CWWAC ’99, Part 2

Saturday, October 2, 1999


A shorter version of this story first appeared in Endless Summer Quarterly, vol. 13 nos. 1-2 (December 1999 and March 2000). Photos from this event can be found at The Carl Wilson Foundation website.

On the morning of Saturday, October 2, 1999 I packed a suitcase for my weekend in LA and gathered up all the musical gear I knew I would need for the two day event. One acoustic guitar, a battery powered keyboard, two amplifiers and, at the last minute, I threw a harmonica into my show bag. Something told me it might come in handy. I also brought the prototype Carl Wilson limited edition Rickenbacker twelve string guitar which was finally ready to reveal to the public for the very first time. This model was the only one in the world and I treated it as if it were The Holy Grail itself.

I was nervous and excited as I began the one hundred mile drive from my home in Oceanside to Los Angeles. It was a beautiful day in San Diego County and I hoped the same would be true for Malibu. The weather was an important factor since today's event would be on the beach at Paradise Cove. I didn't want the people from out of town to be disappointed in any way. My concerns about the weather disappeared as I rolled into Santa Monica and saw that it was a picture perfect day.

Lots of things ran through my mind as I drew closer to the site. Who would be there, how many people would attend, would there be enough food for everyone, what songs would be requested, would I remember the words and chords, would it be fun, etc.?

I used to live in Malibu and driving along the Pacific Coast Highway once again brought back a flood of memories. There, on the beach side, was the house that Carl and Annie used to live in during the mid seventies and where my father had attended his last Christmas with us. There was Old Malibu Road where I used to live — a narrow street which ran parallel to the main highway with houses built on the bluff directly above the beach. Malibu will always be very special to me and I realized how much I missed living there. One of my favorite parts of the drive going north on PCH is when I come over the hill, just after passing Pepperdine University, and see Paradise Cove in the distance. There's usually a sailboat or a yacht anchored in the calm waters of this safe harbor, near the pier. Sure enough, some boats were there. On a clear day, this scene can look like a postcard. Today was one of those days.

I arrived at 1:30 p.m. and parked in the lot near the restaurant. I could see that people had gathered around some tables on the beach. It looked like a good turnout. I was relieved. As I walked up, the first person I saw in the parking lot was Jeff Foskett, who was kind enough to attend and represent Papa Doo Run Run. He had his acoustic guitar in tow. I saw a few gorgeous “Woodies” parked next to the picnic area — compliments of one of the attendees and John Zambetti, one of The Malibooz. Then I saw Betty Collignon, who had a big smile on her face. I could tell by her expression that everything was under control.

I started introducing myself to people, asking their names, where were they from and thanking them for being there. Some had stories about shows they had seen over the years, others wore customized shirts with Carl's image on them and a few took pictures with me. There were some people whom I had met at one time or another like Toni and Mike Rogers from Boston, Nancy Puckett-Dunn and her husband from New York, Tanya Drobness and her brother Charles from Sun Valley, Barbara Lang from Florida, Margaret Dowdle Head from Georgia; but for the most part I was meeting people for the very first time. I particularly wanted to meet the gang from New Zealand since I was so impressed that they had made the long flight to attend this year's event. They were really nice people and I'm so glad we had a chance to meet. Dawn and Anna Kowalski were also there (Mike's wife and daughter, respectively). I just adore them and was so happy to see them. They always make me smile.

I grabbed a sandwich from the picnic table and sat down with some guys from the South. Sherri Skanes (who had helped Betty with some of the graphics) came over and joined us for some conversation and laughs. After lunch I went back to my car to get my guitar and keyboard. John Zambetti had brought a film crew with him for a cable show which would air on The Surf Channel. Jeff and I did a brief interview with a beautiful blonde girl who asked us to talk about the event, why we were there, etc. Though the questions were serious, Jeff and I tried to keep it lighthearted and funny. This was just a warm-up for the comedy routine that would follow during the singalong portion of the day.

It was nice to see that people had actually brought their acoustic/electric guitars, amps and bongos to the beach. It was turning out to be the way I envisioned it. We all tuned up as people started to gather in a circle around the picnic table where Jeff and I had set up shop. Right before we began, it struck me that I should dedicate the first song, “Surfer Girl,” to my dear, sweet friend, Audree Wilson — “The original surfer girl,” as Dennis used to say. I mentioned that without her, none of us would be here today.

