Monday, May 29, 2017

Surf’s Up: Terry Melcher’s Nightmare Is Over

I came across this article the other day about Terry Melcher. The first half is about his career, which is interesting in and of itself. In the second half he discusses his connection to Manson.

October 23, 1970

Surf’s Up! Terry Melcher’s Nightmare Is Over

Tom Nolan, Rolling Stone, 9 May 1974

LOS ANGELES – Terry Melcher, a consistent professional, has participated in scores of hits with artists as diverse as Frankie Laine and the Byrds. Seven Melcher-produced gold albums including Turn, Turn, Turn and The Byrds’ Greatest Hits as well as singles by the Byrds and Paul Revere and the Raiders attest to his talent.

However, it’s not Melcher’s production talent that people think of, but a rumor that isn’t even true: that it was Terry Melcher whom Charles Manson’s accomplices were really looking for the night they killed Sharon Tate and three others in the Bel Air house Melcher had rented to Roman Polanski.

Perhaps the rumor has never been corrected in a public enough manner, but even if it had, it probably would still have survived. Doris Day’s son is too irresistible a magnet for malice. Rich, California-handsome, 31, Melcher often escorted women like Candice Bergen, Tuesday Weld and Michele Phillips before his marriage to Melissa Whittaker three months ago. He seems to generate a bilious jealousy, that he couldn’t have gotten where he is on his own merit.

Melcher has recently completed an album of his own (on which he writes, sings and plays the piano), entitled Terry Melcher. Three years in the making, it was co-produced by ex-Beach Boy Bruce Johnston. In conjunction with the record’s release, he is tentatively beginning to grant interviews. At the home of a friend he spoke of his past work and associations, his current projects, and of things that have been with him privately for years.

At the outset Terry proved to be affable, gregarious, even humorous. He recreated his years as a novice producer and artist with glee, repeating punch lines and doing hilarious impressions of Pat Boone and Wayne Newton. “There were just a few people,” he said, “doing that car and surfing thing: Brian Wilson, Jan and Dean, Gary Usher, Bruce Johnston and myself. We were all working on Sunset Boulevard, all within a block of each other. And our records were...unusually similar!”
While Brian Wilson sang lead or harmony parts on some Jan and Dean discs, Terry and Bruce Johnston did most of the vocal work for Melcher-produced groups like the Rip Chords; the two also had a short string of nonpseudonymous hits as “Bruce and Terry.”

After entering the second phase of his producing career, marked by his reunion with the Byrds on The Ballad of Easy Rider in November 1969, Terry contributed occasional vocal and piano work (usually uncredited) to various projects (including ‘I Trust’ on Byrdmaniax) and also co-wrote songs, especially for the Raiders. “I cut all the Raiders’ tracks with studio musicians when the group itself was out of town. That was fine with Paul Revere. That way he never had to take those guys off the road. He could he out there all year, leaping around in his...tights.”

A similar arrangement for the Byrds’ first album, Mr. Tambourine Man, created bitterness evident to this day. “I had a hard time getting friendly with any of the original Byrds besides Roger [McGiuinn] because none of them had played on that record. It was Roger’s and their manager’s idea. They said from the start, ‘The group isn’t ready.’ Somehow I got the blame.”

Of that period Melcher said, “I worked with the Byrds and got fired because I didn’t get high. Then I worked with the Raiders and got fired because I did. And then I didn’t work! Then I went to court for five years.” (He referred to his lengthy lawsuit to straighten out his late stepfather’s financial affairs, a probate action involving the estate, which Terry managed, and the income from The Doris Day Show.)

It was during this stage in his career that Melcher became peripherally involved in the events that would become maddeningly involved with his name. It started a year before the Tate murders in Bel Air.

“I met Manson in the early fall of 1968 at Dennis Wilson’s house,” he said softly. He sounded like a man relating a grotesque, incomprehensible nightmare. “Dennis thought he was some sort of guru then. Six months later Gregg Jacobsen asked me to come and listen to them play. He said there were three guitars, 30 voices, all raised in peaceful hymns. I went. I listened. I met Manson one other time. That was that.

