John Stamos was around 13 when he attended his first rock concert, The Beach Boys at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. Back then, his dream was that someone would come out before the concert started and announce that the drummer hurt his finger and ask if there was anyone in the audience who knew these songs, and he would heroically bound onstage.
For the last 35 years, Stamos has been living the dream, going on tour with The Beach Boys as their drummer. This weekend, The Beach Boys return to Ravinia’s Pavilion in a co-headlining concert with Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band. Have mercy! (I promise that will be the last Full House reference.)
Stamos, growing up in Southern California, wasn’t as much into The Beatles as he was The Beach Boys, a lifelong love affair that began with an eight-track copy of Endless Summer. “It’s heart music,” he told Ravinia in a phone interview. “You just feel it. Their songs really got to me. ‘God Only Knows’ is a perfect song.”
Bob Saget, Stamos’s friend and frequent co-star (most recently on the Netflix series Historical Roasts, on which Stamos plays John Wilkes Booth to Saget’s Abraham Lincoln) has said that there is nothing better than Stamos playing with The Beach Boys. The artistic partnership began in the mid-1980s when Stamos was the Emmy-nominated co-star of General Hospital. As he tells it, he was friends with then Beach Boys guitarist Jeffrey Foskett, who invited him to a concert. Such were the screams from female General Hospital fans that greeted Stamos that the other guys in the band said, “Let’s bring him onstage.”
“The first song I sang was ‘Barbara Ann,’ ” Stamos said. “I eventually worked my way to the drums. One of the first big shows I did with them was a Fourth of July concert at the Washington Monument. Now they can’t get rid of me.”
The Beach Boys would make a memorable appearance on Full House in the 1988 episode “Beach Boy Bingo,” in which they performed the chart-topping hit “Kokomo” from the Tom Cruise film Cocktail. Stamos memorably appears in the music video playing congas and wearing a fuchsia tank top.
The Full House episode helped introduce The Beach Boys to a new generation. Stamos also served as an executive producer on the award-winning 2000 miniseries The Beach Boys: An American Family.
Stamos still marvels at how many classic songs The Beach Boys’ catalogue contains (the one he most enjoys playing is “Good Vibrations”). “So many songs,” he said, “and Mike Love switches up the set list all the time. It’s cool. I’ve played most everything, but sometimes he’ll pull out a song that none of us have played in years, like, ‘Why don’t we do ‘Summertime Blues’?”
The Ravinia shows, he noted, will be hit after hit. “They have so many, they have to do medleys,” he said with a laugh
But a Beach Boys concert is no mere nostalgic trip. “The songs somehow mean more now,” Stamos observed. “They’re time-released; a song like ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ hits harder now and has more emotional impact.”
As if playing with his childhood heroes wasn’t enough, Stamos has over the decades gotten to play with other musical icons, such as B.B. King. “And being on the same bill with Ringo is pretty cool,” he said with knowing understatement.
Perhaps his most memorable brush with iconic greatness was being invited to attend former Credence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty’s birthday at the rocker’s home. “I’m playing drums in John Fogerty’s living room,” Stamos recalled, “and then John says, ‘Bruce, come on up.’ Springsteen gets up and I played with him for about 45 minutes.”
There’s a viral video waiting to happen, but don’t hold your breath. “His wife videotaped it and gave me a copy years ago,” he said. “But she said, ‘Don’t ever let this out.’ I’ve kept my promise.”
As for the Ravinia shows, Stamos said that fans can expect a surf’s uplift. At a time of heightened discord in the country, Stamos said, The Beach Boys “will make you feel a little better, at least for the night. You’re going to going to leave feeling a little more optimistic. That’s what happens to me.”