Month: July 2015

Bowie Veterinarian Is Fond of Pet Sounds

Article By John McNamara July 21, 2015 In Jim Murphy’s work as a Capitol Hill veterinarian, pet sounds are an occupational hazard. At home, they’re a welcome retreat. “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys is one of the Bowie resident’s favorite albums. Since the age of 10, Murphy has been a Beach Boys fan. He remembers the fall day in 1966 when his big brother burst into the family’s Bronx apartment, announced that he’d just heard a song called “Good Vibrations.” They had to go out and buy the 45-rpm record right away. They practically wore it out, playing it over and over and over again on the family’s Zenith turntable. Murphy guesses he’s seen the group perform about two dozen times and he has tried to read everything he can about the group. Yet, he never located a definitive account of the band’s formative years. So he wrote one himself. “Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963” was released by McFarland Press earlier this year. Murphy initially thought of the project as a simple essay, perhaps …

Bruce Johnston

O n June 27, 1959, one year and eleven days after Alan Jardine and Brian Wilson graduated from Hawthorne High School, future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston turned seventeen years old and also graduated from high school (a year early as Bruce had skipped ahead a year in the fourth grade!). Bruce, originally named Benjamin Baldwin, was born June 27, 1942, in Peoria, Illinois.  His unwed mother from Madison, Georgia, gave birth to Bruce in the Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers and, three months later, he was adopted by William and Irene Johnston from Chicago. Bruce’s “new” father was senior Vice-President of the Chicago based Walgreens Drug Store chain. The Johnstons had two older daughters, Bette Jean and Joy Rene. In September 1946, the Owl Rexall Drug Company began building their new national headquarters in Los Angeles (located at Beverly and La Cienega Boulevards and it included a Rexall drug super store which Life magazine called “the world’s biggest drugstore”).  In 1946 William Johnston accepted the position of president of the Owl Rexall Drug Company.  He moved …

The Four Preps

T he Four Preps were a white vocal harmony group that recorded for Capitol Records from 1956 to 1967.  Bruce Belland sang lead tenor, Glen Larson, baritone, Marvin Inabnett (later changed to Ingram), high tenor, and Ed Cobb, bass.  Their friend, Lincoln Mayorga, was an unofficial fifth Prep.  He was their musical director, and played piano on and arranged many of their records.  He also accompanied them in concert.  They met while attending Hollywood High School in the early to mid-1950s.In fall 1955, when the school’s annual talent show had attracted only female participants, a desperate call went out to the student body to find guys with any kind of talent.  Belland and company were singers in the school choir, so they quickly formed a group and, drawing on their love for vocal groups like the Crew Cuts, the Four Lads, and the Four Freshmen, worked up an act for the talent show.  They called themselves the Four Preps.  They were a huge hit and began accepting requests to perform at other engagements in the …

The Kingston Trio

I n spring 1957, Frank Werber, was working as a publicist for the Purple Onion, the north-beach area of San Francisco nightclub with a reputation of showcasing new talent during the Beat era, and Hungry nightclub, also in San Francisco.  One night he stopped into The Cracked Pot, a club in Palo Alto, just east of Stanford University, and music history was made.  Some young musicians had ambled onto the stage, guitars and banjo in hand, promising the club’s owner to entertain in exchange for free beer and pretzels.  Werber listened and knew that what he heard would play all across America.  When they finished, the group sat around a table drinking their pay and munching pretzels.  Werber approached and offered to manage them, providing they lose the bass player.  In the resulting personnel shuffle, three members left and two original members returned, transforming the Kingston Quartet into the Kingston Trio.  Werber wrote a personal management contract on a paper napkin that split everything equally four ways.  Twenty-five percent to each of the Trio and …

The Tikis

In spring 1959, Gary Winfrey, Al Jardine, and Bob Barrow formed a folk music trio called the Tikis, inspired by their shared admiration for the music of the Kingston Trio. When I began researching the book, Bob and Gary graciously spoke with me about their days at Hawthorne High School, their friendship with Al Jardine, and the Tikis. I am happy to share more of their stories. Bob Barrow As the Kingston Trio’s Tom Dooley hit big in fall 1958, the start of their junior year, Bob Barrow, Al Jardine, and senior Gary Winfrey, discovered a shared musical interest in the Kingston Trio and began singing selections from the Trio’s eponymous debut album after football practice in the locker room of Hawthorne High School. By spring 1959, they formed a folk music trio called the Tikis. Although Brian knew Jardine, Barrow, and Winfrey from football, he didn’t socialize with them off the field. But he certainly knew of the Tikis. Everyone at Hawthorne High did. The musical spark that motivated Jardine to help form the …

The Four Freshmen

O n March 21, 1950, bandleader Stan Kenton, touring with his Innovations in Modern Music, was playing a jazz club in downtown Dayton, Ohio, when someone told him there was a terrific vocal quartet playing across town in the Esquire Lounge. After Kenton finished his show, he went over to the Esquire to see what all the fuss was about. Kenton was impressed. The guys harmonized beautifully and sang complicated five-note jazz chords with four voices. As a major Capitol artist and stockholder in the company, Kenton had considerable clout. He called a producer at Capitol and arranged an audition for the group in New York City. Pete Rugolo, Kenton’s former arranger, produced the session at which the quartet recorded five tunes—“Laura,” “Basin Street Blues,” “Dry Bones,” and two others. Capitol president Glenn Wallichs liked what he heard and gave Kenton the green light to invite the band to Los Angeles. Kenton arranged for a one week engagement at Jerry Wald’s on Sunset Boulevard. When public demand stretched one week into eight, Capitol knew they …

1963 Fan Letter

By summer 1963, with “Surfin’ U.S.A.” scorching the charts, the Beach Boys began receiving more fan letters than Audree Wilson could handle.  She asked David McClellan, who Murry Wilson had appointed the Beach Boys’ first director of publicity in June 1962, to respond to some of the letters.  The letter was written by a sassy fifteen-year-old girl from St. Louis, Missouri. It was postmarked August 14, 1963. When I spoke with David for the book he kindly shared one such letter he still had in his files.  I had hoped to include an image of it in the book, but it didn’t make the cut. The letter was written by a sassy fifteen-year-old girl from St. Louis, Missouri.  It was postmarked August 14, 1963, and received five days later.  It was addressed to The “Beach Boys,” Hawthorne, California, c/o Murray Wilson.  It bore a handwritten note along the bottom of the envelope that read “Postmaster of Haw:  Please have this letter delivered because it is very important to me!  Thank you very, very much. It’s …

Psychobabble Book Review, June 29, 2015

Review: ‘Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963’ by Mike Segretto Composing the book you’ve always wanted to read is probably one of the better reasons to start a writing project, but not everyone has the ability to do the job right. I’m ashamed to admit I chuckled when I saw that the sole credit in James B Murphy’s author bio on the back of Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963 was “veterinarian.” I shut up when I started reading his book. Murphy is a very good writer, and the book he always wanted to read was definitely worth writing. The main goal of Becoming the Beach Boys is to examine the band’s earliest years to clear up the multitudinous misconceptions about that era. Murphy’s research is almost absurdly thorough. He lets no detail go un-checked. Brian Wilson claimed it was raining when The Beach Boys recorded “Surfer Girl”, so Murphy checked the local weather records to confirm that memory. The author goes to tremendous lengths to find out how the group’s long-lost first recordings were found and …