5 Mar

Spirit 1976 #1
Spirit: One Of The Greatest Hippie Rock & Roll Bands of the 1960s.

Randy color solo #1
The first time that I saw Spirit was on Halloween, October 31, 1969, at the East Town theater on the East side of Detroit, Michigan. I had heard their radio hit β€œI Got A Line On You,” and I knew that they had a bald headed drummer, but other than that I didn’t know anything about them. The headline band that I had come to see was Canned Heat another L.A. band, along with Spirit, who was appearing as a special guest. Spirit blew me away with one of the most infectious, high energy, and original performances that I had seen up to that point.

Randy 1976 color solo

Then as a resident of the Greater Detroit Michigan area for 22 years, at the time, I’d seen all the Motown artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder and major rock groups ranging from Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd to the Iron Butterly to the Mothers of Invention and dozens of others. So I wasn’t that easily impressed. In fact I had just seen Grand Funk Railroad perform at the East Town in July, before their appearance at Woodstock, and I was not at all impressed.


The band was comprised of skinhead Ed Cassidy on a super-sized set of drums, Guitarist Randy California in a black leather jacket and sunglasses with curly black hair and a short beard, lead singer and tambourine twirler Jay Ferguson, bass player Mark Andes, and keyboardist John Locke. They were so tight that they squeaked and proceeded to blow the roof off the place. They were playing songs off their new album, along with their 2 previous releases. Their repertoire was as impressive as their performance was awe inspiring with a stage presence that completely controlled the audience.

Ed Cassidy

I saw them in a variety of states since this was back in hippie times. Most of the time I was just smoking grass, but the second time that I saw them I was on mescaline and it was a very freaky experience. I saw them at a place in Birmingham that was called the Factory or something like that. It was a square box of a place with I Beams for rafters and absolutely no acoustics. I experienced Spirit in a totally different way than the last time. Plus I now owned their first 3 albums and was familiar with all their songs. However, I was so stoned that their set was nearly incoherent, but then it was a real trip.

Spirit Randy b&w Spririt Randy Teeth

At one point I remember Randy California telling a story as a lead in for playing Foxey Lady. It was about a guitar duel between the devil and some hick from down South. Randy played a searing guitar solo representing the devil and then he vamped up a notch and the hick played his explosive solo that blew the devil away.

Spirit #3

I didn’t know it at the time, but I found out that Randy California was a name given to him by Jimi Hendrix and in actuality Randy Wolfe was his name. The story according to Randy goes like this; when he was 16 he was living in New York City and was a member of Jimi James and the Blue Flames, Jimi Hendrix’s band in Greenwich Village. This was in 1966 before Chas Chandler of the Animals discovered Jimi and whisked him off to England. Randy told the story many times about how he was in Manny’s Music store, in Manhattan, when he saw a black guy playing a fender Stratocaster who he asked if he could look at it. The licks he played impressed the black guy enough to ask him to join his band that was currently playing at the CafΓ© Wha?, in Greenwich Village. While he was a member of the band there was another Randy in the band who was from Texas, so to avoid confusion he named one Randy California and the other Randy Texas.

Randy color 1995

I saw the original 5 members perform a total of 4 times over the next year and every show was great. Then after they released their 4th album, β€œThe 12 Faces of Dr. Sardonicus,” they began to tour and broke up in the middle of the tour. I cried and moved from Detroit to L.A. a few months later. Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes formed a band called Jo Jo Gunne and I saw them perform at the Golden Bear, in Huntington Beach in June 1971. I photographed them, but was not a very good photographer at the time, so all my images were taken at a slow shutter speed and blurred.

Jo Jo Gun #1

Randy 1976 color solo

Then in 1976 I was attending Bible college to become a minister, but attended a Spirit concert at the Golden Bear. I brought my camera and got shots of the concert with Fuzzy Knight on bass. At the same time Jay Ferguson had a solo career that made him a album oriented FM station top 40 radio star. Mark Andes began playing bass for Northwest sister’s band, Heart and Spirit continued in its many incarnations with Randy California and Ed Cassidy at the center and a variety of sidemen. It was a father son venture. Folk Singer Steve Forbert Opened the show and I accidentally did a double exposure of him and Randy.

Spirit & Steve Forbert

By 1984 I had moved back to Michigan after 13 years on the West Coast, for a couple of years. While I was there Spirit was doing their 1984 tour, based on their radio hit β€œ1984” from 1970. They were playing at a new place that opened while I was gone, called Harpo’s. It was on the East Side of Detroit, on Harper, like the East Town theater, but was more of a night club, like the Golden Bear. They had guards in the parking lot and I enjoyed the show. The band was made up of 4 people.

Cass Sunglasses

Then in 1995 one day I was looking in the entertainment section of the Oregonian and saw that Spirit was going to be playing at a club in Portland called Bojangles. I bought 2 tickets and took my just turned 21 year old son, Michael with me. I called ahead of time to get permission to photograph the show. They connected me with Randy and we became Spirit’s guests. I shot the show and after the show I talked with Ed and Randy and they wanted me to photograph them for an upcoming promotional poster. I invited to come to my house the next day and gave Randy my address and phone number.

Randy test strip

The band was a 3 man group made up of keyboardist Scott Monahan, Randy and Ed. Ed Cassidy was 72 years old when I photographed the show and then the next day. He became the oldest performing rock drummer. Cass, as Ed Cassidy was called, was originally a jazz drummer and was in his mid 40’s when he formed Spirit with his stepson and his friends. Originally they were the Red Roosters and won a battle of the bands contest.

Spirit & Bob

They came and I photographed them on 5 rolls of black & white film that I gave to Randy for the cost of the film. Since they were bulk loaded film they only cost about $2.00 a roll, including the cartridge, which was reusable. Randy let me take some color shots of them with and without me in it for my collection and even signed a model release along with Ed and autographed my Spirit compilation album. I told them that they could use the shots any way that they wanted. They would give me credit and that was all I wanted. Randy tragically drowned in 1997 at the age of 45 and Ed Cassidy died of cancer at the age of 89 in 2012. You can still get their music and even some videos on utube, but as any experienced rock concert goer can tell you seeing a great group perform live in their prime is something that recordings and films can only present a limited representation of. They were great and if I only had one band to be on a desert island with it would be the original 5 man Spirit of 1969.

Spirit signed album reduced

β€œI Got A Line On You 1968 & 1984 Spirit

β€œWhen I Touch You” Spirit

Entire album: β€œThe 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” by Spirit

Run, Run, Run by Jo Jo Gunne


Thunder Island by Jay Ferguson

Shake Down Cruise by Jay Ferguson

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