Author: Jim Murphy

The Beach Boys’ Personal Appearances, 1961-1963

Jump to Appearances 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, …

Do You Love Me, Do You Surfer Girl?

One of the most enjoyable experiences in researching and writing Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963, was speaking with Judy Bowles, Brian Wilson’s first serious romantic relationship, to whom Brian became engaged to be married Christmas 1962.  Judy was engaging, funny, down-to-earth, and full of affection for Brian.  Here’s her story. As Brian finished his first year of classes at El Camino Community College in early May 1961, baseball season in Hawthorne got underway.  Cities throughout the South Bay sponsored baseball leagues tailored to specific age groups.  Hawthorne’s Middle League, for boys thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen, consisted of the American League and its cross-town rival National League.  Brian volunteered as the assistant coach for the American League Pirates, whose manager and head coach was his Hawthorne High buddy Steve Andersen.  As the former starting quarterback and student body president, Andersen excelled at leadership.  He would later attain the rank of captain in the Army, become an attorney, serve on the Hawthorne City Council, and be elected Hawthorne mayor in the early 1990s.  Although Brian was well-liked …

Herman Melville

Herman Melville’s Pet Sounds

What does Herman Melville have in common with Brian Wilson you ask?  Both were quirky, burly men who, at one time or another, sported a bushy beard, but the similarity goes deeper than that. Born more than a century apart, both men were in their twenties when their first creations received such overwhelming success that thwarted a fuller appreciation of the works now considered the pinnacle of their creativity. Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, sold one-fourth of his first book, a title many would be hard pressed to name (read on for the answer).  Upon its release in May 1966, executives at Capitol Records were so anxious about the sales of Pet Sounds they rushed out a greatest hits compilation to assuage the corporate bean counters.   Now, both works are considered masterpieces. Sadly, when he died at 72 in 1891, Melville had been largely forgotten and did not see his masterpiece revered as one of the greatest books ever written.  Fortunately, Wilson, now 77, has enjoyed the accolades heaped on Pet Sounds and his creative …

Chronicling the Beach Boys

Posted by the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association on April 13, 2016 As with veterinary medicine, Dr. Jim Murphy approached a new venture in his life, chronicling the early days of  one of America’s enduring bands, as both an art and a science. The lifelong fan wrote “Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963” because other books gave conflicting facts and short shrift to the band’s early days. He also created a companion website. Dr. Murphy spent eight years researching, doing interviews, and writing his book, weathering rejections until it was published in summer 2015, three days after a new movie about the band was released and a month before the group headlined at the AVMA Annual Convention in Boston. “It is an academic look at the band’s origin and not always a light read for a day at the beach,” he says of the 436-page book with its 12 appendices, 1,100 end notes, bibliography, and index. Fifty of the photos had never before been published, except some in yearbooks. His scientific approach also drew on his right brain. As an undergrad, he …

The Beach Boys Beginnings Examined Through Book

Goldmine Magazine Interview by Ken Sharp All images courtesy of James B. Murphy From performing in school cafeterias to tearing it up on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl, James B. Murphy’s book, “Becoming the Beach Boys 1961-1963” chronicles the back story behind how it all happened in exhaustive detail. Culling original and archival interviews, newly discovered documents and illustrated with scores of previously unseen photographs and ephemera, the book is a marvel of research teeming with revelatory information about the group’s formative years, puncturing myths and setting the record straight about this seminal period in the group’s history. Goldmine: Hite and Dorinda Morgan are key movers and shakers in the band’s early career. Tell us about them and their importance to the group’s career arc. James B. Murphy: Hite and Dorinda Morgan, a husband and wife songwriting team in their late 40s, were friends of Audree and Murry Wilson for a decade before the Wilson brothers decided they wanted to make a record. The Morgans recorded aspiring artists in a make-shift recording studio in …

The Beach Boys at Rainbow Gardens in 1962 – A Research Challenge

In the 1991 film JFK, Joe Pesci portrayed David Ferrie who famously describes President Kennedy’s assassination as “a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma.” The quote was borrowed from a radio address Winston Churchill delivered over the British Broadcasting Company October 1, 1939, to bolster Britons’ concerns about an impending war with Germany. In that stirring address, Churchill described Russia as “a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” But what does Churchill, JFK, or Joe Pesci have to do with researching Beach Boys concerts in 1962? Well, that quote aptly describes what it felt like trying to document the band’s appearances at Rainbow Gardens—a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma. Only there was no key. Until now. Maybe. Rainbow Gardens was a nightclub and dance hall located at 150 East Monterey in Pomona, California, thirty miles east of Los Angeles. It held about 800 people. By early 1962, it was owned by LA record promoter Eddie Davis …

ARSC Journal Book Review

Reviewed by Robert Iannapollo Association for Recorded Sound Collections Journal, p. 307-309, Vol. 46, No. 2 Fall 2015 Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963. By James B, Murphy. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015. 422pp, including multiple appendices, extensive footnotes, photos, bibliography and index. ISBN= 978-0-7864-7365-69  Knowing I was quite the Beach Boys maven, my editor presented me with Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963 by James B. Murphy for review. He wondered what a veterinarian could add to the vast Beach Boys bibliography, as did I. Quite a bit, as it turns out. The years from the band’s formation in 1961 until the initial banner year of 1963 (the year of three top 10 hits, with their “B” sides also scoring well), has been covered in most bios in a cursory manner at best. Yet it was a very important time for the group in getting their act together (so to speak). The story is a confusing jumble of memories, facts, recording session credits, and concerts. Having occurred over 50 years ago, it gets murkier with every passing …

Brian Wilson, Roger Christian, and Ice Cream Sundaes — A Research Challenge

One of the legendary stories of Brian Wilson’s early songwriting career is how he met occasionally with disc jockey Roger Christian after Christian’s shift on KFWB ended at midnight.  Huddled over ice cream sundaes, they talked about music, girls, cars, and songwriting.  The twenty-eight-year-old Christian, a hot rod enthusiast later known as the “Poet of the Strip,” kept a notebook of original poems about cars he had been writing since high school.  The Beach Boys recorded at least ten songs written by Brian and Christian, including “Shut Down,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Ballad of Ole’ Betsy,” “Car Crazy Cutie, “Cherry, Cherry Coupe,” “Spirit of America,” “No Go Showboat,” “I Do,” “In the Parking Lot,” and “Don’t Worry Baby.”  Brian found a wealth of inspiration in Christian’s notebook.  Together, they would solidify the Beach Boys’ reputation as America’s premier hot rod vocal group. It has never been entirely clear when Brian first met Christian, when they began meeting over ice cream sundaes, and, to some extent, where these late night songwriting sessions took place.  So, let’s examine …

beachboys.com Book Review

Review by beachboys.com Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963 By James B. Murphy McFarland Publishing, 436p. Published June 8, 2015 REVIEW:  Author James B. Murphy has done a brave, and difficult thing in writing what, is essentially a densely-packed microcosmic look at the formative forces that created “The Beach Boys”.  Echoing Timothy White’s similarly dense, but wider-ranging The Nearest Faraway Place, which traced The Beach Boys within the scope of California history and mythos, Becoming The Beach Boys 1961-1963 takes a much narrower view, examining social, economic, cultural and familial tidal forces which helped shape the band’s work ethic, musical approach, and ambition.  What’s truly impressive about this book is how much detail Dr. Murphy has included – everything from interviews and newly-discovered documents trace how an essentially untrained group of musicians, raw and undeveloped, wrote, played and sang their way from a local hit single on an independent label, into a nationally-recognized phenomenon, all within the space of just a few months.  He delves into recording label practices of the time, which allowed for young …