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When the Beach Boys formed in late summer 1961, they were neither accomplished musicians nor a cohesive musical group. Brian Wilson, 19, had been playing piano and organ at home for many years, mastering the intricate vocal jazz harmonies of his musical idols the Four Freshmen after three years of intense home study of their albums. His brother Carl, not quite 15, had received an electric acoustic guitar for Christmas 1958 and, along with his friend and neighbor, David Marks, 13, had taken a few lessons from John Maus, later of the Walker Brothers fame. Carl and David were enamored with the first wave of Rock ‘n’ Roll with Elvis, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and enjoyed learning the guitar stylings of Chuck Berry and Duane Eddy. Brian’s Hawthorne High School classmate, Al Jardine, 19, had been playing acoustic guitar for many years and in late 1958 formed a trio at school which emulated the folk sensibilities of the Kingston Trio. The other two members of the band, Dennis, the middle Wilson brother, not quite 17, and the Wilsons’ cousin Mike Love, 21, did not play a musical instrument. Contrary to his rugged testosterone-driven nature, Dennis enjoyed romantic ballads and female vocal groups like the Paris Sisters. Mike attended well-integrated Dorsey High School, where he gained an appreciation for Rhythm and Blues and Doo Wop. These diverse musical styles—jazz vocal harmony, Rock ‘n’ Roll, folk, pop ballads, and rhythm and blues—coalesced and emerged as a familiar, yet radically new, musical amalgam.
In August 1961, at Dennis’s urging, Brian and Mike wrote a two-minute, three-chord song extolling the adolescent joy of spending a carefree day at the beach surfing. “Surfin’” became the first entry in the instrumental surf genre in which the artist actually sang about the West Coast craze. They called their impromptu band the Pendletones, a play on words on the Pendleton wool shirts favored by some surfers on chilly nights at the beach and inspired by Dick Dale and the Deltones. Dennis became their drummer by default, and Mike learned rudimentary sax, then a near-obligatory instrument in surf bands, that expanded his repertoire as lead vocalist and front man. In Los Angeles, “Surfin’” reached #3 on the KRLA chart in stores January 26, 1962, and the KFWB chart in stores February 9. With just one record, their first live shows were about fifteen minutes as “Surfin’” was supplemented with renditions of popular songs like “Bermuda Shorts,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “What’d I Say.”
Reportedly unhappy with the band’s musical direction, Al left the band by February 11, 1962, to concentrate on his college studies and plans to forge a more secure and traditional career, perhaps dentistry. The rhythm guitarist vacancy paved the way for David to join the band. This new Carl and David alliance favored Rock ‘n’ Roll and, within the next year, their twin Fender Stratocasters electrified the band with “Surfin’ Safari” and “409,” and Carl added his new Fender Jaguar to “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Shut Down.”
Al kept in touch with the other guys and occasionally contributed vocals on recordings. In spring 1963, shortly after the release of “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” Brian recruited Al to fill in for him on personal appearances, especially on extended tours that would have taken him away from home and the proximity to LA recording studios. Brian, never as naturally comfortable on stage as his cousin Mike, had tired of performing and had begun feeling the weight of composing, arranging, recording, producing, and singing on the band’s studio output, as well as writing, arranging, and producing a staggering recorded output for a diverse group of other artists.
While Brian remained home working on new material, Al and David shared the stage for much of spring and summer 1963. The band’s second Midwest tour was a grueling trek through 35 cities in 16 states over 45 days. On an all-night, close-quarters drive from Chicago to Brooklyn, NY, on the night of August 30, David clashed with Murry Wilson, the Wilson brothers’ father and the band’s authoritarian manager. Although David had signed a Capitol Records contract May 24, 1962, providing him one-fifth share in the band’s royalties, he threatened to quit the band. Murry, seeing an opportunity to roll David’s twenty percent back into the family operation (his three sons and nephew), was happy to hold him to it.
The tour concluded August 31 and for the next five weeks David had plenty of opportunities to reconsider his decision. While one can understand and empathize with fifteen-year-old David having to endure the brash, often overbearing forty-six-year-old Wilson patriarch, it is difficult to fathom why David’s parents, Jo Ann and Elmer Marks, did not advise him to reconsider. Even if Murry tried to hold David to his impulsive threat, the Markses could have consulted an attorney who, with contract in hand, would have likely counselled them to hold their ground. In perfect hindsight, it was an impulsive, ill-advised move that cost David and the Marks family dearly. But David had dreams, reportedly encouraged by his mother, of fronting his own band, and writing and recording his own material.
