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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. Jim Murphy autographs copies of his book.

Dr. Jim Murphy autographs copies of his book.

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 had minored in creative writing, enjoying the precision. “Writing the book and using the less- scientific part of my brain was my own form of a wellness program,” he says.

The companion animal veterinarian at Capitol Hill Animal Clinic in Washington, D.C., was 40 when he graduated from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 1997. Earlier, he was a speechwriter for the postmaster general. At 50, he starred in his first community theater production. He has appeared in three feature-length indie film comedies.

link to Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association article

May 1, 2016 edition

The Beach Boys Beginnings Examined Through Book

Goldmine Magazine Interview by Ken Sharp
All images courtesy of James B. Murphy

The Beach Boys - prom week

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 their living room and produced the first nine recordings by the Beach Boys, including “Surfin’” and early versions of “Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfer Girl.” And yet, after 50 years, hundreds of magazine articles, more than a dozen books and several documentaries about the band, I knew very little about the Morgans and had never seen a photograph of them. When I first spoke with Bruce Morgan, their son, I told him I believed his parents were overlooked in the Beach Boys story and that one of my goals was to shed more light on their integral role in the band’s early history. Brian and the Boys went on to more sophisticated writing and production, but Hite and Dorinda Morgan were the first people in the L.A. music industry who believed in them. It seemed to me we should know more about them.

GM: Little is known about the background of Candix Records and its founders. Fill us in.

JM: Candix Enterprises Inc. released the Beach Boys first record. It was an independent record company founded August 26, 1960, in Fresno, California, by twin brothers Richard and Robert Dix, who enlisted the help of their younger brothers Albert and Sherman (a fifth brother, Theodore, and a sister, Sarita, were not involved). The Dix brothers were professional musicians and, for the previous two decades had toured the country as the Dix Brothers Orchestra. They hired William Silva Canaday for his knowledge of the L.A. music industry and the name of the record company was an amalgam of their last names (CAN from Canaday + DIX). The plan was for Sherman to funnel the profits from the brother’s real estate and home construction business in Fresno into the record company, but Sherman had other ideas. This resulted in a chronic shortage of capital, frustrating Joe Saraceno, their Artist and Repertoire director, and two record promoters who were always battling a shortage of records. In fall 1961, Hite Morgan, on the strength of a recommendation from Bill Angel, the record librarian at KFWB, brought the Beach Boys’ first record, “Surfin’,” to Candix. It was a great opportunity for Candix, whose biggest hit to date was The Frogmen’s “Underwater” that reached No. 44 in spring 1961, but it could not have come at a worse time. Bob Dix had discovered Saraceno diverted “Surfer’s Stomp,” a No. 31 hit by The Mar-kets, to his own recently formed Union Records. Saraceno resigned from Candix. Bob had also recently fired Silva and was pursuing legal action accusing him of embezzling $15,000 from Candix. Bob did everything he could (which I detail in the book) to keep “Surfin’” stocked in record stores nationwide. “Surfin’” reached No. 3 in L.A., but stalled at No. 75 in Billboard. It likely would have gone further had it been handled and promoted differently. In September 1963, Bob Dix chose not renew the company’s corporate status. He had released 41 singles on the Candix label, one (“Surfin’”) on his X Records subsidiary, and two on the Candix-distributed Storm label.

The Dix Brothers

The Dix Brothers

GM: In the book, you follow the band playing house parties to the Hollywood Bowl in a short timespan. Take us through what shaped them as a live act.

JM: The key thing about the early Beach Boys in the studio and on stage is that only nine months after forming they were thrust into the national spotlight. Unlike The Beatles, who enjoyed a lengthy musical apprenticeship, honing their live skills and stockpiling songs, the Beach Boys scored a No. 3 regional hit with their first record, recorded a demo reel and landed a seven-year contract with Capitol Records. Their Capitol debut, “Surfin’ Safari” backed with “409,” was a double-sided hit and the pressure was on. Demand for their personal appearances skyrocketed. By most contemporary accounts, they were not a very good live band when they started. But they persevered and kept at it, propelled by Murry Wilson’s persistence and assertive personality. They played grand openings, record stores, hardware stores, appliance stores, birthday parties, gymnasiums, recreation centers, high schools, roof tops, back yards and parking lots. The hits just kept coming and, fueled by their songwriting and unparalleled vocals, they became one of the best and enduring live bands. For most concertgoers, seeing and hearing the Beach Boys live was an unforgettable experience.

GM: There are quotes in the book culled from members of bands that played on the same bill with the Beach Boys in the early days remarking they were not impressed with their performing abilities. When did they come into their own as a live act?

JM: The Beach Boys learned to play as a band in front of live audiences. Their first (April 24-May 5, 1963) and second (July 19-August 30, 1963) tours outside of California were hampered by the intermittent absence of Brian Wilson (Al Jardine was recruited to fill in for Brian on the road). Some early reviews are mixed, most likely because of Brian’s absence in the harmony stack. Brian grew tired of touring very early on and decided, quite wisely in retrospect, it would better serve the band if he stayed home to write, arrange and demo new material for the group. But when David Marks quit, Jardine was enlisted as a permanent replacement for Marks and Brian lost his road replacement and had to rejoin the touring band. Their October 19, 1963, performance at the 31st Annual Y-Day at the Hollywood Bowl is available online and that gives us a pretty good idea of how the Beach Boys, with Brian, sounded as a live band toward the end of 1963. They played “Little Deuce Coupe,” “In My Room,” “Be True to Your School,” “Surfer Girl” and an a cappella tribute to KFWB, the radio station that co-sponsored the show. These are solid, somewhat raw, but wildly exciting performances. Given the technological limits of recording a live show in an outdoor cavernous venue like the Hollywood Bowl, that they sound so powerful and exhilarating is quite remarkable.

GM: Murry Wilson, father of Brian, Dennis and Carl, and the band’s manager is a misunderstood figure in the band’s history. Were there new insights gleaned about his role and working methods?

JM: Let me first say I do not pretend to know what actually went on inside 3701 West 119th Street, Hawthorne, California, as Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson were growing up with their parents, Audree and Murry. Only the Wilson boys fully experienced Murry’s strengths and shortcomings as a father. In fall 1961, Murry was 44 years old, owned his own leased machinery business, had three teenage sons, each two years apart, and the family lived in a two-bedroom, one-level home. On his modest salary, Murry provided Brian with accordion lessons, a record collection, a meeting with his musical idols, the Four Freshmen, a Wollensak tape recorder and a used 1957 Ford Fairlane for his senior year at Hawthorne High. Al Jardine recalled Brian was a natty dresser in high school, especially noting his stylish Florsheim loafers. Dennis had a motorized go-kart, a BB gun, a memorable 10th birthday party and a 9-foot surfboard. Carl had an acoustic-electric guitar, an amplifier and guitar lessons. Now, material possessions do not make a childhood happy, but Murry did his best to provide his boys with things they enjoyed. And no one fought harder for the fledgling Beach Boys than Murry. Key players in the early Beach Boys’ story like Chuck Britz, Stan Ross (co-owner of Gold Star studio), Russ Regan and Fred Vail are all on record with positive comments about Murry, crediting him with much of the group’s early success. Interestingly, most of the negative things the brothers said about their father came after he died from cardiac arrest on June 4, 1973. Nick Venet, the band’s first staff producer at Capitol, provided much anti-Murry fodder. But keep in mind, in summer 1963, after Murry told Capitol the Beach Boys refused to work with Venet, Nick was gone from Capitol within a few months. Now, before I am accused of being a Murry apologist, by many accounts he was a flawed man, haunted by his own rough childhood. Perhaps Murry’s greatest shortcoming was not recognizing the need to provide a more protective environment for Brian, a sensitive soul who, at the time, was doing everything, and not knowing when to step back and allow his sons the freedom to pursue their own creative vision. But without Murry there would have been no Beach Boys.

Book coverGM: One of the many coups of your book was tracking down Judy Bowles, Brian Wilson’s girlfriend who inspired some of his music. Tell us about her, how you located her and characterize her place in Brian’s universe and her role as his muse.

