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Steve Douglas
Steve Douglas
(Tenor Saxophone)

(NOTE: In general the saxophone players also "doubled" on other woodwind instruments such as clarinet, flute and English horn.)

(This L.A. native began playing in bands when he was a teenager at Fairfax High School. Unlike most of the studio players of the 1960s who preferred jazz, the late Mr. Douglas started out as a rock 'n roller. He was heavily influenced by the 1950s R&B scene in L.A. and cited Plas Johnson and Lee Allen as musical role models. While in school, he worked with a variety of local bands – the most notable being Kip Tyler and the Flips. In 1958, he toured and recorded with Duane Eddy. Before the decade was over, he had begun to establish himself as a figure on the studio scene and worked constantly on sessions for the next five years. Very early on, he began playing on Brian Wilson-produced dates, possibly as early as "Ten Little Indians" from the Beach Boys' Surfin' Safari album. Steve, as everybody recalls, had a great rapport with Brian, and Brian often used Steve as a leader on his sessions. More than that, Steve was usually the one who would take Brian's chord charts and transpose the music for the horn section.

The following quotes are excerpts from a 1977 interview I did with Steve.)


Before his death, Steve often spoke about his work and relationship with Brian. Steve said that musicians looked forward to working with Brian since the dates were more than the three standard, three-chord songs they usually had to play, and he recalled that Brian was always open to new ideas such as using a flute to open "Sloop John B." Steve noted that what always amazed him was Brian's ability as a producer to hear the whole record. "Most of the time, he had the licks worked out. We might add or subtract something, somewhere along the way. He was always open to suggestions. A lot of times, Brian would dictate parts right out of his head, come in with just a  few licks written out for the horns and we'd make our own. He brought a lot of harmonies sometimes. Most of the time, he'd never write out the stuff in the right key."

By 1966, even though Steve was an executive at Capitol, he found the time to play on Pet Sounds. As important as his contributions were in the studio, he was equally interested in Brian outside that arena. Steve remembered pushing Brian to release "Caroline, No" as a Brian Wilson single. "I was really instigating him to put it out under his own name and he did." Its release, Douglas recalled with a shake of the head, "caused problems, man, I just can't tell you."

"I remember when Brian turned in Pet Sounds ...It was full of noise. You could hear him talking in the background. It was real sloppy. He had spent all this time making this album and zip, dubbed it down in one day or something like that. [When we said something to him about it], he took it back and mixed it properly. I think a lot of times, beautiful orchestrated stuff or parts got lost in his mixes...I think of Brian as primarily a great orchestrator. I think he could do a fabulous symphony...he came closest to an idea like that in Pet Sounds. The sounds of the orchestra, the woodwind quartets, are really symphonic. It would be great if he could put those orchestrating and arranging chops into a full symphony. It would be astounding. I've always been a big fan of him and his talent...I enjoyed working with him. He is a great musician."

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