Music of Faith and Rhythm

Life was filled with guns and war

And all of us got trampled on the floor

I wish we’d all been ready

Children died the days grew cold

A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold

I wish we’d all been ready

Larry Norman “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” from the LP Upon This Rock, 1969

Music is a form of human expression. It reflects every part of our lives. There are love songs, break-up songs, patriotic songs, happy songs, sad songs… songs about every human experience and concern. It only makes sense that music would be used for spiritual or religious expression. In the US every music genre has been influenced in one way or another by the Christian faith. However, in the rock ‘n’ roll genre, that influence had a very rocky start. I have always been fascinated by music that stirs controversy. The convergence of rock music and the Christian faith has been one such point of contention that has interested me over the years.

Many believe that Larry Norman was the father of Christian rock, or “Jesus music” as it was called in the early 70s. However, just as the first automobile was not a Ford, although that is what I was taught in school, things were also a bit more complicated in the origins of Christian rock. Not to take anything away from Larry Norman’s contributions, but there are many more pioneers in both the US and the UK who should be given credit, without whom Larry’s contributions would not have been possible.

This is going to be a two-part series with a focus on the US and the UK. I am including Canadian artists when I discuss US artists, although there were significantly fewer Canadian Christian rock artists in the early days. Note that I am not ignoring Christian rock in other countries. There were Christian rock artists in many other places from Germany to Singapore (probably not so much in North Korea). However, they had no effect on what was happening in the US and I have not learned of many existing before the early 70s. I also do not know if they faced all the opposition that artists faced in the US. Therefore, the focus is where it eventually flourished and that is in the US and to a lesser extent in the UK. The period of this focus is the 60s and early 70s. The first part deals with the foundations of rock in juxtaposition with Christianity, and then discusses the earliest Christian rock recordings from the UK. The second part, to be posted later, will deal with my primary focus, the earliest US artists during that period and beyond. The reason I am discussing the UK artists first, is that the merger of Christianity and rock began earlier in the UK, and this may have provided a blueprint for some early Christian artists in the US. So, a-way we go!

1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Church

Rock ‘n’ roll originated mostly from a mix of rhythm & blues (r&b), country, and folk. Christianity was elemental in the origins of these genres. Many r&b artists started out in the church. Guitarist and vocalist Sister Rosetta Tharpe came from a Gospel music background before expanding her talents in the late 1930s to include secular r&b and jazz; she has even been considered by many to be the earliest rock ‘n’ roll performer.

As for folk music, the more serious compositions applied Biblical moral principles to populist and anti-war themes without becoming religious. In the 1950s folk artists such as Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and The Weavers faced investigations by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and Senator Joe McCarthy for evidence of Communist and other anti-American affiliations despite the Biblical references in their songs.

In the late 50s it seemed obligatory for the most popular early rockers to record a Gospel album or single. So, Elvis Presley recorded the album Peace in the Valley in 1957, totally devoid of rock ’n’ roll. In 1959 Johnny Cash recorded the album Hymns by Johnny Cash. There were others as well but none of these recordings combined a Christian message with rock music. Indeed, these recordings were used to validate people like Presley and Cash as being really good guys, and that rock ‘n’ roll was merely a fad that would soon revert back to more acceptable music.

In the 50s and early 60s combining a Christian message with rock music would have been unheard of in America.  Apart from Black churches where Gospel music was often performed in a rhythm and blues style, many churches, especially the more fundamentalist and evangelical White churches, continued to preach that rock rhythms and wild dancing contributed to the corruption of America’s youth. It was, after all, the music of the devil. Note that Elvis’ third appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on January 6, 1957, almost didn’t happen because TV censors refused to let the show air unless they only filmed Elvis from the waist up to avoid the audience seeing his evil hip shaking. Mind you, he had appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show twice before, going back to the first time on September 9, 1956, without any censorship of his gyrations. In fact, his supposed vulgar moves had been seen on TV before his Ed Sullivan appearances when he performed on The Steve Allen Show, the Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show, and The Milton Berle Show with no objections.

