Year: 2015

Murry Promotes the Beach Boys in Sweden in ’62, Writes the Morgans

In late November to mid December 1962, Murry Wilson traveled to Europe for a trip combining promotional efforts on behalf of the Beach Boys and personal medical reasons. On Wednesday, November 21, 1962, the day before Thanksgiving, Murry completed Department of State Form DSP-17, Passport Renewal Application, at the Los Angeles Passport Agency on Wilshire Boulevard.  Two days later, at 3:00 p.m., he paid five dollars and picked up his renewed passport in person. Murry had to renew his passport because the last time he had used a passport was for a business trip to England and France (Paris) from September 4 through September 19, 1959. He was under a tight deadline now as he stated on his application he planned to depart LA November 28 aboard Scandinavian Airlines to Denmark.  He indicated over the next seventeen days he would travel to West Germany, where the stated purpose of his visit was for medical reasons, Switzerland, and England.  It is unclear what medical reasons took Murry to West Germany or how many days he spent …

Seattle’s Spanish Castle and Party Line — A Research Challenge

This is the first in a series of articles in which I will discuss researching Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963. The topics will include locating and interviewing people connected to the story; searching for newspaper articles, advertisements, handbills, posters, programs, telegrams, tickets, records, and rare memorabilia; finding photographs that had not been published in other books about the band; unearthing heretofore unknown personal appearances and attempting to place dates on appearances for which dates were unknown. First, a little bit about the mystery of human memory. When I interviewed people for the book we discussed events that happened nearly half a century ago. I knew it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to recall exact dates. I tried to gently jog their memories by asking if they could associate the event with something specific—the season, the weather, a national holiday, songs on the radio, national or world news, events in their own lives—anything that might spark an additional clue. I found with many people the simple act of strolling down memory lane and …

Library Journal Book Review

Murphy, James B. Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963. McFarland. 2015. 422p. photos. notes.  bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786473656. pap. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9781476618531. MUSIC On the heels of the Brian Wilson biopic film Love and Mercy, this meticulously  researched and presented title gives readers a “boots-on-the-ground” look at how the  Beach Boys, one of the most influential groups in the history of popular music, got  its start and is the definitive book on the humble beginnings of the band. Describing  from their first moments as the Pendletones up till the end of their “surf” years in  1963, the book details how the band formed and offers original interviews and primary  source documents, creating a history that flows through the pages, making the title  an easy read for those interested in these little tidbits. It’s almost as if those  beautiful Beach Boys harmonies-intricately arranged, soaring, and pleasing to the  listener-are invoked in the book’s layout. VERDICT A must-read for Beach Boys fans  and popular music historians. These readers will love the depth of research, but  casual fans …

Russia Comes to LA and Hawthorne High

On September 8, 1959, 1,900 students trudged through the doors of Hawthorne High, including seventeen-year-old seniors Al Jardine and Brian Wilson, and Brian’s fourteen-year-old brother Dennis, one of 500 entering freshmen of the Class of ’63.  As much as they hated to return to school, there was some good news.  The school day would be thirty minutes shorter this year.  It still began sharply at 8:30 a.m. and each of the seven periods still lasted 53 minutes, but a half-hour was shaved from the two lunch periods.  The new schedule gave cafeteria workers more time to restock food and prepare for the second lunch period.  The not-so-good news was getting accustomed to the new bell system signaling when to change classes as students had seven minutes to scurry to their next class.  The lunch periods began at 11:23 a.m. and 12:23 p.m., and each lasted thirty-eight minutes.  If you didn’t pack your lunch, you spent a great deal of that precious time waiting in line. Senior Jean Robertson returned to Hawthorne High after spending her …

Hawthorne’s Plaza Theater and The Tingler

Movies were a popular pastime for teenagers in the 1950s. And for parents, they were an unbeatable value. For less than a dollar, movies got the kids out of the house, occupied them for an entire afternoon, and, even after forking over a little spending money, were still cheaper than a babysitter. The kids would leave late morning and not be seen again until dinner time. They were treated to about five hours of entertainment—cartoons with Tom and Jerry, and Woody Woodpecker, boring newsreels, coming attractions, serials of Superman, Tarzan, Zorro, and Flash Gordon, and at least two feature-length movies. And since theaters weren’t emptied between showings, lots of kids stayed to see a movie again. Another movie phenomenon of the time was hearing, from somewhere in the darkened theater, “Oh, this is where we came in.” No one paid attention to timetables or when movies started. You just went, began watching at whatever scene on which you entered, and stayed until that scene came around again. People stood up, excused themselves down a row …

