Jim Frias Tribute

The Nocturnes would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Jim’s family and friends.  We will sorely miss Jim and would like to offer the following reflections since our band was his home for many years…

Paul Floodman:

Paul met Jim in 1958 at Willard junior high school, after which they continued onto attend Santa Ana high school together. They became fast friends by playing in the school band back at Willard. Paul played trumpet and French horn, while Jim played the saxophone.  Paul joined the ‘Viacounts,’ with Bruce McCoy on trumpet, Artie Perez on drums, Kirt Steinbeck on guitar and Danny Osteen playing sax. Paul was appointed manager, as he was only one with a car, but did not play in the band! When the drummer Artie Perez left, Bruce was told he was the new drummer.  They had no bass player so Paul took the Bass position.  They already had a sax player named Danny Osteen, but wanted to fill out the sound so they brought in Paul's friend Jim Frias on sax.  The newly formed ‘Nocturnes’ practiced at Paul's house regularly with him shuttling the band and its members back and forth.  Jim and Paul regularly went to the rendezvous ballroom together to listen to the surf bands playing there. Names like Dick Dale and the Rhythm Rockers passed through and gave great inspiration to the young band.  Later, around 1999, Jim was instrumental in getting the ‘Nocturnes’ back together for a rendezvous ballroom reunion.  Paul fondly remembers Jim as a good friend and band mate from the beginning of the surf music era.


Bruce McCoy:

Bruce was in the school band at Trident Jr. High in Anaheim, and heard Kurt Steinbeck and Artie Perez practicing in the band room when school let out. Bruce met up with Kurt and they talked about jamming together. Since Kurt and Bruce lived only one street apart, they would meet at Kurt's house and play misirlou and lonely bull with Bruce on the trumpet and bongos, Kurt on his Silvertone guitar, and Artie on drums. Through mutual friends the boys in Anaheim met a gang of musicians that were in Santa Ana and formed the ‘Viacounts.’  That is where Bruce met Jim Frias back in 1962 and when Paul introduced Jim into the band. Bruce was originally on trumpet, however when Artie left Bruce switched from trumpet to drums. The ‘Viacounts’ sound had 2 horns but they wanted to retain the power of the horn sound, so that is when Paul asked Jim to join the band. Bruce says he was really proud of the two sax players in a surf band, which created the powerful ‘Nocturnes’ sound.  That sound was different from the usual surf band configuration of guitars, bass and drums.  That was the leading factor that helped the ‘Nocturnes’ win a lot of the local battle of the Bands. Bruce has said, when reminiscing about Jim, “he was a quick learner and played well with the other sax player Danny. Jim was a great guy who brought a lot of talent to the band.”

Jim Frias Surf Reunion

At the Reunion Concert, L-R, Paul, Jim, Rick and Kurt.  (Bruce on Drums)

Kurt Steinbeck:

Both growing up in Anaheim Kurt Steinbeck and his friend Artie Perez started jamming together in 5th grade. By the time 7th grade came around in 1958 they had developed a combo called “Minute Men,” where they went on to play for the Trident Jr. High school assemblies. They played early rock and roll with Kurt on his Silvertone guitar, Brad Perkins on the Sax, Artie Perez on the Drums, and girls doing vocals. Bruce McCoy, walking past the band room, heard the rock and roll and immediately wanted to join so he looked for Kurt after school that very same day. He was soon invited to join the band and began playing the trumpet with the “Minute Men.”  Kurt was looking for a sax player to join the band and got a lead from a friend, Scott Mackie, who apparently knew plenty of great sax players in Santa Ana.  Kurt’s parents then drove him to Bob Strickland’s house, where Kurt met saxophone player Danny Osteen. Danny was Jim Frias best friend at the time. Kurt and Danny decided to get together with Artie and form a new group.  Kurt invited Bruce to join the band and they called themselves the “Vi-Counts.”  The first “Vi-Counts” record was created in 1961 and was given the name “Wipe Out b/w Shootn the Pier.” The guys tried to rehearse between Santa Ana and Anaheim, but that lead to a problem with transportation.  So when Paul Floodman came into the scene with his 1952 Pontiac and happily volunteered to manage and drive the band around, all problems were resolved. Danny introduced the band to his best friend Jim Frias and with it that the idea of harmonized saxophone parts came into fruition. Jim Frias and Danny were great musicians and had been playing together for years. Members of the band went to Jim’s house and rehearsed with Jim to see if he would fit well with the pre-established members. They played “Soul Surfer” and other instrumental surf songs as well as improvising “Big Boy Pete” in various keys.  Kurt says those sessions went so well, “we knew we had something special with Jim the decided to change the name…and The Nocturnes were born!” The Nocturnes accompanied with Jim Frias went on to record with Paul Johnson and won many battle of the band competitions. Everybody liked Jim and his influence on the band.  He was not only a great musician but had a fabulous sense of humor as well.  He liked to joke around.  For example, he would start playing Louie Louie for fun in the middle of songs and Jim would sit on Danny’s shoulders and play sax.  Jim had a colorful, bubbly, happy personality and was a gifted horn player who will be sorely missed.

