Jeffrey Foskett, a musician familiar to The Beach Boys fans for more than four decades as a presence in the touring bands led by both Brian Wilson and Mike Love, died Monday at age 67. He had been diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Foskett, who was deemed the “vice principal of The Beach Boys” by its core members, was the rare musician who found favor in all of that group’s sometimes competing camps over the decades. He was in Wilson’s solo band from 1998 through 2014, and was in Love’s Beach Boys for long periods before and after that, from 1981 through 1998, and again from 2015 until he was sidelined by stage 4 cancer in 2019.
Brian Wilson mourned his former band member’s death in a social media post, writing, “I’m so heartbroken that my dear friend Jeff Foskett has passed. Jeff was always there for me when we toured and we couldn’t have done it without him. Jeff was one of the most talented guys I ever knew. He was a great musical leader and guitarist and he could sing like an angel. I first met Jeff in 1976 when he knocked on my door in Bel Air and I invited him in, and we were friends ever since. I don’t know what else to say. Love and Mercy to Jeff’s family and friends, we will remember him forever.”
Carnie Wilson affirmed in a reply how much Foskett meant to her father, writing, “I know it hurts Daddy. We will miss him. I love you.”
In a 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times, conducted when he was taking part in a Beach Boys 50th anniversary tour that temporarily reunited Wilson with Mike Love, Foskett compared his tenure with the Beach Boys and/or Wilson as being akin to a Little League baseball player who gets invited to join the Dodgers. “How many amateur athletes turn pro?” he said. “And how many of the thousands of musicians — tens of thousands of musicians — in Los Angeles are going to get into the band that they really loved, and tour with them?”
Foskett, who said “I don’t often post on social,” last took to Instagram himself on March 4 of this year, when he put up a video of himself ringing a bell at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston after spending four years in treatment there. He called it “the best four years of my life.” Foskett praised doctors and nurses and wrote, “These people have given me what no one else on earth could have… LIFE…. Some of the past four years has been trying (I guess that’s why it’s called a clinical trial). It tries your body, mind and spirit but it has left me THRIVING and most importantly able to meet my grandson Domenic.”
Foskett told the story of meeting Wilson himself in 1976 in the L.A. Times interview. ““Brian opened the door and said ‘Hey, come on in’ — like he’d been expecting us!’ I said, ‘Great!’ We hung around and went to the music room. [Wilson’s wife at the time] Marilyn made us a sandwich. He said, ‘Stay in touch.’ And I did — and I’m glad that I did.”
But it was Mike Love who first hired Foskett to perform Beach Boys music, and whose touring edition of the group he returned to in later years, after a long stint with Wilson’s group.
Love first signed Foskett up to join his Endless Summer Band after seeing the young musician play at a bar near UC Santa Barbara when he was a student there. Subsequently he joined the Beach Boys in the early ’80s — ostensibly to fill in for Carl Wilson, at first, but remaining after Carl’s return — with his first stint there lasting through 1990, when he was dismissed for reasons never publicly discussed.
He then went on to a solo career before teaming up with Wilson for his 1998 album “Imagination” and subsequent tours. Foskett officially became a Beach Boys auxillary member again, being someone who had “remained on good terms with everyone,” when Wilson reunited with other original band members for a 50th anniversary tour and the 2012 album “That’s Why God Made the Radio.”
Foskett was not just a backing vocalist in the ensemble; on the reunion tour, he sang lead vocals on songs including “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Don’t Worry Baby.”
When Wilson and the Mike Love-led version of the Beach Boys went their separate ways again after the reunion, Foskett remained with the latter unit through 2019. At that time he took what was described as a leave of absence for surgery related to the cancer, for which he had received a stage 4 diagnosis in 2018.
Foskett also performed as a frontman during a tour by the group America in the mid-2010s, before returning to the Beach Boys for one final four-year stint.