Enter the 60s

But then came the beginnings of the Vietnam war and the increasing demands from the civil rights movement, followed by the assassination of President Kennedy. And then there was the British invasion, with the arrival of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and numerous other bands introducing America’s youth to a more energized rock ‘n’ roll sound. Under President Johnson, the Vietnam war escalated. The war became the leading topic of the nightly news; each night we learned of more losses of American soldiers’ lives, many of whom had not willfully enlisted.

Folk music had always been a vehicle for commentary on our social ills. Pete Seeger’s 1955 song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” was revived by The Kingston Trio in 1961 and by Peter, Paul, and Mary in 1962. Bob Dylan recorded “Blowin’ in the Wind” in 1962 and “Masters of War” in 1963. The Vietnam war coupled with the civil rights movement supplied folk singers the material for more songs, often citing Biblical references to support their concerns. Many of these songs received radio play, reaching the Billboard charts…and America’s youth, especially draft-age young adults, were listening and taking notes. With songs like “The Times They Are a-Changin’” in 1964, Dylan was becoming a prophetic folk hero. Then Dylan went electric in his famed 1965 performance at the Newport Folk Festival. It wasn’t long before folk-rock groups like The Byrds were following Dylan’s lead. In 1965 they made Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” into a folk-rock hit. In their late 1965 hit “Turn, Turn, Turn,” they repeated the formula. The lyrics for “Turn, Turn, Turn” were from the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, and had been transformed into a folk song by Pete Seeger in 1959. The song became the title track to their next album, released in December 1965. Folk singers like Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, and Peter, Paul, and Mary were highly influential in the development of folk-rock of the mid- and late-60s. But the focus of these songs, although often invoking Biblical references, was not evangelical or even liturgical; it was about protest against social injustice and war.

Of course, there continued to be a wilder side of rock. Contrast The Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn” with The Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night.” These songs and others like them provided justification for the church to proclaim that rock was indeed the devil’s music. Of course, it did not help when in March 1966, John Lennon said in an interview for the London Evening Standard, later reported in the American teen magazine Datebook  “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” After hearing about this, Birmingham, Alabama DJs Doug Layton and Tommy Charles of WAQY initiated a “Beatle Boycott”. Lennon apologized and tried to walk it back saying his statement was misunderstood, but the damage was done. Many churches, especially in America’s South, had public burnings of The Beatles’ records. If the church-going public was not already against rock ‘n’ roll, now they were.

God is Dead

It is also important to see how young people began to view the church. Although the concepts contained in the phrase “God is dead” had been with us since the 17th century, in the late 1950s and early 60s it began to be discussed more frequently outside academia. Jazz and folk lyricists as well as beat poets wrote about the apathy of the church toward racism, exploitative capitalism, the cold war, and an unending arms race. Many teenagers and young adults were questioning the relevance of God and the church while the fear of nuclear annihilation loomed over them, reinforced by “duck and cover” drills in grade schools. A common question among the youth was “if God was real, how could all this be happening?”

The mainline Christian denominations in both the US and the UK were concerned with the alarming number of young people leaving the church but they did not know how to get them back. Insisting that youth meet the church on the church’s terms only perpetuated the problem. Rock ‘n’ roll allowed young people to escape from an uncertain future. But adults, especially church-attending adults, often saw rock ‘n’ roll as being part of the problem. The youth saw church attendance as looking for solutions in the wrong place.

As the beatnik era evolved into the hippie culture, many more changes were happening in the world of high school and college age young people. A fascination with Eastern philosophies, religions, and music began to grow. Experimentation with marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs became common. New clothing designs and longer hair for both males and females separated them in appearance from older adults. The generation that had entered adulthood during World War II did not understand the youth culture and were hyper-critical. The generation gap was widening. By the mid-60s adults over 30 were considered “The Establishment” and not to be trusted.

