Bruce Johnston

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Bruce Johnston
Johnston performing in 2017
Johnston performing in 2017
Background information
Birth nameBenjamin Baldwin
Born (1942-06-27) June 27, 1942 (age 78)
Peoria, Illinois, U.S.
OriginLos Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • keyboards
  • bass
Years active1957–present
Associated acts

Bruce Arthur Johnston (born Benjamin Baldwin; June 27, 1942) is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer who is best known as a member of the Beach Boys since 1965. Johnston also collaborated with Terry Melcher, as the duo Bruce & Terry and with the surf band the Rip Chords, and composed the 1975 Barry Manilow hit, "I Write the Songs".[1]

Born in Illinois, one of Johnston's first gigs was as a member of the surf band the Gamblers before becoming a staff producer at Columbia Records. In 1965, he joined the Beach Boys for live performances, initially filling in for the group's co-founder Brian Wilson. Johnston's first appearance on the band's records was as a vocalist on "California Girls" (1965). He later contributed original material to the group's albums, including "The Nearest Faraway Place" on 20/20 (1969), "Tears in the Morning" and "Deirdre" on Sunflower (1970), and "Disney Girls (1957)" on Surf's Up (1971).

Johnston left the Beach Boys in 1972 and subsequently embarked on a solo career. During this time, Johnston recorded one solo album, Going Public (1977), and his last to date. He was also a member of the short-lived supergroup California Music. In late 1978, he rejoined the Beach Boys to co-produce the group's L.A. (Light Album) (1979). Since then, he has continued to tour as a member of the band.

Early life[edit]

As a child, Johnston was adopted by William and Irene Johnston of Chicago and grew up on the West side of Los Angeles in Brentwood and Bel-Air. His adoptive father was president of the Owl Rexall Drug Company in Los Angeles after moving from Walgreens in Chicago. Johnston attended the private Bel Air Town and Country School (later renamed John Thomas Dye School) in Los Angeles and studied classical piano in his early years. Johnston trained at Interlochen Arts Camp as a youth.[2]


1957–1965: Beginnings[edit]

In high school, Johnston switched to contemporary music. He performed in a few "beginning" bands during this time and then moved on to working with young musicians such as Sandy Nelson, Kim Fowley, and Phil Spector.[3][4] Soon Johnston began backing people such as Ritchie Valens,[5] the Everly Brothers, and Eddie Cochran.[6] In 1959, while still in high school, Johnston arranged and played on his first hit record, "Teen Beat" by Sandy Nelson.[7] The single reached the Billboard Top Ten. The same year, Johnston made his first single under his own name, "Take This Pearl" on Arwin Records (a record label owned by Doris Day) as part of the Bruce & Jerry duo (Jerry Cooper was a high school friend of Bruce's).[8]

In 1960, Johnston started his record production career at Del-Fi Records, producing five singles and an album – Love You So – by Ron Holden (many of the album's eleven tracks were written or co-written by Johnston).[9] In 1962 and 1963, Johnston continued his recording career with a series of surfin' singles (vocal & instrumental) and an album, Surfin' 'Round The World, credited to Bruce Johnston, and another "live" album, the Bruce Johnston Surfin' Band's Surfer's Pajama Party. In 1963 came the first collaboration with his friend Terry Melcher (Doris Day's son), a mostly instrumental covers album credited to the Hot Doggers.[10] The first artist the pair produced was a group called the Rip Chords. Johnston and Melcher were now working as staff producers at Columbia Records, Hollywood, and by the time they were producing the million-selling "Hey Little Cobra", a knock-off of the Beach Boys car song vocal style, they also wound up singing every layered vocal part for the recording.[11] The two of them made a few recordings as Bruce & Terry and the Rogues, but Melcher began to focus more on his production career (with the Byrds, Paul Revere & the Raiders).[12]

1965–1972: First tenure with The Beach Boys[edit]

