Vera Anderson/Getty Images (Stamos); Rozanne Hakala/Getty Images (fireworks)
When John Stamos struts onto the stage July 4th as host of the annual star-studded PBS concert "A Capitol Fourth" — then eases in behind a drum set to pull double duty with the Beach Boys — his younger self will be rocking out with him.
As the “proud over-50-er” tells it, it was 30 years ago at another July Fourth concert in the nation's capital that the then-General Hospital star first subbed in with his all-time favorite band. The guest jam, Stamos says, fulfilled a childhood dream launched by an “eight-track of [the album] Endless Summer.” For years, he confesses, he’d nurtured a fantasy: He’d be sitting in the audience, things would go quiet, then “Mike Love comes out and says, ‘Our drummer broke his finger, and does anyone in the audience know these songs?’ And I would run up …”
After a decadeslong relationship with the band, Stamos most recently drummed for them on a grueling leg of their European tour. (“These guys are 75, and they’re baring me out there. … It’s inspiring.”) Then, as always, Stamos retains a boyish wonder at his good luck, never failing “to say thank you for letting me tag along with you” every time the Boys invite him aboard the bus … or make a stop for vegetarian chili. “Food is a big deal” on the tour, he notes.
Lately, if life has a full-circle quality for the actor-musician-producer (who recently grew out his sideburns to revisit his role as Uncle Jesse for Netflix’s series Fuller House), he credits two things. First, knowing the value of experience — “learning to pinpoint the mistakes you’ve made and how to learn from them” — and second, hewing to the lessons of daily decency passed along by his father, a restaurant owner of Greek descent. “He always stressed focusing on the micro transactions,” Stamos says, referring to the smaller, human moments that ultimately build a reputation or shade a life. With those life lessons under his narrow-waist belt at age 54, he says, “It feels like it’s all coming back to me.”
That kind of decency, he adds, “is at an all-time low today,” citing everything from the recent bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England (he and the Beach Boys arrived in the city just hours before the tragedy), to the growing “discord” in our country over the past year. And while he’s careful not to oversimplify — “I don’t want people saying, ‘Stamos says get together and sing a song, and everything’s fine,’” — he firmly, if somewhat sheepishly, believes that music can heal.
“This is why I wanted to do this special,” he says, praising a lineup that’s “as diverse as our country.” Indeed, country crooner Kellie Pickler, Grammy-nominated gospel artist Yolanda Adams, Motown stars The Four Tops, and Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi of the Blues Brothers will perform, among many others. The concert airs from 8 to 9:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 4, on PBS stations.
“I think any chance we get to come together and celebrate our country, no matter where we’re coming from, is important,” Stamos says. “I’m not very political, and I don’t talk about it much, but I know that getting together and singing and dancing and celebrating America is a damn good place to start.”