Home

“McKeen reaches for the stars and for the most part, he gets there.”

Click on the book cover to order. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

That’s from Under the Radar. Here’s more from that magazine’s review: “Everybody Had an Ocean is as engaging a tale of ’60s-era music as any that one will read. Even the most ardent historian will find something new in the histories presented, or at the very least see them in a new light. And, more importantly, McKeen’s text strips away any pretension from the artists and presents them in a normal, more humanistic light. Words aren’t minced. Feelings aren’t protected under the guise of artistic genius. These were real people, living in real times, with strengths and weaknesses like anyone, displayed under normal, real-life circumstance. Could Everybody Had an Ocean be accused of overreaching? Perhaps. But like the artists he profiles, McKeen reaches for the stars. And for the most part, he gets there.” Under the Radar

“… a sprawling, entertaining, and sometime lurid, narrative about artists who, bursting with creative energy, converged in L.A.”  Booklist

“Excellent social history…” “an indispensable account of a time of beauty and terror.”  Kirkus Reviews [starred review]

“Music lovers will devour this book as I did. McKeen ties together so many musicians and groups that my head was spinning, but in good way, because I had no idea how much all of these artists worked and partied together. A pleasure to read.” Five-star Amazon review

Imagine Manson on American Idol

The scary little dude wanted a record contract. When he didn’t get it, he ordered his minions to kill in order to scare the shit out of Los Angeles’s music community.

If Charles Manson had taken the game-show road to stardom, who knows what would’ve happened?

The picture that introduced Charles Manson to the world.

The peace, love and flowers ethos of the era allowed this career criminal to infiltrate the artistic community. With his long hair and arsenal of gibberish, he seemed the model of a hippie, hanging out with Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, and Neil Young, who recommended Manson to the president of Warner Bros Records. (He passed.)

Manson’s story is one of dozens in Everybody Had an Ocean, an epic tale about the intersection of music and crime in 1960s Los Angeles. It’s available at bookstores and the usual online locations.

The Beach Boys in 1962 at Paradise Cove, Malibu, California. Left to right: Dennis Wilson, David Marks, Carl Wilson, Mike Love and Brian Wilson.

I’m the author, William McKeen, and this site introduces you to my books and my other work. I hope you find this all of interest.

Here’s what people have had to say about the book:

Everybody Had an Ocean is a fascinating, hypnotic look at the underside of the California dream. With smooth prose and keen reporting. William McKeen peels back the facade of peace and love and thoroughly examines the dark heart behind a generation of music. This is binge reading at its best.”
MICHAEL CONNELLY
author of The Lincoln Lawyer and The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Portrait of the Lizard King as a young man: chubby-cheeked Jim Morrison.

“People say the Sixties died at Altamont, but William McKeen makes a compelling case that it was really Charlie Manson who brought down the flowered curtain. Everybody Had an Ocean sets a generation’s soundtrack to the improbable true tale of a scrawny career thief who befriended a Beach Boy, almost got himself a record deal, and then unleashed a spacey band of murderers on Los Angeles. Few novelists could dream up such a plot.”
CARL HIAASEN
author of Hoot and Razor Girl

“William McKeen’s Everybody Had an Ocean brilliantly illuminates the day-glo rise of Los Angeles as a counterculture Mecca. The back pages of high-octane rock n’ roll history are ably explored by McKeen. And once again, the Beach Boys reign supreme.”
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY
author of Cronkite

Carol Kaye of the Wrecking Crew. Her bass launched a thousand hits.

“A widescreen, meticulously-researched account of how Los Angeles – the seedbed of surf-pop and folk-rock – became the epicenter of American music in the 1960s. McKeen follows the thread from the Beach Boys’ sunny innocence to Manson’s noir horrors – via Phil Spector, Jim Morrison, and a supporting cast of hundreds – and brings the music of the City of Angels brilliantly to life.”
BARNEY HOSKYNS
author of Small Town Talk and Hotel California

“William McKeen’s Everybody Had an Ocean offers a detailed snapshot of the creative fertility, debauchery and importance of a signal moment in pop music history. Highly recommended.”
CHARLES L. GRANATA
author of Wouldn’t it Be Nice

That’s Neil Young at left, with his first band, The Squires. Despite being landlocked in Winnipeg, their first recording, “The Sultan,” was a model of surf-music twang.


Here’s a list of my books. Be sure to check out the pages devoted to the books on this site.

