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Open letters to Randy, his family, friends and fans.

Neil Mincey

Early last Monday morning I was driving to work, sleepily listening to the morning news on the radio when Margie Zariletta jarred me to attention with the terrible news on her music report. It was about 26 years after I listened to the radio in amazement, captivated by the guitar work on a song called When I Touch You by a band I had never heard of called Spirit. Although that is a Jay Ferguson song it was California's guitar work that captivated me. I had never heard anything quite like it before. I was 12 years old and was just beginning to really appreciate "serious" rock music. I was learning there was more to it than Three Dog Night and The Monkees. I had just bought Grand Funk's Closer to Home (thought I'm Your Captain was a great song) and Paranoid by Black Sabbath. I quickly added Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus to my collection. That album along with a few others transformed this quiet kid into an aspiring rock musician. No,I didn't become the guitar hero of my town. My fingers were too short and didn't have the range or strength required, so I picked up the sticks to follow in the footsteps of Ed Cassidy and Ian Paice.

I continued to follow Spirit through their various incarnations, buying nearly all their records over the years, even after I finally hung up the sticks in 1986. Through it all, Randy California has remained one of my favorite musician/ songwriters. A few years ago when I was living in Minneapolis, I went to see Spirit perform at a bar called the Cabooze shortly after the release of Rapture in the Chambers. I had the pleasure of talking with Randy for a few minutes and found him to be friendly and patient while I shared how I felt about Spirit and how important they were and still are to me.

Mike Niles had joined the group recently and they played a few songs from Tent of Miracles and a lot of songs from the original days. They had to cut the show a little short as Randy was recovering from some abdominal sickness and was in quite a bit of pain. However, I thought his performance was very strong and I was amazed at Ed Cassidy's continued vitality. I've wondered for quite a while about what Randy would do once Cass finally fades from the picture. I never thought that Cassidy would survive his stepson. My heart goes out to his family, friends and all dedicated fans. His music and influence will always be an important part of my life. In his own words, I hope his "life has just begun".

Neil Mincey, Cedar Rapids, IA.

Garnet MacPhee

I was very saddened to hear that Randy is no longer with us. I got the word Wednesday evening, and I just couldn't believe it.

I saw Randy play about 2 years ago, at the Buffalo Rose in Golden, Colorado. He played the most amazing version of 'Red House' that I had ever heard. And his own songs are works of art, true jewels in the vast wasteland that music has become lately.

From what I've heard from someone that knew him well, Randy was a selfless, caring person, happy to share, with none of the rock star ego trip that so many get caught up in.

His spirit is free now to go where it will.

Bright blessings, Randy, wherever you are. You are sorely missed.

Garnet MacPhee

Robert Stam

Spirit hit big in my hometown of Salt Lake in the late 60's. I remember listening to Michael G's radio show when "Mechanical World" came on the air. I was mesmerized by this new sound and presence on the airwaves. Spirit was a headliner when they played our city (too bad that didn't happen more often in other locales) and all of their single releases through "Dr. Sardonicus" hit the radio market top ten. I've followed Randy's career throughout the many label and personnel changes, even haunting the European record racks in the eighties to keep up with his prodigious output. I own everything he ever put out and I can't say that about any of my other rock heroes. He had heart and fire and I know the sacrifice he made for his son was done without a flicker of hesitation. I last saw the group live on Halloween night about six years ago at the Foundation Bar here in SLC. I sat no more than five feet away from Randy and was in total awe of his musicianship. I marveled at Cassidy's energy and that ever present toothy grin of his as he drummed. I'll never forget that night. My thoughts are with his family and friends and I hope the current "rock press" doesn't ignore his passing and takes a line or two in their publications to mention his beauty and influence.

Zeljko Fatzek


Today is the first time I ever really surfed through Internet and I immediately attempted to connect to Spirit site. I wish I never did ... I am pretty shocked and don't have much to say anything... except that great men just have to die to be recognized their greatness. Randy was certainly one the few most important figures in the development of popular music and it is sad that the true values are often being overlooked in favour of commerciality. So much from one of few and great admirers of Spirit and Randy from far Croatia.

Zeljko Fatzek, Croatia

Charles Hagee

Johan (and friends),

I remember buying Jay Ferguson's REAL LIFE AIN'T THIS WAY in '79. I was (and continue to be) a Beach Boys fan, so I loved "Shakedown Cruise" and it's oceanic feel. The LP proved to be so good that soon I was tracking down everything that Jay had ever done. This was a body of work which included Jo Jo Gunne and, of course, Spirit.

Spirit was a revelation to that 16 year old boy. I was stunned by Randy California's amazing songwriting, his tasty guitar work and, most of all, his passion. I got a summer job and blew every cent buying all of Spirit's albums. Looking back, it was some of the best money I ever spent.

In the years since that teen-age summer, I have been fortunate enough to see Spirit a number of times. I can honestly say that each of Randy's performances left me longing for the next. I looked forward to each new song, each re-interpretation of his classics. He knew that he had a God-given talent to create. His joy at being able to share his gift was not just obvious, but contagious.

A couple of years ago, when I did get the chance to speak with Randy, I didn't know what to say. (We were both standing at the bar in a club where Spirit was scheduled to play later that evening. Him, the unnoticed guitar god and me, the tongue-tied fan.) Well, Randy made it easy. I was surprised at how warm and friendly this man was. We talked for some time and when I walked back to my friends, I felt a whole new respect for him.

