20 Years Ago Today – Randy California Of Spirit Dies at 45 Rescuing Son (Watch Spirit Live Rockpalast ’78)

20 years ago today (1/2/97) guitarist Randy California from U.S. group Spirit drowned when rescuing his 12-year old son when he was sucked into a riptide in the surf off Hawaii.

In 1966, when only 15, Californian Randy Wolfe met Jimi Hendrix in a New York music store. They got talking, played some slide and soon Hendrix was adding the nickname “California” to Randy’s name and asking him to sit in with his band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. The following three months (and five sets a night) had a lasting influence on both players; Hendrix was spotted by the Animals’ bass-player Chas Chandler (who became his manager and brought him to London) while the under-age Randy eventually headed back to the West Coast and formed the psychedelic outfit Spirit. Watch this full concert of Spirit via Rockpalast in 1978.

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3 Responses

  1. randy was according to spirit vocalist jay ferguson, the most gifted and talented musician that he ever worked with. spirit were rock-jazz, fusion and numerous other types of music perfectly blended into one band. they were not commercial for that very reason. in the late 60’s they had no equal, and to this day they still don’t. zep used to open for spirit on their first us tour, and they borrowed from spirit heavily to create the beginning of stairway.

  2. Randy was a sweet and wonderful human being Just Cool and friendly Completely accessible And unassuming Not one to brag about his accomplishments You would never even know You Were just hanging out with a legendary rock star. I will always remember him with his Signature Hawaiian shirt Shorts sandals and visor Sitting behind Yes the drums During Topanga days Surrounded by radical famous musicians Smiling and having the best time Of anyone At the whole festival.

  3. It’s a shame he died so young but a testament to his character and courage that he died saving his son.

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