Books by William McKeen

Everybody Had an Ocean, a nonfiction narrative, 2017
Too Old to Die Young, a collection, 2015
Homegrown in Florida, an anthology, 2012
Mile Marker Zero, a nonfiction narrative, 2011
Outlaw Journalist, a biography, 2008
Highway 61, a memoir, 2003
Rock and Roll is Here to Stay, an anthology, 2000
Literary Journalism: A Reader, 2000
Tom Wolfe, a critical biography, 1995
Bob Dylan: A Bio-Bibliography, 1993
Hunter S. Thompson, a critical biography, 1991
The Beatles: A Bio-Bibliography, 1989
The American Story, an anthology, 1975

For more about these books and additional writing, interviews and appearances in film and other media, click on titles or the  ‘Books’ and ‘Other Work’ tabs above. Students looking for my course outlines will find them under the ‘Courses’ tab.

 

News

The ‘Lost Years’ of the Beach Boys

The Beach Boys at Zuma Beach, August 1967

I recently appeared on ‘Rock and Roll is Here to Stay,’ on WTBU Radio at Boston University.

Host Kiran Galani allowed me to put together a setlist and yammer about one of my favorite periods in American music: The Beach Boys, 1966-1972.

Dennis Wilson on the set of ‘Two-Lane Blacktop,’ the film in which he starred alongside James Taylor, Laurie Bird and Warren Oates.

Their surf-and-turf heyday was past. Brian Wilson was semi-incapacitated by grief over his failed project, the  ‘teenage hymn to God’ that was Smile. The other members of the group came forward and we begin to discover the creative soul of Dennis Wilson. The youngest Beach Boy, Carl Wilson, assumed leadership.

Click on this player, which will take you to the web page where you find the show filed under ‘July 18.’

The show begins with part of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie,’ but soon moves into ‘Good Vibrations,’ then the music of the lost years. This is the period explored in Everybody Had an Ocean.

Hope you enjoy.

From a Reader

Click on the cover to order

I just finished your excellent book Everybody Had An Ocean. You have a way of presenting the diverse stories surrounding all these artist and groups that is very compelling.

Truly a page turner. Really loved the way you jumped from one story to another, chapter by chapter. Little Byrds, here, some Buffalo Springfield there, then back to the Brian Wilson saga.

I have read a great deal in my life, and lately a lot about those magical times we lived through, and it is always nice to get a hold of a book that transports me back to those days in the way yours did.
JIM

Remembering Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe died May 14 at 88. He was a titanic figure in American journalism.

I wrote a book about him and his work in 1995 and later helped him while he was doing research for his college novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, which came out in 2004.

He was very kind to me and to my daughter Sarah, who hosted him at her University of Florida sorority, also part of his Charlotte Simmons research.

He was nice enough to write blurbs for a couple of my books — he called me “incomparable” when he praised Rock and Roll is Here to Stay — and sat still for a couple of interviews.

I was asked to write this piece for The Conversation about Wolfe’s importance to journalism.

Go to my Tom Wolfe page on this site — the page devoted to my book — to read a memoir of my time as his host. I also have a link to an interview I did with him for American History magazine. The subject was heroism. The Washington Post published a piece some years back about Wolfe’s time at the paper and it references my book. Here it is, if you’d like to read it.

He was an important figure in my life and I think we will all miss him terribly.

As I say in my piece for The Conversation, because of him — and some of the other literary journalists of his time — journalism went from being merely the means to an end, to being a justifiable end.

When young people ask me why all the fuss about the 1960s, what made it “pandemonium with a big grin” (a classic Tom Wolfe phrase), I hand them a copy of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. That seems to do the trick. Fifty years on it remains the Great Book about the 1960s.

Talking About Hunter S. Thompson

Here’s my appearance on the Common Thread Podcast, run out of the Howard Thurman Center at Boston University.

The primary interlocutor is Kobe Yank-Jacobs, with questions here and there from Patrick Reid.

Click on the logo to hear the podcast.

It’s always a pleasure to talk about Hunter S. Thompson — and especially fun when the questions are so good and thought-provoking.

 

My Manson Commentary
To listen, click on the insane man’s face. This audio is from the ‘Academic Minute’ at Inside Higher Ed, and is adapted from my article in The Conversation.

Hey, Look Me Over!

It’s not the kind of list you necessarily want to make, but hey — I guess this means my latest book, Everybody Had an Ocean,
was worth some attention.

Click on the Huffington Post logo to find my latest  on a list of the ‘Most Overlooked Books’ of the last year.

