Why did you leave the group?
Well, I was very young and it was mostly…I think the parents, Murry and my parents, they were at odds over money. I was popular in the band and Murry kind of wanted to keep it all in the family, so he was very intimidating until I got to the point where I couldn't take it and quit. A 15-year-old doesn't really think long term, so I wasn't thinking about the future. And I did have my own band, the Marksmen. We were first signed on A&M Records, and also on Warner Brothers. As a matter of fact, I was on five labels by the time I was 21.
Was there any point after you left and you saw how big they became that you regretted it?
Oh, not really. As a matter of fact, I quit for the first time when we were on top. We were the Number One band in the country. I went on to do very productive things. I had my own bands, and I became a studio player. I also continued getting royalties from Capitol, so I was able to take the time and study more guitar. I went through classical, jazz, pop, blues. I wrote a bunch of songs in the 1980s. I was a single father, raising my daughter. I ended up playing with very good players, some of the best musicians in the world. I would say that overall, the experience was probably equal to what I would've gotten if I had stayed in the Beach Boys. It was a very rounded experience through the years. And for the last 15 years or so I've been very close to the bands, sitting in with Mike and Al. Also, Dean Torrence and I have a band together. We play together very much.
Wasn't there talk about you rejoining in the early 1970s?
Yeah. I was living in Boston and I happened to see them. I went by to say hi when they were performing at Symphony Hall. Mike asked me to come back into the band and play bass. Shortly after that I came back to L.A. and started to practice bass, but I was so into the guitar that it just didn't work out at the time.
Do you ever feel like you were erased from history? Not a lot of people know your story.
Well, Murry Wilson did have a PR strategy. After I left, he tried to erase me from history. But I was on the first six albums, and my image was used all the way up until '64.
You rejoined the group briefly in the late 1990s. How did that come about?
The band was experiencing some personnel changes. Carl had to drop out because he got sick. I kind of stood in for him, and we totally expected him to come back and recover and we were planning on being together again. Unfortunately, tragically, he didn't make it. So I stayed in the band after that for a couple of years, and then I got sick myself and had to take a leave of absence.
What was it like playing on all those latter-day songs for the first time?
I wasn't involved in Pet Sounds, but during that tour I started really appreciating it. I was unaware up to that point just how much of a genius Brian really was when I started learning those intricate songs.
Do you have a favorite songs or album from the period after you left?
I'm in love with the Pet Sounds stuff, and some of the SMiLE stuff too. I like "Caroline, No," "Good Vibrations" and "Here Today." A lot of those songs are just works of art.
A lot of people thought that this reunion tour would never happen. There's so many years of bad blood, and so many lawyers and managers and old lawsuits. Did you think it was ever going to happen?
Well, I was never involved in any of that. But nowadays, being all together, it just seems like all of that is behind us and we're looking towards the future. Everyone seems happy together. Brian is smiling a lot. I think that this is going to be a good time. It's like a family reunion in a way.
What's it like for you to be back with the guys after so many decades?
It's spiritual. You can just feel the love.
How are you putting the setlist together? Brian tends to do a lot of songs that the Mike Love Beach Boys didn't do.
Well, I won't know for sure until rehearsals start. But I'm sure we're gonna visit the hits. We might do some of our favorite things from Pet Sounds and possibly some new material.
How far along is the new album?
I must say that Mike and Brian still have it. You know, with Mike's words and Brian's music…the album is coming along great. I haven't heard the whole thing yet. We've yet to finish it. I still have to do some guitar and vocals on it, but I'm sure when it's finished it will be very, very good.
You guys have a pretty grueling tour in front of you. Are all of you prepared for that?
We're all healthy. Mike and Brian are incredibly healthy. Everyone is singing good, and I think it's going to be a pretty good tour. I know there are a lot of dates lined up, but we can handle it. We've all been touring up until this time on our own, so we're in shape for the tour.
How is the Brian of today different than the Brian you knew growing up?
Well, I can see some of the old Brian in there still. We've all aged. We've all matured. We're totally serious about the music, but we still kid around. Brian is doing very well. Like I said, I can still see sparks of the young Brian in there. We kind of kick off where we left off last time we were all together.
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