Beach Boys singer Mike Love remembers it like it was yesterday.
Excelsior Amusement Park on Lake Minnetonka was the place. The Beach Boys were the headliners. WDGY, the Twin Cities’ Top 40 radio station, was the sponsor.
“We did four sets,” Love said. “They were breaking the windows to get into this ballroom because it was sold out. I went out to take a break after the second set, and there was still a line of cars coming down the road. I said to one of my bandmates: ‘This must be like when Elvis was starting out.’ ”
For Love, that evening in Minnesota still stands out “because it was the first time I felt like something really serious and important was going on: The Beach Boys were making some kind of a splash.”
That was way back on May 3, 1963. “Surfin’ U.S.A.” had become the California group’s first big hit, enabling them to tour outside the West Coast for the first time.
All these decades later, Love shares the story without prompting. He knew about the powers of Lake Minnetonka even before Prince did.
Nowadays, Love owns the Beach Boys’ name. He tours with a large band that includes longtime keyboardist Bruce Johnston, high-voiced guitarist Jeffrey Foskett and, when available, actor/multi-instrumentalist John Stamos. Last year, the group drew the Minnesota State Fair’s biggest crowd.
Meanwhile, Beach Boys co-founder and guiding light Brian Wilson tours under his own name, often with original member Al Jardine, who also does solo concerts. Both Wilson and Jardine performed in Minneapolis in 2018.
This week Love brings his edition of the band back to Minnesota and Iowa for four shows, including a casino gig Friday in Mahnomen, Minn., and the annual PACER Center benefit Saturday at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
He said he likes to be “helpful to people who really need it, whether it be health [related] or, in this case, people who are facing challenges.” PACER helps children with disabilities and fights against bullying.
Love also talked about his often rocky relationship with his cousin Brian, the darkness that hung over California’s sunniest band and his basketball star nephew Kevin Love.
On himself as the anti-Brian:
In his 2016 memoir, “Good Vibrations,” Love said he’ll always be the anti-Christ to Brian Wilson loyalists.
Love blames it all on his uncle Murry Wilson, father of the three Wilson brothers in the band and manager of the Beach Boys. He sold the group’s publishing rights in 1969 for what was considered an undervalued sum.
“It was a huge betrayal to his sons and nephew,” said Love.
Years later, Love had to sue Brian to regain his share as co-writer of 30-some songs, including “California Girls” and “I Get Around,” that had been solely credited to Brian.
“Court was the only recourse I had,” Love said. “Brian was controlled by a conservator, meaning he couldn’t make his own major decisions. The outcome was positive for me, but certain people see it as negative.”
These days, he said, “There’s no issues between Brian and I. They are manufactured issues. There’s so much love and harmony and positivity in that relationship.”
He, Brian, Jardine and others gathered last year for a “town hall” broadcast on Sirius XM. “After it was over,” Love said, “Brian and I visited for a little bit. He said, ‘Mike, I love you. I love your rock ’n’ roll.’ I said, ‘I love you, too, Brian.’ ”
On the 50th anniversary tour:
In 2012, Love, Wilson and Jardine joined for a hugely popular 50th-anniversary reunion tour. But Love declined to continue, preferring to return to his own incarnation of the band.
“Even promoters said we can’t do it every year. It was too expensive. They said, ‘Give it a rest,’ ” according to Love. “We’d decided to do 50 shows for 50 years, and it expanded to more than 70.”
There are no “imminent plans” for another full-scale reunion trek, especially since he, Wilson and Jardine have their own tours.
On the Beach Boys’ dark side:
Despite all their songs about California sunshine and fun, fun, fun, a dark cloud has long hung over the Beach Boys. There was Brian’s depression and LSD use. Drummer Dennis Wilson’s friendship with Charles Manson and his drowning in 1983 at age 39.
“Cousin Dennis got addicted to alcohol and drugs and ended his life way too early,” said Love. “My cousin Carl [Wilson, the group’s guitarist/singer] died 31 years ago as a result of lung cancer. He started smoking when he was like 12 years old.”
Love acknowledged that the Beach Boys sang songs about loss, loneliness and heartache, but “I’ve always wanted to accentuate the positive.”
On his nephew Kevin:
Mike’s father was 6 feet 3. His brother Stan grew to 6 feet 9 and played in the NBA. Stan’s son Kevin, who is 6 feet 10, started his pro career with the Minnesota Timberwolves before being traded to Cleveland.
“We go to see him [play] when we can,” said Mike, who stands 6 feet tall. “The thing about professional sports is there’s no such thing as loyalty. It’s all about money and where you can excel. ‘Be true to your school’ doesn’t necessarily apply.”
At 77, Love has no plans for a farewell tour. As long as he has the health, energy and ability to sing his famous songs, he’ll keep going.
“Tony Bennett is our leader that way — he’s 92 and sounds great.”
This wasn’t the career Love planned, however. He worked as an apprentice for a couple of years in his family’s sheet metal factory, making kitchen equipment.
Singing is “a family hobby that became a long-lasting profession,” he said. “It was getting our family together for harmonizing and singing, but my cousin Brian and I came up with some songs that people still like.”
Does Kevin Love sing?
“He can carry a tune,” Uncle Mike said. “But he’s shy.”