Randy was a man who cared. His caring was very evident in his heroic actions to save his son last Saturday.

Last night I listened to Randy California. I chose a live tape from the 1984 tour. Spirit's performance was tight, impassioned. I savored everything, from Randy's elegiac "Nature's Way" to his rollicking "I Got A Line On You".

And, around midnight, as I listened to his definitive take on "All Along The Watchtower" (we all know how Randy loved his Dylan), I know I felt a tear.

Randy, without you there can be no Spirit. Because of you, there will always be a Spirit.

Farewell my friend.

Charles Hagee

Kirk Gates

"....I saw Randy California several years back (probably more than that) at a bar in Dallas. The bar was so small, there was only room for seating at the bar or at a couple of tables. [...] The entire room was filled with a wall of sound that I have not experienced since. Randy pulled out all his black box tricks and performed to the likes of Hendrix or S.R. Vaughn. I was sad to hear about his death, and the Spirit/Kapt. Kopter albums that I own will be forever cherished...."

Kirk Gates


I don't know if you are dead or alive when I'm writing this. I cried after reading the first message about your disappearance, and I haven't done that since my grandfather passed away many years ago. Music has been an important thing in my life since I was 5-6 years old and I heard Elvis sing "All shook up" on a tape. Later I saw The Beatles performing "She Loves You" on TV and I was hooked. But in 1989 I bought my first Spirit album and since then you and Spirit has always been number one for me! Your talent is unique and you have used it so well. Kaptain Kopter, I hope you will come back for another mission, and if you don't, I will always remember you.

Johan Bengtsson

Kevin Bazur

I just hope that perhaps he will show up alive, I know it is not likely at this time but maybe... I have been in the process of rediscovering Spirit, their music meant so much to many of us. I wanted to see them last year at the gathering but it did'nt happen. I realize how hard this news must be on Randy's family and freinds- our thoughts are with you,


Steve Webbon

I am absolutely stunned - It's unconfirmed rumours but if true - well I don't know how to express my sadness. Randy is/was a lovely man who I was lucky enough to meet in the eighties and I'm just very devastated if we are to be deprived of his talent.

Steve Webbon

Beggars Banquet Records


It saddens us greatly to read these stories of Randy California's demise. We had the pleasure a couple of years back of opening for Spirit at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood Ca.

Everyone in the band was impressed with Ed and Randy's musical poise and depth, and came away with a profound respect for those guys as people as well as musicians. These cats are total pros and a real pleasure to work with. Although the cats in our band were teenagers at the time Randy and Ed treated them as peers.

We hope and pray for a surprise "happy ending" to this tale. Our love and thoughts go out to the Spirit family.


Mark Lee
Oliver Steinberg
Joshua Berman
Colin Chambers


Phil Zisook

It's about 1:30 a.m. in Chicago on 1-7. I got the word about Randy at 11:30. I'm devasted and at a loss for words. With California Blues, the web sites, major tours planned, the future looked so bright. I've seen Spirit in Chicago virtually every year since '72 and got to know Randy a bit along the way. His optimism and good nature were inspiriational. Of course, his music speaks for itself. Randy had a unique sound and a unique vision and remained true to his vision even in the face of adversity. There is a huge loss with Randy's passing. My heart goes out to all his family.

Phil Zisook, Highland Park, Illinois.

Patrick Gaudin

If the report is accurate that Randy rescued his son from drowning while, at the same time, sacrificing his own life, then he is truly a hero. I used to think of him as a super guitar hero. He has far surpassed that title and has now become a saver of a human life at the risk of losing his own, which unfortunately looks as though he has. If there is a Heaven then Randy surely has acquired a seat for what he has done. I will always remember him for his spectacular musical accomplishments as well as a man who was a truly great father.

Rest In Peace, Randy

Patrick Gaudin, Maui, Hawaii

Danny Mager

When I first bought TWELVE DREAMS OF DR. SARDONICUS at a used record sale at Princeton University in 1981, it was a total fluke. I was simply a 17 year old Deadhead looking for the most psychedelic album cover around. Little did I know that it would go on to become my favorite album of all-time, bar none. One of the best birthday presents I ever received was the SPIRIT box set, Time Circle, a few years back. Randy's music has been with me through many great adventures. The only time I met him was after a SPIRIT show at the Crystal Corner Bar in Madison, WI. He signed my original copy of SARDONICUS and when I asked the amazingly youthful looking California what his secret to longevity was, he simply smiled and said, "A whole lot of Vitamin C". He was definitely one of the most underrated, all-time greats. Hopefully his old buddy Hendrix was the first to greet at the Fillmore Way North...


Randy Starks


Thanks so much for posting the thoughts of those of us who loved Randy and his music. I, too, have been searching for information since last weekend, and although I've now seen it in print it's still so hard to believe. When I was in school and listening to SPIRIT back in 1970 I never dreamed I would meet Randy and Ed, but twenty years later I was able to tell them how much their music had meant to me. And speaking to Bernice the first time was one of the most memorable moments of my life. The sense of family that surrounds the band has always been important to me. I was so proud to introduce my sons to Randy at an outdoor concert, and he always asked about them. I'll never forget him sitting in the trailer after performing at the Westchester Funfest outside Chicago last summer. He was tired, but he became really animated while telling the boys a great story about the invention of the potato chip! When we last spoke he was really excited about the upcoming release of CALIFORNIA BLUES and the re-release of the first four albums on CD. I have made some wonderful friends through Randy and SPIRIT, and I think we would all agree that his message has always been positive and full of hope. I'll miss him like a brother. Our thoughts should be with Bernice, Ed, Quinn and the rest of the SPIRIT family in their loss.