“My contact with the police began three or four months after all the...murders. I was in the shower and the doorbell rang. I went to the door and there were these two plainclothes cops. I could just tell that’s what they were. ‘Sure,’ I said, ‘you can come in.’ And they asked me, ‘Do you know anybody who would like to kill you?’”

The police told him they had captured the people responsible for the murders in Bel Air, that he should keep it to himself until the news was released and, “’Oh, yeah,’ they said, ‘you might think about getting some guards and guns up here.’

“The cops were coming to my house every single day for about three months. Each time they’d have five or ten new pictures to show me. ‘You ever seen this guy?’ They seemed to be rounding up hundreds of people, anybody with long hair and a beard, it looked like.

“They kept telling me I don’t even know if it was true – ‘Several of the girls are pregnant, and they all say you’re the father.’ One day I got so pissed about that I got out some pictures of girls I’d gone with and I said, ‘Now look, you guys. Why would I want to make it with those...if I’m doing OK over here.’ That made sense to them. They backed off.”

The pressure was unrelenting. Melcher received a letter from an Inyo County court about a couple of rapes and murders in that area, “because it sounded so much like all these other hippie murders down here, and a stranger answering my description had been seen in the area. I don’t even know where Inyo County is. Not even the L.A. D.A. could get them off my back. If I hadn’t had a stamped passport showing I’d been in Europe, I would have had to stand trial.”

Not until nearly a year later did Melcher learn that what he was led to believe was not true; no one had been “looking for him” the night four people died.

“Manson had been trying to get in touch with me to play me some more music. He found out where I lived in Malibu. So he went to my house but I wasn’t home. He took a telescope off the sun deck to show it to my friend Jacobsen so Gregg would give him my number. Manson knew where I lived. He knew I didn’t live in Bel Air.

“Gregg didn’t bother to tell me that until almost a year later. The police didn’t bother to tell me that. For nine months they had me thinking those people got killed because I couldn’t be found. My guilt was monumental. I felt, ‘Why couldn’t it have been me? How much easier it would have been.’
“I guess they wanted to make it into a big New Hollywood/drug/hippie shakedown. It really turned a lot of people against each other. I noticed that a few people became afraid of me. I know I became afraid of everyone else.

“I finally went to a psychiatrist. He said, ‘I don’t know what to tell you. You’re going to be crazy for a while. Try to get through it.”’

After all the fear and gossip Melcher was asked only a few gentle questions the day he took the stand in the Manson case, questions establishing when and where be had first seen the defendants.
“Manson sat there smiling at me through the whole thing. The three girls too. One of them had her skirt up, doing a little leg thing under the table. When I was finished, their lawyer, Kanarek, said something like, ‘We want Mr. Melcher to know that the defendants have never borne him any ill will.’

“And of course...I’ve felt wonderful ever since.

“I’ve seen Dennis a couple of times since then, but he’s never made any comment to me about any of that. The most he’s ever said has been something like: ‘Phew! Weird.’”

The day Melcher testified in the Manson case he went home and wrote ‘Halls Of Justice’, an angry account of his day with echoes of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and ‘Positively 4th Street’. He booked time at Wally Heider’s sound studio and cut the tune that night, with Roger McGuinn on lead guitar. “You’ve got a lot of nerve,” he sang bitterly, “to say you are my friends.”

“Everyone seemed to like it a lot, and RCA wanted to buy it. Very badly, in fact. But Roger McGuinn told me I would be capitalizing on a tragedy, and...I let myself be convinced.”
Melcher eventually changed his mind and negotiated an album deal with Warners. In April 1972, a motorcycle accident sent him to the hospital for eight months with two broken legs.