JM: Judy Bowles was Brian Wilson’s first serious romantic relationship. Brian began dating Judy in summer 1961 just before the group formed. They dated during the formation of the band, the writing and recording of “Surfin’,” signing with Capitol Records, all of 1962 and most of 1963. Audree Wilson helped Brian select a diamond engagement ring that he presented to Judy for Christmas 1962. They planned to marry within the year. Judy was the inspiration for “Surfer Girl,” “Judy” and, after a painful break-up in fall 1963, “The Warmth of the Sun.” It took me a long time to find Judy, and I would not have been able to gain her trust and confidence without the help of a good friend of hers who, quite modestly, declined acknowledgement in the book. It was a real joy speaking with Judy – one of the highlights of researching the book. She told me I was the first writer who took the time to look for her and speak with her, and that nearly everything written previously about her was untrue. I found that astonishing. Judy was open, honest, funny, down-to-earth, grounded and had a wonderfully healthy perspective on that part of her life and how things worked out. She really loved Brian and he will always have a special place in her heart. After the success of “Love & Mercy,” I would like to see a film adaptation of their love story as Brian came into his musical gift, helped form the Beach Boys and the group experienced the ups and downs of worldwide fame.

GM: Cite the major revelations you were able to uncover that surprised you?

JM: The dates of September 15, 1961, for the “Surfin’” demo session, and October 3, 1961, for the “Surfin’” recording session, which have been accepted for the past 25 years, cannot be verified. That alters the entire chronology of certain key events, including the group’s rehearsal sessions, the demo session, when Al joined the group, the renting of musical gear, the recording session and when Hite Morgan shopped an acetate of “Surfin’” to record labels.

I believe “Surfin’” was written, a Standard Songwriter’s Contract with the Morgans signed and a demo recorded before Al joined the band. Then, after he runs into Brian on the campus of El Camino Community College, Al begins singing with the Wilson brothers and Mike. When Audree and Murry went to Mexico for a weekend, the guys rented musical gear, financed by Al’s mother, Virginia, in an effort to up their game. They continued rehearsing for about a month and then recorded the version of “Surfin’” released on Candix 331. Although “Surfin’” is credited to Brian and Mike, Carl contributed the guitar part and Dennis made some lyrical contributions that went uncredited.

As Murry suspected, the Beach Boys were indeed short-changed in royalties on the sales of “Surfin’.” They received $990, but should have received about $2,500.

Judy Bowles, Hite Morgan, Dorinda Morgan

GM: What are the major myths you’ve been able to solve while doing the book?

JM: Here are a few that come to mind: The rental of musical gear did not occur over the Labor Day weekend, September 2-4, 1961. And when Audree and Murry traveled to Mexico, they most certainly did not leave their sons $800, as one source noted, for food or an emergency.

The earliest footage of the Beach Boys singing live is their performance of “Surfin’ Safari” at the Azusa Teen Club on July 27, 1962, filmed for Dale Smallin’s documentary “One Man’s Challenge.” But the film crew did not just happen to show up on a night the band was performing. This was a scheduled taping and the group rehearsed for hours in the sweltering heat of the Azusa Recreation Center that doubled as the teen club.

“Surfin’” on Candix 331 was their first release. For reasons that I detail in the book, it was next released on X Records 301, Candix 301, the Era Records-distributed Candix 301. Also, an “Audition Only” copy was released on the Era Records-distributed Candix 301.

This is a minor myth, but when their first royalty check arrived in mid-April 1962, it was long believed Murry added $100 of his own money to bring it up to $1,000 so the five boys could each receive $200. But the royalty check was for $990, so Murry actually contributed $10.

GM: Are there still mysteries about that period of time that elude you that you’d like to uncover?

JM:  A photograph of the Beach Boys with Al Jardine before David Marks replaced him has been reported to exist, but has never surfaced. Does anyone, especially the surviving members of the band, have such a photo? I would like this one further clarified. When did Al reconnect with Brian by the chance encounter of running into him on the campus of El Camino Community College where they were both enrolled in fall 1961? The school year began September 11, 1961, and the Standard Songwriter’s Contract for “Surfin’” was signed September 15, 1961. Brian’s handwritten list of the Pendletones as a quartet (the three Wilson brothers and Mike Love) is dated October 12, 1961. Hence, it may have been well into October before Al ran into Brian and began singing with the Wilson brothers and Mike. If that is true, as I believe it to be, then Al may have joined the band after the “Surfin’” demo was recorded, but before the recording session that yielded the version of “Surfin’” released on Candix 331.

Second, I wonder whether “Surfin’,” “Luau” and “Lavender” may have been recorded at Hite Morgan’s Stereo Masters, 5534-5538 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles. That would mean there was only one session at World Pacific Studio, 8715 West Third Street, Los Angeles — the one on February 8, 1962, at which they recorded “Surfin’ Safari,” “Surfer Girl,” “Judy” and “Karate” (aka, “Beach Boy Stomp”). Both Bruce Morgan and Dino Lappas, the recording engineer at World Pacific, independently recalled only one session at World Pacific. Intriguing.

And third, I would like to discover additional personal appearances the band made in 1962, especially between January and June, and the mysterious mini-tour Murry booked in California around Christmas 1962.

Red-and-yellow-splash-wax-Barbie-300x300GM: Tell us about the Holy Grail most collectible Beach Boy records from that period and their value in 2015.

JM: The most collectible Beach Boys records from 1961-62 are the red and yellow splash wax of “Barbie” (b/w “What Is a Young Girl Made Of?,” Randy 422), the “Complete Selections from Surfin’ Safari by the Beach Boys” promotional EP with cardboard sleeve (Capitol PRO 2186), the “I Was There KFWB Day!” mailer sleeve that housed the promotional 45 “Spirit of America” (b/w “Boogie Woodie,” Capitol Custom) and “The Surfer Moon” (b/w “Humpty Dumpty,” Safari 101) by Bob and Sheri. As with most rare records, they’re worth whatever two people say they’re worth!

I would like to pose a question to Goldmine readers — has anyone ever seen and can anyone verify a white label promotional copy of “Surfin’” on Candix 331? [Not the black label “Audition Only” “Surfin’” on the Era Records-distributed Candix 301]. Candix produced white label promo records from Candix 303 through 330, but I have never seen a white label promo of “Surfin’” on Candix 331. I don’t think it exists, but I would like to be proven wrong. GM

On-line at: Goldmine article, January 27, 2016

 

 

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 c. 1930s

Rainbow Gardens c. 1930s

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 who managed the Mixtures, an ethnically diverse R&B septet from Oxnard who played there Friday nights and filled the role of house band backing up other artists. Mixtures promo photoDavis became aware of the Mixtures through Dick Moreland, a former disc jockey on Oxnard’s KACY-AM and later program director on KRLA.  Davis and Moreland conceived of the KRLA/Friday Night Dance and enlisted KRLA disc jockey Bob Eubanks as master of ceremonies.

The Mixtures’ sole album, Stompin’ at the Rainbow, was recorded live at Rainbow Gardens February 16, 1962, and released March 19 on Eddie Davis’s Linda Records 3301. Mixtures - Stompin at the RainbowThe group’s first of six singles was “Rainbow Stomp – Part 1” (b/w “Rainbow Stomp” – Part 2,” Linda 104) released that March, the same month they played the National Orange Show in San Bernardino. The success of the live album led to gigs at El Monte Legion Stadium, Cinnamon Cinder (Studio City), Pacific Ocean Park (Santa Monica), Pop Leuder’s Park (Compton), and a show for the NAACP in Santa Monica April 11. They also appeared on local television shows P.O.P. Dance Party, The Wink Martindale Show, and the Rock-n-Rudy Harvey Show.

Meanwhile, on February 8, 1962, the Beach Boys recorded four songs—“Surfin’ Safari,” “Surfer Girl,” “Judy,” and “Beach Boy Stomp” (aka “Karate”)—at World Pacific Studio at 8715 3rd Street in Hollywood. By February 11, Al Jardine had quit the band, deciding to devote his time and energy to the rigors of his pre-dental academic curriculum. For about three weeks, the Beach Boys were a quartet before recruiting their thirteen-year-old neighbor David Marks to play rhythm guitar.

“When I was a disc jockey at KRLA, I would hire the Beach Boys,” Bob Eubanks recalled. Bob Eubanks“I would pay them a hundred and fifty dollars to come out on Friday night and play Rainbow Gardens. I had a good relationship with the guys. It was obvious the father was the true boss of what was going on. I always thought Murry was a bit of a bullshitter, but he was in there plugging for his boys. For that, I admired him. I tried to get them to change their name because I felt their name was so regional they wouldn’t have much success out of a coastal area.”