Randy Starks

James A. Gardner

I first heard about Randy's disappearance yesterday (Jan. 7 and I am still hopeful that he will be found, alive and well. In the (sadly, most likely) event that he is not, I will always appreciate and value the music he gave us, and marvel at the talent he possessed. More than anything, though, I think that Randy's greatest legacy is the son that he was able to save. He will be remembered by me, not only as a guitar hero, but as a heroic father. My family's thoughts and prayers are with Randy's family.

James A. Gardner

Kathleen Eagan

Last night I happened to pick up a newspaper for a quick browse. I was stunned to read about your disappearance. I thought I'd get a chance to see you again. I had a funny story to tell you...

Thanks for all your support of my endeavors over the years. I'm glad you were in Molokai when you had to leave this plane. Somehow your beautiful way out is appropriate and complete. I'll miss your gentle intensity. We'll all remember your final act; your heroic move that saved your son.

Reinaldo Alves

Dear friend and all who loves Randy.

I just can't believe this is true. I saw on Deep Purple Web site, as a friend sent an e-mail from Canada telling this horrible news.

I love Purple and of course California too and Spirit.

I think REAL rock an roll will never be the same whithout Randy.

A talented man that deserved more respect by media.

I enjoy his efforts and career. Unfortunalety I had no time before to try to find out this site in Internet.

If this is really true let's stay together and keep on rockin' like Randy would do himself.

God bless you Randy wherever you are. We will never forget the good days.


Robert Ernst

I was saddened to hear of RC's demise. I loved Spirit. I saw them in Reno on their Spirit 1984 tour. It was at a small venue. I had a table up front next to the stage. Jay was there, and the whole original band. During a guitar solo Randy game out to my table, took my beer bottle and played slide guitar riffs with it. That beer never tasted so GOOD. We will miss you Randy, you were one of a kind.


Simon Hart

Hello, my name is Simon Hart and I represent a company called Stage One, we were working in connection with Marc Santori from Legend in France and another chap called Francoise from Hsn in arranging to bring Randy and the band to the U.K for a mini tour in march. Due to the very tragic and sad news it is now fond memories of a man who gave some much pleasure to us over here in the U.K. My sympathies are to all his family and friends and we'll sure miss him from all Spirit fans in the U.K.

Simon Hart

John Fulton Jr


The world is alot less today than it was. I told you I was not a religious person, but I tried to be hopeful. After 5 days, its hard to do, but I spoke to a friend in Hawaii last night and she said they do find people washed up on shore from time to time, maybe there's a miracle out there for Randy.

I feel so sad for Ed. This must be hell for him, and Randy's son, it's got to be hard on a twelve year old to see your father get washed away...

It's up to people like us to keep Randy's Spirit alive!!! Don't ever let him go, turn on any and everyone who will listen. It's hard to find anything good about this, but he appeared very happy last I saw him (Tired, but happy). Not too many people have an opportunity to pursue what they really love in life. Randy has been pursuing his love and has been, at times, very successful at it off and on for thirty years.

Keep in touch,


Allan MacDonald remembers:

"I have from time to time, searched the web for the discography of SPIRIT. This morning I learned of Randy's death, which prompted me to search a little on his name. Your web was one of many interesting sites.

My hat is off to you for paying respect to such a good group as SPIRIT. Short of "Got A Line On You" most people don't even know who they are! I have a pile of their records, and have bought duplicates on CD from a source in Europe. They were really an "act before their time", as jazz-fusion did not become popular until many years later.

Randy's passing touches me personally, as I knew him growing up in Santa Monica and Venice California. We attended Lincoln Junior High together, where his band "Red Rooster" played at one of the dances. Red Rooster was the name before Spirit, with the exact player lineup. I remember, in 10th grade at Santa Monica HS, when Randy dropped out to go to New York. Perhaps almost a year later, he re-appeared in our circle of friends, now playing as Spirit working as the "warm-up" band for Jefferson Airplane. Not long after that, they had made a name for themselves as a headline act. Every concert they played was done with amazing professionalism.

I'll never forget attending jam-sessions at his mother's house in Topanga canyon, and a nice party at John Locke's house nearby. Ed Cassidy, Randy's stepdad was one of a few parents that could be in sync with "we teenagers" at that time.

I used to get into most of the concerts around Los Angeles with the band, getting in with them carrying equiptment for them. There were some nice times backstage and in the dressing rooms. I have not seen Randy since about 1973, but those times have placed an warm indelible image in my memory.

We will all miss Randy. He has left some amazing music with us. Perhaps, in Heaven, he will finally be back together with his friend Jimi James again."

Allan MacDonald

Robbie Fields

Sometimes people drift away and suddenly many years have passed by ... I just learned yesterday of Randy's passing.

In late 1977, fresh off the boat from England, I tried to get Randy a deal at Jet Records in Century City, Los Angeles (ELO were their main act). This was the very beginning of my career in the music business.

Having idolised Spirit as a teenager growing up in London and it being a scant 7 years since rushing into class one day with the just released 1984 single, I was flabbergasted to find Randy just "hanging out" at the Whisky, his being somewhat bemused at the punk rock scene that had moved into his neighborhood. There did not appear to be any commnon ground.