Early Beginnings in the UK

The UK was the first to respond to the growing disillusionment of youth by incorporating Christian lyrics into music for the youth. A compilation album, only released on reel-to-reel tape from Cathedral Recordings Limited in London, titled Showers of Blessing, presented Christian songs performed by The Pioneers, The Couriers, The Cobblers, American Teen Team Quartet and others. Some of the artists were from the US, in a Youth for Christ US/UK music exchange of both artists and evangelists. This commercially sold tape collects songs recorded from 1961-1965 that were precursors to Christian rock music. The style varies by artist but is largely standard folk with acoustic guitar, or vocal quartet accompanied by organ or piano. Only one, The Pioneers’ song “Then I Found the Lord”, uses drums (just brushes on a snare) but is still in a pop vocal quartet style. None comes close to rock. Yet these were evidently geared toward unchurched youth in the UK to bring them into the fold. Apparently, it didn’t work very well, and more drastic measures were needed, like using an actual rock band to deliver the message.

So, the next attempt was to form bands performing music with a Christian message in styles popularized by The Beatles, The Who, and other rock heroes. These artists often had less musical ability, weak lyrics on original songs and were more subdued than the popular bands. Members were often culled from church youth groups. To be fair, some were very professional in sound and could rock out with the best of them, but that was the exception and not the rule. Their purpose was to get the youth back into the church by making the Gospel message more relevant to their daily lives. Organizations like Youth for Christ (YFC) were instrumental in these efforts. However, these bands were seldom permitted to become part of the worship service; live performance was relegated to secular locations such as coffee bars and college campuses where youth gathered.

The very first attempt to merge Christianity and rock ‘n’ roll was a musical drama about the life and death of Christ titled A Man Dies, which was a passion play recorded in 1961 and released as an LP on Columbia Records in the UK in 1964. The drama places Christ in modern times to bring relevance to the message for youth who had strayed from the church. It appeared on A.B.C. Television in the UK in 1961. There were five performances of this play from 1961 through a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1964. The performers were “the Boys and Girls of St. James’ Presbyterian Church, Lockleaze, Bristol” featuring Valerie Mountain and Ricky Forde on vocals with arock band named The Strangers. The drama was written by organist Ewan Hooper and Reverend Ernest Marvin, both of the Lockleaze church. It appears that this was written in 1960 and performed at Easter at the church each year. A single from the drama “Go It Alone” backed with “Gentle Christ” and credited to Valerie Mountain was released in 1961 making that single the very first commercially released recording of Christian rock. It appears that The Strangers was the backup band for Ricky Forde, but I cannot find anything about The Strangers playing or recording anything except what is heard on this album and single. The Strangers perform here in a Mersey/beat rock style. Note that in 1964 Columbia also distributed this LP in Australia! Keep in mind that this church performance was unique as most all other churches in the UK resisted having rock bands perform in the church, but then again, most churches did not have pastors who wrote rock-oriented passion plays. One might wonder if Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice had been influenced by this recording when they created their rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970.

In 1964 The Joystrings (aka Joy Strings) released their first single “It’s an Open Secret” backed with (b/w) “We’re Going to Set the World a Singing” and followed with three more singles that year, two more singles and three EPs in 1965, several singles and EPs in 1966, and Christmas LPs in 1966 and 67. The band consisted of four men and one woman with a variety of sounds reminiscent of The Beatles on their pre-psychedelic albums. Their music improved in quality over time to become one of the more polished UK bands performing Christian rock in the 60s. They were part of the youth outreach of the Salvation Army. Formed in 1963, they lasted until 1969 when they disbanded. Their records were also distributed in the US.

The Pilgrims had a single in 1964, “Heaven’s the Place for Me” b/w “Think of God’s Love.” In 1966 they had another single and went on to record several more that were released on CD in the early 2000s. They were a beat group with a gritty garage sound and in 1970 evolved into the more well-known Christian rock group, Out of Darkness, with an even heavier sound.

