Biography by Steve Eidem
Murry Gage Wilson was born July 2, 1917, in the dustbowl town of Hutchinson, Kansas. The third child of ultimately eight children born to William Coral and Edith Wilson, Murry’s adventures in life began early, when in August 1921, Edith packed up Murry and his four siblings and left the destitution of a hard-lived life in Kansas to follow her husband west to the orange groves of California and the Pacific Ocean. Over the next few years, the family would move several times around the Los Angeles area, eventually settling in Inglewood.
Murry’s father, William Coral Wilson, also known as “Buddy,” was a hardheaded, hard-drinking and hard-fighting man who had little time for his wife, and no time for his children. Unable to keep any sort of job, “Buddy” often took out his frustrations on his family, particularly on his second son, Murry.
Edith Wilson took on the role of provider for her growing family, and the older Wilson children pitched in. Teenaged Murry was determined to be the home’s main breadwinner, but the effects of the Depression kept him picking up only small odd jobs. Because times were lean, the Wilson children were forced to entertain themselves, which often meant simply singing around the house or singing with one another. Murry loved these times. He even found a guitar and began teaching himself how to play. It was during these musical family get-togethers that Murry decided that he wanted to be a songwriter.
Murry Wilson graduated from George Washington High School an unexceptional student. By then, he was hot-tempered, obnoxious and overbearing. His life at home was becoming increasingly more difficult as fisticuffs with his father, “Buddy,” were becoming more commonplace. Landing a job at Southern California Gas, Murry began distancing himself from the hostile household atmosphere. In doing so, he met his future wife, Audree Korthof.
Born September 28, 1917, to Carl and Ruth Korthof of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Audree Neva Korthof was a fun-loving girl raised in a strict and restrictive environment. When she met Murry Wilson, she was ready to be set free, and her enthusiasm for everything so infected Murry that he adopted all of her dreams and passions as his own. Murry and Audree were soon married, on March 26, 1938, and began what would be a very interesting life together.
Murry continued his employment with Southern California Gas until the birth of his first son, Brian Douglas (born June 20, 1942). To better provide for his now-growing family, Murry left Southern California Gas and took on a foreman position with Goodyear Tire & Rubber. Despite the new job, Murry was disappointed, frustrated and angry at his inability to really succeed and grab onto that fabled American Dream.
Murry and Audree’s brood soon grew once again with the birth of their second son, Dennis Carl (born December 4, 1944).
Some months later, Murry was involved in a freak accident at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber plant when a metal bar impaled his left eye. After much rehabilitation, Murry wore an eye patch and returned to Goodyear, and to compensate for his new disability, was even more aggressive and overbearing than before. Things didn’t last long like that, and Murry changed careers once again to go into the fast-growing aviation field with a company called AiResearch. He didn’t have much choice; Audree was expecting another child.
With his new job, Murry bought his first home, and moved his family to 3701 119th Street in Hawthorne. Murry and Audree’s third son, Carl Dean (born December 21, 1946), completed their family. Unlike his father, “Buddy,” Murry doted on his children…with music. He loved to play music and sing to his sons. Murry’s teenage dream of being a songwriter was still alive within him, and he spent whatever time he could playing music on the piano and singing. On the work front, Murry was again fed up with doing others’ biddings, and on his fifth anniversary with the company, quit AiResearch to start a business of his own: A.B.L.E. Machinery.
By 1951, Murry began to make some musical connections. He began working with a small publishing company, Guild Music, owned by Hite and Dorinda Morgan, and with Palace Records. Palace Records recording artist, Jimmy Haskell, wound up recording two of Murry’s songs, “Hide My Tears” and “Fiesta Day Polka,” while The Bachelors recorded Murry’s “Two Step, Side Step.” Murry’s musical highpoint came when Lawrence Welk and his orchestra performed “Two Step, Side Step” on his television program.