Maybe not then, but by the early 80's, it was the seminal influence of Spirit that had me, as a wet behind the ears studio producer, calling for double lead (guitar) parts on numerous punk rock productions. These same productions not only have sold hugely during the past 20 years, they inspired groups as disparate as Nirvana and The Offspring.

It has been a long since I got married, stopped hanging out at the Whisky and Randy found renewed vigor in his career. But I still hear Randy's soft, gentle, off stage voice ...

Robbie Fields aka Posh Boy
Posh Boy Records

Scott Murrell

Here it is 2001 and I didn't even know that he was gone, I'm numb! I was a child of the sixties, a musician with a love for rock and Spirit spoke to me through their songs. I am profoundly saddened to learn that one more link to a happier freer time has been taken from us, Randy I want you to know that through the numerous and various bands that I sang and played with "I Got A Line On You" was still one of the most requested and still one of my all-time favorites. It would be easy to get sentimental and syrupy right now and imagine John Lennon, Randy, Jimi, Morrison, Janis and Roy Orbison doing the all-star thing somewhere in the cosmos but that would be too much to ask for and anyway...Randy you were way too "far-out" for them! It's amazing how old I feel right now.....

Scott Murrell

K.B., Florida

I was nine years old. Far to young for a child to be interested in Rock -n- Roll. But my family lived in Detroit and I had two older brothers. Bored out of my mind, after getting home from Catholic School one day, I wandered into my older brother's bedroom and began plundering. What made me pick up that Spirit album I have no idea. Maybe it was on the turntable. Maybe it was the cover. Somehow and/or someway I played a side of "Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus." I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was 1971.

After listening to one side of the record I immediately put on the other side. I wasn't bored anymore. I was engulfed in the sweet vocals and incredible song writing of Randy and Jay. All other music I had previously heard was two dimensional ... this stuff was multi dimensional. Whereas other music seemed to ffollow a niche or groove like a roller coaster confined to its rails -- the music of Spirit was like an airplane doing freeform stunts. So beautiful; such imagination; no boundaries; so many different colors. With the color and grace of an exquisite butterfly.

Needless to say the bald guy looked pretty cool too... like a hip uncle.

It wasn't long after that when I heard "Best of Spirit." That was it! Up to this day Spirit is my favorite band of all time. They have become a part of my life; part of my soul; a part of me. I love their music. I love them. Their music is timeless. I DJ quite a bit at underground clubs and alternative danceteria's. I often slip "Why can't I be free" in before an upbeat song with strong beginning attack. I always get young punks asking, "Who was that?" I tell them "A song from God's own record collection."

I always wanted to meet Spirit and look into those fellows eyes -- sincerely thanking them for supplying me with the soundtrack to my life. I cannot help getting misty thinking about how much I would like to thank them. Poor Randy. I am take this opportunity, now, wherever they are, to thank them -- and their families -- for myself and my brother's Kevin and Raymond. Raymond passed away in 1984. He loved the music of Spirit. We saw them play at Sunshine Speedway, Clearwater Florida, back in 1978.

Led Zeppelin? .. Rolling Stones? ... The Who? ... Fuck them! Spirit was The Band!!

K.B., Clearwater, Florida

Bill Capuano

I started listening to Spirit in 1974 at the age of 12. I had the pleasure of seeing them live in 1981 when they did two shows in Cleveland at the Pirate's Cove. After the first show I met Randy and got his autograph - he was really cool!! He knew I was a fan after I told him how Great '1984' sounded - one of my all time favorite songs!! I got to see both shows which were excellent!!

I am a guitarist & in 1990 my band did a show in Indiana at an outdoor festival and Spirit was one the bill - so I was excited about seeing them again. When we arrived at the gig the promoter said Randy missed his flight and asked if I could fill in - talk about a dream come true!!!
I sat down for about an hour with then bass player Michael Nile and he showed me the tunes and he was surprised that I knew 'Nature's Way','Animal Zoo' & 'Dark Eyed Woman'. The highlight was doing 'Fresh Garbage' with Ed Cassidy!! I also got to do tunes from the then unreleased 'Tent of Miracles' c.d. After the show I got to hang out with Michael & Ed & talk to Ed about his favorite Spirit tunes, memories, etc. I wish I could have sat in with Randy but it was a Great time to play with Cass and Michael. I just wanted to say that Randy was one of my major influences and one of the Most Underrated Innovative Guitaris EVER and he is deeply missed.

Bill Capuano
Bruce Friedman

I am a father of two young girls,, so the loss of Randy is new news for me.. a tragic loss.

In the later hours in the evening after the kids are tucked in, i sneak downstairs to the den, slip on some old albums and disappear back to the better days of rock and roll.... this evening i chose Spirit "Clear" what memories, what a sound, the music makes me feel stoned all over again, and so free.... like you are now Randy.....
Randy, I know you're out there, your Spirit shall live with us forever!!!!!!
You will never be forgotten,,

Bruce in Durham North Carolina.


Just a note to say thanks. So many groups have come and gone but very few have touched me the way you did. I float from show to show, album to album, group to group, year to year. Picking many favorites and loving the whole scene yet I only own one "master copy" disk and only spent hard earned money on one group repeatedly. I have spent my adult life loving all music yet cherishing the two autographs I have ever collected: Randy California and Ed Cassidy's.
Spirit's Twelve Dreams has remained atop my desert island top 10 since I first heard it as a musically immature 19 year old and changed in an instant from a diehard country music fan to a neophyte rockandroll lover.
I had the pleasure to join Ed and the group on his 70th birthday party at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa Florida. Randy, you bent the strings like there was no tomorrow in honor of the event. Now I join in celebrating your life, a truly inspirational musician.
We have had our moment of silence and now we play your music. Here in Kazakstan a whole new group of fans are coming to know your style. Thank you for the good times, may they never end.

