Nik Venet, credited with discovering the Beach Boys for Capitol Records, has died of complications from treatment for Burkitt’s lymphoma. He was 61.
Venet died Friday at County-USC Medical Center, said Susan Crawford, his partner in the independent Evening Star Records company.
Born Nikolas Kostantinos Venetoulis on Dec. 3, 1936, in Baltimore, Venet began his career at 17 as a writer in New York’s famed Brill Building pop song factory, where he rented a small office with Bobby Darin. He moved to Los Angeles at 19 and went to World Pacific Records, where he worked with monologuist Lord Buckley, then became a staff producer and talent scout with Capitol.
In 1962 he came in contact with the Beach Boys through Murry Wilson, who was managing the band that consisted of his sons Brian, Carl and Dennis, along with their cousin Mike Love and neighbor Al Jardine. The surf culture the group celebrated in their independent single “Surfin’ ” was just a minor Southern California phenomenon, but Venet took the Beach Boys into the studio and oversaw the group’s first albums, an experience Brian Wilson has credited with helping him learn the craft of production.
Among the acts Venet subsequently signed at Capitol were Lou Rawls, Glen Campbell, Jim Croce, the Stone Poneys (a folk trio featuring a young Linda Ronstadt, which had a 1967 hit with “Different Drum,” written by Mike Nesmith), Fred Neil (who wrote the song “Everybody’s Talkin’ ” for the film “Midnight Cowboy”), and John Stewart (whose “Daydream Believer” was a big hit for the Monkees).
In the early 1970s he helped found United Artist Records, working with performers ranging from Don McLean--Venet was executive producer of his “American Pie"--to Frank Zappa.
His Evening Star Records roster includes singer-songwriters Sarah Kim Wilde and Harriet Schock, and Venet’s final project was production of an upcoming original cast album for the off-Broadway musical “The Last Session” composed by Steve Schalchlin.
Venet was active in civil rights causes, marching with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and in recent years working on the campaign to preserve Point Concepcion, held by Native Americans to be sacred ground.
He is survived by his longtime companion Harriet Schock; his son, Nick Venet Jr. of Los Angeles; brothers Ted and Steve Venetoulis; a sister, Elenie Venetoulis; and his mother, Flora Venetoulis.
A memorial is planned for 7 p.m. Friday at the Santa Monica headquarters of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, 3402 Pico Blvd.