SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Though you may not know her by name, Shirley England, a Utah native, is acknowledged nationwide as the girl who had fun, fun fun, ‘til her daddy took her T-bird away.
When sitting down with Shirley, she chuckled when discussing the worldwide hit, giving a nod to her claim to fame.
“Yeah, that was a few years ago,” she laughed.
So, how did a Salt Lake City girl become the focus of one of America’s most renowned rock bands in music history?
“It was 1964 and my dad owned a radio station here in Salt Lake, KNAK radio. At the time, it was the number one rock station in the Valley. His business manager, Bill Hesterman, was friends with Murry Wilson, the father of Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, and Dennis Wilson–three of the Beach Boys,” she explained.
“Bill would bring The Beach Boys to town five or six times a year to perform at a local amusement park called Lagoon, or the Terrace Ballroom–either one,” Shirley continued.
“They would come down to the radio station and do interviews. This station had a great big window where the public could come and look in and see the interviews as they were going on.”
The then twenty-something college student of the University of Utah went on, “I would sit in the window at work and listen to the interviews take place. I got to know them that way a little bit, not on a first-name basis or anything–I was just kind of one of the fans, but I was inside observing and enjoying the moments.”
Little did Shirley know, the boy band noticed her just as much as she noticed them.
When asked how the song came to be, Shirley let ABC4 in on a little family secret.
“So, I was going to school at the University of Utah where my father was also on faculty. He drove a T-bird, and he would get a new one every single year. Because of the fact that he had the T-bird, he had a faculty sticker–it was a driving campus at the time. Basically, I could take his car and park in front of every classroom and every building I wanted to go to. So I would trade him my little Ford Falcon for his T-bird and go to my classes. From there, I’d meet him down at the station after my morning at school for work. I was kind of selfishly using his car all the time,” she admitted.
Though even the sweetest of us were once guilty of some juvenile shenanigans, back in her day, the convertible-cruisin’ college kid had a little rebellious streak.
“One day I went down to the station and I was driving my little Ford Falcon, not the T-bird. Word got around that the night before I had supposedly gone to the library with my friends. Instead of going to the library, we hitched up and went to a local drive-in that had some really great food and kids,” she laughed. “I got in trouble, so I didn’t get the car that day.”
That afternoon, the radio station’s gossip was that daddy’s little girl was grounded. According to Shirley, that’s where the band got their inspiration for ‘Fun, fun fun.’
“When they were leaving town, Bill–their manager–was taking them to the Salt Lake Airport and they were talking about me. I think it was Brian Wilson and Mike Love that made up the song on the drive,” she noted. Adding, “it was just kind of a fast quick thing. I didn’t realize they had done that.”
She continued, “A little while later that song came out. I turned to Bill and said ‘Hey, that could be my song,’ and he said, ‘Yeah it sure could be.’ And it wasn’t until a few years later when I was attending a concert and the Beach Boys were there at the University of Utah for the 4th of July. I opened up the program and there was the whole story of Bill driving them to the airport and how the song was really written for me. I looked at that and turned to my daughter, saying, ‘Oh my gosh! Bill said it was for me, but I guess it’s true!’ That’s how I heard about it.”
From there on out, Shirley has been the subject of interviews time and time again for her underground fame.
“The last interview I had I actually mentioned that I had not been told by the band themselves that they had written that song for me,” she shared. “The interviewer actually said ‘Well Shirley, let me tell you, I was with Mike Love yesterday and he said that one of the guys in the band thought they wrote it on a plane. Mike said ‘No, we wrote it about a Salt Lake City girl.’ He confirmed it for me, so now I’m going to take it.” she said, playfully.
Today, Shirley goes about her happy life in Salt Lake working as a physician’s office manager. However, she’s keen on keeping her legacy alive, joking with her husband that she wants her tombstone to read ‘She had fun, fun, fun’.
Looking back on her rise to underground stardom, Shirley notes, “They were a great group of guys. It was just a really fun association, as was working at that station. It was a nice ride.”