Justin, Kazakstan.

Billy Simmons

I was very saddened to hear of the loss. I've been a great fan of Spirit since their beginning. In fact I just recently got the CD "Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus" and have been listening to it non-stop. Their music was and is timeless! Please pass on my condolences to his family, and friends. Such a great loss for them and us.

B.J. Simmons

Mladen Spiranovic

I was deeply struck by reading what happened to Randy. The first and last time saw him in a Concert in Slovenia (Europe) 1989 ("Night of the guitars", with R.Krieger, Manzarek, L.West and many others). I share the pain with his family and a lots of fans all over the world, appreciating his work and contribution to rock/jazzrock music.

Mladen Spiranovic, Vienna, Austria

Sarah Dudzik Bullington Berner

I engineered for Randy in the latter 70s and remember the experience fondly (quite a talent!). Ed Cassidy was hanging around and was such a delight as well (as was Mark Andes - gosh, Spirit was such a *nice* band!). I was a fan long before I wound up, serendipitously, in the studio with Randy. I am truly saddened by Randy's death and my sympathies go out to his close friends and family.

Sarah Dudzik Bullington Berner


I was thinking 1997 was going to be a good year. Well, it sure started on a downer when the spirit of Spirit died. I loved this band since the sixties, and like other parts of your life that change and go, it is hard to believe and accept. I'm just thankful I was able to see them play the number times I did. God bless Ed Cassidy and thanks for all the music. My tears are with you.

From unknown:

It was Jan. 4th and my dad was driving me to school (I'm 14). I turned the radio on to the local classic rock station and to my ears dread, I found out that one of my favorite people in the world had died. I've found that the usual death report begins with the date and then the persons name, and then after repeated stalling (like the people are afraid to tell us), the dreadful news is presented to my not-wanting-to-believe ears. Randy was a person who meant something to me and made a significant impact on my "young and innocent" mind. Along with Lennon, I feel like a lot of my hopes have been taken away as well as their lives and presences. I want Randy's son to know that I'm keeping him in mind a lot and that I understand if he feels guilty about his dad's death. I'm trying to avoid a clich�, so just remember that it was "Natures way", and that it had nothing to do with how anyone acted in a previous life or the oceans own feelings towards Randy. I hope he knows that we're all going through the same grief as him. Bye.

Tom Bisbee

My first introduction to Spirit was their first album, I bought it and became a fan forever. I first saw Spirit perform as the warm up group for Aerosmith at McNichols Arena in Denver. They were billed as the warm up act but their performance blew away anything Aerosmith could ever do. This past summer I was able to take my 13 year old son to see them again in Colorado Springs the and concert was fantastic. I am glad I was able to share that experience with my son. Randy might be gone but he will live on forever in his music.

Tom Bisbee, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Nick (Doc Rock) Moroney

"Kelly (my wife) and I met him [Randy] briefly at a concert in Richmond, Virginia. We travelled from Baltimore to see the band I loved and to meet Ed Cassidy. Ed and I had been corresponding and he always had a friendly word of encouragement for my collegial endeavors and Kelly's legal work with the disabled. When we spotted Randy sidestage before the concert, I walked up to him and asked about Ed. "Does he know you?" Randy asked. Randy seemed shy but polite and intelligent. After I explained that Ed knew that Kelly and I were travelling to meet him, Randy left us to go backstage and fetch Ed. I was thrown by Randy's generosity. After Ed came over, Randy and someone else began chatting and Kelly and I took advantage of a wonderful opportunity to chat with Ed.
The concert was amazing that night and Randy lost all shyness when he blazed into "Red House". His smile spread from ear to ear and it was evident that Randy, even after all these years, was in love with music as ever.
Kelly and I cherish our memories of that summer evening last year and wish to pass on heartfelt condolences to Ed and to the rest of Randy's family, friends and former band mates. Randy lives in their hearts now.
Randy, you had so little time to fly."

Nick (Doc Rock) Moroney, Dublin, Ireland and Baltimore, Maryland.

Tom Downer

I had not heard the terrible news until I opened my Rolling Stone yesterday. I only saw Randy and Spirit once. The year was 1970. My friends and I drove from Ft. Collins, Colorado, up to Laramie, Wyoming, and were surprised to see the band performing in a venue best suited for the rodeo. The band was great, as always. The 12 Dreams album had been released just a short time before, and the record easily dominated the turntable of 4 freaks living in the Rocky Mountain foothills (not an easy feat in this time of great music being turned out every day).
Glad to know that Randy continued to do what he loved ....

Tom Downer, Seattle.

Michael Marsch

Of course I heard about Randy and Spirit, I'm a Hendrix fan since 1969 and we all know about Jimi James and the blue flames. The early music of Spirit seemed to be a little strange to me. Then I saw Spirit live at Rockpalast Festival in Essen Germany 4th March 1979. It was an experience that I'll never forget. Rockpalast Jam Electro Jam....Jam Session with Dickey Betts! Don't miss the rerun of this concert on WDR, Astra satellite 9th March 1997, starts 01:25 am. From this day on Spirit became a part of my musical life. 10 years later (26th April 1989) I met Randy at the "Night of the guitar" tour in Offenbach, Germany. (With: Leslie West, Pete Haycock, Steve Hunter, Robby Krieger and many more) I asked Randy for a autogram. He was very kind. We were talking about music, magic guitars and of "The revenge of the french fries" and were laughing. :-) It was a pleasure to talk with him. One year later I saw Spirit again live at the "Rapture in the Chambers" Tour (17th march 1990 Frankfurt,Germany) in a small club. The atmosphere was very familiar. The last thing I heard from Randy was an interview with Rockpalast Club from september last year. he said that Spirit is planing a European Tour with Noel Redding on bass, but we'll never see Spirit again. Let us keep Spirit alive! Kaptain Kopter we miss you.

