Randy California Biography
Guitarist, singer and songwriter. Founding member of the rock group Spirit (8), formed in 1967.
Randy was born into a musical family in Los Angeles and spent his early years studying varied styles at the family's Los Angeles folk club, the Ash Grove. In 1966, at the age of 15, when his mother Bernice Pearl and new stepfather, Ed Cassidy , moved to New York City where Cassidy had a number of jazz gigs lined up. It was there, at Manny's Guitars, that Randy met Jimi Hendrix. He played in Hendrix's band The Blue Flame that summer.
The stage name "Randy California" was given to him by Hendrix to distinguish him from another Randy in the band, who Hendrix had dubbed "Randy Texas". When Hendrix was invited to come to England by former bassist of British Invasion band The Animals Chas Chandler, Randy's parents did not allow him to go so that he could finish high school. By some accounts, Chandler wanted Hendrix as the only guitarist for the band and nixed California's going to England. Hendrix invited Randy anyway, so they could "go find Jeff Beck".
Together with Cassidy, songwriter/front-man Jay Ferguson, bassist Mark Andes, & keyboardist John Locke, California founded the band Spirit. Their first, self-titled album was released in January 1968, a month before California's 17th birthday. It has been suggested that Jimmy Page borrowed California's guitar part from "Taurus" off the album Spirit when he wrote "Stairway to Heaven". Led Zeppelin was on the same bill as Spirit on some American dates in 1968 and 1969, which has further fueled this controversy. In 1996, in the liner notes for the reissue of Spirit's first album, California stated "People always ask me why 'Stairway to Heaven' sounds exactly like 'Taurus,' which was released two years earlier. I know Led Zeppelin also played 'Fresh Garbage' in their live set. They opened up for us on their first American tour". Since "Fresh Garbage" is a song from the same album that includes the song "Taurus", this only adds to the controversy that Led Zeppelin was at least aware of the song.
He then wrote the band's biggest hit, 1968's "I Got a Line on You" for Spirit's second album, The Family That Plays Together.
Spirit was invited to open for Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. However, band manager & producer Lou Adler, opposed it because the band was busy promoting their latest album, Clear.
When Ferguson and Andes left Spirit to form Jo Jo Gunne due to the slow sales of Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, & then his dear friend Hendrix died, a depressed California left Spirit. He recorded Kapt. Kopter And The (Fabulous) Twirly Birds, featuring many Hendrix-like tracks also featuring former Experience bassist Noel Redding, AKA Clit McTorius.
In 1974 California legally acquired the band name Spirit.
Randy California drowned in the ocean while rescuing his 12-year-old son from a rip current near the home of Bernice Pearl at Molokai, Hawaii. He managed to push his son Quinn, who survived, towards the shore.