You can order this fine book by clicking here, and it will not be overlooked — at least not by a cool, groovy, neat and outasite person such as your own bad self.

From a Another Reader

Just finished Highway 61. Same emotion as when I recently finished Mile Marker Zero for the second time – tears. 

Highway 61 is like all of my road trips – I didn’t want it to end. The beauty of Highway 61 is what most of us would dream of – a long road trip with our child.

Click on the covers to order

Thanks for this wonderful book, so full of information, facts, pleasures and observations. Don’t know why it took me so long to find it, but it is significant as a documentation of a time, places and people. 

Thank you for writing.
STAN

 Recent Writing

Read ‘Gonzo Without End, Amen,’ from ‘Fear and Loathing Worldwide.’
Read ‘The Ultimate Freelancer,’ my preface to ‘Gonzology’ by Eric Shoaf.

McKeen weaves his story with
a natural storyteller’s grace.”

As far as I can tell, that’s the first time the word grace has ever appeared in a sentence with my name. (The sentence comes from a review in Under the Radar.)

Everybody Had an Ocean  is available at fine bookstores everywhere, but if you are too lazy to go visit one of those wonderful places, you can order the book through IndieBound, a community of independent bookstores. You can get it at all the usual places, of course.

For example: here is the Amazon link.

Click on the picture of Dennis Wilson above to read the review from the Houston Press.

I interviewed all of the Beach Boys over the years, except for Brian Wilson. A writing partner interviewed him for a story we were working on in the mid-1970s. He said talking to Brian was like talking to a throw pillow.

I think he’s a lot better off now.

Click on the image of Joni Mitchell and David Crosby above to read the review from Under the Radar.

Beyond the Beach Boys, Everybody had an Ocean has an impressive cast of characters, including Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, Charles Manson, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Sam Cooke, Tina Turner, Bobby Fuller, Phil Spector and an buttload of others. It’s a history of Los Angeles rock’n’roll in the 1960s, with a focus on the crossroads of the music business and crime.

The Current said “Everybody Had an Ocean is a great read, one that offers real insights into the burgeoning L.A. music scene in the ’60s.”

Click on the photo of Buffalo Springfield above to read the Tampa Bay Times review.

I post a lot of things related to the book on Facebook:  videos of the artists I profile performing, for example.

Check out the book’s Facebook page. 

 

Click on the montage above to learn more about the characters in the story.

People talk to me about stuff
and / or I write about other stuff

Long-distance friends

After Rory Patrick Feehan‘s doctoral defense at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland, February 21, 2018. Left to right: Professor Eugene O’Brien, me, the newly minted PhD Feehan, Professor Eoin Flannery (extra bright blue sweater) and Professor John McDonagh. We toast the new Dr Feehan at Fennessy’s. Rory’s dissertation was a wonderful piece devoted to Hunter Thompson’s creation of the ‘Hunter Figure’ in his writing.

During a summer trip to Ireland,   I met two Hunter S. Thompson scholars — Martin Flynn in Dublin and Rory Patrick Feehan in Limerick.

Martin runs the HST Books website, and Rory manages Totally Gonzo. We’d corresponded for years, but these were the first face-to-face meetings.

Oddly,  they have never met each other, but they promise to get together soon and wrestle nude in creamed corn.

I was flattered to be asked to serve on Rory’s doctoral committee at Mary Immaculate College. He produced a superb piece of work. He insisted that I accompany him to four or five (I lost count) taverns that evening to celebrate.

With young Charley McKeen and Rory Patrick Feehan at Durty Nelly’s in Bunratty, Ireland. Photo by the most beautiful human being I’ve ever seen, Maeve.
With Marty Flynn at The Ginger Man in Dublin. Photo by Cathy Wyse

For my absent friend

I recently learned of the death of my friend and mentor, Starkey Flythe, Jr. I feel that I have done something awful by walking the earth these last four years without knowing he was gone.

Starkey Flythe was managing editor of the Saturday Evening Post when I worked there in the mid-1970s. I learned so much from him.

Click to watch the film.

He shaped my tastes in writing, introducing me to the works of Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty, and was himself a great voice of the South (and an O. Henry Award winner).

He was my graduate school, my mentor, my role model and my friend. He led a remarkable life. I hope he rests in peace.

Please spend the next eight minutes of your life watching this beautiful short film by Matthew Buzzell, “The Moment Before the Song Begins.” It’s a celebration of his art and a tribute to a remarkable, eccentric and deeply talented man.

Health update

Three years after multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation,  I remain cancer-free. That does not mean things are ducky, though.

