On the road: Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield

on the beach boys tour plane 1967 1968In the later part of 1967 and the spring of 1968, the Strawberry Alarm Clock toured the country with the Beach Boys and Buffalo Springfield.

“Everyone traveled on the Beach Boys’ private plane,” SAC keyboardist Mark Weitz says. “It was an amazing time.” Then-SAC guitarist Ed King recalls: “The tours with the Beach Boys in ’67 and ’68 outshine any other period in my life.”

The talent assembled on that tour still boggles the mind: Carl Wilson, Neil Young, Steven Stills, Jim Messina, Richie Furray, Mike Love and of course the guys in the Alarm Clock.

(Photo, top left: Dennis Wilson learning the flute intro to “Sloop John B.” To his right are SAC bassist George Bunnell and Carl Wilson.)

“We played colleges, giant county fairs, all over the South,” Weitz says. “Often we did two shows the same day. I remember driving around in a car in New Orleans with Stephen Stills next to me in the back seat and Neil Young up front.”

SAC guitarist King, who would go on to more rock stardom in Lynyrd Skynyrd, recalls one amazing moment on the tour: “(Beach Boy) Carl Wilson coming over to my room to show me the chords to ‘God Only Knows.’ The memory “far outweighs any Skynyrd experience,” King says.

The April tour with the Beach Boys and Buffalo Springfield came to a halt, briefly, when news came of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis. About a half dozen tour dates were cancelled in the ensuing national emergency. George Bunnell says the band was in Alabama or Atlanta at the time: “We were told to stay in the hotel and not to step foot outside.”

Incredibly, during the tour’s swing through Florida, the SAC was booked for Miami and Honolulu on the same day.

“The Beach Boys let us leave their tour and fly to Hawaii for the day,” Bunnell says. “We played at the (then) Honolulu International Center on a Dick Clark show with the Animals, the Rascals, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. We flew straight back to Florida after our performance and from the airport were driven straight to the Beach Boys show. Insane!”

Shortly thereafter, the Strawberry Alarm Clock fired their manager.

The Beach Boys were still playing surf music and their monster hits, but the band was in transition, with leader Brian Wilson back home in L.A., trying to counter the Beatles’ next masterful recording with one of their own — following up on the transcendent “Pet Sounds” and “Good Vibrations. (Singer Mike Love wasn’t thrilled with the new music, preferring the “Fun, Fun, Fun” formula.) The band sought a place with the hipster elite that dug the Buffalo Springfield, no easy turnaround for the gents from “Surf City.”

beach boys tour with neil youngBuffalo Springfield performed the same songs they played on the 2011 reunion tour, many classics of country/alt rock. The band was nearing the end of its two-year lifespan, with Neil Young (pictured on the plane, right) in hurry to exit in favor of a solo career. “The band was not a group in 1968,” the liner notes from the Buffalo Springfield box read. One fan who took a photo of the band on the tour recalls Young walking away from his camera, not wanting to be pictured with the others. Buffalo Springfield played its last concert on May 5, 1968.

The Strawberry Alarm Clock enjoyed chart success with the single “Tomorrow” during this period and reconnected with their audience with the classic album “Wake Up … It’s Tomorrow.” The group had just recorded many of its best songs, including “Sit with the Guru” and “Barefoot in Baltimore.” This was primetime for the SAC (but bassist George Bunnell and singer/drummer Randy Seol would leave the band months after the second Beach Boys tour).

Fans, no doubt, were amazed by the tour’s trifecta of now-legendary bands.

“It was a great night of music for me, and a night that remains burned in my heart and my head forever,” recalls Tim Pollard, a fan who posted recently about his experiences at the April tour stop in Charleston, S.C.

The Strawberry Alarm Clock were inspired by the Beach Boys’ experiments with transcendental meditation. “It seemed the cool thing to do,” Weitz says. “So before each concert we always meditated for 10 minutes sitting Indian-style doing our mantras.”

Here are some of the key stops on the Beach Boys’ fifth annual Thanksgiving tour of 1967 with the Strawberry Alarm Clock and Buffalo Springfield:

Nov. 17-26: Detroit, Syracuse, Buffalo, Richmond, Washington D.C., Hartford and Fairfield (Ct.), White Plains, Pittsburgh, Boston, Providence, West Point, Jamaica (N.Y.), South Orange (N.J.), Baltimore.

