One white whale for Beach Boys fanatics is Cows in the Pasture, a country album Brian Wilson made with then BB manager Fred Vail in 1970 that was never finished. That is changing, though, as according to Rolling Stone, Cows in the Pasture will finally see the light of day with the help of T-Bone Burnett and a few big names in the country industry.
The album was conceived by Wilson and pitched to Vail, who was not a professional singer but sang a lot to country radio when they were in the car together. Wilson let Vail pick the songs — including Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely,” Hank Williams’ “You Win Again,” and Burt Bacharach’s “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me” — and they worked on the album while the Beach Boys were making Sunflower. But Wilson lost interest and it was never finished and sat in the band’s vaults.
“We never did any keeper vocals,” Vail tells Rolling Stone. “They were mostly just scratch vocals that we never completed. There were no background vocals and no harmonies. It was a lot instrumentation. And when Brian lost interest, I just moved on. It was kind of like, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ I didn’t figure anything would ever be done with them.”
According to Rolling Stone, the tapes came into Vail’s possession about 10 years ago, but he had no plans to do anything with them until a chance meeting between Vail and Beach Boys fan (and talent agent and producer) Sam Parker, who learned about the album and suggested they finally finish it.
Later this year, Fred Vail, who is now 79, will head into the studio to record new vocals, aided by Burnett, Wilson (who is recording some backing vocals), and a few ringers. “They’re country music legends,” Parker tells Rolling Stone. “They’re rock & roll legends, contemporary country, and pop stars too.”
“Fred always loved country music, and he was a big rodeo guy,” Brian Wilson tells Rolling Stone. “He’s a hell of a guy, one hell of a promoter, and I’m glad his album is coming out.”
Additionally, Fred is the subject of a four-part docuseries that is produced by Parker with Wilson also signed on as an executive producer. The first episode will be about Fred’s life working with the Beach Boys, the second episode is about Cows in the Pasture, and the other two episodes will be about Fred’s life after he quit working with them and the road to finally finishing the album. They’re still looking for a distributor but are hoping the documentary series and the album will be out in 2025.
Read more about this very interesting story at Rolling Stone.