Their classic songs epitomize the spirit of the California
lifestyle and The Beach Boys have become an American icon
to a worldwide audience. The Beach Boys' first hit "Surfin'"
(1961) launched a string of chart-topping songs that spans
nearly forty years and includes eternal anthems of American
youth: "Surfin' USA," "Surfer Girl,"
"Fun, Fun, Fun," "I Get Around," "California
Girls," "Help Me Rhonda," "Barbara Ann,"
"Good Vibrations," "Wouldn't It Be Nice,"
"Rock and Roll Music," "Kokomo" and
Their chart success alone would have earned The Beach Boys
their spot in The Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame (they were inducted
in 1988), not to mention 32 RIAA Platinum and Gold record
awards and worldwide sales estimated at over 100 million.
But The Beach Boys' story is one of not only commercial
but also artistic success. Their unique blend of harmonies,
musical arrangements and timeless lyrics still place the
music of The Beach Boys among the All-Time Favorites of
today's music critics. As an example, Rolling Stone magazine
recently named Pet Sounds as the #2 best album of All-Time.
The Beach Boys were honored at the 2001 Grammy® Awards,
receiving The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording
In the 1960's, there were two groups on Capitol Records
- one American, the other British - whose name began with
the letters "B-E-A-." Each of these groups featured
a bass playing songwriter born in June of 1942, and each
group made records that have withstood the test of time
to become classics of popular culture.
The Beatles, of course, broke up in 1970. But the American
band, The Beach Boys, continued on, recording new material
and selling out concert tours. To this day, generations
of fans are still falling in love with the golden harmonies
of California's musical ambassadors to the world.
For The Beach Boys, it all began in the modest home of
Murry and Audree Wilson in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne.
In the bedroom shared by their sons, oldest brother Brian
taught his younger siblings to sing. In late-night sessions,
middle brother Dennis and baby brother Carl learned the
harmonies that Brian had absorbed from countless listenings
to Four Freshmen and Hi-Los records.
Joining in on Christmas carols at holiday gatherings was
Mike Love, the Wilson brothers' first cousin. Mike and Brian
also spent many nights together in the late '50's listening
to the car radio and singing along to their favorite hits
of the day.
However, until 1961, singing was just something the Wilson/Love
clan did for fun. It was when that familial foursome became
five in 1961, with the addition of Al Jardine (Brian's Hawthorne
High football teammate and El Camino Junior College classmate)
that the self-named "Pendletones" began to take
their vocalizing a little more seriously. Al had a love
of folk music and his voice was the fourth part to fill
out the harmony blend.
When Murry and Audree returned from a trip to Mexico, they
found that Brian and Mike had penned "Surfin',"
which would become The Beach Boys first single release on
the Candix label. Thanks to a remarkable chain of events,
they made their first recording and miraculously scored
their first chart record.
The formula? Their California garage band sound and an
original song about a local fad had immediate teen appeal,
and "Surfin'" reached the Top 3 on L.A. radio
hit-lists. But as each of the newly-named "Beach Boys"
earned only about $200 from that moment of fame, in early
'62 (even though the group had made their live performing
debut on December 31, 1961 at a Ritchie Valens memorial
concert), the record business probably felt more like a
hobby than a job. After all, Carl and Dennis were still
in high school, Al and Brian were in college and Mike was
20 and working a full-time job.
Nonetheless, they were determined to have a career, and
they cut a demo tape that would turn out to be their first
major label record. With that tape and the help of the Wilson
brothers' father, Murry, the group secured a record contract
with Capitol Records in mid-1962. Their first single, "Surfin'
Safari" b/w "409" was virtually an overnight
hit, and almost right out of the box, The Beach Boys became
Capitol's hottest act.
In the late summer of '62, the group recorded their first
long-player, Surfin' Safari, and that release triggered
an avalanche of music. From 1962-1969, Capitol released
20 Beach Boys albums, many of which went "Gold"
and hit the Top 20, as The Beach Boys became first the most
popular group in American and ultimately one of the most
popular in the world.
In another milestone, The Beach Boys pioneered the concept
of the self-contained band, and in the process, revolutionized
the recording business. In an unparalleled act of rock 'n'
roll rebellion, The Beach Boys, with Murry Wilson running
interference, turned the system upside down, demanding and
winning the right to control their records. The Beach Boys'
declaration of independence smashed all precedents. Brian
Wilson won his creative freedom, and The Beach Boys became
the first, and for a long time, the only rock artists to
completely control the musical output of their career.
From the beginning, the group featured Carl Wilson (Brian's
studio sidekick, the musical director of the touring band
and a truly pacific soul) on lead guitar; Dennis (the inspiration
for The Beach Boys' first song, the group's sex symbol and
a real surfing beach boy) bashed on drums; Mike Love (Brian's
first lyrical collaborator and the co-writer of many of
The Beach Boys' biggest hits) sang lead and became the extroverted
emcee of the live shows; Al Jardine (briefly replaced by
Wilson neighbor David Marks in 1962 and 1963) strummed rhythm
guitar and added his voice to the family blend; and Brian
played bass, wrote the songs, arranged the instruments and
the vocals, and produced the records. When Brian quit touring
in late 1964, to spend more time in the studio, his spot
was filled temporarily by then-studio musician Glen Campbell
and permanently by songwriter/record producer Bruce Johnston.