Guitarist with the Sunrays
Thursday 16 November 2006
Edward Stephen Medora, guitarist, saxophone-player, singer and songwriter: born Los Angeles November 1945; married Ann Marshall (one son, one daughter); died Los Angeles 27 October 2006.
The Sunrays are better known in the UK for their association with the Beach Boys and Murry Wilson, the father of Brian, Dennis and Carl, who managed them after he was fired by his sons, than for the three US hits they scored in the mid-Sixties with "Still", "Andrea" and "I Live for the Sun".
Yet, with its beautiful harmonies and blissful melody, "I Live for the Sun" in particular remains a favourite with aficionados of West Coast pop and regularly crops up alongside Jan & Dean, Bruce & Terry, the Honeys and the Rivieras on compilations like Summer & Sun and Surfin' Sixties. Eddy Medora played guitar and sang harmony vocals with the Sunrays, touring with the Beach Boys and appearing on television shows like American Bandstand.
In the early Seventies, he joined the Walt Disney Corporation, became National Director of Sales for their record label and worked there until 2002.
Born in California in 1945, Eddy Medora played saxophone and guitar in the Renegades, a band he put together with schoolfriends when he was in 8th grade. By the beginning of the Sixties, they were playing fraternity parties and teenage fairs in and around the Los Angeles area and, on one occasion in 1962, even supported the Beach Boys who had just scored their first hit with "Surfin' ". "We were just young kids, we didn't know where we were going with this thing," said Medora:
But we loved playing instrumentals, sometimes recording as the Snowmen. We found out later that you have to sing and do vocals as well.
In 1963, Medora switched to Hollywood Professional School and developed his talents further. "Every Friday you were able to perform, whether you were an actor, actress. Carl and Dennis Wilson went absolutely bonkers over our band," he recalled:
Carl said, "My Dad's looking for another band", and I said, "Yeah, you just want your Dad off your back!" Which was probably part true, I found out later on.
Medora became friends with the Wilsons, and the Renegades eventually auditioned for the Beach Boys' father and manager the following year. Murry Wilson offered to get them a deal with Capitol Records, the label the Beach Boys were signed to, but asked Rick Henn (lead vocals, drums), Marty DiGiovanni (piano), Vince Hozier (bass), Byron Case and Medora (both on guitar) to work on their five-part harmonies and to go home and write some songs. Capitol and Murry Wilson/Senior also suggested they changed their name from the rebellious-sounding Renegades to the Sunrays after "I Live for the Sun", a demo which became their signature song and made the US Top Fifty in 1965.
To avoid competing with the Beach Boys, who had sacked Murry Wilson as manager by April 1964, the Sunrays' singles and sole album appeared on Tower, a subsidiary of Capitol specifically set up for the new group. Murry wrote "Car Party" - which had been rejected by the Beach Boys - and "Outta Gas", both sides of the Sunrays' first 45, but Henn and Medora subsequently became the primary songwriters for the band, the drummer basing "I Live for the Sun" on "Run, Run, Run", one of Medora's earlier compositions.
The track was recorded at Gold Star, the studio made famous by Phil Spector, and featured not only the Sunrays but also the Los Angeles session musicians - drummer Hal Blaine, bass-player Carol Kaye, guitarist Glen Campbell - known as the Wrecking Crew. "Murry paid these guys to come in and sweeten the tracks up," Medora admitted:
What was happening then was the Spector sound, overproduced records with strings and horns. Murry was afraid that, if we went in with our thin sound, no radio station would play our stuff.
The trick worked and the Sunrays charted even higher with "Andrea", their next single, inspired by an air hostess spotted by Medora, and they also released an album bearing the same title in 1966. In between completing their college education, the Sunrays did two tours with the Beach Boys, and would be fined $100 by Murry Wilson if they didn't keep smiling on stage.
They recorded "A Little Boy and His Dog" - a song written from the point of view of a dog missing its owner who had been drafted and sent to Vietnam - while Medora penned "Jo Ann" about the actress Ann Marshall - then a regular in the television series My Favorite Martian - whom he subsequently married.
The Sunrays released another eight singles and broke up in 1969. "The press started hitting hard on us. We didn't comb our hair down like the Beatles. But we weren't Beach Boys copycats," said Medora.
Following his retirement from Disney, Medora began playing live again, occasionally performing with David Marks, a former member of the Beach Boys, and worked on his autobiography. He maintained that the Sunrays
never saw a bad side of Murry Wilson. He was eccentric, he would get upset in the studio, but we understood that because he was spending a lot of money to try and make records. He wanted it his way and I think that's where him and Brian got into it. I never saw him hit any of his sons. If he did any of this stuff, we never, never saw it.
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