Eubanks asked Murry if any of the boys surfed. “Denny is the only one who surfs,” Murry replied. “They know a lot of kids who surf. It’s all image, the whole beach thing. You don’t have to surf to sing about it, do you?” When Eubanks expressed doubts about the group’s name, Murry said, “We tried some others, like the Pendletones, but changed it. Russ Regan over at Era Records came up with the name. I think the Beach Boys is fine. We’re sticking with it.”

It was once thought the Beach Boys may have played back-to-back Friday and Saturday nights at the Rainbow Gardens on February 9 and 10, February 16 and 17, and Friday night shows March 9, 23, and 30. However, neither I nor Ian Rusten, author of The Beach Boys in Concert: the Ultimate History of America’s Band on Tour and Onstage (Backbeat Books, 2013), could find any documentation for these dates. Keep in mind that in early 1962 the Beach Boys were just starting out and were not well known. Not even in Southern California. Furthermore, any promotion for these appearances was likely done on KRLA radio. Radio marketing was affordable and expedient, but unfortunately impermanent. It is likely the Beach Boys played the Rainbow Gardens a Friday night or two in the early months of 1962 as there are anecdotal reports of them singing and the Mixtures backing them instrumentally. It is, however, extremely unlikely they ever played there on a Saturday night. On Saturday nights, the Rainbow Gardens swung to the rhythms of Latin and Chicano artists.

Parade of Hits, a weekly live television show featuring guest stars and Top 40 tunes, premiered Tuesday, July 10, 1962, on KCOP-TV, channel 13, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. It replaced Dr. Albert Burke, a show hosted by the Yale professor who pioneered educational television. Parade of Hits was sponsored by White Front Discount Department Store and radio station KRLA, and hosted by Larry McCormick, who later became news reporter on KTLA channel 5 in LA. The Mixtures were the house band during the show’s twenty-six week run. The Beach Boys performed “Surfin’ Safari” live on Parade of Hits July 31, 1962.

While continuing his research into the Beach Boys’ appearances at the Rainbow Gardens after publication of his book, Rusten reviewed the Pomona Progress Bulletin for February, March, April, and July of 1962. He found only one documented Beach Boys’ appearance at Rainbow Gardens—Friday, July 27, 1962, four days before they appeared with the Mixtures on Parade of Hits. While it remains likely the band played the Rainbow Gardens one or more Friday nights in early 1962, further research is needed.

Here’s what we know about Fridays and Saturdays at the Rainbow Gardens January through April 1962:

Friday, January 5

Saturday, January 6

Friday, January 12

Saturday, January 13
Dance, Rudy Macia and His Orchestra, plus Joe Rios and His Orchestra featuring Virginia Ybarra, admittance only $1.75

Friday, January 19

Saturday, January 20
Dance, Johnny Martinez Cheda and Their Orchestra, plus Manny Armenta and His Orchestra, admittance only $2.00

Friday, January 26
The Beach Boys played in the cafeteria of Hawthorne High School at 7:00 a.m. as part of Black Friday activities bemoaning the distribution that day of report cards.

Saturday, January 27
Dance Tonite, In Person, Amalia Mendoza “La Tariacure” with Mariachi Los Camperos, plus “Vydreyras” Star from Mexico, plus Manny Armenta and His Orchestra, admittance only $2.75

Friday February 2

Saturday February 3
Dance Tonite, Mariano Merceron and His RCA Recording 20-Pc Orchestra, plus Joe Rios and His Orchestra, admittance only $2.50. The Beach Boys appeared on Dance Party television show broadcast live on KRLA-TV from the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Friday, February 9
It is possible the Beach Boys appeared, but were not listed.

Saturday, February 10
Dance Tonite, In Person, Loa Beltran, Queen of Ranchero Singers, plus Mariachi Occidental, plus Bobby Montez and His Orchestra, and Abby Chavez and His Orchestra, admittance only $2.75. The Beach Boys appeared on Dance Party television show broadcast live on KRLA-TV from the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Friday, February 16
A show with the Mixtures, the Citadels, and the Emeralds recorded for a live album.

Saturday, February 17
Dance Tonite, Rene Touzet and His World Famous Recording Orchestra, plus Treni Menor and His Orchestra, admittance only $2.00

Friday, February 23
It is possible the Beach Boys appeared, but were not listed.

Saturday, February 24
Dance Saturday Nite, Rudy Macais and His Orchestra, plus Manny Armenta and His Orchestra, admittance only $1.75

Friday, March 2
An advertisement for the Mixtures and “Special Guest Stars”
The Beach Boys played in the auditorium of Millikan High School in Santa Monica, CA, at 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 3

Friday, March 9
It is possible the Beach Boys appeared, but were not listed.

Saturday, March 10
The Beach Boys played the Bel-Air Bay Club in Pacific Palisades, CA, at 8:00 p.m.

Friday, March 16
The Beach Boys played the Monica Hotel in Santa Monica, CA, with the Bel-Airs and the Vibrants from 8:00 p.m. to midnight.

Saturday, March 17
The Beach Boys played the Santa Monica Hotel in Santa Monica, CA, with the Bel-Airs and the Vibrants from 8:00 p.m. to midnight.

Friday, March 23
The Beach Boys played Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, CA, with Spencer and Allred, the Two Tones, and Tommy Terry.

Saturday, March 24
The Beach Boys played a short set during a Vibrants concert on the athletic field of Newport Harbor High School in Newport, CA, at 8:00 p.m.

Friday, March 30
An advertisement appeared for the Mixtures and “Special Guest Stars.”

Saturday, March 31
The Beach Boys played the National Guard Armory in John Galvin Pak in Ontario, CA, at 8:00 p.m.

Friday, April 6
It is possible the Beach Boys appeared, but were not listed.

Saturday, April 7
Dance Tonight, Chuy Castro and His Orchestra, plus Manny Armenta and His Orchestra, Free Pachanga Lessons, admittance only $1.75.

Friday, April 13
No dance held that night at the Rainbow Gardens.

Saturday, April 14

Friday, April 20
The Beach Boys played for an Easter Week Stomp in the auditorium of Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, CA, that evening.

Saturday, April 21
Easter Holiday Dances, Rene Touzet and His Orchestra, plus Manny Armenta and His Orchestra, Twist and Pachanga Dance Contest, Pachanga Dance Lessons 8:30 to 9:00, admittance only $2.00.

Sunday, April 22
Easter Holiday Dances, Saturday and Sunday, Mariachi Occidental, plus Rudy Macias and His Orchestra, plus Manny Armenta and His Orchestra , admittance only $2.00.

April 27, Friday

It is possible the Beach Boys appeared, but were not listed.

Saturday, April 28
Dance Tonight, Nita Cruz and the Crescendos, plus Joe Rios and His Orchestra, Free Pachanga Lessons, admittance only $1.75.

Friday, May 4
The Beach Boys played the Inglewood Women’s Club in Inglewood, CA, from 8:00 p.m. to midnight.

Saturday, May 5
Dance and Show, Sat Nite, In Person, Cantinflitas, plus Medesto Duran and His Orchestra, Rachel and Her Conjunto, Roben Reyes, Maria Antonieta, Hollywood Twisters, Dancing 8:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., admittance only $2.00.

Friday, May 11
The Beach Boys played a Community Fair as part of Camino Welfare Week at El Camino Community College. As this was during the day it is possible they played elsewhere that evening.

May and June
Not yet fully researched regarding the Rainbow Gardens.

Friday, July 27
The Beach Boys recorded their appearance in One Man’s Challenge at the Azusa Teen Club in Azusa, CA. That evening they appeared with the Mixtures and the Paris Sisters at Rainbow Gardens at 8:00 p.m.

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 year. There are essential questions to be asked about the Beach Boys development. Who exactly was in the first formation of the group that recorded the first single? What were the circumstances that led up to that recording? With who was group mastermind Brian Wilson working when he made his various breakthroughs? These questions and many others are tackled by Murphy, relying in part on previous interviews with a cast of characters that are frequently self-serving: their father/manager Murry Wilson; their initial producer at Capitol records, Nick Venet; and Brian’s early collaborator, Gary Usher, all of whom are dead but have made various conflicting claims about certain incidents and credits. But Murphy has done a lot of his own leg work as well, interviewing a lot of peripheral characters (high school friends, early group members, studio personnel, etc.), digging back into the archives of city and high school newspapers, reproducing ads of concerts and performances, and digging up clips of early performances to study. The result is a substantial piece of work.

