenkins
Robert Carl McLerran

The Astronauts were an American rock band, who had a minor hit in 1963 with "Baja" and remained successful for several years, especially in Japan. They have been described as being, "along with...(the) Trashmen, the premier landlocked Midwestern surf group of the '60s."[1] For most of their career, the band members were Rich Fifield, Jon "Storm" Patterson, Bob Demmon, Dennis Lindsey, and Jim Gallagher.


The Astronauts developed out of a group, The Stormtroupers, which was originally formed at Boulder High School, Boulder, Colorado in 1956 by Jon "Storm" Patterson (vocals, guitar), Robert Graham "Bob" Demmon (guitar; born February 11, 1939[2]), and Brad Leach (drums). In 1961, they became The Astronauts after adding Richard Otis "Rich" Fifield (vocals, guitar) and Dick Sellars (guitar), the change of band name recognising the fascist connotations of the previous name (despite the different spelling) and to pay tribute to local hero, astronaut Scott Carpenter.[3][4] Patterson switched to bass, Leech was replaced on drums by Jim Gallagher, and soon afterwards Sellars left to join the US Navy, being replaced by Dennis Lindsey.[5] With a line-up of Demmon, Patterson, Fifield, Lindsey and Gallagher, the band gained a strong local reputation, toured as far as Chicago and Dallas, Texas, and released their first single, "Come Along Baby", in 1962, on the small Palladium label.[3] They were signed to RCA Records after a record company executive was impressed by their performance at a local night club, the Tulagi.[6]

Their first single on RCA was "Baja", an instrumental written by Lee Hazlewood originally for his friend, guitarist Al Casey.[7] Released by The Astronauts in early 1963, the track was described as "a typical surf instrumental with a reverberation-heavy twangy guitar and driving drumbeat", and reached # 94 on the Billboard Hot 100 for just one week, the pinnacle of their US chart career.[4][8] However, they released a succession of further singles on RCA, in an attempt by the record company to emulate the success of the Beach Boys and other surf music-related groups in the charts at the time. According to reviewer Richie Unterberger, "the group shone brightest on their instrumentals, which used mounds of Fender reverb and two rhythm guitars; when they sang, the results were much less successful."[1] Patterson and Fifield shared lead vocals,[8] and the band recorded songs by Roger Christian, Gary Usher, Dick Dale and Henry Mancini, among others.[1] Fifield, the lead guitarist, used a Fender Jazzmaster on the recordings, with an early prototype reverb unit personally loaned to the group by Leo Fender.[9] Their 1965 song "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day" was covered by The Monkees in 1966.

As well as a succession of singles and EPs, the band released four LPs over nine months, starting in May 1963: Surfin' with The Astronauts – which reached # 61 on the Billboard 200 album chart[4]Everything Is A-OK! (recorded live at the Club Baja in Denver, Colorado), Competition Coupe, and The Astronauts Orbit Campus (recorded live in Boulder).

They appeared several times on the Hullabaloo TV show, and have the distinction of appearing in more beach party movies than any other surf band: Surf Party, Wild on the Beach, Wild Wild Winter and Out of Sight. Regarding the band's performance in 1964's Surf Party, the book Pop Surf Culture states “The Astronauts bang out a thick, reverb-laden instrumental called ‘Firewater,’ and their theme song ‘Surf Party’ happens to be one of the best surf instrumentals ever recorded.”[10] (See Filmography, below)

In 1964, their record company discovered that they had a growing fan base in Japan, where they outsold The Beach Boys and toured with The Ventures. Five albums and three singles made the top 10 there, with "Movin'" – retitled as "Over The Sun" – reaching number one in the country.[4]

In all, they recorded nine albums. Gallagher and Lindsey were drafted for the Vietnam War before the last album, Travelin' Men in 1967, and were replaced by Mark Bretz and Rod Jenkins respectively. Demmon also left, being replaced by Robert Carl McLerran, before Fifield and Patterson finally decided to end the band name after a tour of Asia in 1968.[4][5]

Associated acts[edit]

For a while, the same band – Fifield, Patterson, McLerran, Bretz and Jenkins – performed in the US under the name SunshineWard, who released one single, "Sally Go Around The Roses", in 1967. Patterson then left the band and music business, and Fifield and McLerran formed a new band, Hardwater, with Tony Murillo and Peter M. Wyant. In 1968, the band released two singles and an album, Hardwater, on Capitol Records, produced by David Axelrod.[4][11][12] Fifield also had a role in assisting Axelrod and record engineer David Hassinger, who owned the rights to the group name of The Electric Prunes, to find a new group of musicians to take on that group's name for their record, Mass in F Minor. Fifield contacted fellow Colorado musicians, Richard Whetstone, John Herron and Mark Kincaid, who then agreed to form one of the final line-ups of The Electric Prunes.[13]