Michael Marsch, Germany.

The Sosa family

It's very hard to believe the events of the last three weeks. We're still stunned about what has happened. We feel that a significant part of our life has been taken from us. So, like everyone else, it's important for us to share our feelings and memories of Randy and the SPIRIT family. Thank you so much for providing a forum in which all of his fans can express their feelings about this tragic occurence.

We remember the first time we saw SPIRIT. Meryl and I were visiting Chicago during a break in grad school in December 1980. We saw in the Illinois Entertainer that SPIRIT was playing at Beginnings in Schaumburg, IL. The bar was owned by the drummer of Chicago and no longer exists. We had been fans of SPIIRIT and were unaware that they were still touring, so it was with great excitement that we finally realized our dream of seeing the band. They played a great show with lots of stuff from Euro-American. Randy was still using some sort of tape loop device on stage and it made for some very weird sounds.

Since then, we have seen SPIRIT at least 20 times. Such great memories we will always cherish. Roger had the privilege of seeing both reunions of the original group - at the Palace in Hollywood in 1984 and at the concert in Garden Grove in 1991. At the 1991 reunion show, Meryl was about 6 months pregnant and when SPIRIT hit the stage, she could feel our daughter "dancing" to the music. We saw a really cool concert at the Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga in 1989. Randy was always so great when he played outside because he had such an affinity for nature. While Ed was unable to play very much due to an injured wrist, the show was very good. But what really stands out as my memory from that concert was that it was the first time we met Randy's sister, Janet, who was helping with the promotional stuff. That was another thing about SPIRIT. They had such cool stuff, the SPIRIT frisbees, the buttons, posters, T-shirts, etc. We also met Janet's two children who were rocking out at the concert. After that we became much more involved with the family. In helping prepare some marketing materials for the band, Roger got to speak with Randy on the telephone which was such a great opportunity to learn more about Randy. Meryl helped with some legal issues and Meryl's brother also helped out with distributing posters.

Another great experience was when we arrived early for a concert at the Central Club (now the Viper Club) in Hollywood, we saw Randy leaving little Milky Way bars on all the tables for his fans. We can remember seeing Randy, in 1995, take off into the audience at the River Festival in Rockford, Il to play a searing solo on Red House. We remember him going out into the freezing cold on a winter's night during a show at Biddy Mulligan's in Chicago and playing a solo (Red House again) to the passersby who must have wondered what he was doing out there. He did the same thing at the Eclectic Cafe in Hollywood, only this time he played to the traffic on Lankershim Boulevard. What a riot! What turned out to be the final concert we saw him play at was an acoustic outdoor set at Northwestern University in July 1996. We had never seen Randy play acoustic and it was such a dream come true because he was able to play some songs we had never heard in concert before. It was such an intimate way of feeling Randy's music.

Mostly what we remember about Randy is the feeling of generosity he had towards his fans. He gave all of himself when he played. He filled the room with not only great sound but also a feeling of community and togetherness. We were part of the family that played together, if only for one night. That was what made him special. We also remember him staying after shows and patiently talking with everyone who stayed, signing autographs and sharing stories. He stayed till everyone left, his fans were that important to him. In this era of "corporate rock", that kind of personal touch is seldom seen.

Meryl, Kia and Roger want to send our deep sympathy, love and hope to the whole SPIRIT family. We especially want to send our condolences to Bernice who will always be Mother SPIRIT to all of us. We will miss Randy more than you could know. But to use Randy's own words,"His spirit is traveling on, in his life and in his songs." Those songs will last forever.

Best Wishes,

Roger, Meryl, and Kia Sosa

Jah Paul Jo

I heard a rumor that Randy had died - but I was unable to substantiate it until I saw your website. Thank you for posting the information - sad as it is.

When I was 17 years old I had an opportunity to help out Spirit as a roadie. The Son Of Spirit album was just out and an older friend of mine (through some machinations that I have never been able to figure out) became their road manager. This was to be Spirit's big comeback, John Locke had just re-joined and there seemed to be a lot (well, maybe not a lot... but some) push from Mercury Records.

In those days, the band had no song list on stage, They would all kind of look to Randy and he would launch into whatever he thought was appropriate and the rest of the band would join in. But the night at the Whisky-Au-Go-Go in Hollywood would be different.

Their manager, Marshall Berle (Uncle Miltie's nephew!!!?), had convinced several Mercury Records staffers to attend the show that evening. Marshall had written out a song list of the Spirit biggies that he insisted that they play. "Fresh Garbage," "Nothing To Hide," "Dark Eyed Woman," "I Got A Line On You" all were on the list. I'm thinking, wow, what a night this will be. At that time Spirit would play almost everything from Spirit of '76 or Son Of Spirit but would rarely play the older stuff.