Initial chapters provide background on the group members: the Wilson brothers Brian (the eldest and the most musically inclined), Dennis (the unruly middle child who was the only one of the brothers actually to surf), and Carl (the youngest, who would go on to become an adept guitar player and singer in his own right). He also details cousin, lead singer, and early lyricist Mike Love, Al Jardine, a high school friend, and early member David Marks. But Brian is the rightful focus of this story. It was he who was most ambitious about creating music. The Wilsons’ father, Murry, was an autocratic, sometimes abusive parent who was an amateur musician and had written several songs that were subsequently recorded by people like Lawrence Welk (no small personage in those days). He tended to operate on the periphery of the industry but had fostered several relationships that would serve him well in the future when he became de facto manager of the Beach Boys. From a very early age, Brian was fascinated by music, picking out songs at the piano and easily figuring out melody and harmony lines. He was particularly enamored with the Four Freshman, and dissected their vocal arrangements. For one of the pivotal events of Brian’s life, in 1958 for his sixteenth birthday, his dad took him to a nightclub to hear the group. He met and talked with Bob Flanigan, who came away impressed by the young man’s dedication to their music. But that wasn’t Brian’s only musical interest. He also listened to rock and roll and black music stations, absorbing those sounds. He had an interest in folk music as well.

Among the interesting facts Murphy unearths was Brian’s first public performance during a school assembly in March 1960. He assembled a quartet of classmates to sing a song he liked on a Kingston Trio album, “Wreck of the John B.” Murphy even unearthed a photo of the performance, noting that one of the group members borrowed 13-year-old Carl Wilson’s Kay guitar for the performance. As most Beach Boy fans know, six years later he fashioned that song into one of the group’s most creative, complex, and popular singles, “Sloop John B.” This is priceless information and highlighting it demonstrates Murphy’s deep understanding of the creative development of the artist.

Murphy goes into detail about the various recording sessions and is particularly enlightening on the recording of their first release, the track “Surfin’,” recorded for the Candix label. The label was run by friends of Murry Wilson’s, Hite Morgan and his wife Dorinda. Murphy devotes several pages to the obscure recordings Brian did as a solo singer at the behest of Dorinda Morgan (to get decent recordings of her compositions), where Wilson learned about making records. While the Morgans are deceased, Murphy had contact with their son, Bruce, who had preserved many of the documents and recordings. Murphy pored over contracts trying to unweave the tangle of who exactly played and sang on what tracks. Al Jardine left after recording of the “Surfin’” single to go to college. It was a decision he would rue because the single took off, topping the charts in Southern California. Fifteen year old David Marks, a neighbor, replaced Jardine. Marks did very little recording with the band and whenever Jardine was available Brian would invite him to sessions to flesh out the harmonies and instrumentation. When they got to Capitol, Brian was able to use session musicians for his tracks. This was especially helpful since brother Dennis was a less than optimum drummer. Brian knew what he wanted and after recording their first album (Surfin’ Safari), Capitol in-house rock producer Nick Venet, eventually relinquished the reins of production over to him. Venet still retained credit on the cover.

There was much head-butting between then-manager Murry Wilson and the Capitol brass, causing various problems, which is satisfactorily detailed from multiple perspectives by Murphy. Murphy does not shy away from delineating the negative impact of Murry – especially vis-a-vis the band and its dealings with band outsiders – but he doesn’t dwell on these negatives as so many other books do. He also mentions the positive impact Murry had in certain instances.

There’s a lot to recommend this book. Murphy’s writing style is engaging and entertaining, not an easy thing to do when delving into the minutiae of music. The best book on the Beach Boys’ music is still ARSC Award-winning Inside the Music of Brian Wilson by Philip Lambert, but Becoming The Beach Boys, while maintaining a different focus, is a close second. And that, in a nutshell, is what a veterinarian can do to add substantially to Beach Boys literature. Reviewed by Robert Iannapollo

Association for Recorded Sound Collections Journal

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 this songwriting relationship a little more closely.

Roger Christian grew up in Buffalo, New York, a blue collar steel mill town.  In 1948, at age fourteen, he hitchhiked to California in search of his perfect car—a 1932 Ford Coupe, called a Deuce Coupe after the “2” in 1932.  He worked cleaning dishes in a Chinese restaurant in Long Beach and saved his money for his dream car.  An ad in the LA Times caught his eye and he hitched a ride with a passing trucker sixty-five miles north to the old Southern Pacific Railway town of Lancaster, California.  He paid $375 cash for a beautiful Deuce Coupe.  Incredibly, without a license or insurance, the fourteen-year-old Christian drove his cherry coupe back to Buffalo.  A few years later, he got his start in radio on WSAY in Syracuse and then moved to WWOL in Buffalo.  But the upstate New York winters were harsh and the call of California too strong.

In summer 1960, Christian moved to LA and landed the noon to 3:00 p.m. spot on KRLA.  In late March 1961, he left KRLA and went to KDEO in San Diego.  On July 11, contract negotiations broke down between AFTRA and KFWB over the union’s demands for higher wages for announcers and newscasters, and AFTRA called for a walkout against the station, the first strike in LA by the twenty-year-old union.  Some KFWB disc jockeys walked out in solidarity with the announcers while others, including program director Chuck Blore, remained on-air and were fined $5,000 before resigning from the union.  Meanwhile, KFWB recruited jocks from other stations and enlisted management to man the microphones.  Record librarian Bill Angel covered Sunday morning 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. from August 12 through October 6, and Blore, using the name Charlie Brown, did a noon to 3:00 p.m. shift for one week in mid-August.

On October 6, 1961, Christian began working for KFWB from midnight to 6:00 a.m.  The station was a twenty-minute drive east from his new 1,500 square foot, three-bedroom home at 22470 Cass Avenue in Woodland Hills.  The strike ended November 12 and Crowell-Collier Broadcasting Company, owners of KFWB, agreed to a pay announcers and newscasters an increase of $32.50 a week.

Murry Wilson and Gary Usher, Brian’s first songwriting partner outside of cousin Mike Love, each recounted stories of introducing Brian to Christian.

Here’s Usher’s version.

Gary Usher first met Roger Christian in March 1961 when Usher performed his then current single “Driven Insane” at the National Orange Show in San Bernardino at a show hosted by Christian, then a disc jockey on KRLA.  Also on the bill were Ginger, Usher’s sixteen-year-old label-mate on Titan Records, and Carol Connors (real name Annette Kleinbard), whose haunting vocal propelled “To Know Him Is to Love Him” by the Teddy Bears to #1 in fall 1958.

Gary Usher

“After the show, Roger and I struck up a friendship that centered around his customized 1955 Corvette,” Usher recalled.  “I drove to Hollywood and met Roger after he got off the air at midnight.  There was a coffee shop below KFWB where we sat and talked about cars until dawn.”

Usher did not, however, keep in touch with Christian.  So it was a bit risky when Usher took Brian to KFWB one night to introduce him to an old friend.  “When he came up that night he looked different,” recalled Christian.  “Gary said, ‘Do you remember me, Gary Usher?’ and I replied, ‘Gary who?’  Brian laughed and then I said, ‘Oh yeah, now I remember.  It hurt Gary I didn’t recognize him because [Usher] had told Brian he knew me.”

Here’s Murry’s version.

Murry Wilson recalled listening to Christian play “409” on the air one night and explaining, for the benefit of his automotively challenged listeners, terms like dual quad and posi-traction.  Murry, always looking for ways to promote the band, called Christian, complimented him on his automotive knowledge, and asked if he ever wrote any songs.

Brian and Roger

Brian Wilson and Roger Christian

Brian met Christian July 3, 1962, when the Beach Boys played a dance from 8:30 p.m. to midnight in the cafeteria of Dykstra Hall, a women’s dormitory on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), hosted by Christian.  The dance was one of a series of summer dances sponsored by the Dykstra Hall Residents Association.  But this may not have been the first time Brian met Christian.  Usher’s and/or Murry’s introduction of Brian to Christian may have occurred sometime between the June 4 release of “Surfin’ Safari” (b/w “409,” Capitol 4777), the Beach Boys debut single on Capitol Records, and the July 3 dance at UCLA.