(The Soul Survivors played some of the tour stops. The Pickle Brothers also found their way onto the bill.)

Here are some key cities played on the April tour with the Beach Boys and and Buffalo Springfield:

April 6-24: Clemson (S.C.), Orlando, Daytona Beach, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Miami (Fla.), Oklahoma City, Baton Rouge and New Orleans (La.), Birmingham and Montgomery (Ala.), Austin, Houston, Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston (Texas), Little Rock (Ark.) and Memphis.

(Bobby Goldsboro was an added act on some Florida dates.)

View list of 1960s concerts by the Strawberry Alarm Clock

Comments

  1. Bob Simonds says:

    I saw you guys and the Beach boys in Louisville Kentucky at the County fair in ’68! Loved you pajamas you wore on stage and barefooted too! great stuff! keep at it guys!

    • Saw the concert in White Plains, NY 11/21/67. Wow, Beach Boys, Alarm Clock, Buffalo Springfield!

      • John Nicholson says:

        Missed that show, but last night (5/15/12) I saw the Beach Boys 50th ann. tour in White Plains, NY. The County Center show was awesome and Al Jardine said onstage that they were last here in 1967 touring with the Alarm Clock and Buffalo Springfield.

        • george bunnell says:

          wow….how cool is that? I remember the White Plains show…I believe Steve Stills had to play bass because Bruce Palmer got arrested.

      • The Soul Survivor’s were also at the White Plains, NY show on 11/21/67. What a great concert!

  2. Tom McCubbins says:

    You were at ECU, Greenville, NC, in April 1968 for an afternoon concert. Then y’all were to head to NC State for a concert that evening, but were detained at ECU because of the shooting of Martin Luther King. All 3 bands came out on stage and started jamming. Terrific concert.

    • george bunnell says:

      We loved coming out on stage at the end of the Beach Boys shows…best time of our lives!

    • Bullethole says:

      I was at that show also. I remember Stephen Stills showing off his flare bottom pants. Instead of a “jam”, he called it a “freak-out”. I also rember the show at State being canceled since Raleigh was basically shut down because of MLK.

    • Scott Tabar says:

      The tour was definitely in Greenville for an afternoon concert the day King was shot. I was there. Since they couldn’t travel to Raliegh officials allowed the bands to continue playing for an extended concert. The three bands jammed together.

  3. dizzie lizzie says:

    I know Brian Wilson was replaced by Bruce Johnston at this point.Did you ever have the pleaseure of making his acquaintnace or was he too buried in his emotional instabilites and preoccupied with besting Lennon,McCartney,and Georeg Martin to communicate to anyone but the closest to him?

    • george bunnell says:

      we never met Brian. He was already not able to tour. They told us it was because of an ear injury he sustained when his dad hit him or something.
      they also said he was afraid to fly and would have panic attacks.
      I guess it’s all true….?

  4. Tom Luisi says:

    Hi George

    This question is about the World In Seashell album in which my favorite songs were the ones written by the band. How did you and the band feel about the record? I noted the songs wriiten by outsiders seem to gravitate towards pop.

  5. george bunnell says:

    Hi Tom….
    That was a difficult time for the band. Ed and Lee were in a particularly great writing period. At the same time the record company, producer and manager all thought we needed to bring in outside writers and a small orchestra to embellish things.
    The drummer, Randy Seol and I quit the band at the end of those sessions.
    I strongly believe that if the manager and producer and record company had just let the first album run it’s course…released a couple more singles from it before moving on, the second album would have had a fighting chance with Tomorrow being the lead off single from it. Sit with the Guru also had the outside lyricist, Roy Freeman…that was the beginning of the end.

    • Tom Luisi says:

      Hi Again George

      I think some of the tracks on World In Seashell are some of my favorites. I really love that song “Heated Love’ with those wonderful harmonies and I really like Ed King’s lead in the middle of the songs. “Love Me Again” is my other favorite song from the album. I have a friend in NJ who DJs every Sunday and plays mostly unknown 60s music and it was through his show that I got to finally hear stuff by the SAC that I never heard before. I was always interested in the band’s music since hearing Incense for the first time back in the early 80s. I don’t recall hearing when it was a hit as I was only 4 years old at the time. My DJ friend also always ends the show with the track from the first album that has a jazzy rift and is mostly instrumental. I believe he has been ending the show with that song for the last 25 years. He has the original vinyl version. Anyway with the fairly recent cd reissues of some of the albums I hope you and the band are getting good royalties from them. I consider SAC a super group that should have gotten much greater success.

