Murry Wilson’s Contribution to Surfin’ Music & Rock ‘n’ Roll
In Brian Wilson’s biographies, his father, Murry Wilson, is not portrayed in a favorable light by any means. Beyond his tumultuous history with Brian especially, his controlling approach to his son’s band, The Beach Boys, did not set well with the group, and was especially difficult for Brian. Beach Boy band member and neighbor David Marks left the group after recording four long plays with them, due in-part, to Murry’s over-involvement.
Eventually, in 1964) Brian would “fire” Murry from his leadership roll. But there probably is no doubt that without his influence on his son’s, and especially Brian, there probably would not have been the super American group who we have had with us all these decades, and perhaps, surf and hot rod music and all that followed, would simply just not have happened at all.
Turning once again to Kent Crowley’s definitive account of the birth and life of surfin’ music as portrayed in “Surf Beat – Rock ‘N’ Roll’s Forgotten Revolution” we learn….
“One day in the late 50’s, Murry Wilson ushered his wife Audree and teenage son Brian through the reception area of Hollywood’s Gold Star Recording Studios at 6552 Santa Monica Boulevard and introduced them to the studio’s owners, Dave Gold and Stan Ross. This excursion into Gold Star represented another step in Wilson’s lifelong campaign to imbue his three sons, Brian, Dennis and Carl, with a love for music and making music. On this day, Wilson hoped to introduce his most gifted offspring to the studio where songs he wrote in the family music room were recorded, mastered, and pressed into acetate.” Gold’s owners (Dave Gold and Stan Ross) were familiar with Murry through some of his compositions including his Lawrence Welk recording of ” and also composing songs for a local R&B group which included Bobby Day
“Like dozens of Southern California singers, songwriters, producers and arrangers, Murry Wilson took a great deal of pride in considering himself – and being accepted – as part of the Gold Star family.”
Murry’s occupations were strictly blue collar working in various industries, but he always yearned to be involved in some way with music. He experienced a brief fling with success when he composed “Two-Step Side-Step” a song recorded by two country oriented artists, Johnnie Lee Wills (released on RCA Victor in October of 1953), and Bonnie Lou (released on King in August of 1954), and then covered by non-other than the father of Surfin Music, Lawrence Welk (see my previous Post).
Also in 1954, Murry composed a song titled “I’ll Hide My Tears” which was recorded by a very popular L.A. area RnB group, The Hollywood Flames, working under the name “The Jets”. The track appears on a U.S. 1987 E.M.I. records compilation long play titled “Dreamy Eyes, The West Coast Harmony Groups”. It was released again on a Netherlands 3-CD set compilation in 2004 titled “Roots of RnB”.
Murry’s relationship via the Beach Boys with Capitol Records led to his own long play release and one 45. The “B” side of Murry’s single was a tribute
After the Beach Boys, Murry Wilson looked for yet another ‘Beach Boy’ type act and found the Sunrays. Murry’s son, Carl, was a friend of the group’s drummer, Rick Penn. This group emerged first out of Pacific Palisades first as the Renegades, and in succession, The Rangers and The Dirt Riders. The band were regulars at one of the primary surfer attended venues, the San Bernardino Civic Ballroom.
As the Sunrays they didn’t record a surf song (Murry’s two compositions were car songs) , but they fit in nicely with the California sound and it’s beaches which had a full head of steam in 1965. They were managed by and their records produced by Murry Wilson, working along side of a music industry well-known operative, Don Ralke.
Don was experienced in composition, producing, and leading his own orchestra, working in film projects, and working with a diverse range of musicians. (Ralke had involvement with these recordings by Jewell Akens, Connie Stevens, and Ed “Kookie” Burns”.)
The Sunrays managed to enter the Billboard charts three times, with Murry co-producing all their sides. “I Live for the Sun” was their debut single and things looked promising as the record went high the California market and went to number 51 nationally. The song was written by band drummer Rick Penn who composed most of the tracks recorded by the Sunrays. They topped this with a number 41 showing in early 1966 with “Andrea” reaching number 41. In May of the same year The Sunrays sun would shine one final time with a track titled “Still” which survived for two weeks reaching only number 93. “Car Party” and “Outta Gas” (shown below), were Murry’s only compositions for the group. The group actually toured with the Beach Boys opening for them in the U.S. and Canada.
They released a total of seven singles on the Tower label and one LP under the direction of Murry and Ralke before moving on into oblivion.
Murry Wilson died at a young 55 years of age from a heart attack in 1973. After the death, Brian acknowledged his influence and drive to make his three sons a musical success.