Now the record is finished, and its prospects seem excellent. It boasts a wonderfully voiced Melcher, strong songs and production, a stellar line-up of L.A. sessionmen and Doris Day as a backup vocalist. Since the release of his album and his marriage in February, friends say he has never been more confident, content and full of future plans.
Here’s a picture of the Doris Day beachhouse as it sits today. David Geffen purchased the property and four adjoining parcels to build this compound- everything in the image. Doris’ house is long gone, remodeled into the larger structure to the left.

If you want this piece of Manson memorabilia it was up for sale in May for 100 million.


Jenn said...

The Geffen property recently sold for $85 million, thought to be the most expensive real estate transaction in Malibu history. So we're sadly out of luck.

orwhut said...

“They kept telling me I don’t even know if it was true – ‘Several of the girls are pregnant, and they all say you’re the father.’ One day I got so pissed about that I got out some pictures of girls I’d gone with and I said, ‘Now look, you guys. Why would I want to make it with those...if I’m doing OK over here.’ That made sense to them. They backed off.”

The quote seems to be in disagreement with what Jeff Guinn implies when he says Melcher wanted to move Ouisch in as a housekeeper. MANSON The Life and Times of Charles Manson pg. 157 paragraph 2.

Chris Till said...

According to L.A. session guitarist Jerry Cole, Melcher recorded Manson's songs with backing by the legendary "Wrecking Crew" session crew. Here's a video interview with Cole about the sessions:

David said...

Jenn May,

Shows how long some of these sit. I wrote that last fall. Thanks and damn. I was going to suggest we take up a collection ;-).

starviego said...

So did Melcher ever promise stuff to Charlie, and then wouldn't or couldn't deliver, thereby causing Charlie to become angry and bitter and then to swear vengeance on Piggy, which then led to Helter Skelter?

Because if there was no bad blood between the two, you basically undercut the whole "Charlie wanted to get back at Hollywood/the Beautiful People" theory of motive.

CrisPOA said...

Very interesting article, but to call Melcher a California-handsome guy is a bit too much in my humble opinion

grimtraveller said...

starviego said...

Because if there was no bad blood between the two, you basically undercut the whole "Charlie wanted to get back at Hollywood/the Beautiful People" theory of motive

On the other hand, that's assuming that Charlie back in '69 thought like you do now, with your thought process and your rationale.
I sometimes get a gentle ribbing for being prepared to take on board what certain of the Family members have said about murder, motive and various events, but what I'm really doing is trying to demonstrate that this particular group of people had a very particular mindset in which no sense really did make sense ~ if you approached through their thought.
If you listen to some of the things Charlie has said down the years, one can see that sometimes, he minimizes major things {eg, his role in the LaBianca crime, the bottomless pit, telling the murder women to write something witchy at a murder scene he claims he didn't know about} and on other occasions, makes mountains out of molehills {eg, his continuing rants over the years towards Bugliosi after defending him in court}.
If he felt that Melcher was treating him with disdain, after some of the things he'd endured in his life from those that had held the power over him, that could be enough to get him brooding. I've known a number of people like that. I know someone like that now. They've been full of bile the whole time I've known them and even an encouragement, if it doesn't come the way that person thinks it should, will let loose the kind of bilious attack that you really don't want to be in the way of or even have to hear.
An old mate of mine has a rather apt saying ¬> "hurt people hurt people." The point being that their own hurt comes before whether or not someone really has done something to them deserving of equal treatment.

grimtraveller said...

The article said...

The day Melcher testified in the Manson case he went home and wrote ‘Halls Of Justice’, an angry account of his day with echoes of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and ‘Positively 4th Street’. He booked time at Wally Heider’s sound studio and cut the tune that night, with Roger McGuinn on lead guitar. “You’ve got a lot of nerve,” he sang bitterly, “to say you are my friends.”

That was rather revealing !
The Terry Melcher saga is yet another one of the subsets of the whole TLB that is shrouded in mystery. He was adamant he had miniscule contact with the Family, writers like Guinn and Shreck and other sources say the opposite.
The opening lines to that song seem pointed in flames at the Family but like so much of our favourite little tale, we'll probably never know what really happened. Interestingly, while much was made of the Manson/Melcher connection, the Tex/Melcher one is the one that was very real but barely gets mentioned.

