John Stamos may be too humble to officially consider himself a member of The Beach Boys, but after sitting in as a drummer with the surf-pop pioneers for over 30 years -- more than half the band's existence -- he still gets a thrill whenever he launches into one of their classic hits.
Stamos's latest gig with the originators of the California Sound happens on July 4th when he hosts the 37th annual edition of the PBS staple "A Capitol Fourth," a live, fireworks-packed extravaganza from the West Lawn. Along with The Beach Boys -- including Stamos on drums as well as guest vocalist Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray -- the special features an all-star roster from across a variety of very American musical genres, including Motown icons The Four Tops, Blues Brothers Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, country artists Trace Adkins and Kellie Pickler, gospel artist Yolanda Adams, Broadway star Laura Osnes, and "The Voice" champion Chris Blue, plus Disney Channel star Sofia Carson singing the National Anthem.
A television fixture since his breakout role on "General Hospital" and stint on the hit sitcom "Full House" through recent turns on the sequel streaming series "Fuller House" and the comedy-horror series "Scream Queens," Stamos has long been a part of the fabric of America's popular culture, and he reveals to Moviefone his feelings about having spent three decades as a de facto member of his favorite band, this particular moment in American discourse, his plans for the future, and where his movie ticket money was going in 1997.
John Stamos: Moviefone is the thing you used to call -- "This is Moviefone," that voice? That's so funny. That became a big deal, I guess, this guy! I remember me and my friends would put it on speaker phone. You could select a thing: "You selected 'Booty Call.'"
Moviefone: Did you actually go see "Booty Call"?
Probably! A long time ago.
Well, it doesn't get more Americana than The Beach Boys.
And then add the Fourth of July to it, and add Washington, D.C. to it, and add a Greek-American like myself, add PBS, and there you go.
Tell me what it means to you, especially at this moment in the American culture with the kind of dialogue that we've been having the last several months, what does it mean to you to be able to celebrate with all those great American things you just mentioned?
I think it's one of the reasons why I jumped at the chance to do this, because I think now more than ever, is the time to celebrate who we are, try to figure out what being an American means to us now, right? Versus last year, even -- it's so different.
My grandfather came over, through Ellis Island, from Greece. My name was Stamotopoulos, and it got chopped to Stamos. Thanks to everything that this country had to offer, all the blessings of this country, I'm here today, right? Just because we have different backgrounds, and different personal stories, we're still linked by the values that we share, and by the love of this country that we have, no matter where we're coming from, right?
"Values" is an interesting word because I think decency is at an all time low now, and discord is high. We need to get together. I think a concert like this, if you're at the concert or if you're at home watching it, it's now a time for us to unite and come together on this country that we love, or it's going to get worse, right?
This diverse lineup that they have I think is fantastic, and from Trace Adkins to The Beach Boys, there's a lot of different musical styles. And you'll see: everybody will be dancing the same. They'll be singing the same. That's a good message.
I hate to oversimplify it. "Stamos, you get together and you sing Beach Boys songs, and our country's fine?" It's a start. I don't know. Maybe some of it is simpler than we're making it out to be. It's gotten very complicated, hasn't it?
Let's go all the way back: Here you are, a kid who grew up on Beach Boys music, and then you meet these guys, these pop music icons, and then eventually you're able to perform with them, and now you essentially are a Beach Boy yourself after all these years. Run me through that whole experience of going from super-fan to one of the guys in the band.
First of all, I've never been so presumptuous as to call myself a Beach Boy -- I'll put that out there! I'm still their number one fan. The first concert I went to was a Beach Boys show in California. I think I was like 13 or something. I remember thinking like, "Oh, maybe the drummer broke a finger, and they're going to come out and say, 'I've got a broken finger. Does anybody out there know these songs?'" I'd be like, "Me! Me!"
I started hanging around with them, and I knew a friend of mine was in the band -- he's still in the band, Jeffrey Foskett, who plays guitar -- I was starting to become famous from "General Hospital," I guess, and they were like, "Who's this kid?" "I play drums." "Come out on the encore and play 'Barbara Ann' with us." I'm like, "Oh, great!"
