Jon Stebbins, author
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L
et's Be Friends

Jon Stebbins, Dennis Wilson and Eddie Roach
Photos of Jon Stebbins and Ed Roach used by permission (c) Mark London 2000, taken at the Carl Wilson Walk Against Cancer

I was as naïve as they come. I was determined to write a book about Dennis Wilson, but I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Don't get me wrong; I knew what I wanted to say. Content was not a problem, nor was direction. The story of Dennis Wilson is a writer's dream. Every precious element of his being is fascinating. He was, of course, a larger than life character; his every move a potential chapter in itself. But I had no experience with such a consuming project. As the energy of his story unfolded I realized, somewhere along the line, I was only a passenger. I was happy to be aboard, but where was this vessel taking me?

Jon Stebbins and Ed Roach Jon and Ed Roach

Now the book has been in the public's hands for six months. I can happily say it all worked out well for me. I wanted to encourage people to take a look at Dennis Wilson's impact on our culture and a listen to his timeless music. It seems to be working. I have been heartened by the many encouraging comments from fans that have carried a similar feeling about Dennis. Today the long, weird and wonderful maze that led from concept to publication seems a bit like a dream. Now people will occasionally ask me, "What was the best thing about writing your book?" The answer is ironic in that it underlines Dennis' typical generosity. It's the last thing I would have expected in the beginning. You see the very best thing I got out of the experience is a whole new set of friends.My first interview for the book was with Earle Mankey in late 1997, the last was with Gregg Jakobson in the summer of 1999. In between I met some of the most interesting, giving, troubled, noble, funny, strange, and beautiful personalities of my entire life. There was Fred Vail down in Nashville who knew Dennis' heart was good and never forgot about it. Fred gave me his time and let his feelings show. I feel honored to know this gentleman. There were Denny's true buddies like Billy Hinsche and Bobby Figueroa who traveled the world and shared the stage with him. Billy, the consummate professional and Bobby, the sweet, soulful one, they carry a little of DW with them wherever they go. There were the friends who labored long and hard with Dennis in the studio like John Hanlon, Tom Murphy, and Trisha Campo. Dennis' limitless creative energy still astounds them. I met legends such as Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine, who surprised me with their youthful edge, and humbled me with their kindness. Both prefer to remember Dennis as a kid who was flush with success, smiling and golden.

Jon Stebbins and Carl B. Wilson Jon and Carl B. Wilson
Dennis’ life was filled with an array of colorful personalities. Some have become fixtures in my life, like the utterly remarkable Eddie Roach. Our connection was immediate. From the time we met it has been a whirlwind of smoky stories, carbonated conversation, painful arguments, questionable strategy, too much food, blaring clubs, succulent music, psychedelic game shows, unforgettable parties, inspired ideas, and satisfying laughs. Dennis’ vibrancy is so evident in this man that sometimes DW himself seems to briefly materialize amid the activity. Like a peripheral mirage his energy darts into the room. “Hey Ed, what was that?” Ed giggles,” It must be Dennis!” I am convinced that Dennis still follows Ed around, or maybe it’s the opposite. I’ve never figured that one out.

And what about Karen Lamm? Dennis loved her so deeply he married her twice. She’s been through the fire and believe me she knows it. Challenging, bright, tragic, and unflinching. She embraced me, scared me, shared with me, and became my friend. Karen has the aura of a unique and lonely star. She still lives in Dennis’ California and is constantly aware of it. She uses a vast array of four letter words, drives too fast, smokes too much, and when Dennis creeps back into her thoughts, they laugh a devilish laugh together.

Something struck me as unusual about Dennis’ songwriting partners. The collaborators were uncommon in their differences. Stephen Kalinich the perpetual poet, spinning a stream of Dennyisms as naturally as exhaling. Gregg Jakobson decidedly conservative, down to earth, he hung with Manson but never bought the rap. Stan Shapiro, an articulate and mellow teddy bear, Dennis must have driven him up the wall. But it’s a wall he misses, nonetheless. All of the people Dennis composed with are nearly opposite personality types. Gregg the steady, Stephen the dreamer, Stan the gentle, and Karen the flame. And let’s not forget Carl…the wonderful. God only knows what they’re composing now.I wish I had the chance to know some of them better. Ed Carter, clear and kind. James Guercio, formidable and accomplished. Jerry Schilling, sharp and sure. Nick Sanelli, spontaneous and lean. Blondie and Ricky, slyly silly and shyly willing.

And Denny’s family, they still feel the pain. I relished meeting the remarkable, dignified Barbara; she remains tender and warm, shining with love.Her children, Michael, constant motion with a spark and a flash, Dennis is in there. Carl B., a solid thumper, he carries the weight, remembering is hard. Hold on dear brother. Your dad’s fans are alive and everywhere. The support is real. I cherish those companions who guided me down the path, like Nadia, Chuck, Alan, Elliot, Betty, Domenic, Pam, Les, Lee, and Dave. Some have gone and some remain. I had never seen the light that people talk about until I entered Denny’s world. My effort has long passed but my connection continues to grow. And to the real Beach Boy, even though you’ve been gone for what seems like forever, you still have so much to give. Not the least of which are your wonderful, valuable, lovable friends. Jon Stebbins © 2000