On October 5, 1963, David played his last show with the band and his departure opened the door for Al Jardine, 21 and tired of the rigors of organic chemistry, to accept the band’s offer to rejoin. It was a seamless transition as Al was a reliable musician—he knew all the songs they performed live, could play bass and rhythm guitar, and his voice blended beautifully within the harmony structure Brian envisioned for the band.
It is important to keep in mind that only six months elapsed between the release of the Beach Boys first record “Surfin’” and the band signing a seven-year contract with Capitol Records on the strength of a three-song demo (“Surfin’ Safari,” “409,” and “Lonely Sea”) with an a cappella version of “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring” that Murry spliced on after he learned they would be meeting with Nick Venet who had recently produced Capitol’s newest vocal group, the Lettermen. That’s how fast they were thrust into the demanding and ultra-competitive music industry. In summer 1962, as the Beach Boys recorded their first Capitol LP, Brian had to scramble with his collaborators Mike Love and Gary Usher to write six new songs to fill out the album. Of the 12 songs on the album, three had already been released and three were cover versions of recent popular hits. This scarcity of new material is most tellingly exemplified by the existence of just one session outtake (“Land Ahoy”) which was only bumped from the twelve-song line up by the late decision to lease “Surfin’” from Hite and Dorinda Morgan’s Guild Music Publishing Company.
Even as they recorded and released additional material to fill out their live repertoire, they continued to play dances, record hops, proms, charity benefits, teen fashion shows, surf film screenings, grand openings, car dealerships, armories, women’s clubs, college fraternities, birthday parties, roller rinks, movie theaters, department stores—pretty much any venue that would hire them or, quite often, allow them to play for the exposure, practice, and any publicity the event may garner. Rock ‘n’ Roll shows—they weren’t quite elevated to concerts yet—were still in their infancy. They were held in venues with poor acoustics and primitive public address systems not designed to project live music, necessitating the band to play extremely loud through overdriven amplifiers resulting in their vocal harmonies being buried in the muddy mix. Complicating matters, as every musician knows, is that playing while sitting down in the comfort of a recording studio is considerably different than playing standing up in front of a live audience where there is no safety net of multiple takes. The Beach Boys honed their abilities as musicians and learned how to perform as a band by playing live in front of increasingly larger audiences.
“The Beach Boys, Personal Appearances, 1961-1963” is updated and expanded from what appeared as Appendix 1 in my book. It adds several new shows and details that have come to light since the book was published. Appearances are now accompanied by images of advertisements, articles, tickets, autographs, or photographs, many from my personal collection, as well as images of the venues. These complementary images were not possible in the book because of space restrictions.
Long before I undertook writing about the Beach Boys genesis and early history, many other writers and music historians made pioneering contributions to documenting the band’s personal appearances. Two come to mind. Andrew G. Doe and Ian Rusten. I am happy to provide links to both of their fine websites: Andrew’s, Ian’s. Andrew’s site has been in existence for many years and is the most comprehensive career-spanning source of reliable information about the Beach Boys on the internet. Andrew is the co-author with John Tobler of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, A Complete Guide to Their Music, a nifty pocket reference to the band’s released catalog with concise and incisive reviews of every song. Since the publication of Ian’s equally essential book, The Beach Boys In Concert: The Ultimate History of America’s Band On Tour and Onstage, he has unearthed several new shows in that critical and elusive early 1962 period, and has graciously shared that research with Andrew and me. We celebrate each new find, joking we may be the only three people on Earth who get this excited about finding a fifty-eight-year-old newspaper article or advertisement that confirms a new Beach Boys show and allows another date to be added to this increasingly comprehensive list of shows. Collectively, we have spent countless hours combing through yellowed, fragile publications, on-line libraries, the Library of Congress, microfilm readers, microfiche readers (Google it, millennials) until our eyes were about to drop out of our heads. Microfilm research begins as sort of fun and exciting, but quickly becomes the very definition of tedious.
So, please enjoy scrolling through all of the Beach Boys known personal appearances between 1961 and 1963. The list will be updated if and when a new show is discovered.
Finally, in full disclosure, I acted merely as a consultant and memorabilia gatherer for this important entry to the website. Bernadette Murphy, my lovely and talented wife, did all the heavy lifting—the coding, the formatting, the images, the importing—words with which I’m only superficially familiar. Some of you may recall I dedicated the book to Bernadette for her indefatigable reading and proofreading, and indispensable structural and literary advice. “Only God knows what I’d be without you.” No truer words. Thanks B!
Jump to Appearances