Music History

Music History Biographies

Music History Of The Week

Music History Calendar

Randy California

Randy California was born on 20/02/1951 in Los Angeles, California. His full birth name was Randy Craig Wolfe. He studied various musical styles growing up at his family's folk club the Ash Grove, Los Angeles. When he was 15, Randy, his mother and his stepfather Ed Cassidy moved to New York as Cassidy had jazz gigs lined up there. They lived in an apartment building in Forest Hill, Queens. The building was also home to Walter Becker who would be influenced by Randy's guitar playing and would later found the band, Steely Dan. In New York, Randy met Jimi Hendrix as a guitar shop called Manny's Guitars. Hendrix asked him to join his band Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Randy would be given the stage name Randy California by Hendrix so that he could distinguish him from fellow Blue Flames member Randy Palmer who he called Randy Texas.
Hendrix was invited by his new manager Chas Chandler to come to England. Randy's parents refused to let him go so that he could finish school. By some accounts, Chandler wanted Hendrix to be the only guitarist in the band, but Hendrix invited Randy anyway so that they could "go find Jeff Beck".
California, Ed Cassidy, Jay Ferguson, Mark Andes and John Locke formed the band Spirit.
In 1968, Spirit released their debut album "Spirit". In the same year, they released their second album "The Family That Plays Together". It featured the hit "I Got a Line on You" which was written by California. California also wrote the single "1984" which was banned from most AM radio stations.
In 1969, Spirit were invited to open for Hendrix at Woodstock. Spirit's band manager Lou Adler turned it down as they were promoting their album "Clear". Also in 1969, Spirit and Led Zeppelin were on the same bill for two American music festival dates. Led Zeppelin played Spirit's song "Fresh Garbage" in their live set. There has been speculation that Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" was based on Spirit's song "Taurus". In 2014, a copyright infringement and injunction lawsuit against the reissue of Led Zeppelin IV was issued. In 2016, the claim was put in front of a jury. The jury ruled that the similarities did not amount to copyright infringement. An appeal was filed on the decision.
In 1970, Spirit released the album "Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus" which featured the hit single "Nature's Way" written by California.
Ferguson and Andes left Spirit to form Jo Jo Gunne. Around the same time, Hendrix died. California was depressed and left Spirit.
In 1972, California released the solo album "Kapt. Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds".
In 1974, California legally acquired the name Spirit. California and Cassidy joined up again under the name and they signed with Mercury Records.
In 1982, California released a second solo album "Euro-American", which included the drummer, Preston Heyman. At Glastonbury that year, California and Preston Heyman were on stage when the power generator failed. Heyman performed a 20-minute un-amplified drum solo till the power was fixed. In the same year, the original Spirit line-up reformed and recorded some songs live on a soundstage.
In 1984, the live recordings were released as the album "Spirit of '84". Mercury Records re-signed Spirit and gave California a solo deal as well. Some of the original members left to do other projects. California and Cassidy continued on with Scott Monahan and Dave Waterbury brought in as replacements.
California went to England to record his third solo album "Restless". After a few England gigs, Calfornia returned to the US and toured with Cassidy, Monahan and Waterbury.
In 1986, California released the solo album "Shattered Dreams".
In 1997, California drowned in the Pacific Ocean whilst trying to rescue his 12-year-old son Quinn from a rip current at Molokai, Hawaii. He managed to push Quinn toward the shore to safety.
The Randy Craig Wolfe Trust was established after his death. Using California's royalties it financially supports the Randy California Project which is an after school music program for underprivileged elementary children in Ventura County.

The Music History Calendar is written by the Blues Rock artist Marshland Pete
If you would like more, come join our Music News and History Facebook Group Community