Happy Birthday to Bruce Arthur Johnston – born Benjamin Baldwin on June 27, 1942!
Bruce Arthur Johnston (born Benjamin Baldwin on June 27, 1942) is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer best known as a member of The Beach Boys. In 1965, Johnston joined the band for live performances, filling in for the group’s co-founder Brian Wilson, who had quit touring in order to spend more time in the studio. Johnston then became a contributing member on subsequent albums. He is also known for his early 1960s collaborations with Terry Melcher as Bruce & Terry and with the surf band the Rip Chords, as well as composing the 1975 Barry Manilow song “I Write the Songs”.
As a child Johnston was adopted by William and Irene Johnston of Chicago and grew up on the West side of Los Angeles in Brentwood and Bel-Air. His adoptive father was president of the Owl Rexall Drug Company in Los Angeles after moving from Walgreens in Chicago. Johnston attended the private Bel Air Town and Country School (later renamed John Thomas Dye School) in Los Angeles and studied classical piano in his early years.
In high school, Johnston switched to contemporary music. He performed in a few “beginning” bands during this time and then moved on to working with young musicians such as Sandy Nelson, Kim Fowley, and Phil Spector.[Soon Johnston began backing people such as Ritchie Valens, the Everly Brothers, and Eddie Cochran. In 1959, while still in high school, Johnston arranged and played on his first hit record, “Teen Beat” by Sandy Nelson. The single reached the Billboard Top Ten. The same year, Johnston made his first single under his own name, “Take This Pearl” on Arwin Records (a record label owned by Doris Day) as part of the Bruce & Jerry duo (Jerry Cooper was a high school friend of Bruce’s)
In 1960, Johnston started his record production career at Del-Fi Records, producing five singles and an album – Love You So – by Ron Holden (all but two of the album’s eleven tracks were written or co-written by Johnston) In 1962 and 1963, Johnston continued his recording career with a series of surfin’ singles (vocal & instrumental) and an album, Surfin’ ‘Round The World, credited to Bruce Johnston, and another “live” album, The Bruce Johnston Surfin’ Band’s Surfer’s Pajama Party. In 1963 came the first collaboration with his friend Terry Melcher (Doris Day’s son), a mostly instrumental covers album credited to The Hot Doggers. The first artist the pair produced was a group called the Rip Chords. Johnston and Melcher were now working as staff producers at Columbia Records, Hollywood and by the time they were producing the million selling “Hey Little Cobra”, a knock-off of the Beach Boys car song vocal style, they also wound up singing every layered vocal part for the recording using an Ampex three track recording machine. The two of them made a few recordings as Bruce & Terry and the Rogues, but Melcher began to focus more on his production career (with the Byrds, Paul Revere & the Raiders).