  6. george bunnell says:

    Thanks Tom!

    A peculiar album it is. There are some shining moments. I love Lee’s songs on it. Wooden Woman is haunting. I also really like Mark’s Instrumental, Shallow Impressions.
    It’s funny you mention Ed’s guitar solo on Heated Love. I can’t take credit for how good it came out, but I did tell Ed I had an idea in mind for that solo and he said by all means, if you have an idea tell me. So I hummed the melody and he used it. Ed did the harmony and got that incredible sound though. I had been humming the guitar solo to it when I wrote the music…I almost didn’t say anything….this was during the session and Ed was trying a couple of ideas out when I finally spoke up. I was happy I did. It’s my favorite part of the song.

    Is your DJ friend’s station online too?

    That jazz ditty you’re referring to was also used on the Dating Game for a short period of time. Our drummer, Randy Seol was a bachelor on the show once and they had SAC make an appearance.
    Pretty funny stuff.

    • Hi George

      My friend’s show is online and it can also be listened to live. It’s wtsr.org which is from the college of NJ. He is on every Sunday night from 6:00pm to 9:00pm eastern time. His name is Bob Schremser and I am sure he would love to hear from you. The radio station # is 609 771 2554 if case you ever want to chat with him or make a song request. I am sometimes a guest DJ but rarely get a chance to do it anymore because i live in Florida though I travel to NJ twice a year it seems it is always bad timing to appear on the show. I am glad to you mentioned how the guitar solo in “Heated Love”came to be. I totally love that melody with the echo. It is one of those songs that any lover of classic rock would love. What are a few songs you sang lead on?

  7. Roon Daniel says:

    The comments above about the cancellation of the Beach Boys/SAC/Springfield tour sure bring back some memories. I lived in Little Rock in April 1968 and distinctly remember seeing the message board on the outside of a concert hall in Little Rock announcing the upcoming appearance of the Beach Boys.
    I remember that it was later cancelled–obviously one of the cancelled shows mentioned above. Being a life long (seems like it anyway) fan of the Beach Boys, I was real disappointed about not getting to seem them at that time. It wasn’t until 5 years later in 1973 that I finally saw them live in a concert in Houston with the Doobie Brothers. Also, I might add that my uncle gave me a copy of the first Strawberry Alarm Clock album for Christmas 1968. I loved that album and I think it was very unique and original.

  8. Bern Webb says:

    Saw the show in Boston in fall 1967 . Was 15 and went to show at Back Bay with the church nuns outing. Remember Soul survivors, Pickle Brothers, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Buffalo Springfield (with Neil Young playing with back to crowd), and Beach Boys. Remember the next week Jefferson Airplane was coming. At the time I felt the Beach Boys were passé, now I still go see, even today to see them.

  9. Wingo Wecords says:

    Saw the boston show at the Back Bay — still have the clipping advertising the show, used to have a Springfield poster I bought at the show — I think it was the bass player who spent the whole show turned around.

  10. I was a member of the Pickle Brothers Comedy Team and remember the Strawberry Alarm Clock guys as well as the Box Tops and the Buffalo Springfield. Richie Furay and I were frequent seatmates, and I also remember palling around with the drummer of the Straws. I remember one show where the cymbal stand fell off the platform and injured one of the musicians below it. I am currently writing a history of the PB and would greatly appreciate hearing from anyone from those days.

  11. Cliff Williams says:

    Saw the Strawberry Alarm Clock at the Beach Boys Thanksgiving tour at Fairfield U in Fairfield Ct in Nov. 1967.
    I remember the line up as follows:
    Soul survivors
    Buffalo Springfield
    Strawberry Alarm Clark
    Beach Boys

    Not sure but I thought there was some other band there. Would love to know if I forgot if there was another band. Just remembered it was a GREAT show!

  12. I was 8-9 years old (1967-68?) and my mother took us to our local park to see SAC and Buffalo Springfield. I wish someone would confirm my memory, please. It was at Waller Park in Santa Maria, CA. It was the coolest sight ever, for a kid! Thanks, Mom R.I.P. (1976)

  13. Joe Antonio says:

    Saw Beach Boys at bout well auditorium in Bham Al.I Was 13 years old, never forget Mike and his cap.sounded just like vinyl..it was a life changer for me..even named myself after Dennis…Great time.

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