My sudden absence from social media in the late summer of 2018 made some worry that I was seriously ill. Of course, this indicates that I spend too much time online, but friends felt there was something fishy about my silence and that, perhaps, I was sick.

Indeed I was. In fact, I’d nearly died.

Sarah, with daughter Pearl

I was about four hours from death when Sarah, my quick-thinking eldest daughter (with an able assist from my ex-wife),  made the executive decision to call an ambulance for me, over my objections. I’ve told Sarah she now gets to play the I-told-you-so card the rest of her life. I was in septic shock with a 104-degree temperature. After emergency surgery and lots of antibiotics, I was back from the brink. It made me miss the start of the school year, which depressed me.

The strangest part of the experience was the double whammy thrown on my brain by the blood infection and the fever. I was rendered totally inarticulate and mute, unable to answer the simplest of questions. Talking to the EMT’s and struggling to answer their questions was probably one of the scariest moments of my health adventures of the last five years.

In other health news:

I had a gastric-sleeve operation in Spring 2017, which made for a total of 10 surgeries in two years. In the aftermath of this surgery, my stomach was reduced by three-fourths and I have little interest in eating other than that which is needed to stay alive.

I have lost 95 pounds since the gastric surgery and I feel pretty darn good. All the post-surgery walking I plan to do might help me lose the last 20 pounds I hope to lose.

After knee surgery in August 2018, I aspire to finally walk without pain. Watch this space for updates.

I applaud and deeply appreciate the vigilance of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. I’m there about four times a year as the staff studies my loathsome carcass, to make sure the cancer does not return. The quality of care is astonishing.

 

That’s me during my Western Kentucky University years. Photograph by John Rott.

Rockin’ in the free world

When the semester isn’t in session, I feel like a nuclear power plant that’s been shut down.

I’m entering my 41st year as a college teacher and I’ve never gotten tired of it. I’ve never even had a sabbatical.

Congratulating Maggie Day on her graduation from the University of Florida. (Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson)

I taught at Western Kentucky University 1977-1982, at the University of Oklahoma 1982-1986, at the University of Florida, 1986-2010 and at Boston University, 2010 until today.

November 1989, with  University of Florida colleague Jon Roosenraad and two of the all-time greats: Mary Shedden,  left, now of WUSF in Tampa, and Kathy Rohrbach Laughlin,  now of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

If you were in one of my classes, I’d love to hear from you at wmckeen@bu.edu.

I keep up with a lot of former students on Facebook, which I use as a sort of illustrated Rolodex of my life. It’s good to see how everyone’s doing.

Being a teacher is a lifetime commitment, so let me know if I can do anything to help you.

Take care.

Bio

The Story of Me
Author, teacher, father of seven and really swell guy.

I can’t tell you how good that felt.

That’s me (right) in my favorite outfit, when we lived in Warrington, England in the late 1950s. I was born in Indianapolis, and grew up in Warrington; Weisbaden, Germany; Omaha, Nebraska; Homestead, Florida; and Fort Worth, Texas.

This idyllic-looking town (below) is Cohasset, Massachusetts, where I live. Yes, it really is that pretty.

Sometimes, I feel as if I live in a Norman Rockwell painting. This town is rosy-cheeked wholesome and we even have milkmen here.

Every spring, all the townspeople gather for the annual baseball parade. We meet on the Common and then, with the high school’s marching band, we walk to the baseball field, where we raise the American flag, sing the national anthem, then draw straws and stone to death the person with the shortest straw.

The quintessential New England town, as I say.

Here’s a photo I took of the Cohasset shore in winter ….

Okay, that’s enough Chamber of Commerce stuff for a while. Onto my life history.

If you think you crossed paths with me in childhood, please keep in touch. I’m always on the lookout for old friends — Alan Rinehart, Paul Franks, Ricky Wilson (who nicknamed my big brother ‘Bowels’) and the eternally beautiful Mary Savage.

Back to the family ….

I don’t have a lot of pictures of my father because he was always the one with the camera. Here we are in our England days. That’s my mother — in a cool Norwegian sweater — holding me while brother Charles and sister Suzanne flank her.

My father was a flight surgeon in the Air Force, hence all of our moves. He retired from the service and opened a private practice in Bloomington, Indiana, which is as close as I have to a hometown. I was in the last class to ever graduate from University High School in Bloomington,  and earned two degrees at Indiana University.

As a grownup, I’ve lived in Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Florida and Massachusetts.