The Astronauts reunited temporarily to perform in Boulder, Colorado, in 1974, 1988 and 1989.[9]

Later years[edit]

A four-CD box set of the group's recordings, The Complete Astronauts Collection, was issued on the Collectables label in 1997.[14]

Dennis Lindsey died in Boulder, Colorado, on May 4, 1992.[15] Mark Bretz died August 15, 1999, aged 54. Robert "Bob" Demmon worked as a teacher in Coronado, California,[6] whose students included George Sanger.[16] He died of cardiac arrest on December 18, 2010, at the age of 71.[17]

Rich Fifield died on November 18, 2021.[18] Jim Gallagher died on November 20, 2021, at the age of 78.[19]


Classic line-up in bold
Group name The Stormtroupers The Astronauts The Astronauts The Astronauts The Astronauts SunshineWard Hardwater
Years 1956-1961 1961-? ? ?-1967 (Certainly the line-up from 1962-1967) 1967 1967 1967-1969
Jon "Storm" Patterson vocals, guitar vocals, guitar vocals, bass vocals, bass vocals, bass vocals, bass
Richard Otis "Rich" Fifield vocals, guitar vocals, guitar vocals, lead guitar vocals, lead guitar vocals, lead guitar vocals, lead guitar
Robert Graham "Bob" Demmon guitar guitar guitar guitar
Dick Sellars guitar guitar
Dennis Lindsey guitar
Mark Bretz guitar guitar
Robert Carl McLerran guitar guitar bass
Peter M. Wyant guitar
Brad Leach drums drums
Jim Gallagher drums drums
Rod Jenkins drums drums
Tony Murillo drums


Singles (US releases)[edit]

The Astronauts[edit]

  • "Come Along Baby" / "Tryin' To Get To You" (Palladium, 1962)
  • "Baja" / "Kuk" (RCA Victor, 1963) #94 on the Billboard Hot 100
  • "Hot-Doggin'" / "Every One But Me" (RCA Victor, 1963)
  • "Competition Coupe" / "Surf Party" (RCA Victor, 1963) #124 on Billboard's Bubbling Under Chart
  • "Swim, Little Mermaid" / "Go Fight For Her" (RCA Victor, 1964)
  • "Main Title From 'Ride The Wild Surf'" / "Around And Around" (RCA Victor, 1964)
  • "I'm A Fool" / "Can't You See I Do?" (RCA Victor, 1964)
  • "Almost Grown" / "My Sin Is Pride" (RCA Victor, 1965)
  • "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day" / "Razzamatazz" (RCA Victor, 1965)
  • "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" / "The La La Song" (RCA Victor, 1965)
  • "Main Street" / "In My Car" (RCA Victor, 1966)
  • "I Know You, Rider" / "Better Things" (RCA Victor, 1967)


  • "Sally Go Around The Roses" / "Pay The Price" (RCA Victor, 1968)


  • "City Sidewalks" / "Not So Hard" (Capitol, 1968)
  • "Plate Of My Fare" / "Good Old Friends" (Capitol, 1969)[5]

EPs (US Releases)[edit]

  • The Astronauts (Wurlitzer Disco EP Vol I WLP-9-100) 33 Stereo Jukebox EP
  • The Astronauts (Wurlitzer Disco EP Vol II WLP-10-100) 33 Stereo Jukebox EP

Singles (Japan releases)[edit]

  • "Che Che Che" (RCA Victor, 45 RPM)
  • "Unchain My Heart"/"Twist and Shout" (Victor SS-1568
  • "Movin'"/"Unchain My Heart" (Victor spv-12)
  • "Koi O Surunara"/"Che Che Che" (Victor 1254)
  • "James Bond Theme"/"Goldfinger" (Victor 1526)
  • "Taste of Honey"/"Thunderball" (Victor 1647)
  • "Pipeline"/"Movin'" (VictorSS-3310)
  • "Heartbreak Hotel"/"A Big Hunk of Love" (Victor SS-1640)
  • "Swim Little Mermaid"/"Go Fight Fight for Her" (Victor Ss-1547)
  • "Main Title Theme 'Ride The Wild Surf'"/"Around and Around" (Victor SS-1503)
  • "El Aguila (The Eagle)"/"Happy Ho-Daddy" (Victor SS-1467)
  • "Surf Party"/"Kuk" (written by the Astronauts) (Victor SS-1444)
  • "Let's Play House"/"Movin'" (Victor SS1428)
  • "Pipeline"/"Movin'"(Gold Standard Series; Victor SS-2563)
  • "What'd I Say"/"Money" (Victor SS-1483)
  • "Movin'"/"Pipeline" (RCA SS-3316)
  • "My Sin Is My Pride"/"Almost Grown" (Victor SS1538)
  • "Pyramid Stomp"/"Little Speedy Gonzales" (Victor SS-1697)

