Beach Boys: 56 Years and Counting

Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson

There have been some great pop singing groups, over the last 56 years, but my favorite would have to be the Beach Boys. I saw them in concert at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii at the Conroy Bowl at some point between 1963-1965. I can’t pinpoint what year, but can say they put on a great concert that night.

Heard a great story about the Beach Boys, on a documentary a few minutes ago. Brian Johnston, who would join the group in 1965 told about a lady, who asked Brian if they were the beach boys, and he said “Yes we are”. So she told them she needed a table and a couple of chairs. It was a humbling experience, to know someone didn’t even know they were a singing group.

Brian Wilson 74 years old

BRIAN WILSON 

Brian Wilson was the leader of the Beach Boys and his songwriting skills enabled them, to still be active 54 years, after they were first founded in Hawthorne, California. However, the Beach Boys only had four #1 hits in their career with I Get Around in 1963 and Help Me Rhonda in 1964. Two years later in 1966 they would have their next #1 hit in Good Vibrations. 22 years would pass, before their last #1 hit Kokomo went to the top of the charts.

He mostly focused on surfing music from 1961-1965, but the Beach Boys rarely recorded surfing music after 1965.

Brian was the quarterback on his high school football team, and also played baseball was was a cross country runner.

The stress of writing, producing and concerts became too much for Brian to handle. He had a nervous breakdown on a plane flying from LA to Houston and decided to come off the road. However, he started taking LSD after coming off the road and got his inspiration for California Girls during the time he was into LSD.

His use of drugs expanded to cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines and psychedelics. Mickey Dolenz recalls taking LSD with Brian, John Lennon and Harry Nilsson in the 1970’s. Drugs continued to create problems for Brian, and he was alleged to have offered drugs to his children.

Brian has been hallucinating for the last 50 years, since he first started taking psychedelic drugs in 1965.

However, he continues to appear in concert mostly as a solo artist.

Al Jardine 74 years old

AL JARDINE

Al Jardine joined the Beach Boys, then left them twice, but still played with them in each calendar year, since their inception from 1961-1998. Jardine met Brian Wilson at Hawthorne High School in Hawthorne, California, when they both played for the football team.

Folk music was Al’s passion, but he met with resistance, when he tried to push the Beach Boys into being a folk band. He sang lead on the #1 hit Help Me Rhonda. He is the one that suggested that the Beach Boys record the Mamas and Papa’s hit California Dreamin’ which peaked at #8 on the charts.

Carl Wilson 1946-1998

CARL WILSON

Carl Wilson was a musician, who could play seven instruments, and his lead singing on God Only Knows shows how talented of a singer he was. He was heavily influenced musically, by Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys sound had a Chuck Berry guitar sound.

He became the leader of the band in concerts, after Brian came off the road in 1965. Carl was disillusioned in 1981, with the Beach Boys lack of focus,  and left the group, to be a solo artist that year. He would declare himself, to be a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War.

His lifetime smoking habit since he was 13 caused him, to have lung cancer, that was diagnosed in 1997. Carl continued to perform with the Beach Boys, even while undergoing chemotherapy. He would sit while performing, except for standing to sing God Only Knows. 

He died on February 6, 1998, while surrounded by his family, which included his wife Gina, who was the daughter of Dean Martin.

Dennis Wilson 1944-1983

DENNIS WILSON

Dennis Wilson actually lived the surfing lifestyle depicted in their early surf music. He was reluctant at first to sing with his brothers, but later became the drummer for the Beach Boys. His drumming skills were limited, so his brother Brian would hire drummers for the studio recording sessions.

He would be a distraction sometimes onstage. I watched the Live From Knebworth DVD of their concert at Knebworth England, and in during that concert he was intent on distracting Mike Love on stage.  His main claim to fame is that he co-wrote You Are So Beautiful with Billy Preston.

His connection with Charles Manson is told in this paragraph from his Wikipedia writeup:

In 1968, Dennis Wilson was driving through Malibu when he noticed two female hitchhikers, Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey. He picked them up and dropped them off at their destination.[3] Later on Wilson noticed the same two girls hitchhiking again. This time he took them to his home at 14400 Sunset Boulevard near Will Rogers Park. Wilson then went to a recording session. When he returned at around 3 a.m., he was met in his driveway by a stranger, Charles Manson. When Wilson walked into his home, about a dozen people were occupying the premises, most of them female. Wilson became fascinated by Manson and his followers; the “Manson Family” lived with Wilson for a period of time afterwards at his expense. In late 1968, Wilson reported to journalists:

I told them [the girls] about our involvement with the Maharishi and they told me they too had a guru, a guy named Charlie who’d recently come out of jail after 12 years. … He drifted into crime, but when I met him I found he had great musical ideas. We’re writing together now. He’s dumb, in some ways, but I accept his approach and have learnt from him.

Things got worse with Manson and his followers and he eventually had to move out of his own house:

As Dennis Wilson became increasingly aware of Manson’s volatile nature and growing tendency to violence, he finally made a break from the friendship by simply moving out of the house and leaving Manson there. When Manson subsequently sought further contact (and money), he left a bullet with Wilson’s housekeeper to be delivered with a cryptic message, which Wilson perceived as a threat. In August 1969, Manson Family members perpetrated the Tate/LaBianca murders. Wilson rarely discussed his involvement with the Manson Family, and usually became upset when the subject was broached.

His life came to a tragic end on December 28, 1983, when he died at the age of 39 in a drowning accident, probably caused by drinking prior to the drowning.

Mike Love 75 Years Old

MIKE LOVE

Mike Love has been the front man for the Beach Boys and was the cousin of Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson. His lead singing has been instrumental, in the success of the Beach Boys. He is the one Beach Boy, that is not seen playing a musical instrument during the concerts.

He was the co-writer on their #1 hit Kokomo. His interest in transcendental meditation began in 1967. Brian wrote some lyrics for songs on their Friends influenced by his TM interest, but the album sold very few copies.

When the Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Mike made some uncomplimentary remarks about Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney:

Also in 1988, he, along with the other founding members of the Beach Boys, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where he made an infamous hostile speech, calling out, among others, Mick Jaggerand Paul McCartney. He was, however, happy that Muhammad Ali was in attendance.

Mike has been married to Jacqueline Piesen since 1994. He had been married four times, before his current marriage.

Bruce Johnston 74 Years Old

BRUCE JOHNSTON

Bruce Johnston was not an original Beach Boy. He joined the group in April of 1965. He wrote the Barry Manilow hit I Write The Songs, which won the Song of the Year Award Grammy and has been recorded by 200 artist. This happened after he had left the Beach Boys in 1972. He returned in 1978 and has been with the Beach Boys in the last 37 years consecutively.

He was adopted by the William and Irene Johnston family and his father was president of Owl Rexall Drug Company in Los Angeles.

Bruce replaced Glen Campbell on the touring Beach Boys group. Campbell had filled in for Brian Wilson and Wilson needed a replacement for Campbell, so Johnston joined the group to play keyboards, guitar and harmonize and also played the saxophone.

Currently, Bruce is touring with Mike Love as the Beach Boys,since Mike owns the name, and had to sue Al Jardine for using the Beach Boys name for his group.

So the Beach Boys are now split into three acts, with Brian Wilson as a solo act, Mike and Bruce using the Beach Boys name and Al Jardine having his own group, and no longer using the Beach Boys name.

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Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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