David Marks started hanging around brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson when he was around 7 years old, growing up in Hawthorne across the street from the Wilson home. He didn't begin to hang out with their older brother Brian until he was old enough to play football.
“Brian would make me play football and eventually he forced me to sing,” recalled Marks, one of the original members of The Beach Boys. “None of us wanted to be in music really. Carl and I played guitars and Brian wanted to sing. We weren’t really into it, although Carl became one of the world’s best singers. When we started off we were mainly into playing surf instrumentals, Chuck Berry stuff.”
Marks was 12 when he first started playing songs with the brothers and 14 years old when The Beach Boys, which included Mike Love, a cousin of the brothers, and Brian Wilson's friend from El Camino College, Al Jardine, first recorded their music.
More than 50 years later, Marks is still playing those songs that have become classics and are engrained in popular music and culture. Marks and the Surf City All Stars, which includes members of Jan and Dean's back-up band, will be the closing night band at the annual Redondo Beach Lobster Festival at the Seaside Lagoon Saturday, Sept. 27, from 9 to 10:30 p.m.
“Every song we play is recognizable ... I'm in my 60s and it's still going strong. It's phenomenal,” Marks said. “I think we’re the best Beach Boys cover band as far as sounding authentic and having the spirit of the old records.”
Before The Beach Boys were conceived, Brian Wilson and Jardine were more interested in folk music, according to Marks. He and Carl Wilson had “introduced the electric guitar to the scene.”
“Brian heard us playing and said, 'Hey, I want to incorporate that with some of the stuff I’ve been working on,” Marks said. “That’s how we got the sound—the electric guitars combined with Brian’s amazing jazz vocal arrangements. So two opposites kind of worked together. It was a unique sound. No one had ever heard anything quite like that before.”
Marks said they all had surfed, but he “personally didn't like it.” Dennis Wilson “stuck it out” and became a good surfer. Many of the themes of the band, including surfing and hot rods, were developed early.
“It was unique and it was a novelty,” Marks said. “All the people in the Midwest with their hot rods latched on to the songs and all the people on the West Coast with the surfing latched onto the songs. Brian’s genius came in his ability to act upon his immediate inspiration. When it was 3 a.m. or whatever he would record what was in his head. That’s where all the music came from.”
The Beach Boys were signed by Capitol Records. Marks performed on the band's first four albums—“Surfin' Safari,” “Surfin' U.S.A.,” “Surfer Girl,” and “Little Deuce Coupe'—which were all released in 1962 and 1963. He left the band as a full-time member in 1963.
“There were many factors at play,” he said, including rising conflicts with Murry Wilson, the brothers' father who had managed the band.
“It was bad parental guidance, bad management,” Marks said. “When the money starts rolling in, it will screw up anything really. The fun kind of stopped.”
Marks said they had recorded so much material, he appeared in part on three more albums after he left the band.
“We were forced by Capitol Records to record a tremendous amount of material in a short period of time,” Marks said.
After Marks left, he formed the group David & the Marksmen, which was one of the first acts signed by Herb Albert's A&M Records in 1964, but he feels their potential for success was hampered by Murry Wilson.
“At the time he was fighting Brian a little and he decided he wanted to manage my band and I said no and he kind of got mad,” Marks recalled. “He told the disc jockeys in L.A. not to play my record ... we could have made it probably a little better if it hadn't been for Murry, but it probably wasn’t meant to be. I went on to do other great stuff.”
Over the years, he formed other bands, worked as a studio musician and performed with numerous other acts, but he was never far away from The Beach Boys, sitting in with them from time to time. He didn't become a permanent member again until 1997 when he joined Mike Love and Bruce Johnston who licensed The Beach Boys name in 1998. That lasted until 2000, when Marks decided to leave the band again to work on other projects.
In 2012, Marks reunited with Brian Wilson, Jardine, Love and Johnston for The Beach Boys 50th anniversary tour. They also recorded “That's Why God Made the Radio,” the first album Marks had made with The Beach Boys since 1963. Following the 50-date tour, the five went on their separate tours, including Love and Johnston together. Rumors were rampant that Love had fired Wilson from the tour, but Marks said that was not true.
“Mike, at the beginning, said, 'I have other stuff booked after the tour that I have to do with The Beach Boys name,' because he has the license,” Marks said. “So there was a misunderstanding about Mike firing Brian and all that bull ... but it was the way it was all planned. He was going to leave after the tour and back to business as usual. We all understood that.”
Marks recently did some shows with Wilson and Jeff Beck and another month-long tour with Wilson and Jardine last year. He also continues to work with Love. But is there any chance the five will perform together again?
“Nothing is impossible,” Marks said. “We used to say we’d never get back for a reunion, that was totally out of the question, it would never happen. We were wrong about that, so under the right circumstances and depending on what mood everybody is in, I’m sure it's possible we would do something again before one of us dies. You know there’s not much time left.”
For more information about the Redondo Beach Lobster Festival, visit Lobsterfestival.com.