“I got together with Brian and we started writing,” Christian recalled.  “I came up with a story lyric and a rough idea for a melody, which Brian would promptly dismiss!  Brian’s melodies were so unique, original, imaginative, and melodic that I would just write a lyric and he would put a melody to it.  Sometimes, he would improve on a lyric, which is hard for a lyricist.  But Brian was phrasing them so they’d sing better.”

“Shut Down,” Brian’s first released collaboration with Christian, was recorded January 3, 1963, at Western Recorders and was the B side to “Surfin’ U.S.A.” March 4, 1963.

shut down record label“Shut Down” began life as a thirty-two line composition called “Last Drag” Christian wrote in high school about a race between a Chevy Impala and an Oldsmobile 88 that ends at a treacherous patch of road called Dead Man’s Curve.  The song referred to the cars as “shorts,” slang for a hot ride or cool set of wheels, and the relatively short wheel base of the cars.  For those in the know, the race was illegal because it happened on the strip where the road was wide.

The opening lines of the poem inspired the melody and, with judicious editing and a rewrite to fit song structure, Brian and Christian captured the drama and danger of a street race in a two-minute song.  The cars changed to a Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray and a 413 Super Stock Dodge Dart (try rhyming Impala or Oldsmobile), shortened to Sting Ray and 413.  The song begins with a wall of double-tracked vocals throwing down the gauntlet—“Tach it up, tach it up, buddy gonna shut you down.”  The record takes off fast, mimicking a drag race as the cars peel down the road and the listener is pulled along full throttle.  The car jargon, most of it unfamiliar to the non-car enthusiast, added mystery and doom as we’re propelled forward at break-neck speed dreading some horrible wreck.  In fact, according to BMI, its alternate title was “Attention Accident.”

Mike’s nasal tenor, double-tracked and drenched in treble, is young and vibrant, perfectly suited for the lead vocal.  But Mike had trouble double-tracking his vocals and part of the third verse is muddy and difficult to understand.  He also played a simple two-note sax solo over a guitar lead from Carl, both complementing the sheer exuberance of the track.  “I’d blow a tonic to complement what Carl was doing or whoever was singing lead,” Mike recalled.  “I wasn’t exactly Coltrane.  I mean, less is more!”  The AFM contracts for Surfin’ U.S.A., on which “Shut Down” appeared, have the handwritten notation “bill for sax.”

So, when did Brian and Christian begin getting together to write songs?  Well, “Shut Down” had to be written sometime between July and December 1962, and likely closer to the end of the year.  Although it was their first recorded collaboration, it may not have been their first written collaboration.  So, during this six-month period, were Brian and Christian meeting after Christian signed off from KFWB at midnight?  No.  And here’s why.

KFWB’s weekly survey charts printed the names of their disc jockeys and their on-air shifts.  When Brian and Christian met, in either June or July 1962, Christian was working midnight to 6:00 a.m. on KFWB.  Christian did not move to the 9:00 p.m. to midnight shift until about March 2, 1963.  Hence, Brian meeting Christian after Christian got off at midnight could not have happened before March 1963.  Of course, it is entirely possible that between July 1962 and February 1963 Brian and Christian met before Christian began his midnight to 6:00 a.m. shift.

Christian later believed “Shut Down” shortened his writing partnership with Brian because he had released “Last Drag” in April 1963 as a dramatic reading for a label co-owned by Tony Butala of the Lettermen.   “When ‘Shut Down’ hit the charts, I heard from Tony.  He was going to sue the Beach Boys because they stole his song.  Murry Wilson was a little concerned that if Brian wrote with me there would be trouble.  Brian and I wrote sixteen songs in the course of two years.  Then the threat of this lawsuit popped up and we never really wrote together after that.”

As Brian and Christian both recalled meeting around midnight, it seems likely most of their collaborations were written after March 3, 1963.

So, where did Brian and Roger devour their ice cream sundae concoctions?

In 1974, Brian told Jim Pewter on KRTH, “He [Roger Christian] was like a really kind of a guiding light for me.  He’d get off at midnight.  He did a night show from nine to twelve.  We’d go to Aldo’s and we’d get a hot fudge sundae.  We’d sit there for hours talking, writing lyrics.  He and I must have written fifteen songs.”

In 1981, Christian recalled, “I did a nine to midnight radio program on KFWB.  Brian would come up to the station at midnight and we’d go down to Aldo’s Restaurant and have hot fudge sundaes and write songs.  The first song we wrote was ‘Shut Down,’ which was about a drag race.”

Aldo’s Restaurant was at 6413 Hollywood Boulevard, a few doors east of the street entrance to KFWB at 6419 Hollywood Boulevard.  Singers, songwriters, producers, A&R men, and hangers-on looking to hustle a deal, often met at Aldo’s, pouring over the trades and swapping the latest industry gossip.  Aldos suffered extensive damage from a fire on Thursday, September 30, 1965, as reported on the front cover of KFWB/98 Hitliner October 6.

kfwb2

Aldo’s was located in one of the storefronts beneath KFWB on Hollywood Boulevard prior to a fire in 1965.

Another coffee shop, Coffee Dan’s, was at 6415 Hollywood Boulevard and CANDIX Enterprises, Inc., was a little further down the block at 6425 Hollywood Boulevard.

If Brian and Roger really wanted a special ice cream treat, they could have walked a few blocks west, past Grauman’s Chinese Theater, to C.C. Brown’s at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard.  In 1906, confectioner Clarence Clifton Brown introduced the hot fudge sundae in his store on South Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles.  At C.C. Brown’s, amidst the aroma of farm fresh eggs, ripe bananas, sugar cane, Dutch cocoa, and heavy cream, ice cream aficionados slid into a black walnut booth with pink leather seats and enjoyed a Buster Brown, the house specialty made with a fresh sliced banana topped with a scoop of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, roasted chopped almonds, and whipped cream, served in a metal goblet that kept the ice cream cold.  Thick hot fudge, sweet and smooth, was served on the side in a ceramic pitcher.  Waiters dressed all in white scurried around the parlor beneath wrought iron Victorian lights suspended from the vaulted ceiling.

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 artists to be discovered, developed, and nurtured past what might only have been a flash-in-the-pan “one-hit wonder”.  But for all the swirling detail that’s packed into this four-hundred-plus book, the author impressively never loses sight of the human struggle at its core; all of the fears, hopes, and insecurities of the band are laid bare – along with their amazement of how everything broke their way.  This is an important book for Beach Boys fans; it chronicles the band’s quintessential reality of the American Dream, which in turn became part of the American story.  Personally, I would be very interested in seeing a sequel or two which looks at later milestones in the band’s career.  Absolutely essential.

Link to beachboys.com review

 

Veterinarian Alumnus and Lifelong Beach Boys Fan Hears Pet Sounds

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Article written by Manhattan College News staff

Jim Murphy ’79 not only used his liberal arts education to attend and graduate from veterinary school many years after college, but his fascination with the Beach Boys enticed him to write a book on the true story of how the band formed and went on to become one of America’s most popular rock groups.

Jim Murphy’s love of the Beach Boys began at the age of 10, when he accompanied his brother on a quest to locate the newly released Good Vibrations single. The Bronx resident was hooked after hearing the song, which was released in October 1966. Earlier that year, the Beach Boys released their landmark album, “Pet Sounds,” of which Murphy is still fond, particularly in his work life.

20150728_162001Today Murphy is a veterinarian in Washington, D.C., and hears pet sounds daily in the exam room. His science degree from Manhattan College and the lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian enticed Murphy to make a career change and graduate from veterinary school 17 years after college.Another passion of Murphy’s recently became a reality when an eight-year-long project was published in 2015. Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963, is not only a tribute to Murphy’s dedication to the band but the fervor he has for reading and writing, another skill he credits to his Manhattan education. What he envisioned as a 10-12-page essay turned into a comprehensive, 433-page book.

“I could never find one clear, cohesive account of how they met, how they formed the band, how they wrote their first song, how they got a record contract and how they kicked off their career,” Murphy says. “There were too many inconsistencies and a patchwork of stories that did not make sense.”

