RANDY CALIFORNIA HAS KEPT AN UPDATED SPIRIT ALIVE BY JIM WASHBURN
This was one of those interesting articles I missed way back when it ran in 1986, being newly married with a 7 month old son at the time, and just trying to stay working (as a professional product) photographer, while living down in Orange County, California. In fact, this was some 2-1/2 years before my wife, 2 kids, and I headed on to new adventures to the Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon, after having lived all of my life previously in Southern California.
Spirit had been one of my favorite bands as I was growing up. I was fortunate enough to have older brothers who knew about music (not just plain old everyday music, but good music, and that’s what they brought home – thanks Al & Ger.) I got to see Spirit live at places like the Anaheim Convention Center, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and even the wonderful Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, California.
I grew up with great music all around me to listen to: surf music from Dick Dale, as well as surf songs from The Chantays, The Surfaris, and even The Challengers. There was all the other cool music too, instrumentals from The Ventures, and all the cool stuff from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Electric Flag, Spirit, and so on and so on.
Guitarist Randy California of Spirit was one of my guitar idols. As a seventh and eighth grader, and then later as a high school and college age kid, I actually really tried to play in a “style” as he did. I even had a Danelectro Silvertone and a Boss Tone. He was one of the greatest players ever as far as I was concerned. As a fifteen year old he played guitar alongside Jimi Hendrix in Jimi’s band Jimmy James and The Blue Flames.
His name was Randy Wolfe at the time and the name California was given to him by Hendrix to distinguish him from another Randy in the band whom Hendrix called Randy Texas.
It’s hard to wonder just what else Randy California might have done musically as his life was cut short when he drowned in Hawaii while in the process of saving his son from a rip current. This happened on January 2, 1997, some 10 plus years after Jim Washburn wrote this story.
There’s also the others too that I can’t help but think about that influenced the music I have liked to play who left us way too soon: Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Mike Bloomfield, Stevie Ray Vaughan, George Harrison, Randy California…and I had better stop here.
Every time I use my Danelectro or my BossTone, I think of the great guitar sounds and solos that Randy California gave us, along with all of the cool songs that he wrote (I actually still play a lot of those solos – by myself).
And one more thing before getting to the story, regardless of what anyone else says, or thinks, the first time I heard Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin, I thought to myself,”That was pulled right from Randy California’s “Taurus” off the first Spirit album my brother had.” Just sayin’. I know those descending types of things are quite common in music, but as a kid who hardly knew anything about music “the first time I heard it”.
Enjoy this cool story by a most knowledgeable music writer, Jim Washburn. If you like this story or are interested in Danelectros at all, check out The Danelectro Story right here on Jackaboutguitars.com by Jim Washburn and Steve Soest.
Also check out “A Bit on The New Danelectro Company” which contains a whole bunch of info including an interview with Steve Soest, the guy who seems to know more about Danelectros than just about anybody on the planet!
Special thanks to Jim Washburn for sharing this. – Jack