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Fredrick Vail

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Frederick Vail (born March 24, 1944) has held many industry roles, including concert promoter and co-manager for the Beach Boys. Vail began his career in Sacramento, CA, working as a radio announcer and teenage news announcer at the age of 12,[1] where he secured an interview with Ricky Nelson for the school newspaper by persuading his way onto the set of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.[2] During his junior year at El Camino High School, Vail pursued the role of Commissioner of Entertainment. He faced defeat initially but persisted, running again in his senior year and emerging victorious.[3]

Upon enrolling at Sacramento State College to pursue journalism, Vail found himself amidst a music revolution in California. “‘The Twist’ had been the big music in ’60, ’61,” he says. “It was now ’63. Surf music was happening. Every label, independent or major, had a surf band. There were the Challengers, the Merced Blue Notes, the Astronauts, the Lively Ones, Dick Dale and the Del-tones. They were all guitar bands, basically. Very, very limited vocals.”[2]

When tasked with organizing a fundraiser for El Camino High School at Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, Vail's mind immediately gravitated towards an up-and-coming surf band that was beginning to capture national attention with hits like "Surfin' Safari" and "Surfin' U.S.A." Upon contacting their agent at William Morris, he discovered that the Beach Boys were available for booking at $750. Despite the band's limited travel radius due to member Carl Wilson's high school commitments, Vail coordinated the necessary arrangements, including plane tickets, to ensure their presence at the event.[2]

The show on May 23, 1963, marked the Beach Boys' inaugural headlining performance outside of Los Angeles. Its success led the band's manager, Murray Wilson, to allow Vail to book a nationwide tour for the Beach Boys in the ensuing years. Accompanying them on every journey, Vail formed a close bond with the band.[2]

Vail found himself present in pivotal moments of the band's career, such as when Brian Wilson and Mike Love writing "The Warmth of the Sun" on the evening of JFK's assassination. In the same hotel room, while Vail counted concert proceeds with Murray Wilson on one bed, Brian and Mike harmonized on the other. He also lent his voice to the introduction of the Beach Boys' 1964 album "Beach Boys Concert," an album he convinced them to release.[2]

In 1966, Vail briefly left the group to work at the Teen-Age Fair in Los Angeles. However, he returned to manage the Beach Boys in 1969.[2]

Fred Vail hadn't been back for long when Brian Wilson began reminiscing about the band's early days, particularly the moments in the car when Vail would sing along to country tunes on the radio. Wilson expressed a desire to capture Vail's voice on record, and together they compiled a list of songs, including hits like Roy Orbison’sOnly the Lonely,” Hank Williams’ “You Win Again,” and Burt Bacharach’s “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me.”[2]

“We never did any keeper vocals,” Vail says. “They were mostly just scratch vocals that we never completed. There were no background vocals and no harmonies. It was a lot instrumentation. And when Brian lost interest, I just moved on. It was kind of like, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ I didn’t figure anything would ever be done with them.”[2]

Vail's later roles at Capitol Records and RCA Records as a promotion and marketing manager gave him the opportunity to move to Nashville in 1974.[1]In 1980, Vail founded Treasure Isle Recorders, Inc., the first Nashville studio to become all-digital, remaining busy over the years due to the spacious tracking rooms, which many engineers and musicians claim to be among the best acoustics they've encountered. Artists like Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, the Beach Boys, and Waylon Jennings have recorded in the studio.[4]

Vail's friendship with The Beach Boys spans 59 years. He came up with the concept of the Beach Boys Concert album and arranged the group's 1983 White House concert.[5][6] Vail's journey with the band also included moments like witnessing the mastering of Pet Sounds in the studio.