EPs (Japan releases)[edit]

  • Hit Parade Victor SCP-1209 33 Stereo EP
  • Movin' (Victor SRS-13) 33 Stereo EP with gatefold cover
  • The Astronauts (Victor SCP-1111) 33 Stereo EP
  • Surfin' (Victor CP-1128) 33 Stereo EP
  • Go Fight!! (Victor SCP 1191) Stereo EP

Albums (US releases)[edit]

The Astronauts[edit]

  • Surfin' With The Astronauts (1963)
    • Mono LPM-2760/Stereo LSP-2760
    • Producer - Al Schmitt, Recording Engineer - Dave Hassinger
    • Rating: Week of August 25-31,1963 album reached # 61 on the Billboard 200 album chart[4]
  • Everything Is A-OK! (1963) (live)
  • Competition Coupe (1963)
  • Astronauts Orbit Kampus (1964) (live)
    • Recorded at The Tulagi in Boulder, CO, February 27 - March 1, 1964)
    • US and UK release.[5]
  • Rockin' With The Astronauts (1965) – limited edition promo LP available with Lipton's Iced Tea (compilation)
    • Mono PRM-183 (SNRM-3465)
  • Go...Go...Go!! (1965)
  • (Favorites) For You, (Our Fans), From Us (1965)
  • Down The Line (1966)
  • Travelin' Men (1967)


  • Hardwater (1968)[5]

CD albums[edit]

The Astronauts[edit]

  • Rarities (1991, Germany release)
  • The Complete Astronauts Collection (1997. US release)[20]


Appearing as themselves and as soundtrack artists[edit]


  • Surf Party (performing "Fire Water," and "Surf Party")


  • Wild on the Beach (performing "Rock This World," "Little Speedy Gonzalez," "Pyramid Stomp," and "Snap It," also shown as performing back-up for Sonny & Cher on "It's Gonna Rain")



  1. ^ a b c d Biography by Richie Unterberger at Accessed 22 April 2011
  2. ^ Boulder surf band soared to new heights accessdate July 23, 2018
  3. ^ a b Mel Fenson, When The Astronauts Played Tulagi, Colorado Magazine Online. Accessed 22 April 2011
  4. ^ a b c d e f g G. Brown, Colorado Rocks!: A Half-Century of Music in Colorado, p.1959. Accessed 22 April 2011
  5. ^ a b c d e The Astronauts: discography and information. Accessed 22 April 2011
  6. ^ a b Boulder Daily Camera: Obituary, Robert Graham Demmon. Accessed 22 April 2011
  7. ^ Del Halterman, Walk - Don't Run - The Story of the Ventures, 2009, p.113. Accessed 22 April 2011
  8. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 27. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  9. ^ a b Seymour Duncan Q&A, No. 82. Accessed 22 April 2011
  10. ^ Chidester, Brian & Priore, Domenic (2008), pg 168.
  11. ^ David Axelrod: HardWater Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 22 April 2011
  12. ^ BadCat Records: Review of Hardwater. Accessed 22 April 2011
  13. ^ The Electric Prunes: Biography, Part 7. Accessed 22 April 2011
  14. ^ Bradley Torreano, The Legendary Group at Their Best, Accessed 22 April 2011
  15. ^ U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, SSN 524465548
  16. ^ "The Fat Man Website".
  17. ^ "Former surf band member, longtime Coronado teacher Bob Demmon, dies at 71". San Diego Union-Tribune. January 28, 2011.
  18. ^ "Musicians We’ve Lost in 2021", Best Classic bands. Retrieved November 26, 2021
  19. ^ Astronauts drummer, longtime Boulder resident Jim Gallagher dies at 78
  20. ^ The Astronauts, 4-CD box set, Released: November 18, 1997 - Item Number: COL 2708


  • Chidester, Brian & Priore, Domenic (2008). Pop Surf Culture: Music, Design, Film, and Fashion from the Bohemian Surf Boom US: Santa Monica Press pg 171-172. ISBN 1-59580-035-2

External links[edit]