Hitting the high notes: Jeffrey Foskett keeps the Beach Boys reunion in harmony

By Randy Lewis

Los Angeles Times

Published: Saturday, June 30 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

The Beach Boys, from left, David Marks, Mike Love and Al Jardine perform at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston, Tuesday, June 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Michael Dwyer, Associated Press

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — The Beach Boys' 1968 hit "Do It Again" unfolded gradually during an afternoon sound check before the group's evening performance here late last week. In jeans and T-shirts, the band started in on the infectious and rhythmic rock song.

"It's automatic when I talk to old friends," they sang, "the conversation turns to girls we knew when their hair was soft and long and the beach was the place to go."

Then came the sound of Brian Wilson's signature falsetto, launching the group's distinctive harmonies into the musical stratosphere.

But those glorious high notes that define Beach Boys hits such as "California Girls" and "Good Vibrations," weren't coming from Wilson, 69. They were emanating from the mouth of Jeffrey Foskett, the 56-year-old guitarist standing a few feet behind, and strategically between, Wilson and founding member Mike Love.

There is no shortage of veteran bands hitting the road now, but the Beach Boys reunion tour is the first time Wilson; Love, 71; Al Jardine, 69; and David Marks, 63, have toured together since the 1960s. It marks the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary, and their first album with Wilson in 23 years, "That's Why God Made the Radio."

Since Wilson doesn't quite have the voice — or relationship with the group — he once had, the ability of the Beach Boys to tour depends heavily on Foskett's voice and the role he plays connecting Wilson with his former bandmates. (The Beach Boys will perform at "Stadium of Fire," the celebration being held at BYU's LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on July 4 at 8 p.m.)

Foskett was no different than thousands of other musicians who toil in anonymity when he and his cover band were banging out Beach Boys hits in the late 1970s. In a moment of serendipity, Love heard the amateur musician playing in a Santa Barbara bar, and hired him.

For a kid who grew up loving the Beach Boys' music, Foskett said he felt like a former Little Leaguer who got a call to report to Dodger Stadium.

"That's exactly what it is like — and probably as rare, too," Foskett said with a gentle smile last week backstage at the Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre. "How many amateur athletes turn pro? And how many of the thousands of musicians — tens of thousands of musicians — in Los Angeles are going to get into the band that they really loved, and tour with them?"

During the sound check in Chula Vista, Foskett, Love, Jardine and longtime singer Bruce Johnston went over who would sing what parts in the group's intensely complex harmonic arrangements.

But it's not all about music for the Beach Boys' sole "vice principal," the title bestowed on Foskett by the five "principals." When a rack of freshly dry-cleaned flower-print shirts showed up in a dressing room, Foskett dutifully sorted them for his bosses. "Did I mention I also get to do laundry?" he said with a smile.

Laundry detail notwithstanding, Foskett is more than just a musical cog in the Beach Boys juggernaut. He's the only one — including the Beach Boys themselves — who's played with the Beach Boys, the Brian Wilson Band and the Endless Summer Beach Band that backed Love's solo shows.

The Beach Boys formed in Hawthorne, Calif., in 1961 with brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, their cousin, Love, and two pals, Jardine and Marks. But Marks left in 1963 and Brian Wilson quit touring two years later to focus on work in the recording studio (Johnston came in to round out the touring lineup). The group's creative leader also frequently went MIA in the '70s and '80s. In 1983, Dennis Wilson drowned, and Carl died of cancer in 1998.

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