Little Deuce Coupe is the Beach Boys' fourth album, and third overall LP released on October 7, 1963. Despite the potential for over-saturating the record market, Little Deuce Coupe was a success, reaching number four in the United States during a 46-week chart stay, and eventually certified platinum by the RIAA. Because it largely deals with cars as a subject matter, some observers[who?] have retroactively cited Little Deuce Coupe as an early example of what would become known as a concept album.
In the summer of 1963, Capitol Records compiled a "hot rod" compilation album called Shut Down, including the Beach Boys' song of the same name and "409"—without their approval or involvement. Brian Wilson promptly readied several songs he had already been working on (mainly with radio DJ Roger Christian) and the band hastily went through recording sessions to put Little Deuce Coupe on the record shop racks, remarkably, one month after Surfer Girl had come out. Eight of the tracks were new, while "Little Deuce Coupe", "Our Car Club", "Shut Down" and "409" had all come out on one of their previous three albums.
Although Nick Venet was listed as producer for "Shut Down" and Murry Wilson for "409", the official producer's credit for the entire Little Deuce Coupe album cites only Brian Wilson. Despite the rushed nature of the album's sessions, Brian Wilson's song arrangements were notably becoming more complex, specifically songs like "No-Go Showboat" and "Custom Machine". After its recording, Brian Wilson re-recorded "Be True to Your School" for single release, resulting in another top 10 hit. An original Christmas-themed composition, "Little Saint Nick" was also recorded, produced and issued as a holiday single.
As with the preceding Surfer Girl album, the date assigned for recording all eight of the new tracks (September 2, 1963) is highly doubtful. However, as no AFM contracts from these sessions are known to exist, the actual dates are currently unknown.
The picture featured on the front cover of the album was supplied by Hot Rod magazine, and features the body (with his head cropped in the photo) of hod-rod owner Clarence 'Chili' Catallo and his own customized three-window 1932 Ford Coupe - known forevermore amongst hot rod enthusiasts as "the lil' deuce coupe". A full shot of Catallo and his car from the same photo shoot appeared on the front cover of the July 1961 edition of Hot Rod magazine, and whilst Catallo himself died in 1998 the car still tours the showrooms and exhibitions to this day. Catallo bought the vehicle in 1956 for $75 in Michigan when he was 15 years old. Catallo replaced the original stock Ford engine (unlike The Beach Boys song lyrics, which mention "a flathead mill") with a newer Oldsmobile V-8, and lowered the height of the coupe by six inches. Much of the original customizing work, including the stacked headlights, side trim, and front grille was done by an auto shop owned by Mike and Larry Alexander in the Detroit suburb of Southfield. After Catallo moved to Southern California, additional work, including the 'chopping' or lowering of the roof, was done in 1960-61 at 'Kustom City', George Barris's noted North Hollywood auto customizing shop. This led to the magazine cover and two years later, the shot was featured as the cover for The Beach Boys' fourth album. Catallo sold the coupe a few years later, but at the urging of his son Curt was able to buy it back in the late 90s for $40,000. The car had since been additionally modified but was restored by Catallo with many of the original parts the coupe had in the early 1960s, so that it now is again virtually identical to the famous photo. In 2000, the hot rod won the 'People's Choice' award at the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance.
A 'Deuce Coupe' is a 1932 Ford Model B Coupe (deuce being for the year). This was considered by many to be the definitive "hot rod" and featured an optional Ford flathead V8 engine when the car was introduced. A pink slip (mentioned in the lyrics) was the title to the car, named for the color of the paper then used in California vehicle ownership certificates.
Not including the songs previously released 4 songs from the album have been played live by either The Beach Boys or Brian Wilson. Only Be True to Your School has become a concert staple for the band.
The other three songs "Ballad of Ole' Betsy", "Cherry, Cherry Coupe" and "Custom Machine" have been played very rarely. "Ballad of Ole' Betsy" was first performed live in 2001 with backing band member Scott Totten on Brian's original lead. "Cherry, Cherry Coupe" was played only once by the Mike Love and Bruce Johnston led Beach Boys in 2009. While "Custom Machine" has been played live by Brian Wilson a handful of times and most recently on his 2013 tour with Al Jardine and David Marks.