As Murry and Audree’s sons grew, they also joined in on the family sing-alongs. Murry bought an organ for Audree, and together they would play, sing and harmonize. Despite the happy musical tidings, life in Murry Wilson’s house was filled with tension. Murry had his father’s volatile personality, and would often take his anger and frustrations out on his own sons, much as his father had done to him. Physical beatings were not out of the norm for the young Wilson boys, and it was Murry’s second son, Dennis, that received the brunt of the beatings.
Rock ‘N’ Roll music came out of nowhere in the mid 1950s, and the music-loving Wilson boys paid close attention. The boys were now singing with friends and neighbors. Brian was always playing the piano or organ, working out vocal arrangements, and Carl was learning the guitar with a neighbor boy. Murry’s sister, Emily Glee, also had children, and her oldest son, Mike, began hanging around the Wilson home as well, joining in on all the musical fun.
In the late summer of 1961, Murry and Audree went on a business trip to Mexico. When they returned, the boys played Murry a song they had written titled “Surfin’.” Since he had connections, Murry promised the boys that he would help them out and get their song recorded. He appointed himself the group’s manager and called on old friends, Hite and Dorinda Morgan, who recorded the group – then known as The Pendletones – and released the “Surfin’” song on the Candix label. When the 45 hit the record shelves, the group’s name had been changed to The Beach Boys.
Murry understood that the Morgans were very limited on what they could do for his sons, so Murry began going door-to-door, engaging anyone willing to listen to The Beach Boys’ demo tapes. He finally found an avid ear in Nik Venet at Capitol Records. Murry’s persistence got his sons their first recording contract, and it was with a huge, successful company! Murry was now in charge more than ever. He soon sold A.B.L.E. Machinery to devote all his time to managing the band, and his sons would quickly rue the day that they let their father be their manager.
Murry’s band managing skills matched his parenting skills; he hit and screamed at whoever he wanted. He was insufferable on tours, and fined the group for any infraction, including not smiling. As the group progressed, recording sessions became unbearable. As a frustrated songwriter of limited ability, Murry grew increasingly jealous of the relative ease with which his oldest son, Brian, could write hit pop songs. Like the other endeavors in Murry’s life, playing what he felt was second fiddle to his own sons left Murry angry and frustrated all over again. He intentionally and continually disrupted recording sessions to try and exert his power over the proceedings. Finally, in early 1965, at a recording session for The Beach Boys’ #1 hit single, Help Me Rhonda, he was fired as The Beach Boys’ manager.
Depressed, Murry took to his bed for months. As part owner of the band’s publishing company, Sea Of Tunes, Murry still conducted some business from his bed, but he was devastated by his dismissal as the group’s manager. The aggressive side of Murry ultimately found him competing with his own sons by convincing Capitol Records to release an album of his own music titled, The Many Moods Of Murry Wilson. He also began to manage a Beach Boys-copy band called The Sunrays, but they were far from being able to give The Beach Boys a run for their money. No longer able to cope with her husband’s destructive behavior, Audree moved out.
The latter part of the 1960s saw The Beach Boys’ popularity wane, and with this came lagging record sales. With The Beach Boys’ catalog not selling like it did in the early ‘60s, Sea Of Tunes Publishing, which was essentially Murry’s meal ticket, wasn’t making the money it once was. So, in November 1969, without anyone else’s consent, Murry sold the Sea Of Tunes Publishing company, which consisted of all of Brian’s Beach Boys music, to Irving Almo Music for a paltry $700,000. He kept all the money.
In the following years, Murry continued to give odd interviews on occasion whenever there was someone willing to listen to his viewpoints on the music business or his philosophies on life. He was eager to discuss his sons’ successes, but wanted it understood that fame took its toll and that his boys just got too big for their britches. Though living separately, Audree continued to associate and be with Murry. It was while Audree was visiting, on June 4 1973, that Murry suffered a fatal heart attack and died. He was buried at the Inglewood Park Cemetery. Brian and Dennis refused to attend the funeral.
Content provided by Steve Eidem.
Source: Tim White's "The Nearest Faraway Place"
Copyright 2008 Steve Eidem