The Peacemakers released a single “Some Folks Search for Peace” b/w “Don’t You Know” in 1964. There was another single later that year. These are a bit crude and a little more folk than beat in style, but their self-titled EP in 1965, followed by a self-titled LP in 1967 are fully garage/beat records and show much improvement in musicianship. Their guitarist/vocalist, Justyn Rees, moved to New York and went solo in 1969, still in the Christian rock genre.

The Envoys, another Gospel beat group, released a single, “Nobody Like…” b/w “Door,” in 1965 with an EP in 1967. Patterning their sound after The Hollies and other UK hit makers, their energized sound consisted of the standard electric rhythm and lead guitars, electric bass, and drums with male vocals and two female backing vocals.

The Chordials was yet another early beat/pop band with a 1965 single “Walking in the Shadow” b/w “He Is the Answer”. Later, in 1969, they released their only album, Topsy Turvy. The album is a bit over-the-top, getting wild with fuzz guitars at times and with vocal harmonies reminiscent of Vanilla Fudge.

The Crossbeats had two singles in 1965, the first being “If Only” b/w “He Wants to Know” and the second “I Know” b/w “He Waits”. They were one of the very few UK Christian beat-rock bands to tour the US. They played at a variety of venues in the UK. Like The Joystrings, they formed in 1963. While their final recordings were released in 1967, including the album Crazy, Mixed-Up Generation, they continued to perform into the mid-70s.

The Proclaimers were from Wales, releasing two EPs in 1965, The Gospel Train and Messages with a Lilt, and two EPs in 1966, both titled The Proclaimers. Their sound was more folk/skiffle acoustic with some electric guitar. They were an eight-piece group, both male and female members and in their two short recording years there were many personnel changes.

Beginning in 1966 several more UK bands began to get on the Christian beat music bandwagon. To give you an example I have compiled a list gleaned from various Internet sources and the Archivist book by Ken Scott. The list only has artists from 1966 to 1971. Unlike the US, the number of new artists recording Christian rock music in the UK seemed to diminish throughout the 70s.

The Cobblers – EP, 1966

The ConcordsSoul Purpose, 1966; A Turn for the Better, 1967

The Liverpool RaidersBig Story EP, 1966

The RevellersThe Revellers, 1966; The Revellers Again, 1967; Shout and Sing, 1969; Go Tell It, 1970

The Witnesses – EP, 1966

The Fishermen Amen, 1967

Pauline FilbyMy World, 1968

Gerry McClellandSouth Wind and Spices,1968; Echoes Surround Me, 1970

The Forerunners The Forerunners, 1968; Running Back, 1970; Genuine Imitation Life, 1971; Prepare the Way for Jesus, 1974

The HarvestersThe Harvesters, 1968

Peter Smith & The Kinfolk Faith, Folk and Clarity, 1968

The PebblesThe Pebbles, 1968

ReflectionThe Present Tense, 1968; Beaumont Meets Reflection, 1970; Reflection on Hymns of Our Time, 1971; Nativity, 1971

Roger & JanMovin’ Over – Movin’ On, 1969; Question, 1974

The SowersSeeds, 1969

Justyn ReesHow Can I Tell Them, 1969 (recorded in the US)

Harvey’s People Loving & Living, 1969

The Overcomers – EP, 1969

The Messengers of the CrossThe Messengers of the Cross, 1969

Peter LewisSing Life, Sing Love, 1969; Give Yourselves to Me, 1971

Glorylanders Volume One, 1969; Volume Two, 1971; About Time, 1973

The GospelfolkProdigal, 1969

Alive! – Various Artists, 1969

Dana Scott and The Crown Folk Folk in Worship, 1969

Cambridge Twentieth Century Church Light Music Group A Folk Passion, 1969

Sound Vision in Concert – Various Artists 1970

The Kingfishers It’s Real, 1970

Out of Darkness Out of Darkness, 1970

Judy MacKenzieJudy, 1970; Peace and Love and Freedom, 1971

The SharonsSomeone to Turn To, 1970

The FoursomeUpside Down, 1970

Peter Smith & The JohnsonsFaith, Folk and Nativity, 1970

Peter Smith with The Common RoundFaith, Folk and Festivity, 1971

BridgesBridges, 1971

The Way Rhythm GroupThe Way Rhythm Group, 1971

I have a few of these, as pictured.

