“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.”
Buffalo 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