CWWAC '99, Part 3

Sunday, October 3, 1999

Wilson Phillips and Jimmy Pou
Wilson Philips with Jimmy Pou at the Carl Wilson Walk Against Cancer '99, Calamigos Ranch, Malibu, CA.
(photo by Billy Hinsche, copyright © 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 on Billy's photo pages and at The Carl Wilson Foundation website.

The translation of this Spanish hybrid word is "California friends ranch" and is about as perfect a name as you could have to describe the location and the vibe in the Malibu hills where Sunday, October 3, 1999's event was to be held, honoring the memory of Carl Dean Wilson.

Calamigos had provided a house for me to stay in as part of our deal with them. I wanted to get to the location on the park grounds before the sun went down since there were no street lights to guide me through the narrow, winding canyon roads which rimmed the property. I had a simple map which was my only reference. I reached the “Brown House” just as twilight turned into darkness. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was a large, new two story/three bedroom house resembling a lodge. It was clean as a whistle with all the amenities I needed, save for a television; no loss — I welcomed this rare opportunity to listen to the sounds of silence.

I had invited Ricci Martin and his wife, Annie, to stay with me since they had flown in from their home in Utah and needed a place to stay for the night. They arrived shortly thereafter along with my sister, Annie, and our longtime friend and supporter, Bob Carey. I was delighted to have some company and couldn't wait to tell them what a hit Paradise Cove had been. The first thing I did, however, was to show them the prototype guitar which I had brought into the house for safekeeping. Other than Jonah, Justyn and myself, no one else had ever seen this magnificent instrument. They were all slightly speechless as I opened the guitar case and revealed its contents. They loved it.

After some lively conversation regarding the activities which were to take place the following morning, Annie and Bob left, Ricci and his wife retired and then I turned in for the night. Tomorrow was going to be another big day.

Since Ricci and I are both early risers anyway, it was no problem getting up the next morning with lots of time to spare before the 10:00 a.m. “load-in” call for the sound company and band gear — the stage was already in place, having been set up the day before, hopefully. Since there was no food in the house we decided to take a morning drive back down the canyon to nearby Trancas, the beach community just north of Zuma beach. As we headed down the hill I looked at Ricci and said, “Well, we're still doin' it.” He understood what I meant and we both laughed at the fact that, after 40 years of knowing each other and sharing so many personal experiences with one another, we were still the best of friends, continuing to take these little adventures together. It was a moment of a longtime friendship remembered and reaffirmed.

We drove up Pacific Coast Highway and pulled into the Trancas Market where more memories awaited us. Right on the beach across the street was “Moroccan Roll” (more rock 'n' roll), the name I had given the Moroccan style home that Carl and Annie had once rented (1976) from Toni Webb, wife of the famed hotelier and builder, Del Webb. The stark white, two story mansion was designed after a typical Moroccan palace, replete with glistening brass spires and multi-colored broken glass cemented into the top of the high walls for security reasons, as was the custom in Morocco. The ornate living room, with its tiled floor and arched windows actually recreated the lobby of the Morocco Hilton. The home was one of a kind and it was spectacular. It was the scene of one of Brian's birthday parties whose guests included Paul and Linda McCartney and their teenage daughter, Heather; John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd had shown up that day dressed as California Highway Patrol officers. Footage of the party was shot and used in the 1984 television film documentary The Beach Boys: An American Band. Dennis and Karen had shared a beachfront home just up the street on nearby Broad beach; across the street and up the hill was the house where Dennis, Shawn and Gage had lived for a short time in the early 80s. Yes, the memories came flooding back.

On our return to Calamigos, we had stopped by the concert site at The Grove to make sure that the stage had been set up from the day before, as promised. Ricci wanted to take a look at the property and to get a feel for the place. It was about 9:00 a.m. and we were the only ones there. It was a crisp, clear morning and everything felt right. We surveyed the site and the placement of the stage, agreeing that everything looked good. We returned to the cabin with our breakfast supplies and began to gear up for the day's events. By now, it was almost showtime.

Upon my return, I saw Jeff Peters who was coordinating the placement of the monitors, speakers, microphones, etc. with the sound company we had rented for the day. He assured me that everything was in order. Production/stage manager Jason Raphalian was coordinating the placement of band gear on the stage.