Before the show Berle made the whole band and crew huddle up and go over the strategy of the night. The band were going to play the classic songs in the order of the list. Randy would count the songs in - rather than just start playing them like usual. And the crew... the crew had to be spot on, paying attention. No slip-ups. The importance of this momentous occasion made a big impression in my teenage brain... no slip-ups! I'm ready.

The lights dim... full house.. my fellow roadie Rick and myself are ready to run out on stage to repair whatever necessary. We're pumped. The band comes out and I can't wait for the opener, "Fresh Garbage," one of my favorites. Oh yeah, I forgot one of the other Marshall Berle instructions to Randy... "keep the talking between songs to a minimum." Hmmmm

Randy walks to the microphone, looks down at Rick and myself crouched in front of the stage ready for anything, winks and says:

"Hey, it looks like we have some people from Mercury here... or one of those planets." Then, without a count, launches into "Tampa Jam Electro Jam From The Time Coast," a looooong jammin' type song (it may have been the shock of him doing this but I swear the song lasted at least half an hour).

Poor John Locke. His face made the most amazing contortions as he realized what Randy was doing. I wish that I could have seen Marshall Berle's.

Of course, this incredible defiance of authority (and the thumbing his nose at his record company) made Randy one of my heroes. In the course of the following 5 or 6 months I was able to see Randy play a lot of the classic Spirit songs mentioned plus an always amazing Hendrix-like version of "All Along The Watchtower."

To this day, whenever I sit in with a band, I play "Got A Line On You" complete with the weird chords that I learned by watching Randy in action.

Johan, as you can imagine there are quite a few great stories that I could share about my time with Spirit. It was a great and fun time in my life and the first time that I was able to see one of my musical heroes "behind the scenes."

Please keep up the good work with the Spirit page.

(former Dread Zeppelin guitarist & producer)

Memorial celebration for Randy

From Bruce Pates (Michigan) as told to Randy Starks (Indiana) on Monday night, January 21:

I left Detroit on Friday night and flew into LA at 1:30 AM. After grabbing some sleep I picked up a rental car at 9:00 AM and drove the 70-minute trip up to Ventura Beach. I had directions to the hotel where Cass and Ken Unterberg (from Chicago) were staying. At the intersection where the hotel was located I was surprised to see Cass out for a morning walk. What a sight after having just traveled halfway across the country! We went out for coffee then returned to get Ken at the hotel. When we arrived at the beach there was quite a crowd. I would guess close to 400 people. There was no stage; the event took place right on the beach. There was a little PA set up for announcements and music. All the original members of SPIRIT with their families were present. Also in attendance were current and former band members Liberty Loria, Matt Andes, and Scott Monahan. An interesting note: Scott told me that he and Randy had played an acoustic concert at an LA coffeehouse a few weeks earlier. They appeared as a duo billed simply as "Randy California and Scott Monahan." Other SPIRIT friends and associates in attendance included Mike and Robert Lee (Potatoland), Spencer Davis, Nick St. Nicholas (Steppenwolf bassist), Bruce Gary (The Knack's drummer and Randy's childhood friend), Steve Aguilar (SPIRIT photographer), and Barry Hansen (Dr. Demento). Randy's sisters who organized the event, Janet and Marla, were there as well as Randy's father, Bob Wolfe, and his uncles, Ed and Bernie Pearl. At 2:00 PM the crowd assembled and Bernie Pearl recited "Our Prayer of Memory." He followed this with a blessing, "The Mourners' Kaddish", recited in Hebrew. The trio of Matt Andes (acoustic guitar), Todd Smallwood (acoustic guitar and vocal), and Bruce Gary (congas) performed a new composition by Matt and Todd entitled "Into the Blue: for Randy." It was a beautiful song with many SPIRIT references in the lyrics. Barry Hansen then spoke of some personal memories of Randy and the band. He also read several of the personal messages posted on Johan Bengtsson's Tent of Miracles website. The closing of the memorial was conducted by Randy's Native American friends, Kote Lota (forgive the spelling) and his wife. They recited chants and incantations followed by an offering to the sea in Randy's memory for any who wished to participate. They had a large bag of tobacco from which crowd members took some and walked to the water to scatter the tobacco on the surf, a Native American custom. After the ceremony people stayed to talk and reminisce for 2-3 hours. It was a beautiful day with a very positive feeling in the air that Randy would have appreciated. There was much embracing by band members, family and friends. I was happy and proud to be a part of such a special occasion in honor of such a special person. Let's all keep his SPIRIT alive.

Bruce Pates

Phil Meadows

I can't really express the great sense of shock and loss I felt when I unexpectedly came across Randy's obituary in my newspaper last Saturday. To be honest, he wasn't my favourite guitarist and Spirit weren't even my favourite band but I'd listened to - and enjoyed - them since I first heard Fresh Garbage in around '68. I'd bought most of the records and seen them when they came to England in about '82 - unforgettable gig. My sadness was deepened when I read the circumstances of his death, but, as the father of a 9 year old son, I hope I would have done the same. My condolences to Randy's family, I hope the blow they have been dealt is softened by the knowledge that - in the final analysis - he was a great man.

Phil Meadows, Nottingham, England.

Calle Davidsson

Randy was one of the greatest. The world and I will miss him. But his music will be remembered. Perhaps it's Nature's way.

Calle Davidsson, Sweden.