Jim Frias HB Parade

The Nocturnes at the Huntington Beach July 4th Parade.  L-R, Rick Bastrup, Jim Frias, Kurt Steinbeck, Jeff Utterback (filling in for Bruce McCoy) and Paul Floodman.

Danny Osteen

Jim Frias and Danny Osteen were at a Willard Jr high in Santa Ana together with Danny in 7th grade and Jim (and Paul Floodman) in the 9th grade.  They all joined the school concert band and soon after got together and formed the school dance band.  They played big band music including the saxophone heavy song "Harlem Nocturne".  Jim and Danny became friends and Jim helped Danny learn how to play sax.  Danny played Tenor, Jim played alto saxophone in those bands. Within the next few years, they ended up at Santa Ana High School together.  There they met Kurt Steinbeck from Anaheim at a friend, Bob Strickland's (drummer) house.  Bob invited Danny to join a band he was forming called the "Vi-Counts".  Bob soon dropped out of the band and was replaced on drums with Artie Perez.  They recorded a 45 with Danny on Sax, Bruce McCoy on trumpet, Kurt on guitar and Artie on drums.  At this point, another change happened when Bruce moved to drums and Danny's friend, Jim Fries, joined the horn section.  Here is where the Nocturnes are born.  Since Danny and Jim were good friends, they began to horse around a little...for example, Danny and Jim would be off stage and Jim would climb onto Danny shoulders and they would come on stage that way playing their horn parts.  Jim would also fall a sleep very easily and Danny remembers of many occasions he had to wake up Jim off stage because their horn part was coming up.  By the time Danny was a sophomore in High School, the football team was in the CIF championship and Danny and Jim played for the half time show.  They remember that show well because they later found out that was the day John F. Kennedy was shot.  About this time, Danny's sax fell apart and he decided to buy a Selmer Mark VI for an astounding $649.  That was so much money in 1961, that he financed it and paid it off by washing windows for the local department store.  Bruce's dad arranged for rehearsals at Optimists Club and they would rehearsal every Wednesday, with Paul driving everybody to the hall.  To pay for the rehearsal time, they needed to donate time to local charity events.  One night Jim and Danny had to man the concession stand at a football stadium and with Jim's sense of humor, the evening flew by with them laughing the whole time.  Danny remembers Jim as "a good friend with whom I shared many great moments together and left a deep impact on me".

Jim Frias Sax Man

                                                                       Jim Frias Photo by Photo4surfbands

Rick Bastrup:

Rick received a call from Jim Frias back in 1999 to get his band entitled ‘The Avengers VI’ together for a surf music show. Jim was promoting a gig called the Rendezvous Ballroom Reunion Show. This show was to get all the original surf bands from the 60's together and play on the stage at the Hard Rock Cafe in Newport Beach.  Jim called Rick to see if his original band, ‘The Avengers VI’ would like to participate.  Rick said that the guys in the band had not played since the 60's and he had lost touch with a few its members, so unfortunately would not be able to arrange that.  Jim, sensing an opportunity, said that his own band, the ‘Nocturnes’ had also lost touch with some original members and in particular, the lead guitarist.  So Jim offered the lead guitar position to Rick. He accepted and they began rehearsing together as the reformed ‘Nocturnes.’  Rick had crossed paths in the 60's with the guys in the ‘Nocturnes’ when they all played at various locations within Disneyland.  ‘The Avengers VI’ played in Tomorrowland on the terrace theatre and the ‘Nocturnes’ played at Rivers of America.  So it wasn't a big stretch to merge the bands together and play as the ‘Nocturnes.’  Rick sums it up like this, “Without Jim, the Nocturnes would be a footnote in surf history, now we have reformed and are enjoying playing the classic songs again.”

© The Nocturnes  2020