All posts filed under: Los Angeles

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 …

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 …

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, …

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 …