UK Christian rock artists in the 1970s had little influence on the US artists. In the US the genre known as “Jesus music” was becoming more refined and commercialized, and by the 1980s it had evolved into Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), with very few artists from outside the US. CCM is a broad category of music covering all genres but mostly country, popular (Adult Contemporary), r&b/soul, metal, and rap, but it is a dying music category. I will discuss this in the next post, which will concentrate on the earliest bands recording Christian rock in the US and how things are different today, and why.

Moon in June

20160620_070112921_iOS“On a dilemma between what I need and what I just want…

… She sees you in her place, just as if it’s a race

And you’re winning, and you’re winning

She just can’t understand that for me everything’s just beginning…

… So before this feeling dies, remember how distance tells us lies”

By Robert Wyatt, “Moon in June” from the Soft Machine LP “Third”, 1970

Is there really anything that is truly merely coincidence? This month is June, 2016. And earlier this week we experienced something that had not occurred since the Summer of Love, 1967: the full moon appearing on the northern hemisphere’s Summer solstice. And I awoke the morning after with Soft Machine’s, “Moon in June”, becoming that day’s earworm. This 19-minute song has reverberated in my mind since the night before Thanksgiving, 1971, when it ran constantly in my head while tripping at a party. And it has been quite relevant “in my life now and then”; or now as well as then. It is a strange thing, this interplay between self and sound. And we can learn from these experiences. Perhaps earworms provide a means for our subconscious to elucidate something that we need to learn. After all, if we look around us we can see that everything and everyone are potential teachers – people, animals, plants (especially plants), inanimate objects, chemicals, coacervate molecules, music, aleatoric sounds, time, space, dreams, free range thoughts.


Now, I am not going to expound upon “Moon In June” although it is tempting to do so. It is not the only song that has grabbed my attention during an altered state, or has become an earworm.

There have been evenings,

and a few days,

where somehow

out of the bewildering haze,

I associated altered moments

with specific waves,

of songs,

whether it be “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, “The Rain, The Park, and Everything” by The Cowsills, “Dark Star” by The Grateful Dead, the Quicksilver Messenger Service album “Happy Trails,” or even more recently the album “Hello Nasty” by The Beastie Boys. This raises an issue that used to be discussed among my college buddies back in the early 70s:

“What is psychedelic music?”

The late Paul Kantner once said psychedelic music is simply any music listened to while tripping. Although I respect Kantner as an artist and political catalyst, I am not so sure that I agree with his definition. For me, there is music that takes me outside the realm of the time and space packet I exist within (typically called reality), and this is what I would call psychedelic. It is something that takes me out of this reality and into other realities, or non-realities. And the same song may do this on one occasion and not on another, depending upon the ambiance, my approach, and the conditions existing at that moment. So, for me, no one music genre or style is psychedelic but any can be. Yet, there are some compositions that when I hear them, I know they are psychedelic, hands down. It is sort of like the definition of pornography offered by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 in Jacobellis v. Ohio: “I know it when I see it.”

But that is a personal definition. In the attempt to find a definition that would be workable for anyone, I believe psychedelic music can be described in different categories:

  • Overt psychedelia: this music is either created under the influence of psychedelics, or is an attempt to describe within a musical context the composer’s or performer’s psychedelic experience. A good example of overt psychedelia would be the album, “Electric Music for the Mind and Body” by Country Joe and The Fish, from 1967. The highlight and most exemplary selection from this album would be the song “Bass Strings”, with the lyrics “Just one more trip now, you know I’ll stay high all the time.” What is interesting about this song is that it ends with Country Joe McDonald whispering repeatedly “L-S-D” over very trippy music. This leaves no doubt as to what the band was attempting to convey. Sometimes it is not the words, but the musical sounds that directly convey that what you are hearing is a re-creation of a psychedelic experience, such as in Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive”. These are just two examples, but I am sure the reader can come up with many more.