There were picnic tables and chairs set up in front of the stage and a tented area nearby. The barbecue pits were conveniently located near the stage and the serving station was set up to resemble covered wagons, festooned with colored balloons. The place looked terrific and very festive.

I had parked my car directly behind the stage to facilitate the unloading of all my gear. It later served as the band's quasi-dressing room/changing area/storage compartment and was eventually filled with clothes, empty guitar/drum cases and all manner of things as the musicians began to arrive and off-load their stuff.

Every time I looked up from my tasks there were more and more people arriving. Betty Collignon and her husband, Rene, were there earlier than most, given that they had a multitude of things to do. As usual, Betty was as cool as a cucumber even though she had her hands full with a variety of duties which lay ahead of her. It was now 11:00am and the people who were participating in The Walk portion of the day had already started to gather at the registration table which had been set up at the entrance to the park. I saw familiar faces from yesterday's beach party and a lot of new folks too. Several cheerful volunteers were there to greet me as I inspected things. It took several more tables to accommodate all the donated items and memorabilia which were on display and destined for the auction block. It was official — The Carl Wilson Walk Against Cancer '99 had begun!

It would be about an hour until the faithful returned from their pilgrimage up the challenging path which led to their well deserved reward — a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. They arrived back to the site hungry, tired, yet fulfilled. It was 12:00 noon and time for lunch. The ranch staff had been setting up and cooking for hours and the feast was ready — chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, fresh garden salad, fruit salad and all the trimmings. It looked tantalizing and the aroma of the food was intoxicating but I was much too preoccupied to eat. Though the first downbeat of the show was still two hours away it felt as if it were right on top of me.

By now, all the talent had arrived — The Honeys, The Wilsons, In Bloom, and the Billy/Ricci entourage. Surprise guests Desi Arnaz, Jr. (with wife Amy), Owen Elliot (with husband Jack Kugell) and my “nephew” Adam Jardine were also on site. Members of Carl's immediate and extended family were now present as well as many close family friends including Ron Swallow (Carl's best/oldest friend) and his wife, Michelle. My mother, Celia, had also made the trek to Malibu to participate in the festivities honoring the father of her grandsons, Jonah and Justyn. An announcement was made from the stage that the auction was about to begin (scheduled for 1:00pm) and the picnickers began gathering in front of the tables which were overflowing with all manner of Beach Boys / rock 'n roll collectibles — items donated by Brian Wilson, The Wilsons, Robert Lamm, Bonnie Raitt, Carol King, Peter & Gordon, yours truly and many others.

Betty Collignon instigated the bidding wars and the items sold quickly. Our official auctioneer, John Stamos, arrived shortly thereafter and began presiding over the lively exchange. As you know, John has always been a great supporter of The Beach Boys and had a deep respect and love for Carl in particular. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank John for making himself available for this fund-raiser and for his continued kindness and generosity. Jeff Foskett (quite the huckster) relieved Stamos of his duties and upped the ante by offering some tickets to an upcoming Brian Wilson show to the highest bidder.

Jonah had expressed his concern to me regarding the day long event running too long / too late and I assured him that we were basically right on track. Ever mindful of this, I asked Betty to conclude the auction proceedings as quickly as possible since the concert portion of the day needed to begin at 2:00 pm, which was now! After Betty raffled off a few items, the show started — only ten minutes late.

There had been no soundcheck that morning because it would have interfered with and distracted from the auction, so I just decided to start the show and let Jeff Peters dial in and fine tune the levels as we proceeded. It was a little risky but I trusted Jeff's expertise. The band was already well rehearsed and so we began. The players had assembled on the modest stage which by now was packed with amplifiers, keyboards, drums and percussion. There wasn't any extra room to spare — we were totally maxed out on the real estate. We were ready to do business. I stepped up to the microphone and welcomed everyone, thanking them for being present.