I began working for daily newspapers when I was 14 — first  the Courier-Tribune in Bloomington, Indiana, and then the Palm Beach Post in Florida. I  later worked for a couple of magazines, The American Spectator and The Saturday Evening Post. After beginning my teaching career, I worked for the Norman Transcript in Oklahoma, the Gainesville Sun in Florida, the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Tampa Bay Times. In addition, I did contract work for the Associated Press and two radio stations in Oklahoma City, WKY and KGOU.

As a young and poorly dressed reporter, The Courier-Tribune, Bloomington, Indiana, September 1973.

I fell into academia and began my teaching career at Western Kentucky University. I taught there for five years, then moved to the University of Oklahoma, where I earned a doctorate while serving as faculty member and assistant director of the school of journalism and mass communication. After four years,  I joined the journalism faculty at the University of Florida. I was there for 24 years and chaired the journalism department for the last 12 years there.

I moved to Boston University in 2010 and I chair its journalism department.

Click on my resume for details.

C’est Moi!

I have seven children: Sarah, a designer who lives in Brooklyn; Graham, a university administrator in Indiana; Mary, a nightlife impresario in Chicago; Savannah, a college student in Florida; and Jack, Travis and Charley, young scholars in Cohasset. They are all active in sports and music, which means that my main function in life is to be a chauffeur. But I love it.

In addition, I have two granddaughters, Mabel (daughter of Graham and wife Amanda) and Pearl (daughter of Sarah and partner David).

I’ve written or edited 13 books and you can learn the details here.

I love teaching and I consider myself on call for anyone who’s ever been in one of my classes. Say hello: wmckeen@bu.edu.

I love hearing from former students — and there are a lot of them. I’ve been teaching for more than 40 years. It’s been a supreme pleasure.

In the words of Joe Walsh, “Life’s been good to me so far.”

WM

 

News

The ‘Lost Years’ of the Beach Boys

The Beach Boys at Zuma Beach, August 1967

I recently appeared on ‘Rock and Roll is Here to Stay,’ on WTBU Radio at Boston University.

Host Kiran Galani allowed me to put together a setlist and yammer about one of my favorite periods in American music: The Beach Boys, 1966-1972.

Dennis Wilson on the set of ‘Two-Lane Blacktop,’ the film in which he starred alongside James Taylor, Laurie Bird and Warren Oates.

Their surf-and-turf heyday was past. Brian Wilson was semi-incapacitated by grief over his failed project, the  ‘teenage hymn to God’ that was Smile. The other members of the group came forward and we begin to discover the creative soul of Dennis Wilson. The youngest Beach Boy, Carl Wilson, assumed leadership.

Click on this player, which will take you to the web page where you find the show filed under ‘July 18.’

The show begins with part of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie,’ but soon moves into ‘Good Vibrations,’ then the music of the lost years. This is the period explored in Everybody Had an Ocean.

Hope you enjoy.

From a Reader

Click on the cover to order

I just finished your excellent book Everybody Had An Ocean. You have a way of presenting the diverse stories surrounding all these artist and groups that is very compelling.

Truly a page turner. Really loved the way you jumped from one story to another, chapter by chapter. Little Byrds, here, some Buffalo Springfield there, then back to the Brian Wilson saga.

I have read a great deal in my life, and lately a lot about those magical times we lived through, and it is always nice to get a hold of a book that transports me back to those days in the way yours did.
JIM

Remembering Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe died May 14 at 88. He was a titanic figure in American journalism.

I wrote a book about him and his work in 1995 and later helped him while he was doing research for his college novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, which came out in 2004.

He was very kind to me and to my daughter Sarah, who hosted him at her University of Florida sorority, also part of his Charlotte Simmons research.

He was nice enough to write blurbs for a couple of my books — he called me “incomparable” when he praised Rock and Roll is Here to Stay — and sat still for a couple of interviews.

I was asked to write this piece for The Conversation about Wolfe’s importance to journalism.

Go to my Tom Wolfe page on this site — the page devoted to my book — to read a memoir of my time as his host. I also have a link to an interview I did with him for American History magazine. The subject was heroism. The Washington Post published a piece some years back about Wolfe’s time at the paper and it references my book. Here it is, if you’d like to read it.

He was an important figure in my life and I think we will all miss him terribly.

As I say in my piece for The Conversation, because of him — and some of the other literary journalists of his time — journalism went from being merely the means to an end, to being a justifiable end.

