In his new memoir, Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy, the Southern California group’s co-founder Mike Love shares at least one decidedly bad vibration. The singer-songwriter claims that his cousin Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boys’s drummer, told him in 1969 about witnessing notorious criminal icon Charles Manson commit a previously unreported machine-gun murder.
According to Love, Wilson appeared visibly shaken in the recording studio after visiting with his then-friend Manson. When asked what was wrong, Wilson is reported to have replied: “I just saw Charlie take his M-16 and blow this black cat [guy] in half and stuff him down a well.”
Love writes extensively in Good Vibrations about Wilson’s short-lived relationship with Manson, which ended not long before followers of the notorious cult leader massacred seven people over a two-night 1969 terror spree.
Prior to that, Manson longed for rock stardom and had dwelled on the fringes of the Los Angeles rock scene for several years. He met Wilson after the Beach Boy picked up a pair of Manson’s female followers who were hitchhiking. The two men became party pals, and Wilson introduced Manson to several record executives who ultimately passed on Charlie’s music. The Beach Boys, however, did end up recording “Never Learn Not to Love,” a reworked version of the Manson composition “Cease to Exist.”
Wilson ultimately shut Manson out of his life as Charlie became more obviously unstable. Mike Love’s new revelation may shed light on to how pressing that decision had been.
Other claims have cropped up through the years linking Manson to unsolved crimes. Still, not everyone is buying this one. Retired Los Angeles County prosecutor Stephen Kay, who worked tirelessly to put Manson behind bars, says he suspects Wilson may have hallucinated the incident while on Manson-supplied LSD. “I’ve prosecuted four Tate-LaBianca murder trials and attended sixty parole hearings [of Manson family members],” Kay told People magazine, “and I’ve never heard that story before. If it was true, I would have heard it before.”
Main photo: mug shot of Charles Manson