Rich Fifield, guitarist in the ‘60s surf band The Astronauts, died November 16. He was 78.
Formed in 1956 as The Stormtroupers by four high school friends in Boulder, Colorado, the band changed its name after Fifield joined in ’61. They gained a strong local following, then began touring the Midwest and into Texas. Their first single, “Come Along Baby, led to being signed by RCA Records, which released the instrumental “Baja” which reached Billboard’s Hot 100 in early/mid ’63.
The band’s music was more popular in Japan, where, in ’64 they outsold The Beach Boys (Five albums and here singles eventually made the Top 10, with “Over the Sun” going #1) and toured with The Ventures. After two members were drafted, the band began a series of personnel changes before it split in “68. For a time, Fifield and other members performed in the U.S. as Sunshine Ward, after which Fifield co-founded the psychedelic – rock band Hardwater, which recorded one album.
This article originally appeared in VG’s February 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.