When young people ask me why all the fuss about the 1960s, what made it “pandemonium with a big grin” (a classic Tom Wolfe phrase), I hand them a copy of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. That seems to do the trick. Fifty years on it remains the Great Book about the 1960s.

Talking About Hunter S. Thompson

Here’s my appearance on the Common Thread Podcast, run out of the Howard Thurman Center at Boston University.

The primary interlocutor is Kobe Yank-Jacobs, with questions here and there from Patrick Reid.

Click on the logo to hear the podcast.

It’s always a pleasure to talk about Hunter S. Thompson — and especially fun when the questions are so good and thought-provoking.

 

My Manson Commentary
To listen, click on the insane man’s face. This audio is from the ‘Academic Minute’ at Inside Higher Ed, and is adapted from my article in The Conversation.

Hey, Look Me Over!

It’s not the kind of list you necessarily want to make, but hey — I guess this means my latest book, Everybody Had an Ocean,
was worth some attention.

Click on the Huffington Post logo to find my latest  on a list of the ‘Most Overlooked Books’ of the last year.

You can order this fine book by clicking here, and it will not be overlooked — at least not by a cool, groovy, neat and outasite person such as your own bad self.

From a Another Reader

Just finished Highway 61. Same emotion as when I recently finished Mile Marker Zero for the second time – tears. 

Highway 61 is like all of my road trips – I didn’t want it to end. The beauty of Highway 61 is what most of us would dream of – a long road trip with our child.

Click on the covers to order

Thanks for this wonderful book, so full of information, facts, pleasures and observations. Don’t know why it took me so long to find it, but it is significant as a documentation of a time, places and people. 

Thank you for writing.
STAN

 Recent Writing

Read ‘Gonzo Without End, Amen,’ from ‘Fear and Loathing Worldwide.’
Read ‘The Ultimate Freelancer,’ my preface to ‘Gonzology’ by Eric Shoaf.

McKeen weaves his story with
a natural storyteller’s grace.”

As far as I can tell, that’s the first time the word grace has ever appeared in a sentence with my name. (The sentence comes from a review in Under the Radar.)

Everybody Had an Ocean  is available at fine bookstores everywhere, but if you are too lazy to go visit one of those wonderful places, you can order the book through IndieBound, a community of independent bookstores. You can get it at all the usual places, of course.

For example: here is the Amazon link.

Click on the picture of Dennis Wilson above to read the review from the Houston Press.

I interviewed all of the Beach Boys over the years, except for Brian Wilson. A writing partner interviewed him for a story we were working on in the mid-1970s. He said talking to Brian was like talking to a throw pillow.

I think he’s a lot better off now.

Click on the image of Joni Mitchell and David Crosby above to read the review from Under the Radar.

Beyond the Beach Boys, Everybody had an Ocean has an impressive cast of characters, including Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, Charles Manson, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Sam Cooke, Tina Turner, Bobby Fuller, Phil Spector and an buttload of others. It’s a history of Los Angeles rock’n’roll in the 1960s, with a focus on the crossroads of the music business and crime.

The Current said “Everybody Had an Ocean is a great read, one that offers real insights into the burgeoning L.A. music scene in the ’60s.”

Click on the photo of Buffalo Springfield above to read the Tampa Bay Times review.

I post a lot of things related to the book on Facebook:  videos of the artists I profile performing, for example.

Check out the book’s Facebook page. 

 

Click on the montage above to learn more about the characters in the story.

People talk to me about stuff
and / or I write about other stuff

Long-distance friends

After Rory Patrick Feehan‘s doctoral defense at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland, February 21, 2018. Left to right: Professor Eugene O’Brien, me, the newly minted PhD Feehan, Professor Eoin Flannery (extra bright blue sweater) and Professor John McDonagh. We toast the new Dr Feehan at Fennessy’s. Rory’s dissertation was a wonderful piece devoted to Hunter Thompson’s creation of the ‘Hunter Figure’ in his writing.

During a summer trip to Ireland,   I met two Hunter S. Thompson scholars — Martin Flynn in Dublin and Rory Patrick Feehan in Limerick.

Martin runs the HST Books website, and Rory manages Totally Gonzo. We’d corresponded for years, but these were the first face-to-face meetings.

Oddly,  they have never met each other, but they promise to get together soon and wrestle nude in creamed corn.

I was flattered to be asked to serve on Rory’s doctoral committee at Mary Immaculate College. He produced a superb piece of work. He insisted that I accompany him to four or five (I lost count) taverns that evening to celebrate.

