At age 19, most of us can’t imagine what we’ll be doing as a career. But for Don Zirilli, a serendipitous gift of an organ from his father sparked an idea to start a band. Little did he know that playing at teen clubs with his buddies would turn into a full-fledged job.
Now, 48 years later, that band — known as Papa Doo Run Run — is still going strong, bringing its rendition of Beach Boys favorites to venues all over the world.
Formed in Cupertino in 1965, with four high school friends — Don Zirilli, Jim Rush, Steve Dromensk and Jim Shippey — the band quickly gained popularity and played at high schools and college campuses all over California.
Though the band’s name may have changed over the years — from the “Zu” to “Goodie Two Shoes,” until finally settling on the current name — its sound has remained consistent since the early 1970s.
After testing out a new “beach party” format at a gig and seeing the crowd’s positive reaction, the band members knew they had found their calling. Once their popularity continued to grow, they found themselves performing upwards of 150 gigs a year.
Their sound even brought them to Disneyland, where they played as the “Celebrity House Band” from 1975 to 1990.
Over the years, they’ve enjoyed performing at countless corporate events and now can be seen at a variety of places, from concert halls to private appearances.
“We’ve never tried to be a huge phenomenon, we just wanted to keep working,” Zirilli said. “And we have, and it’s been amazing.”
Though the band’s lineup has had some changes, today’s members include Zirilli and Rush, as well as two former Beach Boys members and other accomplished musicians who’ve performed with Frankie Valli, and the Eagles, among others.
Throughout the band’s nearly 50-year career, Papa Doo Run Run has performed with musical greats like Jimmy Buffet and Fleetwood Mac, and played at two Olympics, two presidential inaugurations and seven Super Bowls.
Asked about the best part of being in a cover band for nearly half a century, Zirilli’s response: “I’ve never had a job, I’ve always been in a band!”
For more Papa Doo Run Run, visit: www.papadoo.com
Listen to reporter Kasia Grobelny explain the story behind the story on KZSU Stanford’s “Peninsula Report” radio show with host Eliza Ridgeway:
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