Reflecting on his interactions with the band, Vail shared, "A lot of times when I'd pick the Beach Boys up I'd have country stations on, and I'd sing along sometimes and they'd be teasing me. And then they'd put on the pop music stations and I'd put it back on the country stations. We were just fooling around. So they knew I sang and liked country music."[7]

Around a decade ago, well after Vail had parted ways with the Beach Boys, he received a call from their management team. They said, ‘Fred, we were going through the vault and we found these five two-inch rolls of tape with your name and Brian’s name on them,'” Vail said. “‘Do you know anything about them?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s the country album that Brian and I started back in 1970.’ And they said, ‘Well, what should we do with them?’ And I said, ‘Well, don’t throw them out. If you’re trying to clean out the vault, just send it to me and I’ll keep them.'”[2]

At that juncture, Sam Parker, a concert promoter and producer based in Nashville, stumbled upon Fred Vail's profile on Facebook. Parker, a devoted lifelong fan of the Beach Boys, instantly recognized the name. “I reached out to Fred, not thinking he would actually respond,” Parker says. “But he did and I said, ‘Hey, I’d love to take you for a cup of coffee and hear some stories.’ And from moment one that we sat down, something inside was like, ‘You have to hit record on your phone.’ And I’m thankful I did, because every story he told was just jaw-dropping. Fred was the fly in the room for everything.”[2]

Parker and Vail cultivated a friendship reminiscent of "Tuesdays With Morrie." “I went from fan to family,” says Parker. “I look at Fred at the grandfather I never really got to know. It’s been a journey.”[2]

Upon learning about the Cows in the Pasture tapes stored in Vail's garage, Parker saw the opportunity to not only to complete the project Vail had initiated with Brian Wilson back in 1970 but also to share Vail's life story with the world simultaneously.[2]

They will be heading into the studio with a selection of guest vocalists whose identities they're not prepared to disclose at this time. “They’re country music legends,” Parker says. “They’re rock & roll legends, contemporary country, and pop stars too.” However, he can disclose that T Bone Burnett, a 13-time Grammy winner, will be part of the project. (The instrumental tracks were primarily finalized back in 1970.)[2]

Over the past five decades, Vail's voice has undergone significant changes. However, Parker viewed this as an opportunity to experiment with a different approach to the vocals. The idea was to take this kind of Johnny Cash approach,” he says. “Late in his career, when he didn’t have the twang he used to have, they reinvented his voice with a sort of spoken-work approach. That’s sort of what Fred is doing in the studio.”[2]

A camera crew was present to film all of the studio work. “As of right now, we’re creating a four-part docuseries,” says Parker, who adds that Wilson will executive produce the series with him. “The first episode will tell Fred’s story. Episode two will be the story of Cows in the Pasture. Episode three takes place afterwards when Fred left California and came East. Episode four concludes the whole thing with the finishing of the album.”[2]

References[edit]

References retained from newer copyright-violating revision[edit]

[8] [1] [6] [5] [7] [9] [2]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Fred Vail | NAMM.org". www.namm.org. 2019-10-21. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 "Brian Wilson Began Work on a Country Album in 1970. It's Finally Coming Out". Rolling Stone. February 13, 2024. Retrieved February 13, 2024.
  3. Rubin, Joe. "A Sacramento teen who helped the Beach Boys rocket to fame, gets an encore 60 years later". Sacramento Bee.
  4. Stories, Local (2022-05-18). "Check Out Joe Carrell's Story - NashvilleVoyager Magazine | Nashville's Most Inspiring Stories". nashvillevoyager.com. Retrieved 2024-04-29.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Guitars, Artisan. "Nashville Icon - Fred Vail". Artisan Guitars. Retrieved 2024-01-24.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "40 years ago: The Beach Boys' Fourth of July concert on the National Mall was canceled". 4 July 2023.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Badman, Keith (2004). The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band, on Stage and in the Studio. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-0-87930-818-6. Search this book on
  8. "Treasure Isle Recorders, Inc. - Franklin, TN".
  9. Matijas-Mecca, Christian (2017). The Words and Music of Brian Wilson. ABC-CLIO. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-4408-3899-6. Search this book on


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