On April 9, 1965, Johnston joined the Beach Boys in New Orleans, replacing Glen Campbell, who briefly filled in as a touring member for Brian Wilson, and had declined an offer to officially join the band. Johnston did not start playing bass until his first tenure with the Beach Boys, and the first contributions Johnston made as one of the Beach Boys was on Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). For contractual reasons, however, he would not be credited or photographed on a Beach Boys album cover until Wild Honey in 1967.[13] Johnston has been credited by the Library of Congress as one of the original greatest supporters of the Beach Boys' 1966 signature album Pet Sounds.[14] He flew to London in May 1966 and played the album for John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Keith Moon, who was a notable Beach Boys fan.[15][16] Johnston wrote several Beach Boys songs during this period, starting with the instrumental "The Nearest Faraway Place" off the album 20/20. His most notable written composition for the band during this period was "Disney Girls (1957)", which appeared on Surf's Up and was subsequently recorded by, among others, Cass Elliot, Captain & Tennille, Art Garfunkel, Jack Jones, and Doris Day.[17]

During his first tenure with the Beach Boys, Johnston also sang on "My World Fell Down", a minor 1967 hit for the Gary Usher-led studio group Sagittarius.

1972–1998: Solo career[edit]

Johnston was dismissed from the Beach Boys in 1972 by manager Jack Rieley at the request of the Wilson brothers,[18] with his final contribution before departing consisting of backing vocals on "Marcella" for the album Carl and the Passions – "So Tough". Johnson then embarked on a solo career; during this period Johnston wrote the song "I Write the Songs", which was originally recorded by Captain & Tennille. The song went on to become a Billboard number one hit by Barry Manilow, for which Johnston won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1977.[19] "I Write the Songs" would go on to be recorded by over two hundred artists, including Frank Sinatra, among others. Regarding the Grammy win, Johnston stated: "How did I win a Grammy for a song that I wrote in my car and Brian Wilson and Mike Love have not won a well-deserved songwriting Grammy? Why is fate being so unfair to two of my pop music songwriting heroes?".[citation needed]

In 1977 Johnston released his third solo album Going Public, which included among its tracks Johnston's own recording of "I Write the Songs" as well as a disco remake of his 1970 Beach Boys song "Deirdre". Johnston would also score a hit off the album on the disco charts with a dance-oriented remake of the Chantays' hit "Pipeline". Also in 1977, Johnston provided vocal arrangements and sang back-up vocals on Eric Carmen's LP Boats Against the Current and can be heard on the hit single "She Did It", with inspiration taken from the 1968 Beach Boys' hit "Do It Again". Additionally, during this period Johnston wrote backing vocal arrangements and also sang on the recordings for Elton John including "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", as well as several songs on Pink Floyd's album The Wall.[16]

In 1998 Johnston produced Symphonic Sounds - Music Of The Beach Boys with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Symphonic Sounds

1978–present: Return to the Beach Boys[edit]

Johnston rejoined the Beach Boys at the end of 1978 at Brian Wilson's request to appear on (and co-produce) the album L.A. (Light Album).[20] The following year he was credited as sole producer on the follow-up LP, Keepin' the Summer Alive. Johnston has remained with the Beach Boys ever since and was the only member to continue touring with Mike Love as the Beach Boys after the death of Carl Wilson. As of 2020, Johnston remains the longest-tenured active member of the Beach Boys after Love.

In June 2012, Johnston, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and David Marks reunited for a new album and 50th-anniversary tour.[21] Johnston still retains his equal ownership of the band's ASCAP publishing company, Wilojarston, and is the only member of the band to have earned a Grammy Award for Song of the Year. Johnston is currently working on a Skrillex project produced by Sonny Moore, providing vocals as well as vocal arrangements and keyboards.[22][23]

Personal life[edit]

Johnston married Harriet Johnston in 1976 and has four sons: Ozzie, Justin, Ryan, and Max.[24] Politically, Johnston identified as a Republican in 2012. He was the subject of some controversy during the band's 50th Anniversary Tour when a fan video during a meet and greet caught him being critical of then-US President Barack Obama as well as 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney.[25]