I remember Carl telling me once that he thought the intro to “Surfer Girl” was one of the most beautiful and powerful musical passages ever written/recorded in popular music. On the beach that day, his words came back to me. After I counted the song in and started strumming the opening chords, everyone immediately joined in singing along, grabbing a vocal part where they felt comfortable. Some of the voices I heard were really excellent and right in pitch; and the gentle sound of waves rolling onto the shore was the perfect backdrop. As I listened to the choir softly singing, the song took on a new poignancy for me. In a way, it never sounded so good.

There was no formal set list for the day but there were plenty of requests which helped shape the “performance.” Jeff launched into “County Fair” next and it seemed to be a real hit with everyone (talk about obscure material). One of the guys in attendance who had brought his own guitar began strumming and singing “Sloop John B” in the key of G. Though it's usually done in the key of A, Jeff, John and I quickly adjusted. After all, we're professionals, right? “Hawaii,” “California Girls,” “Surfin' USA” and “Don't Worry Baby” followed in quick succession. At this point everyone was really into it and singing along without any inhibitions — it was great. In between each song, Jeff and I kept up a constant chatter like a couple of old vaudevillians kibitzing with each other, cracking jokes and completely hamming it up. I must say, we were really “on” that day. We were genuinely funny and I think it helped everyone loosen up even more.

There was a request for “Farmer's Daughter” — one of my favorites — and Jeff took the lead vocal on it. “Little Deuce Coupe” and a rousing version of “I Can Hear Music” were next. We were really rolling now. Foskett thought he'd amuse me and throw me a curve by dedicating “Mountain of Love” to me “in my honor.” The gag was double edged — being the insatiable trivia buff that he is, he knew that it was the very first song I had played on in a Beach Boys recording session (the Party album) and that my recent experience with Johnny Rivers (this song was a hit for him in the '60s) on opening night at The Whisky had been, shall we say, slightly confrontational (putting it mildly). But I had a little surprise for the unsuspecting Foskett — ah ha, my trusty harmonica! You see, I played the harmonica solo in the middle of this song during that first recording session back in 1965. As the song began, I chuckled inside as the moment approached when I would reveal my intentions to him. At just the right time, I pulled the harmonica out of my shirt pocket, brandishing it in front of Jeff's face. His shocked expression was priceless. Completely floored, he practically fell off his perch in laughter. I casually took the solo as if it had been planned all along. It was one of the funniest moments of the afternoon. I always enjoy putting one over on my buddy, Foskett.

I must give credit to my comedic sidekick for spontaneously coming up with the idea for everyone present to introduce themselves and say where they came from. It was an opportunity for us musicians to take a little break but it also enabled the attendees to further get acquainted with one another. I think everyone enjoyed hearing where each participant hailed from. The announcement of each home town was greeted with raucous applause and the requisite wisecracks from you know who. Tennessee, Florida, California, New York, Indiana, Georgia, France, New Zealand and more were represented that day. The more distant the city, the more enthusiastic the acknowledgment. This was the final ice breaker of the day and a relaxed feeling of camaraderie seemed to settle into the crowd.

We did nine more songs including the seldom performed in concert “Caroline, No,” “Wendy” and “Sail on Sailor.” Appropriately, “Fun, Fun, Fun” concluded the afternoon's hootenanny. The crowd slowly dispersed and started to go their separate ways. After I packed up my gear I decided to take a stroll up the beach for a moment of quiet reflection, allowing myself some time alone to soak up the atmosphere and to let all the nice feelings of the day settle in. As I turned to come back to our campsite I saw something I had never seen before in all the years I had lived at the beach — dolphins jumping completely out of the water just a few hundred feet from the shore. There were two of them; and each time they showed themselves to me, their aquatic acrobatics became progressively more and more spectacular. “This is the sign I have been looking for,” I said to myself. An indicator to me that this day really did have special meaning. It is a moment I will never forget. Logic told me that they had heard the sound of the instruments and the voices from across the water and drew closer as a result; but my heart tells me that there was something much deeper and spiritual going on here. As the two creatures turned and slowly began their tandem journey north up the coast, I said goodbye and thanked the spirits of Carl and Dennis for coming to Paradise Cove and giving this day their blessing.

Next page  bullet  Part 3, Calamigos Ranch

Copyright © 1999, 2000 Billy Hinsche