David said...

Or Starviego, as the evidence strongly suggests there were no promises, there was no on going connection and the revenge motive is crap.

But helps TV ratings and book sales.

Mr. Humphrat said...

According to book Everybody Had an Ocean, Melcher and Bergen, after finding out about murders, on August 9, were walking on the beach in Malibu and ran into David Geffen and Lou Adler. Melcher related the details of the murder to the two men and they listened intently, after which Geffen asked Melcher if he wanted to sell his house.

Guida Diehl said...

Melcher was banging Tuesday Weld?? Lucky SOB...

Guida Diehl said...


What's wrong with you, Chris? Don't find THIS handsome: ??


starviego said...

Here is what Bugliosi had to say in his book:

"Much of the time at the Gresham Street house... was spent composing songs for Charlie's album. Charlie worked hard on these songs...
Manson was counting on Terry Melcher to produce this album. According to numerous Family members... Terry had promised to come and listen to the songs one evening.. Melcher didn't show. Manson, according to Poston and Watkins, never forgave Terry for this. Melcher's word was no good, he said angrily on a number of occasions."

Bugliosi explains why the album was so important to Charlie:

"Blackie had been temporarily "pacified" by the young white girls, Manson claimed. But when he took away the pacifier--when his album came out and all the young loves followed Pied Piper Charlie to the desert--blackie would need another means of getting his frustrations out and he would turn to the establishment. ...
But Terry Melcher didn't come through. The album wasn't made."

So according to Bugs, the Resentment theory is valid.

Matt said...

Muammar Covfefe (sorry...)

David said...

Well Starviego, Bugliosi is the source of the motive. The thing I see here is that Gresham St. I think is early '69 and Melcher's visit(s) to Spahn are May '69 I think. I'm not at a place I can confirm that so If I'm wrong someone correct me.

David said...


I'm going with the nuclear codes on that.

Unknown said...

Melcher was a candy ass mama's boy. Manson should have whipped his ass.

grimtraveller said...

David said...

as the evidence strongly suggests there were no promises, there was no on going connection and the revenge motive is crap

Interestingly, there was no revenge motive put forth at the trial. Helter skelter, passion for death {"Charlie's trip was violent death," "There was Manson's hatred, his hatred for human beings, and his passion and lust for their violent death"} and hatred of the establishment {"Another motive was Manson's extreme anti~establishment hatred. Unquestionably, on both nights, Charles Manson was viciously striking out at the establishment; and with respect to the Tate residence particularly, the establishment's rejection and repudiation of him."} were the motives put forth for Manson, "Charlie told us to" was the motive put forth for the others.
Wild. said...

Melcher visited Spahn in May of '69

On May 22, 69, Manson sent a letter to his probation officer requesting permission to travel to Texas to perform with the Beach Boys for two weeks.

On May 27th, he informed his probation officer that he didn't go to Texas because the group left without him.

Also, on his supervision report for that month, Manson listed Greg Jacobsen as his employer and stated his job was "caretaker + songwriter" and that he had earned $500 for a music gig.

cielodrivecom said...

From an internal probation office letter dated 12/17/68...

Dear Mr. Wahl,

We would like to review our courtesy supervision of subject and bring you up to date on his situation.

Last July 1968, Manson thought it best for everyone to move from the home of Dennis Wilson in the Pacific Palisades area, so he located himself at Spahn's Movie Ranch situated between Chatsworth and Santa Susana. At one time the ranch was used frequently as a location for western movies, and presently it is used in stabling horses. There is a considerable number of livestock at the ranch now. We visited Manson there on 10-3-68, and found him dressed in western clothes and performing well in his role as a cowboy. He claimed that the setting provided him with enough activity to do something worthwhile, and that he was distant enough from any negative influence.