The Honeys were the first act to take the stage and they looked gorgeous — all decked out to the nines. I prompted Marilyn to tell the audience why they were there this day. She unabashedly told them, “I would do anything for Carl.” The trio opened the show with “The One You Can't Have” (lead vocal Ginger) which resembles “Come Go With Me”’s casual swing feel. Brian wrote it for them and included the names of their current boyfriends at the time in the lyric. It has a typically clever modulated bridge which easily slips back into the verse after “the release.” It's pure Brian — nobody writes like him. The song was well received and we were off to good start. The ladies then took some time to fill the audience in on their early beginnings. It was informative and interesting to hear about the genesis of the group. Marilyn stepped up to the plate for the next lead vocal on another Brian tune called “He's A Doll.” The song has several catchy musical themes and riffs running through it with a heavy dose of drum fills, compliments of Hal Blaine. The Honeys, per usual, were a big hit with the audience and we were fortunate to have them set the musical tone for the day. I can always count on these lovely ladies to deliver the grits and groceries.

The Ricci, Desi & Billy revue were now set for their public debut. Though Desi was one of our surprise guests and probably should have remained in the background until we unleashed him on the crowd, he just couldn't resist playing percussion for The Honeys during their set — no harm done. As I started to recount to the audience how my original group, Dino, Desi & Billy had formed, Desi interjected into the microphone that “Hey, I'm here!” His transparent disguise of sunglasses and baseball cap hadn't really fooled anyone in the crowd, especially since he loomed large behind his extensive array of percussion instruments which included chimes, tambourine, cow bell, bongos and the requisite set of conga drums. “Oh, hi Desi,” I said, feigning surprise as I turned to acknowledge my lifelong friend and partner who I knew full well was already there. I made an attempt to go back to my scripted introduction and explanation of our new configuration which included another childhood friend, Ricci Martin (Dino's younger brother). It was too late to fully recover and Ricci simply took his position on stage before I even got to formally introduce him — oh well. So we just played it fast and loose from that point on.

The adrenaline was pumping as we ripped into our first, very uptempo song, “Good Things Are Coming My Way,” something I had originally written for DD&B but had only demoed in '69; having finally gotten around to recording it on a trip back to the Philippines (where I was born) in 1978-79 as part of a solo project. It really was the perfect opening number for us since the theme is about old friendships rekindled. The band sounded tight as should be expected, having rehearsed for several days at Desi's newly aquired theater in Boulder City, Nevada. He and I traded off on vocal duties and Craig Copeland took a blistering guitar solo as the song reached its frenzied conclusion. What a relief — it was nice to get that first song out of the way so that we could settle in for the remaining five songs in our set. “Tell Someone You Love Them” followed, which was one of six songs that charted for DD&B on the Billboard “Hot 100” in the '60s. I revealed that the song was based on and loosely, musically structured using “Darlin’” as the basis for my songwriting inspiration. Ricci and I traded off on verses and all three of us chimed in on the chorus along with our singing backup musicians. With its opening percussive intro and rhythmic Latin feel, it sounded very timely given today's interest in all things Latino. Don't forget, we have a guy named Ricci Martin in the group and of course, Desi is the ultimate Cuban!

Ricci then introduced his composition “Stop, Look Around” which Carl and I had co-produced for his Beached album of the mid-seventies. It's a wonderful song with a simple, universal message and Ricci did a fine job of playing piano and interpreting it that day. “Lady Love” was next, which was another modest hit for us; Brian Wilson had written it specifically for DD&B after my father's constant urging and of which I share a writing credit. The audience reaction thus far had been quite favorable and by this point in the show everyone seemed to be having a great time. Ricci, Desi and I even made some attempts at humor which were either met with laughter or groans from the crowd — hey, we never said we were a comedy act!

As Desi took his new position behind the drum kit for our last two songs (Bobby Figueroa had been drumming), I strapped on the Carl Wilson limited edition Rickenbacker 12 string guitar which had been displayed on a guitar stand, center stage, for the entire afternoon. Until now, I had been playing a keyboard using a variety of sounds including horns for “Lady Love.” There was a moment of high drama for me when, after strumming an “A” chord, Foskett pointed out to me that the guitar was not in tune; but how was that possible? I had tuned it myself and it sounded just fine. Then I realized that because it had been out in the open air and in the direct sunlight for about an hour, the strings had stretched and the guitar was now fully one whole step out of tune with the standard of A-440, though in tune with itself. Yikes !!! It would have been disastrous had I launched into the signature guitar riff of our next song, “Not The Lovin' Kind” completely out of tune with the rest of the instruments. “Thanks, Foskett — I owe you one,” I said in utter disbelief (I really should have known better). Ricci had used this momentary lull to introduce our fine band — Jimmy Pou, Craig Copeland and Jeff Foskett were all on guitar/vocals, Wayne Tweed on bass; and Bobby Figueroa was our singing, drummer/percussionist. Now that's a band.

