Who in the world would be dumb enough to drop out of one of the world's most popular rock bands at the height of its success?
David Marks has probably asked himself that question a million times since he left the Beach Boys in 1964 after playing on their first five albums. He's missed out on untold royalties and concert grosses during the last 33 years.
But the guitarist, 49, is not too proud to revisit his past.
In an odd twist to a career that peaked before his 15th birthday, Marks has rejoined the Beach Boys for a series of concerts this fall. It started with a show Thursday in Las Vegas and includes two performances Sunday at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, sitting in for the sidelined Carl Wilson, who is battling brain and lung cancer.
"It's going to be nice to get up off the couch," says Marks, who lives with his mother and 15-year-old daughter in Burbank. "I've been getting kind of bored."
Marks has stayed in music all these years, living on his artist royalties from the Beach Boys records (about $20,000 a year) and a series of odd jobs--he was an usher at Dodger Stadium one season--while trying to reclaim the glory he'd known with the Beach Boys.
"I more or less took every offer that came up," he says of his musical career. "My main motivation was to stay active, but of course there was always that underlying thought of, 'Maybe this could hit big.' But it never did."
After playing on albums that spawned classic songs such as "Surfin' Safari," "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Surfer Girl," Marks never again contributed to a hit after leaving the Beach Boys.
And why did he leave?
Marks chalks it up to the naivete of youth.
"I just didn't comprehend it fully," he says. "At 14, you think, 'This happens to everybody.' "
But Marks, pursuing a solo career after he left the Beach Boys, soon discovered that he'd been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity a few years earlier when he was asked to join a surf band that neighbors Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson had formed in their house down the street in Hawthorne.
"I expected to make it big because I'd had it all handed to me when I was 13 years old," Marks says. "Being an ex-Beach Boy, I thought my new group [Dave & the Marksmen] was going to take right off. But I was mistaken."
He stayed in touch with his former bandmates, joining the Beach Boys on stage a few times over the years but never formally touring with them. Mostly, he has lived far from the limelight.
He has survived some hard times, battling drug and alcohol problems along the way and living from check to check at times, but "I always had transportation, food and clothes--and extra money to buy guitars and keyboards when the need arose," he says.
Mike Love, the Beach Boys' lead singer, thought of Marks immediately when recruiting a replacement for Carl Wilson.
"He knows the surfing sound because he played it with us for the first two or three years of the group's existence," Love says. "It was very natural and made sense to me. He's a very talented guy, and very intelligent and fun."
Though Marks has pretty much been "retired" for the last few years, he jumped at the chance when Love called him last month.
"I always got regenerated every time I sat in with the Beach Boys," he says. "The Beach Boys have helped sustain me through my life as far as royalties, and I feel like maybe this is my chance to give something back."
He has a ready answer for pop music trivia buffs who ask, "Whatever happened to David Marks?"
"He led a nice, full life and was fortunate enough to have a chance to pick up where he left off."
* The Beach Boys play Sunday at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., 3 and 7 p.m. $25 to $50. (805) 449-2787.