One of Murphy’s best research discoveries was locating Brian Wilson’s one-time fiancée, Judy Bowles. After spending two years tracking Bowles down, Murphy was able to interview her for several hours and received numerous anecdotes and stories on the early days of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys that he incorporated into his book.

Interviews like Bowles’ contributed greatly to the success of the book, which also included the release of 50 never-before-published images. Murphy conducted a total of 75 interviews for the book with friends and relatives of the band.

“With everything that I have written, [I thought] maybe I can make a contribution to what is known about the Beach Boys and their origin story,” Murphy adds. “They used to play on radio station rooftops, in high school gymnasiums, cafeterias, parking lots, and new record stores. They had a very humble origin story.”

Once McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, expressed interest in his manuscript, the book was on its way to being published.

Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys wrote on the Beach Boys Britain message board, “Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963, is a must read and I could not put it down. There are a lot of interesting things to read in this book.”

Passions Discovered in Riverdale

A biochemistry major with dreams of attending veterinary school, Murphy’s priority was first and foremost the sciences, but he also discovered his interest in writing at Manhattan College.

He looks back fondly on the abundance of English literature classes he took, preparation for his most recent venture as a first-time author.

“One of the things I am really happy with about the book is the reviews so far. They almost all mention how well-written and researched the book is,” Murphy says.

“The education at Manhattan was so good and so fundamental, I was able to use it all these years later. It was really my passport to getting into veterinary school,” he adds. “I could not have gotten in without my four years at Manhattan College. The quality of the education and the teachers and professors was top notch and well-respected by the veterinary admissions board.”

Career Changes

 When Murphy explored the idea of attending veterinary school during college, he decided against it because it was so competitive.

After working as a letter carrier during college, he decided to apply for a position with the United States Postal Inspection Service, the federal law enforcement arm of the United States Postal Service. Shortly after applying, he moved to Washington, D.C., and worked in the Inspection Service’s crime lab for four years. He eventually moved over to the communications division as a manager, and later became a speechwriter for the postmaster general.

Years later in 1992, he told his wife the story of how he had wanted to be a veterinarian in college. “Why don’t you try it now?” she said.

This conversation prompted Murphy to look into and apply to Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and four years later he graduated with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Murphy commuted 608 miles round-trip most weekends to attend classes in Blacksburg, Va.

With the launch of his recent book and his nearly 20-year career as a veterinarian, Murphy’s career path has changed dramatically since his days as a Jasper. He remembers one of his college professors telling him to pursue something he loved because then he would always be happy.

“In a roundabout way, that is what happened to me, and I trace it back to Manhattan,” he adds.

Link to Manhattan College News article
Posted October 29, 2015

Catch a Wave: a Chat with Beach Boys Author James B. Murphy

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Written by Ken Sharp

November 6, 2015

Murphy_978-0-7864-7365-6From performing in school cafeterias to tearing it up on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl, James B. Murphy’s new 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. Essential reading for Beach Boys fans or rock music aficionados, Becoming the Beach Boys 1961-1963 is the definitive portrait of their launch demonstrating in detail how a bunch of kids from Hawthorne, California caught a musical wave and were soon sitting on top of the world. Highly recommended.

Rock Cellar Magazine: What prompted you to write Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963?

Jim Murphy: I was introduced to the music of the Beach Boys when my older brother, Rich, first heard Good Vibrations on the radio in October 1966.  We had never heard anything like it.  That record, with its angelic lead vocal, staccato cello, otherworldly theremin, soaring harmonies, and stellar production, transported you to another world.

It was a life-changing experience for kids growing up on the East coast in the Bronx.  We went out and bought every album the Beach Boys had already released and each subsequent new album beginning with Smiley Smile and Wild Honey.  Over the years I read everything I could get my hands on about the band.  But their early history, their origin story, never made sense to me.  It never added up.  I could never find a clear, cohesive explanation of what actually happened and the order in which it happened.  I was always left with more questions than answers.  So, I started looking into it and began writing the book I wanted to read.

Rock Cellar Magazine: What were the greatest challenges you faced working on the project?

Beach-Boys-at-Torrance-High-School-March-1962

Jim Murphy: Worthwhile challenges often bring about an introspective moment when you wonder: if you knew at the onset what you know now, would you do it again? Going to veterinary medical school in my late 30s was one of those moments for me.  Writing this book was another.  Not knowing what you’re getting into makes things infinitely more possible.  When I started working on the book, I didn’t know it would take eight years—writing at night and on weekends, searching for people to interview, reading everything I could find, comparing conflicting stories in everything published, trying to make sense of what happened, retrieving and reviewing stacks of legal documents, and tackling the actual writing.

As a first-time author, I made typical beginner mistakes with structure, veering from the story’s spine, and keeping the manuscript a manageable length.  There are many stories that didn’t make it into the book that I hope to provide on a companion website under construction.  I also had to develop thick skin to rejections from publishers. McFarland loved the proposal from the onset and they’ve been terrific partners.  I tried repeatedly to interview the surviving band members but, without a high profile platform, was unsuccessful.  I hope they enjoy the book and, perhaps, there will be an opportunity for them to weigh in on the story.

Rock Cellar Magazine: 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.

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Hite Morgan

Jim 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 their living room and produced the first nine recordings by the Beach Boys, including Surfin’ and early versions of Surfin’ Safari and Surfer Girl.  And yet, after fifty years, hundreds of magazine articles, more than a dozen books, and several documentaries about the band, I knew very little about the Morgans and had never seen a photograph of them.

When I first spoke with Bruce Morgan, their son, I told him I believed his parents were overlooked in the Beach Boys story and that one of my goals was to shed more light on their integral role in the band’s early history.  Brian and the Boys went on to more sophisticated writing and production, but Hite and Dorinda Morgan were the first people in the LA music industry who believed in them.  It seemed to me we should know more about them.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Little is known about the background of Candix Records and its founders, fill us in.

Jim Murphy: CANDIX Enterprises, Incorporated, released the Beach Boys’ first record.  It was an independent record company founded August 26, 1960, in Fresno, California, by twin brothers Richard and Robert Dix, who enlisted the help of their younger brothers Albert and Sherman (a fifth brother, Theodore, and a sister, Sarita, were not involved). The Dix brothers were professional musicians and, for the previous two decades, had toured the country as the Dix Brothers Orchestra.  They hired William Silva Canaday for his knowledge of the LA music industry and the name of the record company was an amalgam of their last names (CAN from Canaday + DIX).

The plan was for Sherman to funnel the profits from the brother’s real estate and home construction business in Fresno into the record company, but Sherman had other ideas.  This resulted in a chronic shortage of capital, frustrating Joe Saraceno, their Artist and Repertoire director, and two record promoters who were always battling a shortage of records.  In fall 1961, Hite Morgan, on the strength of a recommendation from Bill Angel, the record librarian at KFWB, brought the Beach Boys’ first record, Surfin’, to Candix.  It was a great opportunity for Candix, whose biggest hit to date was the Frogmen’s Underwater that reached #44 in spring 1961, but it could not have come at a worse time.

Al-Richard-and-Bob-Dix

Al, Richard, and Bob Dix

Bob Dix had discovered Saraceno diverted Surfer’s Stomp, a #31 hit by the Mar-kets, to his own recently formed Union Records.  Saraceno resigned from Candix.  Bob had also recently fired Silva and was pursuing legal action accusing him of embezzling $15,000 from Candix.  Bob did everything he could (which I detail in the book) to keep Surfin’ stocked in record stores nationwide.  Surfin’ reached #3 in LA, but stalled at #75 in Billboard.  It likely would have gone further had it been handled and promoted differently.  In September 1963, Bob Dix chose not renew the company’s corporate status.  He had released forty-one singles on the Candix label, one (Surfin’) on his X Records subsidiary, and two on the Candix-distributed Storm label.

Rock Cellar Magazine: In the book, you follow the band playing house parties to the Hollywood Bowl in a short timespan.  Take us through what shaped them as a live act.

Jim Murphy: The key thing about the early Beach Boys in the studio and on stage is that only nine months after forming they were thrust into the national spotlight.  Unlike the Beatles, who enjoyed a lengthy musical apprenticeship, honing their live skills and stockpiling songs, the Beach Boys scored a #3 regional hit with their first record, recorded a demo reel, and landed a seven-year contract with Capitol Records.  Their Capitol debut, Surfin’ Safari backed with 409, was a double-sided hit and the pressure was on.  Demand for their personal appearances skyrocketed.  By most contemporary accounts, they were not a very good live band when they started.