With young Charley McKeen and Rory Patrick Feehan at Durty Nelly’s in Bunratty, Ireland. Photo by the most beautiful human being I’ve ever seen, Maeve.
With Marty Flynn at The Ginger Man in Dublin. Photo by Cathy Wyse

For my absent friend

I recently learned of the death of my friend and mentor, Starkey Flythe, Jr. I feel that I have done something awful by walking the earth these last four years without knowing he was gone.

Starkey Flythe was managing editor of the Saturday Evening Post when I worked there in the mid-1970s. I learned so much from him.

Click to watch the film.

He shaped my tastes in writing, introducing me to the works of Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty, and was himself a great voice of the South (and an O. Henry Award winner).

He was my graduate school, my mentor, my role model and my friend. He led a remarkable life. I hope he rests in peace.

Please spend the next eight minutes of your life watching this beautiful short film by Matthew Buzzell, “The Moment Before the Song Begins.” It’s a celebration of his art and a tribute to a remarkable, eccentric and deeply talented man.

Health update

Three years after multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation,  I remain cancer-free. That does not mean things are ducky, though.

My sudden absence from social media in the late summer of 2018 made some worry that I was seriously ill. Of course, this indicates that I spend too much time online, but friends felt there was something fishy about my silence and that, perhaps, I was sick.

Indeed I was. In fact, I’d nearly died.

Sarah, with daughter Pearl

I was about four hours from death when Sarah, my quick-thinking eldest daughter (with an able assist from my ex-wife),  made the executive decision to call an ambulance for me, over my objections. I’ve told Sarah she now gets to play the I-told-you-so card the rest of her life. I was in septic shock with a 104-degree temperature. After emergency surgery and lots of antibiotics, I was back from the brink. It made me miss the start of the school year, which depressed me.

The strangest part of the experience was the double whammy thrown on my brain by the blood infection and the fever. I was rendered totally inarticulate and mute, unable to answer the simplest of questions. Talking to the EMT’s and struggling to answer their questions was probably one of the scariest moments of my health adventures of the last five years.

In other health news:

I had a gastric-sleeve operation in Spring 2017, which made for a total of 10 surgeries in two years. In the aftermath of this surgery, my stomach was reduced by three-fourths and I have little interest in eating other than that which is needed to stay alive.

I have lost 95 pounds since the gastric surgery and I feel pretty darn good. All the post-surgery walking I plan to do might help me lose the last 20 pounds I hope to lose.

After knee surgery in August 2018, I aspire to finally walk without pain. Watch this space for updates.

I applaud and deeply appreciate the vigilance of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. I’m there about four times a year as the staff studies my loathsome carcass, to make sure the cancer does not return. The quality of care is astonishing.

 

That’s me during my Western Kentucky University years. Photograph by John Rott.

Rockin’ in the free world

When the semester isn’t in session, I feel like a nuclear power plant that’s been shut down.

I’m entering my 41st year as a college teacher and I’ve never gotten tired of it. I’ve never even had a sabbatical.

Congratulating Maggie Day on her graduation from the University of Florida. (Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson)

I taught at Western Kentucky University 1977-1982, at the University of Oklahoma 1982-1986, at the University of Florida, 1986-2010 and at Boston University, 2010 until today.

November 1989, with  University of Florida colleague Jon Roosenraad and two of the all-time greats: Mary Shedden,  left, now of WUSF in Tampa, and Kathy Rohrbach Laughlin,  now of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

If you were in one of my classes, I’d love to hear from you at wmckeen@bu.edu.

I keep up with a lot of former students on Facebook, which I use as a sort of illustrated Rolodex of my life. It’s good to see how everyone’s doing.

Being a teacher is a lifetime commitment, so let me know if I can do anything to help you.

Take care.

“McKeen reaches for the stars and for the most part, he gets there.”

Click on the book cover to order. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

That’s from Under the Radar. Here’s more from that magazine’s review: “Everybody Had an Ocean is as engaging a tale of ’60s-era music as any that one will read. Even the most ardent historian will find something new in the histories presented, or at the very least see them in a new light. And, more importantly, McKeen’s text strips away any pretension from the artists and presents them in a normal, more humanistic light. Words aren’t minced. Feelings aren’t protected under the guise of artistic genius. These were real people, living in real times, with strengths and weaknesses like anyone, displayed under normal, real-life circumstance. Could Everybody Had an Ocean be accused of overreaching? Perhaps. But like the artists he profiles, McKeen reaches for the stars. And for the most part, he gets there.” Under the Radar

“… a sprawling, entertaining, and sometime lurid, narrative about artists who, bursting with creative energy, converged in L.A.”  Booklist

“Excellent social history…” “an indispensable account of a time of beauty and terror.”  Kirkus Reviews [starred review]

“Music lovers will devour this book as I did. McKeen ties together so many musicians and groups that my head was spinning, but in good way, because I had no idea how much all of these artists worked and partied together. A pleasure to read.” Five-star Amazon review

Imagine Manson on American Idol

The scary little dude wanted a record contract. When he didn’t get it, he ordered his minions to kill in order to scare the shit out of Los Angeles’s music community.

