Interview with Eddy Medora (10-28-03)
By Ronnie

This is part II of our fascinating interview with Eddy Medora. In this segment, we focus on the Sunrays and Murray Wilson's influence on the band.

It was fascinating to hear Eddy describe the early rock scene in LA and his budding friendship with the Beach Boys [Carl especially]. He described what it was like to work with Murray Wilson. In fact, I got some rare insight into the character of Murray, who is often demonized in Beach Boys lore. Eddy was there when David Marks was fired from the Beach Boys, and he related that story. Through Dennis Wilson, Eddy had an encounter with Charles Manson! Finally, and most curious of all, Eddy tells of the 'great lost' Sunrays album. It all sounded like a great episode for one of those rock star 'tell alls' on the E! television network, or at least a very interesting book. In fact, I found out during the interview that Eddy IS working on a book.

Right: The Sunrays

EC: Were you guys actually heading towards a 5-part harmony, or was that all Murray's idea?

Eddy Medora: That was manufactured. I think we reached our peak as a garage band and musicians. We knew hundreds and hundreds of songs. When Murray mentioned that he wanted us to sing harmonies, we said, "This is an opportunity for us to learn." It was tough because when you're a band you say, I wanna do what "I" wanna do, but a lot of bands don't make it because of that. There's gotta be one chef in the kitchen cooking. You get too many chefs and you get a lot of arguments and that's what happened with Murray and his sons.

EC: You said that Murray encouraged the band to write songs. But the first Sunray's release was a song called, "Car Party" which Murray wrote?

Eddy Medora: Murray wrote that and we all wrote the flip side, "Outta Gas" together.

EC: Did he force his songs on you?

Eddy Medora: No, we didn't have any original ones at that point that would fit any sound. But he had this one milling around and he wanted the Beach Boys to do his car song. And we went 'oh my god, a car song.' We all loved cars and we just thought the car song thing had had it. But at the same time, when you think about car songs, other than the Rip Chords, Jan & Dean, and the Beach Boys - at that time, those were the only groups that were doing those type of songs. So, to have one more and him [Murray] flipping the bill - it was a good number for us to understand Murray. And to go in and try and do his song and do it the way he wanted it. After that we started to doing Ricky and Mike's stuff and he didn't write any more for quite a while for us.

EC: Did the Sunrays record at Goldstar studios?

Eddy Medora: Yes we did. We did "Just Around the River Bend", "Hi How Are You". Herb Albert used to come in quite a bit…Phil Spector. And Larry Marks, who was the number one engineer - we cut all the lights out, tried to get that wall-of-sound…which we did. We had a very, very huge sound. We would lay down our tracks ourselves, then they would bring in the 'wrecking crew' to tweak it up.

EC: That was my next question…because I know that Glen Campbell played guitar on "I Live For the Sun"…

Eddy Medora: That's correct…

EC: But you also had the 'wrecking crew'?

Eddy Medora: You gotta remember what was happening then, you had the Spector sound…overproduced records with strings and horns. Murray was afraid that if we went in with our thin sound at that time - no radio station would play our stuff. And he was right. So he paid these guys [Wrecking Crew] to come in.

EC: The first Sunrays single came out in 1964 and the album ANDREA came out in '66 correct?

Eddy Medora: That's correct…

EC: Why did it take so long to get a full-length album out?

Eddy Medora: Well, a lot of reasons. Murray was running the Sea Of Tunes publishing company at that time. We were writing, we were rehearsing and we were on the road. We were touring quite a bit with the Beach Boys, two tours with the Beach Boys. So he kept us working and finally he said, 'guys, get some songs together and lets put this album out.' The album did quite well, "Andrea" sold more than "I Live For the Sun".

EC: It was a bigger hit?

Eddy Medora: Yes, in units it sold more…I don't know if it got played, airtime more. Again, I gave Rick the idea - we were on a plane ride from New York back to Los Angeles and there was this beautiful stewardess, just lovely. And I said, 'when we get back home we're gonna write a song about you, what's your name?' By the time we had our next rehearsal Rick had it down! (laughs) I said, 'you know Rick, I've leaving my mouth shut - you never give me any ideas!' We had an 'Andrea Contest' nationwide to try and find Andrea. Letters came in from all over the country, we had full-page ads in Tiger Beat and all those teen magazines - 'Send in your pictures to the Sunrays and become their dream girl'. We did find a beautiful girl, it was not the one we were looking for - if she [the original Andrea] knew the song was about her, she would probably flip.

EC: There is a song on the ANDREA album…the song "A Little Dog and His Boy", I notice a reference to Vietnam.

Eddy Medora: Yes it was. Ricky wrote that for Vick. The idea came to Rick to write this song and we all thought it was genius at the time, "wow, that is really a cool song!" We sure felt at the time that that would have been a very strong release [for a single].

EC: I mean, this was what 1966? And there weren't many songs that addressed Vietnam at that time.