  • Discreet or subtle psychedelia: here neither the music nor the lyrics can be interpreted just one way, but one of the ways would be to describe a psychedelic experience. Examples can be found going back as far as 1830 with Hector Berlioz’ “Symphonie Fantastique,” or perhaps even earlier. Berlioz may have been writing to describe his passion for a particular woman, or he could have been describing his experiences under the influence of opiates, or both. In the 1960s, The Byrds recorded “Eight Miles High” which generally describes the band’s first Atlantic flight to and arrival in the United Kingdom to perform for their British fans. Upon its release in 1965 the song was banned by several US radio stations because it sounded like the “trip” described in the song was actually a chemically induced trip. The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” may have been an intentional reference to LSD, or it could simply be what John Lennon said it represented: a drawing by his then four-year-old son, Julian, and tapping into “Alice in Wonderland” imagery. Of course, Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson), the author of “Alice in Wonderland,” has often been associated with psychedelics, but there is no indication he ever indulged in any mind-altering substances, while there is evidence that he suffered with a form of epilepsy.


  • Inferred (or designated) psychedelia: could be considered a cop-out definition, I suppose. Basically it is any music that an individual considers psychedelic. In this sense, Paul Kantner’s definition works, since a person could be listening to anything while tripping and from that point onward associate the composition with a psychedelic experience. I could also apply this to my experience with “Moon In June”. I have found Jim DeRogatis’ book, “Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock” to be quite an enlightening guide on modern psychedelic rock. At first, I questioned some of his choices, but then I realized that psychedelia “is in the eye of the beholder.” In other ways, I think he limited himself too much, for there are recordings that fall under the genres of classical, country, folk, exotica, and jazz that I consider to have psychedelic elements. In classical, I consider Richard thIBUU3PSYWagner’s “Tannhauser Overture and Venusberg Music” as well as the electronic composition “Time’s Encomium” by Charles Wuorinen, to be very psychedelic. Under country, I would say David Allan Coe’s album, “Requiem for a Harlequin,” is a fine example. In folk, Dylan’s song, “Visions of Johanna,” would qualify as well as Jake Holmes’ “Dazed and Confused.” As for jazz, Herbie Hancock’s album “Sextant” as well as Miles Davis’ “Bitches’ Brew” have psychedelic elements. Ethel Azama’s “Exotic Dreams” LP would be an example of exotic psychedelia. I could cite many more examples in all genres.


  • There would also be a category I would call “pseudo-psychedelia”, which masquerades as overt psychedelia but is simply a fake. Pseudo-psychedelic music often has similar characteristics but instead of reflecting an authentic psychedelic The-First-Edition-Just-Dropped-Inexperience, it often overstates sounds and lyrics, since it is not based on real experience. An example, from 1967, would be the song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” written by Mickey Newbury and popularized by The First Edition. Interestingly, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version of this song prior to the more popular version. While the intention of this song was to describe a scary trip in order to discourage the use of LSD, it ended up being derided as phony and treated as a humorous parody. A sub-category of pseudo-psychedelic music that found its way to the late 60s bargain bins and grocery store check-out stands would be exploito-psychedelic albums such as The Animated Egg’s untitled album from 1967. This recording was created by a collection of studio musicians under the leadership of surf guitar ace, Jerry Cole. In fact, it is suspected that many releases on the Alshire, Somerset, Custom, and related labels with various animatedegg“band” names contained Jerry Cole compositions, and often the same recordings appeared on different albums under different titles, including on albums by The Id, “The Inner Sounds of The Id”; The Generation Gap, “Up Up and Away”; and The Projection Company, “Give Me Some Lovin’.” There are several others. Even Muzak specialists, 101 Strings, got in the game with their album “Astro-Sounds”. None of these supposed bands ever performed anywhere except in the studio to create fake psychedelic music.

