Carl Dean Wilson, a much unheralded guitarist, bandleader, and the glue that held The Beach Boys together through many, many triumphs and tribulations. He was one of the founding fathers of the “surf sound” and the singer of one of the most beautiful songs, if not the most beautiful song ever written, “God Only Knows” and how appropriate that the word “God” is in the title of the song he is most recognized with.
Carl Wilson, the youngest of the talented Wilson Brothers, took the mantle of guiding his siblings at a very early age after oldest brother Brian was not capable, nor was interested, in taking over band personalities and the on and offstage responsibilities. Most of you readers know the story of strong-handed father Murry and his father of the year ways in rearing his musical clan and friends. The book delves into this a bit but cuts Murry some slack based upon interviews with outsiders (mostly members of the Murry produced…get back at the boys after being fired as manager) such as The SunRays.
Carl was a shy, chubby and bashful kid that grew up in Hawthorne California in the highly athletic, tee shirt off any time higher than 75 degrees, looks always count, world of Southern California. He was never too involved with father Murry’s distribution of punishment and often times was the peacemaker in the Wilson family, a trait he continued until his dying day.
Kent Crowley has written for publications like Vintage Guitar and Shakin’ Fever, as well as being the author of 2011’s “Surf Beat”. Kent’s “Long Promised Road” teaches even hardcore fans a bit of history that is not normally known. I did not know that Carl and David Marks took guitar lessons from Inglewood neighbor John Maus, later of Walker Brothers fame. I was also a bit fuzzy on the history of Al Jardine/David Marks back and forth involvements. They did enjoy a brief time when both of them were in the band at the same time. Crowley also did his research on Carl’s choices of instruments and guitar freaks should dig the info that is in these pages. One instance has musician Billy Hinsche recounting a story in Bakersfield (while with Dino, Desi and Billy) about a rep offering a Mosrite prototype for Carl to use and endorse but Carl turned it down due to his loyalty with Fender guitars. This is just one example of brother Carl’s personality. One of the most interesting items in this book is when Carl was producing the “Surf’s Up” album, he needed Brian to recut some vocals that were not too pristine in audio quality. Brian refused due to laziness or stubbornness. Carl went in and added his lead vocals to the song “Surf’s Up’ and meshed them with Brian’s. I always wondered about this song. Being The Beach Boy freak that I am, I could never tell if it was Brian or Carl singing this…now I know…I still question a few other songs too…
Carl was known as “Papa Bear” in his close familial circle. He was the one that took care of the kids and even adults. A very spiritual person, Carl and Brian and sometimes Dennis (when he wasn’t out goofing off and raising hell) would start each recording session in prayer. Carl would practice TM and was very spiritually aware. A very soft-spoken man and friends rarely could recall a time when Carl raised his voice. Even his singing technique was to “pretend like you are whispering but louder”. Indeed he possessed the most angelic voice in rock and roll…see “I Can Hear Music”, (One day I was out at lunch at a restaurant right on the beach, with my then girlfriend, and the above mentioned song came on the music being piped in, I stopped in mid-sentence, and listened…for a moment, time stood still…) he can also rock with the best of them, dig for example “Wild Honey”.
I could go deeper and on and on about this book (example: Carl was at the forefront of the surf sound but didn’t really get too much credit due to The Beach Boys not being taken seriously as a surf band.) but time and space does not allow. If you are a fan of The Beach Boys it is a must read. If you are a connoisseur of music, by all means, this is fine reading. You won’t read about debauchery or mayhem here. There are acknowledgements to Dennis and Brian’s drug use and Dennis’s involvement with Charles Manson. There is some exposure of Carl’s bouts with substance abuse but it is written with respect…and that is the bottom line here. Carl Wilson was a highly respected guitar player that was always positive and treated people with dignity and kudos to the author for treating his subject with the respect that he deserves. Carl’s journey ended on this earth in 1998. He is still with us and will be forever.
I included a painting with this because there is something weird that happened here and only a few years later did I realize what might have happened. I painted this in 2012. At the time, life was grand, my wife and our two dogs were alive. I was NOT the most spiritual person in the world and was going through a shaky belief system, to say the least. When I paint, I usually sketch out the idea to canvas with pencil before adding paint. For some reason, when I started this one, I had no idea what I was going to paint, no subject, but I let myself go wherever my mind and hand would take me. I did and do believe that sometimes I get guidance from somewhere, a muse, spirit, what have you, because I am not good enough to come up with some of this stuff all alone…anyways, I started to paint and windows and sky developed and I painted some dude in there that looks a lot like Carl Wilson. It was like nothing that I had ever painted before. There is calmness, a sereness, a spirituality, if you will, about this painting. Was this a warning for the future? Some people get driven to points in their life when they need guidance or a sign of something better out there to keep living. Hopefully, not many of you will have to make that decision. Sink or swim to put it bluntly peeps. Not saying that Carl Wilson was the Divinity but through my love and appreciation of The Beach Boys music…did it come through somewhere to help me out and to learn that there is another plane after this? I am not clever enough to make all of this stuff up. Most of you will think I am crazy, it’s cool, I don’t doubt that I am. But things happen around us for a reason. You got to tune into this stuff, folks, be more aware. I have witnessed personal tragedy and have to see things differently than before, to stay alive. It is up to the individual to make that decision.
Carl Wilson was a spiritual man and I thank him for all of the joy that he left this world. I hope to meet him one day….respects to you all, TBH.
My special thanks to JJ. Juaregui.
weaving a fairy tale for us to get lost in
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – July 1973 (Volume 5, Number 2)
“I don’t consider David (Bowie) to be even remotely big enough to be any competition.”
an old school New York feel
oedipal vulnerable and blue collar visceral
An emotional song with Miya’s acrobatic and vulnerable vocals
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – May 1973 (Volume 4, Number 12)
From Robert Johnson to the Ramones – what a life!
one of the great top tens of the 2020
will mark their return to the road in early February, 2023 with a string of to-be-announced US arena dates
enjoyable and soulful romp
another full day of music