68 Things You Didn’t Know About Brian Wilson

“One day, I’ll write songs people pray to,” Brian Wilson once told the Rolling Stones’ producer. In his 68 years — his birthday is June 20th — Wilson has crafted the closest thing to psychedelic gospel music to ever capture the public imagination, a repertoire of honey-soaked harmonies with a core of personal anguish. His drug exploits and loopy recording practices are the stuff of legend — like forcing the entire production team to wear firemen’s helmets and start a controlled blaze when he recorded “Mrs O’Leary’s Cow (Fire).” But that’s only the beginning of all the biographical quirks Wilson has accumulated in his almost 70 years on earth. After the jump: 68 things you didn’t know about Brian Wilson.


Photo credit: Guy Webster

1. Brian Wilson’s father, Murry, had a glass left eye after an accident at Goodyear. One of his punishments for his children was to take out the eye and force them to peer into the empty socket.

2. According to several accounts,  after a blow to his head from his father, Wilson lost the hearing in his right ear.

3. It took Wilson five tries to get his driver’s license — he kept getting distracted by the radio dial.

4. Wilson was a formidable high school athlete, running cross country and playing quarterback on the football team.

5. The song “Caroline, No” was originally titled “Carol, I Know,” after Wilson’s high school crush, a cheerleader named Carol Mountain.

6. Murry Wilson scored a songwriting success with a novelty dance number called “Two-Step, Side-Step” that was popular enough that Lawrence Welk performed it on his weekly radio show.

7. In high school, Wilson adapted “Hully Gully” into a campaign song for his friend Carol Hess, who was running for commissioner of the student government.

8. The original name for The Beach Boys was The Pendletones, after the Pendleton wool shirts worn by surfers.

9. Wilson and his group played their first big gig in 1961 at the Ritchie Valens Memorial Dance on New Year’s Eve.