Marks was part of the Beach Boys line-up, at age 13, when they signed with Capitol Records on July 16, 1962. Marks performed on the band’s first four albums, playing rhythm guitar and singing harmony.
As a 7-year-old child, Marks had moved in across the street from the family home of the three Wilson brothers in 1956. As the 1950s progressed Marks sang and played music with the Wilson family at their Sunday night singalongs.
Inspired by seeing a 1958 performance by guitarist John Maus (later of The Walker Brothers), then 10-year-old Marks asked his parents to buy him a guitar, and his wish came true on Christmas Eve, 1958. He began taking lessons from Maus, who had himself been a student of Ritchie Valens.
In 1959, Marks and Brian Wilson’s then twelve year old youngest brother Carl had begun to develop their own style of playing electric guitars (Marks having introduced Maus to Carl, they both had the same teacher.) Brian eventually realized that the combination of Carl Wilson and Marks could bring a rock guitar sound to his original compositions, and the two then-teenagers were participants in Brian’s first songwriting efforts that led to the later hit single “Surfer Girl”.
However, Marks was not on the Beach Boys first recording, “Surfin’” for Candix Records on October 16, 1961; this roster included the nearly six year older Al Jardine, a high school classmate of Brian Wilson’s who had been singing and playing stand-up bass with the Wilson brothers and their cousin Mike Love. Over the next couple of months, Brian experimented with various combinations of musicians, including his mother Audree Wilson, but was not able to secure interest from a major label.
In mid-February 1962, a new line-up, which included the then 13-year-old Marks, was established. On April 16, 1962, the newly electrified Beach Boys recorded a demo session at Western Recorders that produced the masters for the songs, “Surfin’ Safari” and “409” that would became the band’s first double-sided hit, landing them a long-term contract with Capitol Records.
Marks’s guitar chemistry with Carl Wilson changed the sound of the band, noted his biographer Jon Stebbins. Writing about the difference between The Beach Boy’s Candix Records single and their first Capitol Records release, Stebbins stated “Compared to ‘Surfin’, this was metal. No sign of stand-up bass or folk sensibility on this recording. And the tiny amateurish guitar sound and lazy feel of the [earlier demo] World Pacific version of ‘Surfin’ Safari’ had now transformed into something crisp and modern.”
“It was Carl and Dave who brought that electric guitar drive into the band,” says Al Jardine.”And because of that, Brian was able to expand a little bit.”
Marks would continue to sing and play rhythm guitar with the Beach Boys long enough to record on the first four albums, as well as early hits such as “Surfin Safari”, “409”, “Surfin USA”, “Shut Down”, “Surfer Girl”, “In My Room” and “Be True to Your School”. Marks also played over 100 concerts with The Beach Boys, touring across the United States from Hawaii to New York and appeared on their first string of national TV appearances. While his time in the band may have been relatively short, Marks contributed to the foundational sound.
Although it is often assumed that Marks left the Beach Boys because Jardine wanted to return to the band, this is not the case. Marks and Jardine were both part of the 1963 Beach Boys touring line-up. Jardine initially returned on a part-time basis to fill-in on bass for Brian Wilson, who had already begun to detach himself from the touring band as early as the spring of 1963.
At the height of their first initial wave of international success, Marks quit The Beach Boys in late August 1963 toward the end of the group’s summer tour during an argument with Murry Wilson, but did not immediately leave the band until later that year when his parents and Murry came to blows over financial and managerial issues. The first show without Marks on guitar was October 31, 1963, though he would stay friends and be in close contact with various band members for many years, and he would remain, unbeknown to him, a legal member of the Beach Boys until September 27, 1967.
In February 1963, Dennis Wilson was injured in a car accident and his replacement was a Hawthorne High friend of Carl Wilson’s, Mark Groseclose. Marks and Groseclose became friends and Marks eventually took over Groseclose’s garage band, The Jaguars, which he quickly renamed The Marksmen. The band was initially a side project for the aspiring songwriter, who was growing tired of his songs being passed over for Beach Boys records by Murry Wilson.
After Marks left the Beach Boys, The Marksmen became his full-time focus, becoming one of the first acts to be signed to Herb Alpert’s A&M Records in 1964. Reportedly, still-hostile Murry Wilson had threatened radio deejays in order to keep them from playing The Marksmen’s records. Later, the group signed with (and released a single on) Warner Bros. Records, but in spite of packed concert venues up and down the State of California, lack of air play precluded any further releases. The 2009 release of Marks & the Marksmen “Ultimate Collector’s Edition 1963–1965” marks the first-time the entire Marksmen catalog was made available to the public.
In 1966, Marks played with Casey Kasem’s Band Without a Name. He then worked with the late 1960s psychedlic-pop band, The Moon, along with Matt Moore, Larry Brown and David Jackson. The band signed a production deal with producer Mike Curb and released two under-promoted albums on the Imperial label. He also performed with Delaney & Bonnie, Colours (recording lead guitar on their second album), and Warren Zevon.
By the time Marks was 21 years old, he had been signed to five label deals and had grown disillusioned with the Los Angeles music scene. In 1969, he relocated to Boston, where he studied jazz and classical guitar as a private student at the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory, in 1970-71.
In early 1971, after reuniting onstage in Boston with The Beach Boys, Marks received an offer from Mike Love to rejoin the band; however, he declined. Instead, he spent the next 25 years playing with artists like Buzz Clifford (Baby Sittin’ Boogie), Daniel Moore (writer of My Maria, Shambala), Gary Montgomery (Colours), Jim Keltner, Carl Radle, Leon Russell, drummer-turned-actor Gary Busey, Delbert McClinton and many others, earning a reputation as a solid session guitarist without cashing in on his notoriety as having been a Beach Boy.
In 1988, when The Beach Boys were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Marks was neither invited nor acknowledged at the ceremony – an oversight which was finally rectified in 2007.
Marks eventually rejoined The Beach Boys as a full time member on lead guitar in 1997, when Carl Wilson, fighting cancer, was unable to continue touring with the group. After playing another 300 shows as an official “Beach Boy” again, Marks left the band for a second time in 1999 due to his own health issues when he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C.
Marks became a leading light in the bid to raise awareness of this disease, often appearing in the media to highlight the cause, and during 2007, working alongside Jon Stebbins, Marks published his autobiography “The Lost Beach Boy”, which detailed his early career, as well as uncovering the truth about his ‘lost years’, the fight against his illness, his musical wanderings and his ultimate recovery and acceptance within the Beach Boys community.
On May 20, 2005, the original Beach Boys six man line-up (including both Marks and Jardine) was memorialized on the Beach Boys Historic Landmark in Hawthorne, California. The following year, on June 13, 2006, Marks gathered with surviving Beach Boys Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston on the roof of the landmark Capitol Records building in Hollywood, where all five were presented with an RIAA Platinum record Award in recognition of two million in sales of The Beach Boys CD song collection “Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of The Beach Boys”.
Now free of the threat of the Hepatitis C virus, and married to wife Carrie, he spends his time exploring new musical ventures, while regularly acknowledging the contributions he made in the past to the many hits by the Beach Boys by appearing onstage alongside his former band members in various off-shoots of the original line-up.
In 2008, following the release of a career retrospective, “The Lost Years” (released to coincide with his autobiography), he toured the UK as a ‘special guest’ with the Beach Boys. He occasionally performed with them as well as Jardine and Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean, as the ‘Legends of Surf Music’.
As of 2013 Marks is touring and recording new music with Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and Jeff Beck.
Edited by A-W-A-X on 11 Oct 2013, 20:55
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