  • But in some instances, pseudo-psychedelia can be psychedelic, but not based upon the innate characteristics of the music, but based upon environment and other variables. Those that come to mind include Fire & Ice, Ltd. “The Happening”, from 1966, excerpts of which appear on the 1966 documentary LP “LSD” on Capitol Records. Two more with similar names include The Fire Escape’s LP, “Psychotic Reaction”, and The Firebirds’ LP, “Light My Fire”. The latter has a sister release, “Hair,” by the band, The 31 Flavors but it really sounds like additional music from the th2PMT1QGKsame recording sessions. One of the most humorous of such recordings is from a band named The Unfolding, with an outrageous LP title, “How To Blow Your Mind & Have A Freak-Out Party” complete with printed instructions for your very own freak-out party. The California Poppy Pickers (another outrageous band name) actually released four country rock LPs, all in 1969. While they never performed publicly and were merely a collective of studio musicians, the label hired an actual performing band to record their last album “Honky Tonk Women”. The band was in reality an early Christian rock band, Wilson McKinley, that used the proceeds from this album to fund their Christian music endeavors.

So, to conclude this discussion of psychedelic music, perhaps we should simply leave it to each person to decide the definition that works best for them. Then again, how many really think about such things when they listen to music? Probably a fewer number than those who think about the moon in June.

In Other News

Well now, let me come back from the world of LSD to the present and what I have been seeing in San Diego. The month began with the Art Around Adams 2016 music and art walk. There seemed to be more stages and more artists packed into this one-day event (Saturday, June 4) than I can recall in previous years. I probably saw less than a tenth of the artists performing. But what I did see was very impressive. All were excellent, and all very different.

I started at the Kensington Library Park stage, enjoying the music of singer/songwriter Kimm Rogers, who was accompanied by Beezie Gerber. Many of the songs were from her excellent recent album “Where the Pavement Grows” but some dipped back to her two albums on Island Records from the early 90s, “Soundtrack of My Life” and “Two Sides.” It was a great way to begin the day.

Kimm Rogers with Beezie Gerber

Next, I moved to the Blindspot Records stage by Smitty’s Garage to see The Elements, a new four-member band started by Bart Mendoza with another familiar face on keyboards, David Fleminger. These guys were tight, and on fire with excellent self-penned modern pop-rock as well as 60s standards. You would think all of them had been playing together for years.

The Elements

I then paid a visit to Rosie O’Grady’s to hear Zach Cole with Eric Freeman performing some basic country blues with Eric on acoustic guitar and Zachary on blues harp. This reminded me of Tomcat Courtney’s performances I enjoy from time-to-time on Thursdays at Proud Mary’s.

Left photo: Zach Cole with Eric Freeman  Right photo: NST

At the Integrative Health Stage I caught part of the performance by jazz group, NST, reading poetry accompanied by drums, sax and bass. Quite interesting, but it was super-hot with no shade available. So, I moved on to DeMille’s to have lunch, rehydrate, and prepare for harpO, followed by Alvino & The Dwells at the DeMille’s Beer Garden stage. This was the first time seeing harpO, a tight blues-rock band. I would not mind seeing them again. When Alvino & The Dwells plugged-in, they blew the sky open with cosmic surf music that was at once fresh and new, as well as taking me back to the 60s. They always provide a great show.

Left: harpO      Right: Alvino & The Dwells

I then moved back to the Blindspot Records stage to see The Cherry Bluestorms, followed by The Schizophonics, then Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters, and finally Hills Like Elephants. These four bands are so different from one another that it is quite surprising they were performing on the same stage. And yet the audience stayed for most of it. The Cherry Bluestorms were very mod/pop-rock with original tunes, and quite accomplished playing. They piqued my interest enough to pick up their latest CD, “Bad Penny Opera,” which by-the-way, is excellent.

