Minneapolis will be the very first place to receive “A Postcard From California,” Beach Boys co-founder Al Jardine explained. We won’t exactly be guinea pigs but he warned “this is a work in progress.”
Jardine’s “Postcard” is a mixture of stories and music. He’s never really presented it before but he’s been rehearsing it with his son, Matt Jardine, and keyboardist Jeff Ross.
“It’s a storytelling event,” Jardine said of the freewheeling, unscripted show that will premiere Tuesday at the Dakota Jazz Club. “It won’t be necessarily musically complete. It’s unplugged.”
It’s pretty hard to pull off the lush harmonies of the Beach Boys with only three voices. But Jardine, 75, knows the stories because he started the group with high school classmate Brian Wilson. In fact, he still tours with Wilson, who is presenting the group’s 1966 landmark album “Pet Sounds” in concert these days.
Jardine fell into this storyteller situation. Several years ago, his manager called in an emergency, saying that Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac was stuck in Hawaii and couldn’t make it to a private appearance at a meeting in Austin, Texas.
“I only had 24 hours’ notice,” Jardine recalled. “I’d never done it before. There I was holding court for about 50 plumbing and heating workers. All I did was sit there with my acoustic guitar and tell stories. It was a blast.”
So now Jardine is testing the waters for “A Postcard From California” with two shows in Minneapolis and two more in Phoenix before he returns to the “Pet Sounds” tour.
“I’ll paint a picture of how the songs evolved,” Jardine promised.
He’ll tell the story of how his parents moved from upstate New York to San Francisco and eventually Hawthorne, Calif. (“we kept moving to warmer places”). He formed the Beach Boys with Wilson and Wilson’s brothers, Dennis and Carl, and their cousin Mike Love in 1961.
“Those were wonderful, innocent years,” Jardine said. “We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We simply blundered into it and stumbled forward.”
First, they had to audition for the Wilsons’ father, Murry, who became their manager. And somehow their first single in December 1962, “Surfin’,” took off in Detroit, Phoenix and Los Angeles. A performance in Phoenix was the Beach Boys’ first out-of-town gig but their first tour brought them to the Midwest and Danceland at Excelsior Amusement Park outside Minneapolis in 1963.
“Oh, I remember Danceland, I do,” Jardine said without elaborating. However, he had more specific memories of the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, because of its name and the fact that Buddy Holly played his last concert there.
In the Beach Boys, Jardine played rhythm guitar and sang harmonies. Brian Wilson, the band’s leader, tapped Jardine to sing lead vocals on “Help Me, Rhonda.”
“I honestly don’t know why,” Jardine said last week from California. “I think Brian was trying to spread it around, which was smart because he wasn’t on the road with us anymore.”
Jardine viewed his role in the Beach Boys as the glue. “Carl Wilson and I were the center of the harmonies and the center of keeping things together,” he said, noting that some of the other band members were wilder on tour.
Carl Wilson, the lead guitarist, died in 1998 of lung cancer while Dennis Wilson, the band’s drummer, drowned in 1983.
Following Carl’s death, Jardine toured with his own group, Endless Summer Band, featuring some Beach Boys associates. In 2010, Jardine offered his debut solo album, “A Postcard From California,” featuring such guests as Glen Campbell, Neil Young and Steve Miller. In 2005, he authored a children’s book, “Sloop John B: A Pirate’s Tale.”
Since 2006, Jardine has been working on and off again with Brian Wilson.
Dealing with Mike Love
The Beach Boys reunited in 2012 for a very successful 50th anniversary tour but Love, who holds the lease on the name “Beach Boys,” pulled out after one leg of the tour.
“Because you have to split the money four or five ways,” Jardine said, explaining Love’s defection. “He had his organization set up to tour as the ‘Beach Boys’ and he wasn’t about to give it up.”
For years, there have been lawsuits between Love and Brian Wilson.
“We’re congenial in spite of all the stuff you hear,” Jardine said of his relationship with Love. “It’s not acrimonious but it can get contentious every once in a while. We’d all like to be together but he [Love] doesn’t seem to want to be with us anymore. That’s been really difficult. Brian and I have moved on.”
Jardine doubts the Beach Boys will ever tour again with Love, with whom he last spoke six months ago. They certainly won’t record with him. Love doesn’t have the rights to record as the Beach Boys.
Jardine relishes working with Brian Wilson, who keeps composing music.
“I just spoke to him on Christmas. He says, ‘I miss touring.’ I said, ‘Me, too.’ ”
How old does Jardine feel when he’s onstage singing songs like “Little Deuce Coupe” and “Good Vibrations” from 50-some years ago?
“Ageless. I don’t feel any age. We all sing pretty good. It’s fun. We feed off the other guys. It’s like a football team. You make eye contact. It’s all about the beginnings and ends. The intros and outros. Whatever’s in between, that’s good, too. But we’ve got to stay in touch with each other onstage.”
Love has written a memoir and Brian Wilson has his name on two different autobiographies. Will Jardine ever write his own book?
This [show] is my memoir,” he said.