Capitol Tower Transforms LA Landscape

On Friday, April 6, 1956, fourteen years after its founding in 1942, Capitol Records celebrated the grand opening of its new, state-of-the-art, centralized headquarters at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.  As searchlights crisscrossed the LA sky, Capitol and E.M.I. executives gathered to show off their new corporate headquarters.  The Capitol Tower, now a worldwide symbol of Hollywood and the music industry, was built by the architectural firm Welton Becket & Associates, and designed by Lou Naidorf. As Angelenos watched the construction progress while driving along the Hollywood Freeway, they joked construction was delayed because workers didn’t know whether to “put it on at 33⅓ or 45.”  Others joked “you can’t corner girls in a round building.”  Although the unique circular structure resembles a stack of records loaded onto the spindle of a turntable, that was a happy accident.  During a construction tour, Capitol co-founder and president Glenn E. Wallichs told reporters, “We don’t want people to think it’s supposed to look like a stack of records.  The round design was the idea of the architect, …

Capitol Hill Veterinarian Pens Book on Beach Boys

Review by Sean Meehan — August 14, 2015 at 5:15 pm A Capitol Hill veterinarian is now the published author of a book about the formation and early years of the Beach Boys. James Murphy, an associate veterinarian at Capitol Hill Animal Clinic at 1240 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, said he wrote his first book, “Becoming the Beach Boys,” to give a deeper look at the rock band’s origins. “Origin stories have always kind of fascinated me,” he said. “I wasn’t interested in the career-spanning books, those things have been done. I wanted to zero in on what had been lacking. Nobody had written a cohesive, common-sense account of how they started out.” The book grew out of a lifelong passion for the Beach Boys that started when he first heard the band’s hit, “Good Vibrations,” as a 10-year-old boy in 1966. For the past 50 years, Murphy’s interest in the Beach Boys never waned, leading him to start collecting their records and memorabilia and reading everything that he could find about them. “I read every book about …

A Word About Podcasts

The website is my way of sharing research that didn’t make its way into the book and the experience of writing Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963.  Additional posts are in the works and will appear soon.  Some of the site’s posts expand on stories that appear in BBB61-63; others are Beach Boys-related but outside the purview of the book. It occurred to me some additional stories are better served by the telling rather than the reading.  Accordingly, I’ve added a Podcast menu page that initially will contain radio interviews I’ve participated in, but that will later include discussions of Beach Boys-related events and people back in the day.  First up on the Podcast page is a radio interview with WFDU that aired August 23, 2015:  Third Annual Beach Boys Bash on “The Vintage Rock & Pop Shop,” conducted by Ghosty.  There are also links to Ghosty’s interviews with David Marks, David Beard, and Barbara Eden. Does anyone want to hear what it was like for me to pull the book together (the research, interviewing the folks behind the …

AXS Entertainment Book Review

Review by James L. Neibaur August 23, 2015 There are many groups who have achieved classic status in the history of rock and roll, but only a few are truly iconic. The Beach Boys are one of those few. In James B. Murphy’s new book, the group’s early trajectory is traced and examined, pointing out how their ideas, essentially the ideas of Brian Wilson, evolved into what eventually defined them as a unit. There are several books that try to understand the creative process of The Beach Boys once they achieved hit status with their first record. But Murphy’s book offers the most in-depth look at what transpired beforehand. Three brothers, a cousin, and a friend, with passion and spirit, but no musical training, managed to learn to play rented instruments, learn to sing, cut a record for an indie label, watch it climb the charts, and then sign with a major company. Their initial songs helped create the fun loving sunshine, surfing, and fast car mythology of California life in the post-Elvis, pre-Beatles 1960s. …

Dorinda & Hite Morgan Discography

Dorinda Morgan was a prolific songwriter. While this discography is a good beginning, it is likely not comprehensive. For example, it seems certain she composed more songs during the 1930s. The discography is drawn from documents with Broadcast Music, Incorporated (BMI), the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., interviews with Bruce Morgan, and my personal collection. Images, where available, accompany the records below and will be added as available. Check back. [Last updated October 1, 2016 – details at bottom] Please contact me with any additions, corrections, or images. September 9, 1931 “Cabaret Lady” written by Dorinda Morgan copyrighted by H. Bowman Morgan September 30, 1941 “V Is for Victory” written by Dorinda Morgan copyrighted by Hite Bowman Morgan (Brookhaven, Georgia) December 31, 1941 “Anthem of the Allies” music by Dorinda Morgan words by Hite Bowman Morgan copyrighted by Hite Bowman Morgan (Brookhaven, Georgia) July 1945 “All Clear in My Heart” written by Hite Bowman, Robert T. Chestnutt, and Dorinda Morgan published …