On November 5, 1968, Manson called our office requesting that he be permitted to leave Spahn's Movie Ranch as he had en opportunity to locate himself on another ranch known as Meyers Ranch about twenty miles east of Trona, California. Manson claimed that he was getting bored at Spahn's Ranch and that Meyers Ranch would be a good change. He was anxious to continue with ranch life as a means of not taking on too much responsibility and thought in that respect it would be simple for him to stay out of trouble. Manson also claimed that Dennis Wilson was giving him advances to pay his expenses which would be deducted from any royalties due Manson when two of his songs are released on the next Beach Boys record album. We decided to allow subject to change his residence.

Subject last personally reported to our office on 12-5-68 advising that he was still staying at the Meyers Ranch and that he had to be in Los Angeles on business that date for a talk with Dennis Wilson. Subject claimed that his two songs were being released and that he had $5000 coming from one song and that he was to make a personal settlement with Wilson on the balance due him from the other song. Subject claimed that he had also been gold prospecting in the Death Valley area, and by good fortune had discovered a vein of gold bearing ore in one of the mountains at a high altitude. Manson stated that he and two other prospectors had already filed a claim on this mine.

Subject has submitted his monthly reports to our office regularly and otherwise has kept us informed of any changes effecting him. He is courteous and polite with us, and would like to remain in our district. There have been no further negative reports about subject and it may be that subject will continue to improve in his conduct while in our district. We, therefore, would be willing to accept a transfer of supervision if you so desire.

Very truly yours,
Angus D. McEachen
Chief U.S. Probation Officer

starviego said...

"Subject claimed that he had also been gold prospecting in the Death Valley area, and by good fortune had discovered a vein of gold bearing ore in one of the mountains..."

Ahhhhh! The Lost Manson Gold Mine! A legend is born...

David said...


Thanks. The question about The Beach Boys to Texas part is.... The Beach Boys didn't go to Texas in that timeframe. Which raises the question 'why did Manson want to go to Texas?'

Which has always made me think of his 'plans' for family members' parents.

JC said...

It's a shame that the poor guy is relegated to the status of a Hollywood brat or a footnote to the Manson saga. People today are still trying to replicate his production of the Byrd, and the Raiders singles are tough little rocking works.
He was an underrated and very talented man.

orwhut said...

I can't think of a Beach Boys car song that I like as well as Hey Little Cobra, by Melcher' s group the Rip Chords.

starviego said...

Here is some additional info from Charlie's interview with Rolling Stone magazine of December 5th, 2013:

"And so off Tex and the girls went, ending up at the house on Cielo Drive that had once been rented to record producer Melcher, who'd come out to the ranch a few times, heard Manson's music, and apparently decided Manson wasn't a talent worth pursuing. Although Manson himself told everyone that a recording contract was imminent.

"Yeah, it was Terry Melcher's house, and he lied to everybody at the ranch, said he was gonna do stuff he didn't do. He got their hopes up, you dig? Terry was a spoiled brat that had seven automobiles and didn't have nothing to worry about. I'd cheated him in a card game and won a house. It was part card game, part con, all devil, heh heh. But I won it. He owed me. So, Terry Melcher was part of it. He did a lot of things that wasn't right. But , no one was mad at Terry Melcher, . Not really. He was just in somebody's mind, and when they went by there, it was a familiar place, and they went into a familiar place. ..."

Though, as Charlie says in the same interview, "you have to tell them(the parole board) what they want to hear."

David said...

But Starviego, the potential record contract we know about at the time is from Wilson and Desper, not Melcher or Jakobson. Won a house in a card game, right, that sat around playing Texas Hold 'em. And Watson et al just happened to 'go (went)

David said...

'Go ( went) by''

grimtraveller said...

starviego said...

