It’s almost impossible for John Stamos to imagine what would have happened to his life had he not met Beach Boys singer-guitarist Jeffrey Foskett 40 years ago. Foskett, who died Monday at 67, introduced Stamos to the Beach Boys in 1983, and helped him land a gig as a percussionist that continues to this day. When Stamos, who wrote about Foskett in his new memoir If You Would Have Told Me, hopped on Zoom with Rolling Stone on Monday evening, tears flowed throughout the entire conversation as he looked back on Foskett’s incredible contributions to the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson’s solo career, their brotherhood, and Foskett’s final years as he bravely battled anaplastic thyroid cancer.
I first heard the music of the Beach Boys when I was 12 years old. It happened at Disneyland. I was standing in line for the Matterhorn in my dad’s Member’s Only jacket. I had zits and was wearing Aramis cologne, trying to pick up girls. While in line, I heard this a cappella section of “Sloop John B.” I was lifted into the air like the Pied Piper. There was a stage nearby and this band was playing, Papa Doo Run Run. They were doing the Beach Boys. I was like, “What is this? Where is this coming from?” And then I went to the source, which was the Endless Summer compilation. My dad had it on 8-track in his El Camino. The music just became part of my soul.
I get on General Hospital many years later, and I wind up playing with Papa Doo Run Run at Disneyland. One night, the drummer got the runs. The bassist, Jimi Jo Rush, calls me and says, “Get here right now! [Jim] Shippey’s got diarrhea! You gotta come play drums.”
To me, getting asked to play drums with Papa Doo Run Run at Disneyland was the greatest thing that could possibly happen to me. I rushed down there to play the show. And then they invited Jeffrey Foskett onto the stage. I couldn’t believe the voice on this guy. I wanted to play extra good for him. I remember he sang “Crying” by Roy Orbison and then “Lucille” [by Little Richard]. We became friends.
In the summer of 1983, I grew really depressed because I caught my girlfriend in bed with somebody else. Jeff said, “Come down to San Diego.” I said, “Can I meet the guys?” He goes, “Maybe. I can’t promise it. We’ll leave you a backstage pass at Jack Murphy Stadium. When you hear ‘Fun, Fun, Fun,’ run backstage as fast as you can. They’ll stand backstage for ten minutes and then they’ll leave after the last encore.”
I ran onto the field after “Fun, Fun, Fun” and I could hear all this commotion and screaming. I’m like, “What the fuck is that?” I looked over and it was like 90 cheerleaders on the floor. I started running. They started chasing me. I had these skinny little legs and these Jordache jeans. I look up and they have me on the Jumbotron. I got back just in the nick of time. They slam the door behind me, and the whole band is just staring at me. I was like, “Hi!” They looked at me like I was a freak. And these were guys that hung out with Charles Manson.
Mike Love says to Jeff, “Who is that?” Jeff goes, “That’s my friend John Stamos. He plays drums. He’s on General Hospital.” Mike said, “Do girls scream like that for him all the time?” Jeff says, “Yeah.” Mike says, “Get him onstage.” And I got up and played “Barbara Ann” with them.
Jeff did that for me. I can’t express how he changed my life. And it wasn’t just once. It was ever since 1983. He was always making sure I was part of the band. He got me in.
The next thing that came up was the Fourth of July 1985 concert in D.C. They were having guest stars. Carl [Wilson] asked Jeff, “What about Stamos? Can he play?” Jeff goes, “He can play the whole set.” I flew to DC. Jeff was waiting for me in the lobby. He was a big guy. He used to have this big white towel around his neck to protect his voice. We used to call it his “anaconda.” And then he tells me, “We gotta go teach the songs to Jimmy.” I go, “Jimmy?” He goes, “Jimmy Page.” And then I got to meet Jimmy Page and play with him that night. That’s the kind of thing that would happen with Jeff in my life.
When anyone heard Jeff sing, they just couldn’t believe it. It was like, “How is that possible?” He sang Brian better than Brian sang Brian. He was also the most charming guy on the planet. He could walk into any room and light it up with his talent. He cared so much. He was so intelligent.
He was the most dependable guy out there. And he very quickly became my older brother. He always watched out for me. He made sure I was in the right place at the right time with the right people, musically.
He left the Beach Boys for a little while [in the Nineties], and then he went over to the Brian side. Jeff really took care of Brian on the road for the longest time. He was in his room. Brian loved him so much. And then he came back to the Beach Boys.
I remember getting the call about his cancer. We were in line at In-N-Out Burger. He went, “I have this bad cancer.” They gave him two months. They were like, “Get your affairs in order.” But he got himself into MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, which is almost impossible. It came with a big price. I never found out who paid for it.
Even when he was undergoing treatment for cancer, he’d sometimes come out to shows, especially when we were in Texas. He would just play guitar. But it got harder and harder for him. I remember finally asking him one day, “Jeff, how are you coming to terms with the fact that you don’t sing like you want to anymore?” He went, “I’m just so grateful to be alive. I haven’t even got to that part yet.”
He wouldn’t let anyone come see him at the hospital. I eventually said, “I’m coming.” I went there and lived with him for a week at the hospital. He knew more about everything there than the doctors did. He was a brilliant guy. He knew every type of cancer, every treatment.
They came up with these treatments for him that he had to get every three weeks. He called it his “Special Juice.” It was keeping him alive. And so he eventually just moved to Houston so he could be close to that. We did a big benefit for MD Anderson about a year ago. I hosted it. I think we raised something like $12 million.
He was just starting to get his voice back at the time. I said to him, “You gotta do something for me. You have to sing a little bit of ‘Warmth of the Sun’ for me tonight.” He goes, “I don’t know.” I go, “Please. Do it for me.” I called him out. He sang, “What good is the dawn…” The place just went…[sobs]
He was always like, “Pray for me. This is going to be a tough one to get through.” He was so brave. He never complained. If I was going through what he’s going through, I’d be a fuckin’ pain in the ass. Everyone would be like, “We miss Stamos, but he complained a lot.” Jeff never complained.
When the pandemic happened, we started this weekly Zoom. It was about eight guys. We did it every Sunday. We’d talk every week and talking to him just made my life so much better. He made a lot of people’s lives better. His voice would cut through everything. And he was always laughing. He had this great guttural laugh. It was almost to the point where we’d get kicked out of places, but he didn’t care.
He knew my mom and dad. He was my family. He sang at my mom’s funeral, my first wedding, and then at my real wedding to [my wife] Caitlin. Her favorite song is “Darlin’,” and he sang it.
When I got the call [that Foskett died] this morning, I was crying. And my son came up and said, “What’s the matter?” I said, “My friend died.” He came back with this picture of me and Jeff. He’s surrounded by hearts and they’re taking him up to God.
Next to my wife and my kid, Jeff gave me the greatest gift in life that I ever received. He let me be a tiny bit of the conduit that gets this music out into the world. I see how badly the world needs that now. I see people walk into Beach Boys concerts one way and walk out another. Being a part of that is a gift I got from Jeff. He helped me achieve a dream I didn’t even know I had.