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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Get ready for good vibrations!

Oct 31, 2022 03:31PM ● By Jan Weeks

The California sound started on the West Coast in 1958. Groups like the Beach Boys rocketed to fame, leaving a legacy that continues through tribute bands like Sail On, which performs at the Avalon Theatre on Sunday, January 15, 2023. 

At over 80 shows a year, Sail On is the most booked Beach Boys tribute in the world. This five-piece band from Nashville faithfully recreates the soundtrack to an endless summer, performing all of the Beach Boys’ classic hits plus some treasures from a brilliant extended catalog. 

“The Beach Boys are unique—the music is a combination of simplicity and sophistication,” said Mike Williamson, who plays keyboards for the band. “We knew from the beginning that those qualities would offer the group both a permanent challenge and reward and it remains true with each performance.” 

Sail On formed in 2017 when Williamson, fellow keyboardist Paul Runyon and bassist Wyatt Funderburk worked together on an original music project called the Explorers Club. They, along with guitarist Matt Thompson, met through a mutual acquaintance in Nashville and found they all loved the harmonies the original Beach Boys sang so effortlessly in songs like “Surfin’ USA,” “Good Vibrations” and “Kokomo.” 

Hooked on the Beach Boys’ basic rock and rhythm, the band members hankered to bring blues and jazz elements and classical touches to audiences across the country. 

“Brian Wilson’s composition and arranging is extraordinary and fascinating. The sound of the group’s vocal harmonies is endlessly enjoyable,” Williamson said.

Williamson added that he’s looking forward to bringing the show out west again. Ironically, none of the band members are from anywhere near California. 

After graduating college in Charleston, South Carolina, Runyon recorded with, performed and appeared with several choral ensembles. He also toured with the legendary Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders. 

Thompson hails from North Vernon, Indiana, where he began playing guitar and singing in his early teens. He studied arranging and composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston before moving to Nashville after graduation. He worked as a performer and recording artist as well as a freelance composer, arranger and instrumentalist. 

Williamson, from Griffin, Georgia, also started young, playing instruments as a teenager.  He has years of experience performing everything from folk to jazz all across North America. A veteran of the music studio, Williamson served in multiple roles while working on recordings that appeared in various media in North America, Europe and Japan. Williamson brings his various roles as composer, arranger, musician, engineer and producer to Sail On.

Born into a musical family in Mississippi, Funderburk fell in love with the Beach Boys’ music early in life. His passion for performing and songwriting led him to the country music capital where he studied composition and audio production at Belmont University and SAE Institute. On many occasions, Funderburk toured internationally with various groups. He now owns a studio in Nashville, where he produces a variety of projects, including “Sail On: The Beach Boys” podcast.

Drummer Ben Potter, the newest member of the group, comes from Reading, England, but grew up in India, where he began playing drums. He arrived in America and studied at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. Like most people, Potter loved the carefree feeling of the Beach Boys’ music and joined Sail On. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to reminisce about summer, surfing, cruising, dancing and dreaming when Sail On comes to the Avalon in January. Bring your grandkids or friends—and anybody that wants to have “Fun, Fun, Fun.” 

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