Left: Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters

Top Right: The Cherry Bluestorms   Bottom Right: Hills Like Elephants

Schizophonics were, well, schizoid. My gawd! Guitarist Pat Beers is simply unbelievable to watch. I actually was hoping he had a spare guitar waiting in the wings because I was certain the one he was playing was going to be destroyed when he jumped, fell, sprung-back, and rolled-over, while never missing a note. Wait, were they notes? It was all such a blur. He is explosive! Guitar sounds of Jimi Hendrix, visuals a mix of Pete Townshend and Iggy Pop, and a band sound similar to MC5 from their live “Kick Out the Jams” album. I do want to know if Lety Beers took drum lessons from Mitch Mitchell. Sure sounded like it. I did not catch the bass player’s name but God bless him, he kept up with it all and successfully improvised when Pat experienced audio problems with the equipment. Their performance was the highlight of the day for me.



Next came a huge band, Jason Hanna and The Bullfighters; I mean like, a 10-piece unit, including two go-go dancers. We were suddenly transported to 1964 and the reign of the Tijuana Brass on pop radio. With backing sax, trombone, and trumpet plus bass, guitar, drums, marimba, and a lead singer/trumpeter, they went through a repertoire that would make Herb Alpert proud, including the TJB hit, “Spanish Flea”. What a fun bunch!

What followed was modern alternative jangle rock by Hills Like Elephants with expressive lyrics and fine playing – but it was getting late and so I left before the end of their set. It was another great Adams Avenue event put to rest.

Thursday night, June 16, found us at Riviera Supper Club’s Turquoise Room in La Mesa. Performing was Liz Grace and the Swing Thing. That evening the band consisted of Liz Grace on vocals and Jon Garner on guitar. Jon is an excellent jazz player and is always fun to watch – things I never learned to do he can make look so easy. Listening to Liz sing is pure joy as she performed popular songs from the 40s through the 60s. Liz’ other band, Three Chord Justice, does all country, yet she seems comfortable in both genres. I do think she is one of the most versatile and accomplished local singers I’ve heard in San Diego. Later Liz’ husband, Mark Markowitz, stopped in and visited with us as we listened to the band. It was an enjoyable evening.

Liz Grace and The Swing Thing

On Friday, June 17, I began the weekend at Java Joe’s. Performers that evening included Dave Humphries with Mike Alvarez, followed by Sara Petite, and ending with Jacques Mees. This was an evening of varied styles that seemed to fit nicely side-by-side. With Dave Humphries on guitar and lead vocals, and Mike Alvarez on cello and backing vocals we were treated to a collection of 60s British invasion pop/rock standards as well as recent songs penned by Dave Humphries and The Hollywood Project. I never get tired of his performances.


Top: Dave Humphries with Mike Alvarez   Middle: Sara Petite   Bottom: Jacques Mees

I had heard a lot about Sara Petite but had never heard her perform. What a pleasant surprise! With a beautiful voice straight out of Nashville, she performed all originals providing stories of personal experiences leading into her songs. I could tell I was witnessing a truly old soul inhabiting a younger body. Sara pulled no punches with her honest and revealing stories. Beautiful.

Jacques Mees’ performance was the highlight of the evening, which is really saying something. Again performing several personally penned songs, as well as tapping into such modern folk venerables as Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Susanna Clark. He is another storyteller who shared his wisdom in song. When it was over I walked back to the car with a contact high.


Well that does it. If I am to get this out I have to end it here. I do want to dedicate this to jazz singer Shelley Moore, who lost her battle with cancer this week. She was the mother of my good friend, the late Bryna Golden, founding member of goth-psych band Babylonian Tiles. I got to know Shelley through Bryna. She was a warm and giving person, and thanks to Bryna I had the great fortune of seeing her perform in Santa Ana a few times about 10 years ago. R.I.P. Shelley.