“The Beach Boys are not a superstar group,” observed original Beach Boy band member Dennis Wilson. “The music is the superstar of the group.”
If we take Wilson at his word, we’re in for a treat as that superstar music is performed to perfection by Sail On — the most booked Beach Boys tribute band in the world.
At 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, Redlands Bowl Performing Arts will present the group’s faithful re-creation of the Beach Boys’ timeless songs of surfing, cruising, dancing and dreaming.
“We don’t try to put on wigs and silly costumes, trying to imitate the Beach Boys,” Sail On band member Paul Runyon wryly commented. “We try to give the essence of the group, right down to the harmonies and the playing.”
“It’s no small task to faithfully reproduce music that is iconic, universally familiar and beloved,” said fellow member Mike Thompson. “Our focus is honoring the musical specifics of the songs very closely, keeping creative or interpretive license to the absolute minimum, allowing people to enjoy the music as they remember it and still hear it today.”
The members of Sail On are clear about their origin and common bond.
“We got together through our shared love for the music of ther1960s — particularly the Beach Boys.” said Mike. In 2018, Sail On was invited as a last-minute alternative when the Nashville Symphony discovered Beach Boy Brian Wilson was too ill to perform.
“We were invited to fill in on short notice,” Mike recalled. “The request itself was a high honor and performing the songs of the Beach Boys with the Nashville Symphony was truly unforgettable. We will always be grateful to Brian Wilson’s team, the symphony, and the audience for the opportunity.”
Sail On has since performed at dozens of venues across the country and before the pandemic struck, averaged more than 80 concert performances annually.
“So many performances!” affirmed Paul. “In fact, we don’t need to practice anymore, it’s so ingrained.”
The group’s members have performed with musicians from Brian Wilson’s band, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Zombies and Mark Lindsay. They have also produced records for Micky Dolenz of the Monkees.
Each member has been well prepared to form this impressive group.
Paul Runyon (keys and vocals) grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, and developed a love of music and singing at an early age. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music from the College of Charleston and is now a vocalist with many recording credits in choral ensembles. Runyon’s experiences include performing with the retro-pop band, the Explorer Club, and he has toured with Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders.
Matt Thompson (guitar/vocals) hails from North Vernon, Indiana, and began playing guitar and singing in his early teens. He studied music composition and arranging at Berkeley College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, and continues performing and recording as a freelance composer. Inspired by the rich musicality of 1960s pop, Thompson said he fell in love with the harmonies of the Beach Boys during his college years.
Mike Williamson (keys and vocals) is a multi-instrumentalist and singer originally from Griffin, Georgia. Beginning as a teenager, Williamson spent many years touring across North America performing everything from folk to jazz music. He wears many hats as a recording studio veteran where he serves as composer, arranger, musician, engineer and producer.
Wyatt Funderburk (bass and vocals) was born into a musical family living in Mississippi where he became captivated by the Beach Boy’s music early in life. His passion for performing and songwriting led him to Nashville where he studied composition and audio production at Belmont University. As head of his own studio in Nashville, Wyatt also produces the web’s No. 1 Beach Boys audio program, Sail On: The Beach Boys Podcast, which he created and hosts.
Ben Potter (drums and percussion) is originally from Reading, England, but was raised in India. While in his youth there, he began playing the drums. He eventually arrived in America upon enrolling at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles and has subsequently performed as a professional drummer and percussionist in Nashville, where he is now based.
As the newest member of Sail On, Potter appreciates the opportunity to play with the group. “I love sharing the carefree feeling that characterizes much of the Beach Boy’s music,” he said.
And now it’s our turn to enjoy these timeless superstar songs that go hand in hand with summer. The Sail On concert promises to be “Fun, Fun, Fun!”
Wayne R. Scott is an award-winning writer, producer and director who serves as president of LifeHouse Theater, Redlands.