Photo courtesy of Tim Bonhomme

Hardwired for Music

Beach Boy Tim Bonhomme Exclusive Interview

By Kelly Louiseize

Editor Jennifer J. Lacelle

Date March 10, 2021

His father never wanted him to be a musician. He would have preferred he graduate university as a real estate lawyer, an accountant, anything but a musician. But something inside Tim Bonhomme was hardwired for music.

Tim grew up in Val Caron, Ontario just outside of Sudbury. He along with his six siblings moved to New Sudbury on Gary Street when he was a small boy. He remembers Rosemary Park and skating so long his toes ached when he finally submitted to the cold and returned home to have mom’s hot chocolate.

His father, Conrad Bonhomme, was the owner and broker of the ReMax offices in Sudbury area. Feeding seven children meant spending a ridiculous amount of time at work, showing homes, or creating appraisal reports.

That kind of discipline paid off, not only for Conrad but for his sons who adopted his determination. Tim’s older brother Al is a professor at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California. Al was the reason Tim threw himself into music. He played guitar as a young boy. Tim was intrigued and picked up the instrument. He’d bang around on it, but the instrument didn’t resonate with his style. When their father sold a house down the street and the owners decided not to take their neglected piano, Conrad brought it home.

“I remember the keys were half off, some of the back strings were broken. It was a mess trying to get it into our house,” Tim’s eyes rolling with a grin on his face. “It was never tuned.”

Marcel Pinard at Le Centre des Jeunes, was his teacher. He was on Elgin Street, down from his father’s office. After four years of tutorage, Tim felt ready to audition for student placement at the University of Toronto (U of T).

Training in University

“I get there, readying myself for the audition. I hear all the other musicians and they sound so much better. I asked myself, ‘What am I doing here? This is a world class institute!’”

A gentleman escorted Tim to the nine-foot grand piano on stage and there he sat in front of an audience of 2,000 empty seats. A faint light dimmed in the back row where three men sat awaiting his performance.

“I hit one note on the piano, and it was so loud. I wasn’t used to it. I mean, this is a concert hall!”

Tim played a few classical and jazz pieces. The professors were open to hearing anything. When he was finished, Tim was completely deflated, terribly disappointed in his performance.

“I completely blew the audition.”

He chalked it up to experience and on he went to a second interview at London, Ontario’s Western University. This time he was in front of one teacher, an environment he felt comfortable with. In the subsequent days Tim received a call from U of T asking why he hadn’t returned a reply.

“What reply?” Tim asked.

Apparently U of T had been trying to get hold of him. He had been accepted!

“Here I felt like I blew it, but the profs felt I had potential.”

Photo courtesy of Tim Bonhomme


Tim, however, had already accepted a full year with Western University Professor Cornelius Rodert, a Holland immigrant who taught the art of technique, and speed.

“He really slowed it down, so slow with the finger dexterity and placements on the piano. The pressure on where the fingers were placed had a direct correlation to the independent muscles in the hands, the arms, and the back.”

It was all interconnected and dependent at the same time, he said.

After completing the year, Tim went back to Sudbury to work at Falconbridge Ltd., a Canadian mining house which has since been purchased by Glencore. He spent the year saving money to meet his brother Al in Los Angeles (LA) who had been touring with his band for the last five years. Al recommended Dick Grove School of Music, for Tim to learn more jazz.

Tim Bonhomme


Time to Shine in Los Angeles

Landing in LA, Tim had to find a vehicle to transport himself and his music equipment. He bought a 1969 Ford LTD and lost its transmission a few weeks later. “There was no reverse. I had to put my foot out to push it backwards.”

With a Fender Rhodes keyboard as his only instrument, Tim began to integrate himself into local bars, clubs, playing country, weddings bar mitzvahs – anything to survive. The cost of staying ahead of the music trends was steep. New technology and keyboards were expensive.

His Uncle Claude, a self-made man, offered to invest in a music studio for both his nephews. So, the boys moved into a small house and worked tirelessly on their instruments and new technology.

“We didn’t see the sun for years.”


They produced a band called Visitor with Vancouver-born Paul Friesen as lead vocalist. It was an 80s band with some good rock quality. Record labels were showing an interest. Then the market shifted. People wanted to listen to heavy metal bands like Guns and Roses. Visitor, after three years of hard practice, was toast overnight.

Newly married and with two children, Tim played in clubs, Disneyland, and casual weekend weddings.

“Those gigs paid more.”

The Beach Boys

Through some of the 60s bands, Tim met Jeffrey Foskett, who introduced him to Mike Love, the lead for Beach Boys. In 1990, he was asked to join Mike’s band, Mike Love’s California Beach Band, on a tour to Japan. It was first class all the way and Tim had a fabulous time. The next scheduled destination was Hawaii where Tim’s father joined. Conrad was a ham. At home Tim remembers his father dancing The Hustle with Lisa, his daughter, in the living room. He put those moves to good use in Hawaii when four professional cheerleaders asked him to shake a leg.

Photo courtesy of Tim Bonhomme

Arriving back in LA, Tim was now playing with Hollywood bands. It wasn’t until 1996 that he became a full-fledged Beach Boy. Mike Love took over managing the bookings, hiring the talent and setting some team goals.

There wasn’t an audition or panel of judges to mark his placement as a Beach Boy. Once a musician attains that level of excellence, he or she doesn’t have to audition anymore, he said. The craft speaks for itself.

“The biggest part of keyboarding is the sound. You have to make it work. It isn’t just hitting a note. It’s how long you hold it. The pressure in which you hold it, and you have to marry that with other instruments in the band. It is the technical pressure you have to deal with as a keyboardist.”

Tim has played everywhere except for the Antarctic.

In Australia, his brother Pierre called long distance and asked if he had two tickets available for the evening performance. Apparently, one of his good Australian friends was babysitting two twin boys who had just lost their father. Tim was only too happy to give these boys something else to think about.

“Sometimes you wonder what the hell you’re doing out here. I mean I am away from family, my kids,” he said, as his chin begins to dimple and the tears well up in his eyes. “It just comes down to making people happy. It was my pleasure to take the stress away from these boys, if only for an evening.” Wiping back his tears Tim sighs. “Geeze, I didn’t expect to be so emotional about this. You got me.”

Photo courtesy of Tim Bonhomme

Perhaps it hit a nerve. Perhaps he was missing his own children, his family, the feeling of connectedness to something or someone.

Home is important to Tim, cooking his own meals, going to the gym, hiking, spending time with his children, his brother Al and a handful of friends.

Travelling can wear the best man out, he said. “At times you wake up and don’t know the city you’re in. That is the real deal.”

Last year, Tim was gone 220 days out of the year with performances in different time zones. “I just sleep when I’m tired. If I can sleep four hours and nap somewhere through the day, I’m good.”

The seasoned vets teach Tim a thing or two on how to slam it.

No other language bonds people together like music. He is thankful he can play alongside the caliber of musicians, grateful for the set-up crew and for the life he is able to live.

“Our crew, the band and the management are one very well-oiled machine, everyone is very professional. We tour so much together; we are a family. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to tour with The Beach Boys and entourage all these years.”

And to think, it started with a throw away piano on Gary Street in some hick Northern, Ontario town called Sudbury.

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