Here is some additional info from Charlie's interview with Rolling Stone magazine of December 5th, 2013:

Rolling Stone were always pretty up to the mark in trying to convey current events. From the infamous 25/6/70 edition that ran a 25 page special on Charlie {partly arguing that pre~trial publicity was ensuring he'd never get a fair trial}, the murders and the forthcoming trial comes this interesting snippet from Aaron Stovitz, under the pseudonym of Porfiry:
"There was another kid from Texas living at the ranch at the same time, and one day after he'd been there about a month, Manson said to him, 'That Melcher, he thinks he's pretty hot shit, but he isn't worth a damn. I can kill him just like that. In fact, it would be better if you did it. I'll give you $5,000 and a three wheel motorcycle and you leave the ranch right after you do it. Will you do it?' And the kid says, 'Let me think about it.'
A couple of days later he says 'Have you thought about it?' The kid says, 'Are you serious?' He says, 'Yes, I'm serious.' The kid says, 'All right, I'll do it.' Manson says, 'Fine, meet me at such and such a time.'
Well, this kid, his mind wasn't blown or anything, he had used LSD and marijuana. But he immediately called his mother. He says, 'Mom, wire me money, I'm coming home.' He knew that he was up to his ears in something he just couldn't get out of.
Manson always had a funny way of testing people.

Whether the story has any merit or not, I couldn't say. It does later appear in Ed Sanders' book. What's interesting is that, like the copycat motive, it comes from Stovitz first in this interview, before being repeated elsewhere. It may be one of those Brooks Poston "kill the Sheriff of Shoshone" type tests/stories that could mean anything, something or nothing. Poston at least was prepared to back up his story on a number of occasions {to the extent that Charlie had to reply to it in court} whereas this "kid from Texas" never did which tends to throw much doubt on its veracity.

starviego said...

Thanks for that info. Here is what The Family had to say about it:

Sanders, pg191-4
On June 3, 1969, Charlie tried to put out a contract on somebody's life.
On June 3, 1969, Terry Melcher and Gregg Jacobson again visited the Spahn Ranch. ...
As he(Sunshine Pierce) left the kitchen to return to the truck, he saw Melcher, the starlet, Gregg and Manson standing by the couch on the boardwalk. They were arguing and Charlie was cursing and yelling at them...
About thirty minutes after Pierce had overheard the argument, Manson himself came to join him at the trailer. .... Charlie asked him if he was interested in helping him pull off a job. ... It was murder. Charlie revealed that he wanted Sunshine to help him kill someone....
"He said that he had one person in particular he wanted me to help him kill and he said that there might have to be some other people killed."

Was Charlie serious about killing Melcher? Sure sounds like it. But why not target him at his Malibu residence on the night of Aug 8 or 9?

Or was this just a test to see who would do the dirty deeds for Charlie later on. He was OBVIOUSLY planning Helter Skelter already in the beginning of June.

Dave1971 said...
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Dave1971 said...
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JWD said...

Mark Lindsay, of Paul Revere and the Raiders, talks a little about meeting Charlie in Terry Melcher's house.

In 1968, he shared a home with Terry Melcher, who was the son of Doris Day and produced numerous recordings for Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Byrds and other bands. Melcher was also friends with Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson, who introduced the producer to an aspiring young singer-songwriter named Charles Manson.

“I met Manson a couple of times,” Lindsay said.

“I came home from tour, walked in the house and Terry, Dennis and some attorneys were having a meeting. I didn’t want to interrupt it, so I went to the kitchen. And there was this guy, siting on floor, with his back against the refrigerator, with a very pissed-off look. I wanted to get a drink out of the fridge, so I said: ‘Excuse me.’ And he would not budge.

“So I went in the living room where the meeting was, and asked: ‘What’s wrong with that guy in the kitchen?’ They said: ‘Oh, that’s Charlie — he’s OK.’ He was Charlie, but he wasn’t OK.’ Dennis thought he had talent, and brought him to Terry to get him a record deal. After a few meetings, Terry realized the guy wasn’t working with a full deck.

“Shortly after that, Terry and Candace Bergen were having a big affair. I didn’t want to interfere with their affair, so I said: ‘You guys take this house and I’ll find another place.’ And I left. As fate would have it, Terry and Candy had a giant fight. She went back to New York and he leased it to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. You know the rest of the story.”

Benbos said...

EXCELLENT hit on every point with solid substantiation! I’m with ya 100%!👍