Year Album details
June 1962 Surfers' Pajama Party
  • Released: June 1962
  • Label: Del-Fi Records
  • Tracks: "Surfer's Delight"; "Kansas City"; "Mashin' the Popeye"; "Gee But I'm Lonesome"; "Green Onions"; "Ramrod"; "Last Night"; "Surfer Stomp"; "What'd I Say"; "Something On Your Mind"
July 1963 Surfin' Round the World
  • Released: July 1963
  • Label: Columbia Records
  • Tracks: "Surfin' Round the World"; "Maksha at Midnight"; "Down Under"; "Cape Town"; "Biarritz"; "Jersey Channel Islands, Pt. 7"; "The Hamptons"; "Virginia Beach"; "Surf-A-Nova"; "Hot Pastrami, Mashed Potatoes, Come on to Rincon-Yeah!!"; "Malibu"; "Surfin's Here to Stay"
May 1977 Going Public
August 1998 Symphonic Sounds - Music Of The Beach Boys
  • Released: August 1998
  • Label: Platinum Entertainment
  • Tracks: "Overture"; "Kokomo" (with Mike Love and Terry Melcher); "God Only Knows" (with Tammy Trent); "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (with Michael Thompson, lead guitar); "Disney Girls"; "Darlin'" (with Matt Jardine); "(Just For Fun…) All Surf!"; "The Warmth Of The Sun" (with Adrian Baker); "The Water Planet Suite"


Date of release Title Label Chart positions
February 1962 "Do the Surfer Stomp (Part One)"/"Do The Surfer Stomp (Part Two)" Donna never charted
April 1962 "Soupy Shuffle Stomp"/"Moon Shot" Donna never charted
March 1963 "The Original Surfer Stomp"/"Pajama Party" Del-Fi never charted
August 1977 (UK) "Pipeline"/"Disney Girls" CBS Records #33 (UK)
September 1977 "Pipeline"/"Disney Girls" + "Pipeline"/"Deirdre" (12") Columbia Records never charted
1977 "Rendezvous"/"I Write the Songs" Columbia Records never charted

with the Beach Boys[edit]

with Mike Love[edit]


  1. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Biography: Bruce Johnston". Allmusic. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  2. ^ "Beach Boys | Interlochen Summer Arts Camp". Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  3. ^ Williams, Richard. "Kim Fowley obituary". Guardian News & Media Limited. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  4. ^ Tarter, Steve. "Extra: Peoria's Beach Boy Bruce Johnston wasn't always a California dreamer". Gannett Co. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  5. ^ "Bruce Johnston, Ritchie Valens and "Donna" (Ludwig)". January 13, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  6. ^ Evans, Richard (2010). The Golden Age of Rock 'N' Roll. Chartwell Books. p. 185.
  7. ^ "Bruce Johnston". NAMM. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  8. ^ Moore, Mark A. (2016). The Jan & Dean Record: A Chronology of Studio Sessions, Live Performances And Chart Positions. McFarland. p. 48.
  9. ^ Givens, Linda Holden (2009). Holden On To Family Roots: A Granddaughters Family and Genealogy Search. Xlibris Corporation. p. 112.
  10. ^ Leszczak, Bob (2014). Encyclopedia of Pop Music Aliases, 1950-2000. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 183.
  11. ^ "Hey Little Cobra by The Rip Chords". Songfacts, LLC. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  12. ^ Talevski, Nick (2010). Rock Obituaries: Knocking On Heaven's Door. Omnibus Press. p. 421.
  13. ^ Cashmere, Paul. "Bruce Johnston Clocks Up 50 Years In The Beach Boys". Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  14. ^ Smucker, Tom. ""Pet Sounds"—The Beach Boys (1966)" (PDF). Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  15. ^ Bruce Johnston brings Pet Sounds to Lennon & McCartney in London on YouTube
  16. ^ a b James Riley. (November 15, 2011). "Bruce Johnston: From Pet Sounds to Pink Floyd and having time to SMiLE". Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  17. ^ Hinson, Mark. "Bruce Johnston really is a beach boy". The Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved December 22, 2019.
  18. ^ "THE LIFE OF RIELEY". Record Collector. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  19. ^ Kamm, Matt. "How Bruce Johnston helped shape the long-term success of the Beach Boys". Orlando Weekly. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  20. ^ Marsh, Dave. "L.A. (Light Album)". Rolling Stone, LLC. Retrieved October 28, 2019.
  21. ^ Sterdan, Darryl (December 16, 2011). "Beach Boys gear up for reunion". Sun Media. Archived from the original on May 25, 2017. Retrieved December 16, 2011.
  22. ^ Skrillex is collaborating with The Beach Boys' Bruce Johnston
  24. ^ Stebbins, Jon (September 1, 2011). The Beach Boys FAQ: All That's Left to Know About America's Band. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-4584-2918-6.
  25. ^ "Beach Boys' Bruce Johnston Blasts Obama". Rolling Stone. May 11, 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2019.

External links[edit]