Skip to main content

The 10 albums that changed surf musician Gary Griffin's life

Griffin performs with The Surf City Allstars, which features members of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean touring bands, and had TV roles with John Stamos.

By David Beard

You may not recognize Gary Griffin’s name, but you probably know his work.

The keyboardist and vocalist has played with artists including Charles Lloyd, The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson and Jan & Dean. After writing string arrangements and providing vocals and keyboards for The Beach Boys’ “MIU Album,” Griffin toured with the group and its spinoff band, Mike Love and Celebration, for three years.

A friendship with actor John Stamos led to a regular role on ABC-TV’s “General Hospital” in 1983-1984 as a member of the band Riff Raff, followed by another eight-year stint with Stamos on the ABC sitcom “Full House” as a member of Jesse and the Rippers.

Griffin co-produced The Beach Boys’ recording of Dennis Wilson’s “Forever,” which appeared on the Beach Boys’ “Summer in Paradise” CD. In 2000, he was music director for the Emmy-nominated mini-series “The Beach Boys: An American Family.” Griffin is a part-time member of Brian Wilson’s touring band and has also played keyboards and sung on several of Wilson’s recent studio releases. He also participated in The Beach Boys’ 2011 reunion recordings and the group’s 2012 album “That’s Why God Made the Radio.” Griffin performs with The Surf City Allstars, comprised of former members of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean touring bands.

And now, here are the 10 albums that changed Gary Griffin's life.

1. Vince Guaraldi Trio, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus
My older brother, John, bought this record when we were kids. He had incredibly good taste for a 15-year-old. Guaraldi’s piano playing has always taken me somewhere special. I got to see him play in the early ’70s in San Francisco not long before he passed away. I’m so glad his music has received so much love through the years. Very well-deserved.

Vince Guaraldi Trio Black Orpheus

2. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
I’ll be big enough to admit this: When this first came out, I was around 13 or 14 years old, and I actually returned it to the record department at Mabley and Carew’s in Western Hills Plaza, Cincinnati. I just didn’t like it; I just wasn’t ready for something so sophisticated from The Beach Boys. Of course I re-bought it a few weeks later. What else can be said about this one? Probably the perfect record. Whew! So glad to get that off my chest!

The Beach Boys Pet Sounds

3. The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle
Big thanks to Al Kooper for getting this record to an American label a year or two after it had been recorded and the band had split up. Great songwriting and arrangements — and Colin Blunstone’s voice? What can I say? I always wanted to be able to sing like him. Didn’t happen.

The Zombies Odessy and Oracle

4. Simon and Garfunkel, Bookends
When this LP was released, I was closer in age to the protagonist in “Save the Life of My Child.” Now, I’m fast approaching the “Old Friends” characters. Side One still remains as poignant a musical statement on the circle of time as you’ll find anywhere.

Simon and Garfunkel Bookends

5. The Rascals, Once Upon A Dream
I sure hope I get the opportunity to see their reunion show sometime soon. This record was their finest group effort. Even the artwork, done by Dino Danelli, was inspired. It’s wonderful.

The Rascals Once Upon A Dream

6. Gordon Lightfoot, Sit Down Young Stranger
Always one of my favorite LPs. It came out during my first year of college and can instantly take me right back to those days. And it featured the West Coast’s finest musicians and arrangers: Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks, Nick DeCaro, Ry Cooder. A very sweet LP.

Gordon LIghtfoot Sit Down Young Stranger

7. Gavin Bryars, Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Allowing yourself the time and patience to listen to this unique piece of work is a spiritual luxury everyone deserves. Thanks to my pal Lanny Cordola for the tip!


8. Todd Rundgren, Something/Anything
It’s pretty tough to pick one Todd LP to single out; so many have been exceptional. I’ll laud this one simply because it completely floored me when it came out. Two discs full of colorful, hooky pop tunes that just hinted at great things to come.

Todd Rundgren Something Anything

9. Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark
Joni Mitchell at her finest and maybe most accessible ever. Her songwriting was simply amazing, and the musicianship was inspiring.

Joni Mitchell Court And Spark

10. Tomita, Snowflakes Are Dancing
This record affected me in two very distinct ways. It was my first real exposure to the incredible music of Claude Debussy, and it showed me the creative versatility of the synthesizer. And this record was done before multitimbral synthesizers were used! Quite an accomplishment.

Tomita Snowflakes Are Dancing