If Charles Manson had taken the game-show road to stardom, who knows what would’ve happened?

The picture that introduced Charles Manson to the world.

The peace, love and flowers ethos of the era allowed this career criminal to infiltrate the artistic community. With his long hair and arsenal of gibberish, he seemed the model of a hippie, hanging out with Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, and Neil Young, who recommended Manson to the president of Warner Bros Records. (He passed.)

Manson’s story is one of dozens in Everybody Had an Ocean, an epic tale about the intersection of music and crime in 1960s Los Angeles. It’s available at bookstores and the usual online locations.

The Beach Boys in 1962 at Paradise Cove, Malibu, California. Left to right: Dennis Wilson, David Marks, Carl Wilson, Mike Love and Brian Wilson.

I’m the author, William McKeen, and this site introduces you to my books and my other work. I hope you find this all of interest.

Here’s what people have had to say about the book:

Everybody Had an Ocean is a fascinating, hypnotic look at the underside of the California dream. With smooth prose and keen reporting. William McKeen peels back the facade of peace and love and thoroughly examines the dark heart behind a generation of music. This is binge reading at its best.”
MICHAEL CONNELLY
author of The Lincoln Lawyer and The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Portrait of the Lizard King as a young man: chubby-cheeked Jim Morrison.

“People say the Sixties died at Altamont, but William McKeen makes a compelling case that it was really Charlie Manson who brought down the flowered curtain. Everybody Had an Ocean sets a generation’s soundtrack to the improbable true tale of a scrawny career thief who befriended a Beach Boy, almost got himself a record deal, and then unleashed a spacey band of murderers on Los Angeles. Few novelists could dream up such a plot.”
CARL HIAASEN
author of Hoot and Razor Girl

“William McKeen’s Everybody Had an Ocean brilliantly illuminates the day-glo rise of Los Angeles as a counterculture Mecca. The back pages of high-octane rock n’ roll history are ably explored by McKeen. And once again, the Beach Boys reign supreme.”
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY
author of Cronkite

Carol Kaye of the Wrecking Crew. Her bass launched a thousand hits.

“A widescreen, meticulously-researched account of how Los Angeles – the seedbed of surf-pop and folk-rock – became the epicenter of American music in the 1960s. McKeen follows the thread from the Beach Boys’ sunny innocence to Manson’s noir horrors – via Phil Spector, Jim Morrison, and a supporting cast of hundreds – and brings the music of the City of Angels brilliantly to life.”
BARNEY HOSKYNS
author of Small Town Talk and Hotel California

“William McKeen’s Everybody Had an Ocean offers a detailed snapshot of the creative fertility, debauchery and importance of a signal moment in pop music history. Highly recommended.”
CHARLES L. GRANATA
author of Wouldn’t it Be Nice

That’s Neil Young at left, with his first band, The Squires. Despite being landlocked in Winnipeg, their first recording, “The Sultan,” was a model of surf-music twang.


Here’s a list of my books. Be sure to check out the pages devoted to the books on this site.

Books by William McKeen

Everybody Had an Ocean, a nonfiction narrative, 2017
Too Old to Die Young, a collection, 2015
Homegrown in Florida, an anthology, 2012
Mile Marker Zero, a nonfiction narrative, 2011
Outlaw Journalist, a biography, 2008
Highway 61, a memoir, 2003
Rock and Roll is Here to Stay, an anthology, 2000
Literary Journalism: A Reader, 2000
Tom Wolfe, a critical biography, 1995
Bob Dylan: A Bio-Bibliography, 1993
Hunter S. Thompson, a critical biography, 1991
The Beatles: A Bio-Bibliography, 1989
The American Story, an anthology, 1975

For more about these books and additional writing, interviews and appearances in film and other media, click on titles or the  ‘Books’ and ‘Other Work’ tabs above. Students looking for my course outlines will find them under the ‘Courses’ tab.