Eddy Medora: It was done in a very tasteful manner. You really had to listen to the song to know that the dog was talking about his master. And I don't think that's ever been done.

EC: I find myself whistling that song…

Eddy Medora: We tried to whistle - we all had a shot at it. Lee Pullman, the bass player of the wrecking crew, he's passed away since… Ray whistled in that song. That was all recorded in one take, Ray did a helluva job. Murray gave him an extra $100.

EC: You wrote the song "Jo Anne" for your now current wife?

Eddy Medora: Yeah…at the time we were dating and I figured, why not write a song about her? We were dating for about a year. She was dating Cubby O'Brien for 4 years and she was a regular on "My Favorite Martian".

EC: Cubby O'Brien, was that the Mousketeer and drummer?

Eddy Medora: Yeah, and he plays on all the Carpenters' songs. He's an in-demand drummer. Anyway, my wife asked me to the prom, that's the one I went to with Carl [Wilson].

EC: I noticed that on the Ann Marshall CD that you played guitar and also wrote one of the songs?

Eddy Medora: Basically, it was my wife, Ann Marshall on the album…the album was released under Heaven Bound. And I got the permission to put it [re-release it] under Ann Marshall's name. You can't find the [original] vinyl anywhere, the only place you can get it is on my website.

EC: I didn't see a date on the Ann Marshall CD and I was wondering when it was recorded.

Eddy Medora: '78…

EC: Does Ann still song?

Eddy Medora: No…we had a lot of chart records on that album. A lot of cover songs that charted top 60, top 50 in Billboard. I was managing a chain of furniture stores at the time and she was doing the news on channel 9 - the first woman newscaster in Los Angeles. So we couldn't go anywhere, they asked us to get a band together and go out.

Right: Eddy today

EC: All the TV bios about the Beach Boys love to show Murray as a tyrant, both in the studio and at their live gigs. What was he like as a producer for the Sunrays?

Eddy Medora: Well, I gotta tell you…I'm writing a book. Its gonna be the only book out there that tells the good side - cause I never saw a bad side…none of us. You can ask all five of us. They never saw a bad side of Murray. He was eccentric, he would get upset in the studio, but we understood that because he was spending a lot of money to try and make records. He wanted it HIS way, and I think that's where him and Brian got into it. The talent end of it - Brian was out there writing with Van Dyke Parks and Roger Christian…these other people. And Murray wasn't writing with anybody, so he wasn't growing as a writer.

As far as that, I never saw him hit any of his sons. So if he did any of this stuff that they say he did - we never, never saw it. We wrote a song called "Our Leader" - it's a tribute, we gave it to Murray for Christmas Eve. That night it was snowing and cold and he busted up like a little baby. We went in the studio and wrote it - we didn't know what to give a guy that was worth millions of dollars. We cut the track all ourselves, "Our Leader" and if you listen to it, the lyrics - it's almost religious. If the guy was a tyrant, obviously we wouldn't have taken the time to give him a gift like this. We would have wrote different lyrics (laughs).

EC: When is your book coming out?

Eddy Medora: Well, I'm in the process, I'm halfway through it. So I'm not even close to looking for a publisher. A big portion of it will be based on Murray Wilson. And the other things will be little memoirs of us with Murray and stories of us with Murray. There'll be a chapter on Dennis with Charlie Manson - a great little story that I haven't told anybody that's happened at Dennis' house with Charlie Manson - pre his murder with Sharon Tate. And there'll be a small section on Brian.

EC: So did you meet Charles Manson?

Eddy Medora: Oh yes…I can't go into that. But yeah, it was frightening. I'm saving that one. It'll be a chapter in the book. I don't wanna get into it because it will steal the sizzle from my book.

EC: You mentioned that you were there during the final argument between David Marks and Murray - did the TV docudramas get that scene right?

Eddy Medora: If I remember it…and I didn't do any big serious drugs at all in the '60s, so take this to heart…As I remember it, it was one of the rehearsals. Murray got mad at Dave, he was always picking on Dave for some reason, I don't even know why. He [Dave] was always coming back at him with some serious 4-letter words. Finally, when we were there he said, "please bring your amp back to your home, get it out of my living room", this was the Hawthorne house. And that's where he fired him right on the spot. Dave came back with a serious remark to him. "You're outta the group." That's what I remember, and of course he took his amp back to the house. We felt bad, we were just there to listen to Murray - what parts we should sing and write and rehearse. So we were sort of in the middle of this. There were other arguments, but nothing where he would smack you or turn into a maniac they way they portrayed him on that TV show.

Brian gave Sea of Tunes publishing to Murray to run, to get it off his back. He didn't steal it. All of the sudden its making money and Murray's the thief. Now as far as Murray selling it and not telling Brian, I don't know what state Brian's mind was in at that time when Murray did sell. But he said, "Hey I'm too old, I don't wanna run this thing." Who knew, after he passed away, and two of his younger sons passed away that your royalty checks would be in the excess of millions of dollars a month. From the licensing, commercials, etc. To told Ricky, "you should re-cut 'I Live For the Sun' and sell it to Sunkist.