But they persevered and kept at it, propelled by Murry Wilson’s persistence and assertive personality.  They played grand openings, record stores, hardware stores, appliance stores, birthday parties, gymnasiums, recreation centers, high schools, roof tops, back yards, and parking lots.  The hits just kept coming and, fueled by their songwriting and unparalleled vocals, they became one of the best and enduring live bands.  For most concertgoers, seeing and hearing the Beach Boys live was an unforgettable experience.

Rock Cellar Magazine: There are quotes in the book culled from members of bands that played on the same bill with the Beach Boys in the early days remarking they were not impressed with their performing abilities. When did they come into their own as a live act?

Jim Murphy: The Beach Boys learned to play as a band in front of live audiences.  Their first (April 24-May 5, 1963) and second (July 19-August 30, 1963) tours outside of California were hampered by the intermittent absence of Brian Wilson (Al Jardine was recruited to fill in for Brian on the road).  Some early reviews are mixed most likely because of Brian’s absence in the harmony stack.  Brian grew tired of touring very early on and decided, quite wisely in retrospect, it would better serve the band if he stayed home to write, arrange, and demo new material for the group.  But when David Marks quit, Jardine was enlisted as a permanent replacement for Marks and Brian lost his road replacement and had to rejoin the touring band.

Early-Beach-Boys-concert-handbill-212x300Their October 19, 1963, performance at the 31st Annual Y-Day at the Hollywood Bowl is available online and that gives us a pretty good idea of how the Beach Boys, with Brian, sounded as a live band toward the end of 1963.  They played Little Deuce Coupe, In My Room, Be True to Your School, Surfer Girl, and an a cappella tribute to KFWB, the radio station that co-sponsored the show.  These are solid, somewhat raw, but wildly exciting performances.  Given the technological limits of recording a live show in an outdoor cavernous venue like the Hollywood Bowl, that they sound so powerful and exhilarating is quite remarkable.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Murry Wilson, father of Brian, Dennis and Carl and the band’s manager is a misunderstood figure in the band’s history, were there new insights gleaned about his role and working methods?

Jim Murphy: Let me first say I do not pretend to know what actually went on inside 3701 West 119th Street, Hawthorne, California, as Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson were growing up with their parents, Audree and Murry.  Only the Wilson boys fully experienced Murry’s strengths and shortcomings as a father.  In fall 1961, Murry was forty-four years old, owned his own leased machinery business, had three teenage sons, each two years apart, and the family lived in a two-bedroom, one-level home.

On his modest salary, Murry provided Brian with accordion lessons, a record collection, a meeting with his musical idols, the Four Freshmen, a Wollensak tape recorder, and a used 1957 Ford Fairlane for his senior year at Hawthorne High.  Al Jardine recalled Brian was a natty dresser in high school, especially noting his stylish Florsheim loafers.  Dennis had a motorized go-kart, a BB gun, a memorable tenth birthday party, and a nine-foot surfboard.  Carl had an acoustic-electric guitar, an amplifier, and guitar lessons.  Now, material possessions do not make a childhood happy, but Murry did his best to provide his boys with things they enjoyed.

And no one fought harder for the fledgling Beach Boys than Murry.  Key players in the early Beach Boys’ story like Chuck Britz, Stan Ross (co-owner of Gold Star studio), Russ Regan, and Fred Vail are all on record with positive comments about Murry, crediting him with much of the group’s early success.  Interestingly, most of the negative things the brothers said about their father came after he died from cardiac arrest June 4, 1973.  Nick Venet, the band’s first staff producer at Capitol, provided much of the anti-Murry fodder.  But, keep in mind, in summer 1963, after Murry told Capitol the Beach Boys refused to work with Venet, Nick was gone from Capitol within a few months.  Now, before I am accused of being a Murry apologist, by many accounts, he was a flawed man, haunted by his own rough childhood.  Perhaps Murry’s greatest shortcoming was not recognizing the need to provide a more protective environment for Brian, a sensitive soul who, at the time, was doing everything, and not knowing when to step back and allow his sons the freedom to pursue their own creative vision.  But without Murry there would have been no Beach Boys.

Judy Bowles

Judy Bowles

Rock Cellar Magazine: One of the many coups of your book was tracking down Judy Bowles, Brian Wilson’s girlfriend who inspired some of his music. Tell us about her, how you located her and characterize her place in Brian’s universe and her role as his muse.

Jim Murphy: Judy Bowles was Brian Wilson’s first serious romantic relationship.  Brian began dating Judy in summer 1961 just before the group formed.  They dated during the formation of the band, the writing and recording of Surfin’, signing with Capitol Records, all of 1962, and most of 1963.  Audree Wilson helped Brian select a diamond engagement ring that he presented to Judy for Christmas 1962.  They planned to marry within the year.  Judy was the inspiration for Surfer Girl, Judy, and, after a painful break-up in fall 1963, The Warmth of the Sun.

It took me a long time to find Judy and I would not have been able to gain her trust and confidence without the help of a good friend of hers who, quite modestly, declined acknowledgement in the book.  It was a real joy speaking with Judy, one of the highlights of researching the book.  She told me I was the first writer who took the time to look for her and speak with her, and that nearly everything written previously about her was untrue.  I found that astonishing.  Judy was open, honest, funny, down-to-earth, grounded, and had a wonderfully healthy perspective on that part of her life and how things worked out.  She really loved Brian and he will always have a special place in her heart.  After the success of Love & Mercy, I would like to see a film adaptation of their love story as Brian came into his musical gift, helped form the Beach Boys, and the group experienced the ups and downs of world-wide fame.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Brian Wilson’s songwriting collaborator Gary Usher is yet another key figure in the book, how does he play into the story?

Jim Murphy: In January 1962, Gary Usher was a twenty-three-year-old bank employee and aspiring singer songwriter.  He was visiting his uncle who lived near the Wilsons and his uncle insisted Usher go over and meet the Wilsons because they had a record on the radio.  Within a half hour, Brian and Usher wrote Lonely Sea.  And 409 soon followed.  When Surfin’ dropped off the charts in late March 1962, it was Usher who urged Brian to record some new demos that April at Western Recorders where Usher introduced Brian to engineer Chuck Britz who later helped Brian record some of his most influential music.  Usher taught Brian about the business aspect of the music industry, and helped him become more assertive and to approach songwriting more competitively.  Usher was critical to the Beach Boys signing with Capitol Records in May 1962 and he co-wrote six of the songs on Surfin’ Safari, the group’s debut album.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Cite the major revelations you were able to uncover that surprised you.

Jim Murphy: The dates of September 15, 1961, for the Surfin’ demo session, and October 3, 1961, for the Surfin’ recording session, which have been accepted for the past twenty-five years, cannot be verified.  That alters the entire chronology of certain key events, including the group’s rehearsal sessions, the demo session, when Al joined the group, the renting of musical gear, the recording session, and when Hite Morgan shopped an acetate of Surfin’ to record labels.

Surfin' on Candix 331

Surfin’ on Candix 331

I believe Surfin’ was written, a Standard Songwriter’s Contract with the Morgans signed, and a demo recorded before Al joined the band.  Then, after he runs into Brian on the campus of El Camino Community College, Al begins singing with the Wilson brothers and Mike.  When Audree and Murry went to Mexico for a weekend, the guys rented musical gear, financed by Al’s mother, Virginia, in an effort to up their game.  They continued rehearsing for about a month and then recorded the version of Surfin’ released on Candix 331.

Although Surfin’ is credited to Brian and Mike, Carl contributed the guitar part and Dennis made some lyrical contributions that went uncredited.

As Murry suspected, the Beach Boys were indeed short-changed in royalties on the sales of Surfin’.  They received $990, but should have received about $2,500.

Rock Cellar Magazine: What are the major myths you’ve been able to solve while doing the book?

Jim Murphy: Here are a few that come to mind:

The rental of musical gear did not occur over the Labor Day weekend, September 2-4, 1961.  And when Audree and Murry traveled to Mexico, they most certainly did not leave their sons $800, as one source noted, for food or an emergency.