“I'm A Fool” has always been our most recognizable song since it was the first and biggest hit for DD&B; it was performed on a multitude of television shows including the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965. Naturally, we saved it for our final number.

Though The Wilsons were our next scheduled performers, the duet became a quartet when our “surprise guests” Owen and Adam joined them onstage creating a scaled down version of Beach Boys Family & Friends — the audience was delighted, which was the anticipated reaction. Carnie confessed how much she missed her uncle Carl before beginning one of the songs most associated with him — “I Can Hear Music.” We got some audience participation on this one with people singing along quietly and respectfully. I love it when people's inhibitions break down and they jump in the water with the rest of us performers — it's like Karaoke but even more interactive because they suddenly become part of our show!

The next song brought back another anecdotal memory: I remembered the time when Carl brought an acetate over to my folks' house in Beverly Hills while I was still living there during my teen years. I had just spent a small fortune (DD&B fun money) on an incredible sound system for my bedroom and he wanted to check out a new Beach Boys song on my state of the art turntable and super fine JBL speakers. It was an early version of “You Still Believe In Me.” It absolutely gave me a chill (in a good way) when I first heard the opening strains of that unforgettable ascending musical line at the beginning of the song. To this day, I never tire of hearing that song and it's always an honor to perform it in concert — especially when I am backing the composer's daughters as I did that afternoon in Malibu. Having three female vocalists adding to the blend makes this number particularly sweet.

What would a tribute to Carl be without “God Only Knows”? What struck me the most about this performance was how pure, honest and straightforward Adam's delivery was as he began the second verse. Since we hadn't rehearsed the song in this new vocal configuration prior to the show, I was hearing this rendition for the very first time (Al, Matt and Adam normally sing the second verse in unison). My jaw dropped — it was as if he had sung it all his life, and right in pitch, just like his old man.

Adam sang with spirited confidence on the last song of the set. As you know, “Girl Don't Tell Me” was Carl's first recognized lead vocal back in the day. As you might not know, I insisted that DD&B record it for our third album Memories Are Made Of This. It was the first opportunity I had to acknowledge Carl on a professional level. Now married to Annie and with a child on the way, he was family.

During the set I had noticed two attractive young women by the front of the stage who had been singing and bopping along with the rest of us. I recognized Chynna Phillips with younger sister, Bijou, in tow. I was so pleased that they were in attendance but even more so when, right after the conclusion of the set, Carnie excitedly asked if she, Wendy and Chynna could sing a song. The girls wanted to do “Release Me,” one of Wilson Phillips' biggest hits. I told her, “The band hasn't rehearsed it and I'm afraid it would be a train wreck.” For a moment we were both supremely disappointed, thinking we had squandered a golden opportunity for an unexpected reunion. Beaming, she soon returned with a new offer, “We'll sing it a cappella!” “Yes, of course you can,” I blurted, knowing that this would be a genuine coup, raising the level of surprise for the audience another notch higher.

Carnie asked me to play a particular chord for her so that she could establish the opening note in her head. I grabbed a guitar and strummed the chord she had requested. “Hmmmm,” she hummed, and walked away to discreetly rehearse with her partners, who were waiting for her in the backstage area.

I could barely contain my excitement as I announced to the crowd that we had something truly special planned. When the girls gave me the nod I introduced them simply by saying, “Would you please welcome, Wilson Phillips.” The trio took the bare stage, striding up to their respective microphones with the assurance that only seasoned pros display.