EC: The Sunrays played the Hollywood Bowl, correct?

Eddy Medora: Oh that was great! We played the Bowl at the Beach Boys Spectacular in 1966. Murray put us on right before the Beach Boys, but we didn't deserve that spot. The Loving Spoonful should have had it. Maybe Sonny & Cher should have had it, but based on the Beach Boys father managing our band that's where it came in. And I don't know if the girls were screaming for us to get off the stage (laughs)…but we didn't ask, we were just kids.

EC: Were any of the Sunrays live gigs recorded?

Eddy Medora: Our next album after ANDREA was supposed to be a live album that we cut. And Murray flew 5 engineers plus a mixing board in to Colorado and they wired all this up and we were headlining the show. I don't know where that master is! We heard the master…not only did we hear the master, but we went back into the studio to record over the screams and sort of mix it in with the screams to that you can hear the lyrics. But we used the band as recorded, we didn't go in to sweeten up the orchestration at all. Just to sweeten up the vocals. And when Murray passed away I asked Ricky, "wouldn't that be great to have that put out?"

If everything would have gone right there would have been a Sunrays Christmas album. We would have done the live album, ANDREA - the Christmas album would have followed. I wrote a song with Freddy called "Santa You're Too Fat For Me"…there's a song called "Santa Is a Hippie Too". I just love to write this stuff - it's very hard to write this kind of stuff. But when you're retired…you've got a studio in your house, you've gotta do something.

EC: What songs were played on this live recording?

Eddy Medora: We did stuff like "Monday Monday" by the Mamas & the Papas, "Lies" by the Knickerbockers…we went right into our hit record then came back with "Cool Jerk". It was just a potpourri of stuff that we wanted to do in harmonies. You know like "Runaway" by Del Shannon, "Please Please Please" by James Brown. We did a 45-minute set that we recorded and I don't know where that master is. Not only that, but when we recorded "Car Party" and "Outta Gas" he had a camera crew come in with Panovision cameras. And we were nervous! It was bad enough trying to record a song and remember your part without this giant lens going up your face. I'd love to know…maybe when Audrey [Wilson] passed away and Carl [Wilson] passed away they just threw it out. And Marilyn Wilson, Brian's ex-wife…maybe she knows where those old masters are. Some of that stuff even Carl was singing on it. And I sing on a couple of songs that I won't mention on the Beach Boys, because they didn't want to do to another track. So Carl would call me in.

EC: So you also sang some background on some Beach Boys songs?

Eddy Medora: Just me and Marty. Yeah, Carl asked us to come in. I don't know exactly which song it was, I'd rather not say because I don't want Mike Love to sue my ass!

EC: Why did the Sunrays break up?

Eddy Medora: Several reasons. Number one, we were all in college, all got our degrees. We booked our tours around our tests, we'd leave early on a Friday come back late on a Sunday or maybe even a Monday and be back for class. We also gave it our all, I mean we had been doing this since 1959 all the way up to 1969. That's a long time for a rock band to be the same guys, doing music. Murray stopped going on the road with us. He made us do that record "Still" and we got angry to the point where we said, 'that doesn't sound like the Sunrays.' I thought we did a beautiful version of it, but it did not sound like our band. That charted, I think top-60 and died a quick death. I think that was a love song to his sons, a love song to his wife Audrey. He got tired.

We made the full circle, we started in that same bar and we ended in that same bar. I said, "you guys wanna rehearse next week?" And they said, "For what?" Murray was getting tired, he wasn't going on the road. The Beatles were out strong. And that was an interesting thing - we did a lot of Beatles songs, caused we like them. But what we didn't understand…when we got reviewed a lot…what we hated was when Murray told us we had to wear striped shirts. That killed us. We don't mind having 5-part harmony with a falsetto and we might have a similar sound, but we weren't copycats. Nobody ever got after all the groups like The Dave Clark Five and the Rolling Stones and some of these others when the British Invasion came over and copied the Beatles. So when you think about how many groups can you count on one hand that sounded like the Beach Boys? There isn't too many. Why the press got after us, I don't know. They started hitting hard on us…we didn't comb our hair down like the Beatles.

EC: So, how many years were you with Murray?

Eddy Medora: From '64 to '69. We were with him, but we weren't with him. It was a combination of him [Murray] being tired. Ricky wanted to go his own way…you know that old thing of being a solo guy. Marty and I wanted to do our thing. We made the full circle. We started as the Renegades and ended up at a club called The Summit on Sunset Strip. And we ended at a club which is now called the Lingerie club - the same club. And from making $5000 a night to making union scale - we knew it was time to bail.

Click here to read part I of our interview with Eddy Medora