One of the first times, I'm not kidding -- and this kind of brings it all back -- was in D.C. in 1985 at the Washington Monument. There were a million people there. Jimmy Page was playing guitar, and this was one of the real first times I played like four or five songs with them. I remember thinking, I wasn't thinking about the million people out there. I was like, "I've got to play this right for these guys. I've got to play it really good."
It's been quite a journey. Saying I'm not one of them but a fan, and thinking that there was a time in the '80s when they were starting to fade away, early '80s, before "Kokomo," I'm like, 'Well, I'm on a TV show where there's a bunch of kids that watch." I knew kids weren't getting turned on to The Beach Boys because they weren't playing on the radio unless their parents played them or they heard them in movies.
So one of the proudest things I have is when somebody comes and says, "I got turned on to The Beach Boys because of 'Full House' or 'Kokomo.'"
What's the song, when you're on stage with the guys, that still gives you an electric thrill to be playing with them?
"Good Vibrations" usually will hit me. And I'm not kidding you, all of it. I just got off a month tour with them. I've been doing this since before '85, I think like '84. I still can't believe it. I still get chills. I love "God Only Knows" -- it's just a perfect song.
Now it's like, you can look at the crowd -- and I think that's why they're so perfect for this special -- and there'll be a five-year-old and a 75-year-old singing the same song. Every word, too. They're smiling, and they're dancing, and they're celebrating. Again, it's a time when I think people want to connect on something, and also, forget about some of the darker things that are going on for an hour or two. It's heart music.
I think more than just going, "Oh my God, I'm playing with The Beach Boys," it's like, "Oh, my God. Look at the effect they have on people, and the music still has." It will for thousands of years. These songs will affect people that way for the rest of time, I think.
I know there was talk at some point of doing a musical with their music, and you producing. Is that still in the works?
Yeah, that got put into turnaround at Fox. I'm still trying to set it up somewhere else. I did a miniseries about them, and I did some other things. I think the movie or the musical, if it gets done, would be more about their music and not their personal lives, because we all have crazy things that have happened. I see that happening some day.
Obviously, we'll see you again on "Fuller House" in the fall. What else do you have cooking as a producer or as an actor? What's on your plate right now?
Since "Grandfathered" and then "Scream Queens" last year, I felt like it was time to kind of sit back and re-evaluate the business, and who I am, and my brand, whatever that's about. I'm looking to do things that are a little off-center.
"Grandfathered," the Josh Pecks of it all in this world -- I was at his wedding the other day with David Dobrik and YouTubers, and they fascinate me. They're smart, these kids. You see it happening. You're a fool if you're not paying attention to what these kids are doing in new media. So I'm digging into all that. I'm jumping on to producing things that I feel close to.
I have a project that is not sold yet, but I'm out pitching with Universal TV, loosely based on my life in the soaps. I was 18, I grew up in Orange County, and I got thrown on to "General Hospital," and it was basically "Boogie Nights" in the soap world in the '80s. So I'm working on getting that a home somewhere, and I think it'll find a home soon.
I would watch that in a second.
You get it? It was an interesting time, obviously, politically. AIDS was coming, and feminism. Then you have this cast of characters. The life outside the soap was almost more dramatic than what was happening on the TV show half the time. It was a good time to be in all that, and for me, it was a constant morality check, where I was going, and where I was coming from, and how to bring where I was coming from to where I was going. It's interesting. I grew up in a very Republican Orange County!
You've always been very proud about your Greek heritage. Let's bring it back to the Fourth of July; tell me more about being a Greek American and celebrating both sides of your heritage.
One hundred percent! I think that's what this special is going to be about. Again, this is different than last year. This year is different. This Fourth of July is a different world we're living in, right? You're right: It's important to kind of define who we are as
Not to sound corny, but look at the lineup for this show. It's a melting pot, and it's beautiful. We're going to come together, and sing, and laugh, and pay tribute to our beautiful country together. No matter where we come from, what side of politics we're on.
Gosh darn it, I need some music, theme music playing under me. Some sort of patriotic song under this interview!
All I've got here is the soundtrack to "Booty Call."
Very good callback!