The earliest footage of the Beach Boys singing live is their performance of Surfin’ Safari at the Azusa Teen Club on July 27, 1962, filmed for Dale Smallin’s documentary One Man’s Challenge. But the film crew did not just happen to show up on a night the band was performing.  This was a scheduled taping and the group rehearsed for hours in the sweltering heat of the Azusa Recreation Center that doubled as the teen club.

Surfin’ on Candix 331 was their first release.  For reasons that I detail in the book, it was next released on X Records 301, Candix 301, the Era Records-distributed Candix 301.  Also, an “Audition Only” copy was released on the Era Records-distributed Candix 301.

This is a minor myth, but when their first royalty check arrived in mid-April 1962, it was long believed Murry added one hundred dollars of his own money to bring it up to one thousand dollars so the five boys could each receive two hundred dollars.  But the royalty check was for $990, so Murry actually contributed ten dollars.

The_Beach_Boys_6copyright-Capitol_Photo_Archives-600-x-480-600x400

Rock Cellar Magazine: Are there still mysteries about that period of time that elude you that you’d like to uncover?

Jim Murphy: Here’s four in chronological order:

A photograph of the Beach Boys with Al Jardine before David Marks replaced him has been reported to exist, but has never surfaced. Does anyone, especially the surviving members of the band, have such a photo?

I would like this one further clarified.  When did Al reconnect with Brian by the chance encounter of running into him on the campus of El Camino Community College where they were both enrolled in fall 1961?  The school year began September 11, 1961, and the Standard Songwriter’s Contract for Surfin’ was signed September 15, 1961.  Brian’s handwritten list of the Pendletones as a quartet (the three Wilson brothers and Mike Love) is dated October 12, 1961.  Hence, it may have been well into October before Al ran into Brian and began singing with the Wilson brothers and Mike.  If that is true, as I believe it to be, then Al may have joined the band after the Surfin’ demo was recorded, but before the recording session that yielded the version of Surfin’ released on Candix 331.

Second, I wonder whether Surfin’, Luau, and Lavender may have been recorded at Hite Morgan’s Stereo Masters, 5534-5538 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles.  That would mean there was only one session at World Pacific Studio, 8715 West Third Street, Los Angeles—the one on February 8, 1962, at which they recorded Surfin’ Safari, Surfer Girl, Judy, and Karate (aka, Beach Boy Stomp).  Both Bruce Morgan and Dino Lappas, the recording engineer at World Pacific, independently recalled only one session at World Pacific.  Intriguing.

And third, I would like to discover additional personal appearances the band made in 1962, especially between January and June, and the mysterious mini-tour Murry booked in California around Christmas 1962.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Do you think this period of the band’s career is overlooked on a musical level compared with later acclaimed productions like Pet Sounds?

Jim Murphy: Not so much on a musical level, but more on a historical level.  The band has such a rich musical catalog that most career-spanning books could only devote a few pages to the early days because there was such a wealth of information to explore in the next forty or fifty years.  But I love origin stories.  I love how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman.  And how did Churchill become the man who helps save the world.  So, I was naturally drawn to the band’s early history, especially given the contradictory information out there.  And keep in mind, a musical education is cumulative, so what Brian and the Beach Boys learned in their early years laid the foundation of what came next.

You don’t reach the pinnacle without climbing the first floor.  You can’t have Good Vibrations without Surfin’ U.S.A.  And there are some songs from this period, certainly Surfer Girl, Lonely Sea, Farmer’s Daughter, and The Warmth of the Sun, that are just gorgeous early Brian Wilson compositions that portend what is to come.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Who are the unsung heroes and villains of that period in the group’s history?

Jim Murphy: One of the things that appealed to me about 1961 to 1963 was the innocence of that period.  They were a bunch of young guys that wanted to form a band, write a song, have a hit record, meet girls, and make a few bucks.  So, the players in the early days are all heroes.  Hite and Dorinda Morgan, Bill Angel, Dino Lappas, Bob Dix, Joe Saraceno, Russ Regan, Gary Usher, Chuck Britz, Voyle Gilmore, Roger Christian, Nick Venet, and Bob Norberg each played a role in Brian’s and the band’s musical growth.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Tell us about the Holy Grail most collectible Beach Boy records from that period and their value in 2015.

Red-and-yellow-splash-wax-Barbie-300x300Jim Murphy: The most collectible Beach Boys records from 1961-1962 are the red and yellow splash wax of Barbie (b/w What Is a Young Girl Made Of?, Randy 422), the Complete Selections from Surfin’ Safari by the Beach Boys promotional EP with cardboard sleeve (Capitol PRO 2186), the I Was There KFWB Day! mailer sleeve that housed the promotional 45 Spirit of America (b/w Boogie Woodie, Capitol Custom), and The Surfer Moon (b/w Humpty Dumpty, Safari 101) by Bob and Sheri.  As with most rare records, they’re worth whatever two people say they’re worth!  I would like to pose a question to readers—has anyone ever seen and can anyone verify a white label promotional copy of Surfin’ on Candix 331?  [Not the black label “Audition Only” Surfin’ on the Era Records-distributed Candix 301].  Candix produced white label promo records from Candix 303 through 330, but I have never seen a white label promo of Surfin’ on Candix 331.  I don’t think it exists, but I would like to be proven wrong.

Rock Cellar Magazine: From a personal perspective, is there a defining song or two that best encapsulates the 1961-1963 period of the band’s career?

Jim Murphy: That’s a great question.  Two come to mind.  Surfin’ U.S.A. for its sheer energy and exuberance.  In March 1963, it exploded out of AM radios with a searing guitar intro, slicing rhythm guitars, a wave of crisp double-tracked vocals, and Brian’s soaring falsetto.  It revitalized rock ‘n’ roll with an electrifying burst of freedom and rebellion.  It is their first great record and it propelled their career world-wide.  The Warmth of the Sun is a beautiful ballad with a mournful melody.  It remains one of their most personal and deeply moving songs.  It is sad, but comforting.  Desolate, yet hopeful.  A reflection on love, once so beautiful, now lost forever.  In light of the dissolution of Brian’s and Judy’s two and one-half year relationship, the haunting melancholy is laden with emotional poignancy.  Together, these two songs are a great example of why the Beach Boys will always be beloved.

Rock Cellar Magazine: You were unable to land an interview with any of the surviving Beach Boys and instead mined archival sources for your book. If you could speak to Brian, Mike, Al, or David and ask them only one question, what would you ask and why?

Jim Murphy: I wrote this book because the Beach Boys’ musical catalog has brought me years of joy.  I wanted to have a better understanding of their early history and I hoped to make a contribution to our collective understanding of the band.  I avoided the word “definitive” in the title because I truly hope the book generates robust debate.  If I got something wrong, I want to be corrected.  Perhaps there will be an opportunity for a second edition and the story can be further refined.  Of course, I would love the opportunity to speak with Brian, Mike, Al, and David.  In the meantime, here’s a question for each of them:

Brian: Tell me about your memories of Hite and Dorinda Morgan.

Mike:  Was the demo of Surfin’ recorded before Al Jardine joined the band and was the demo recorded at Hite and Dorinda Morgan’s home on Mayberry Street in Los Angeles?

Al:  Was Surfin’ (the version released on Candix) recorded at World Pacific on Third Street or Stereo Masters on Melrose Avenue?

David:  What do you believe was your most significant contribution to the early Beach Boys and tell me about a time when you realized quitting the band may have been a mistake?

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Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble’s website, and McFarland Books.

Link to Rock Cellar magazine article

Presenting the Book to the Beach Boys

On August 20, 2015, my wife, Bernadette, and I saw the Beach Boys at Maryland Live Casino in Hanover, Maryland, and presented a copy of Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963, to Mike Love and Bruce Johnston.  Not realizing he would be there, I offered to send a copy to David Marks.  20150820_200129They thumbed through it, commenting on some of the photos and the early days.  They could not have been more gracious.  It was a bit surreal when Mike asked me to autograph his copy of the book.  Mike, Bruce, and David also signed the cover of my personal copy of the book.

On August 30, on the Beach Boys Britain message board, Bruce commented, “Until now, the only book about the Beach Boys I thought was worth reading was The Nearest Faraway Place by Timothy White.  I am finding Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963, looks like it will be a great worthwhile read, too!  Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963, is a must read and I could not put it down.  There are a lot of interesting things to read in this book.”  I am grateful to Bruce for the support and kind words.