For the first time that day, I had a chance to go in front of the stage to savor this historic and dulcet moment. You could have heard a pin drop as they began their opus passage through the vocal complexities of the song, including the soaring modulation and dramatic conclusion. They took my breath away. The girls left the stage in a wake of applause and cheers for more. It would be the mellifluous high point of the day for me.

The stage was now set for the final act of the afternoon, In Bloom. After having played the L.A. club circuit for a year (including The Roxy and The Whisky), this power trio had developed into a lean, mean, fighting machine. Their original songs have memorable themes running through them and span the gamut from in-your-face headbanger stuff to more subtle, emotive material. For the uninformed, the group consists of my nephews Justyn (guitar/vocals) and Carl (drums/vocals); both are Wilsons. Their fathers are Carl and Dennis Wilson, respectively. Best friend Mario Tucker sings and plays bass for the group. They would do a nine song set, the longest of the day. They really took care of business and I'm certain they won over some new fans that afternoon.

I had heard the In Bloom set many times during the previous year, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to have something to eat; earlier, I had asked the caterers to fix a plate for me and put it aside for later. Later was now. I was famished. However, no such luck — my plate of food was nowhere to be found and I had to resort to an enormous fruit platter, which was actually quite satisfying.

Desi had cornered me and was desperate to discuss what was good/bad about our set and how we could improve the RD&B show, in general. I really needed some time to wind down a little since my duties as producer were still not over and it had already been a fairly intense day. I told him so after a brief discussion of his “notes” but right now I wanted to focus on enjoying the boys for a while. I promised him that a full blown meeting could be held with Ricci at dinner later that evening, after this event was all over and done with. He reluctantly agreed.

As Carl B. pounded out the opening beat with Mario falling in shortly thereafter with a cool bass line, the familiar strains of “Crazy Little Mouse” began; I heard Desi tell his wife, Amy, that this was his favorite In Bloom song (he had previously attended one of their shows at the 14 Below club in Santa Monica and was somewhat familiar with their set). He started to move, shake and dance right there where he stood. I encouraged him to go in front of the stage and do his thing. That was all the prompting he needed. In fact, I got so riled up myself at hearing this song and seeing Desi gyrate uncontrollably that I joined him on the lawn for a sclerotic jig across the front of the stage like two renegade escapees from a Paula Abdul dance symposium. I looked up and saw Justyn trying his best to stifle a laugh as he witnessed us performing our unholy pagan shuffle and it reminded me of a facial expression his dad used to make when resisting a full blown laugh attack. Of course, that only spurred me on to new heights of reverie. Justyn's girlfriend, Britta, is always at his shows. She and her friends were the perfect, albeit unwilling, partners for the out of control Cuban and me. All it took was to hear their closing number begin. It was the ever popular crowd pleaser “(My Name Is) Mario” which could move the most stodgy listener to dance. Well, at least Desi and I were moved. Most of the other folks were frozen in stunned disbelief at the sight of the two whirling dervishes who were now performing a spontaneous slam dance. As I looked around at the faces of the attendees I was met with expressions mirroring befuddled shock, horror and amusement. At this point in the day, I could have cared less. It was all in good fun.

“Mario” was to be their last song but when it ended, I went to the microphone and announced that the set would not be complete without a rap from cousin Carl. Justyn sat behind the drum kit and laid down the heavy beat which set the mood for the song. After he apologized in advance for some of the raw lyrics that were contained in the song, Carl B. tore into their version of “Freaks of the Industry”; walking, talking and stalking the stage, drenched in sweat — shades of Dennis. The song ended with one final thud, then it was over.

The stage was struck and the gear was packed as people began leaving the site. I went over to thank Betty, who was still cataloguing and finalizing the sale of auction items. She opened her strongbox, revealing a cache of money in every possible denomination, representing the proceeds from the sale and raffle — around $6,000! I immediately went to find Justyn who I knew would appreciate seeing how generous the patrons had been. He was pleased and I felt a sense of accomplishment knowing that we succeeded in raising a respectable amount of money for The Carl Wilson Foundation.

There were only a few people left at Calamigos as I got in my car and drove to a local Malibu restaurant where I would meet my partners, Ricci and Desi, for our scheduled meeting.

Now about Las Vegas...........

The End

Copyright © 1999, 2000 Billy Hinsche