Anthony D. Grasso

Just a short message from a longtime fan. Randy was one of the few guitarists who could leave a lasting memory of his emotions which he portrayed thru his music. Spirit's music wasn't mainstream enough for the average person to have been exposed to-----many have missed out!! He did learn something from Jimi-he had to,it's right there in his notes!!! I'm glad i caught him in 1995 at PEPPERLND music to say hello; even though it wasn't the best of circumstances that day- he seemed a bit removed & left me feeling that he didn't quite appreciate his fans (everybody is entitled to a bad day). I WILL MISS U RANDY----- let me go put on "The Family That Plays Together" & listen to him.

I'll Always Dig Your Music,
A Loving Fan From Orange County,CA

Bob Bullions

An open letter to Randy California.

Dear Randy,
I want to tell you how sorry I am for the terrible accident that has happened to you. I hope you did not suffer and your pain was brief. You did what any father would do if one of their children was in peril. The sad part of this is the profound price you paid for your unselfish act of love. My sympathies to your family, friends and fans.

As long as I have been a fan of yours and of Spirit I always took for granted that I would be able to enjoy your music for many years to come since our dates of birth are just over a month apart we are the same age. I thought you would "grow old" together with me, a distant fan, listening to you playing your songs. I took comfort in that. We never know what life has in store for us.

Randy, I will miss you. However, your memory along with the memories of other friends and family that are gone from this earth, will occupy a special place in my heart forever. God bless you and keep you.

Bob Bullions

Neil Hamilton

Today, Saturday January 18th.1997 was a very sad day for me. I live in the Los Angeles area and was able to drive about an hour north to Ventura, California to attend the gathering for Randy California.

Present at this on the beach gathering were the surviving members of the original Spirit; Ed Cassidy, Mark Andes, John Locke, and Jay Ferguson along with their wives and children.

Barry Hansen "Dr. Demento" did the eulogy after Randys uncle, Bernie Pearl read a prayer in Hebrew for Randy.

I have been a fan of Spirit since 1968 when my older brother, Cris, had a 4-track tape of one of the first Spirit albums, and me being the curious younger brother just had to see what this music was all about!!

Well, about 30 years, and many Spirit albums and concerts later I find myself typing (hunt&peck) this message to the other Spirit fans around the world who can log on to this site.

Barry Hansen, who has known Randy and his family since the time when Lightning Hopkins was playing at Randys uncle, Bernie Pearls Ash Grove nightclub, when Randy was about 12 years old told the gathering today that Randy's first ambition was not to be one of the greatest guitar players in the world, or to be in one of the GREATEST rock music bands in the history of music, no, Randy wanted to be SUPERMAN!!

Randy,three out of three ain't bad.

I was not able to offer my condolences to any of your family members today in Ventura, California today Randy, but it was good to see your old bandmates embracing when they greeted each other at this sad gathering,I felt very privileged to have been present along with about 100 other people to pay my final respects to you. Thanks for 30 years of great music, I'll keep my eyes to the skies and hope some day,I see you fly by Superman!!

Neil Hamilton

Andrew Cohen

It was high school 1972, and I was 17. Joey asks me over; Friday night, we're gonna jam. Open house...

When I got there people were everywhere. The band was playing upstairs, the house was shaking. I went upstairs to check things out and to talk to Joey. He and his group were good, really good. He and I got to talking and he asks me to "come downstairs, there's something I want you to hear..."

We went into the den. I sat down with a brew while Joey put on an album. The music which came out of those speakers was fantastic. All Joey kept saying was "Listen to them, man they're so tight!" That album was "The Family That Plays Together", and it was my introduction to Spirit and its members, including, of course, Randy California.

From that moment on, I was hooked on their music. It flowed into my ears, and the lyrics made sense too. Yes, there was meaning to their music, and there still is.

A few years later, I moved to Florida and just missed their concert at Pirate's World, which closed down shortly thereafter. Mitch called me one day from college in upstate New York. He was so excited... "Andy, I've got pictures! Spirit played at our school, and I've got pictures! They were great!" He sent me one of Ed drumming.

Some years later, I was watching TV late at night and I switched to a movie about a fellow who gets drafted into the Vietnam war. He spends time driving his Jeep from place to place, talking to friends and asking advice on whether or not he should head to Canada. What amazed me was that every time he turned on his radio, a familiar song from a familiar group would play. That group (of course), was none other than Spirit. There was even a scene where he stops at a friend's house and the group was present, demoing new songs. The movie was the Model Shoppe, and I've never seen it since, nor can I find it anywhere, but I still, for the most part, remember it.

Over the years I've collected Spirit and related albums. They never ceased to provide me with listening pleasure, but when CD's came out, I was really impressed with their clarity. I put my album collection in storage and went hunting for Spirit CDs at all the record stores. That hunt led me to CD Review, where one day, I spotted a form to order the "Nature's Way" promo CD. That was excellent, but it left me wanting more.

Later, back in New York, I was lucky enough to catch an ad on the radio for a live simulcast of a Spirit concert from a club in Manhattan. Needless to say, it was truly excellent.

Now, some more years later, with access to the net, I've been able to locate all the various web sites for Spirit, Randy, Ed, Kspace, and others. This had led me to the Live at La Paloma album, which contains the elusive live version of "I Got A Line.." which I had been searching for over the years after hearing the tail end of it in the car one day. It also contains the definitive 1984. Easily the best version I've ever heard.

In addition to this treasure, I've now also been able to obtain a copy of the latest video. I must say that I am impressed, not only with the length and composition, but most of all, it was obviously put together by someone who cared and took the time to do it right.

So, what does all this have to do with Randy's disappearance and his memorial today? Well, over these past 24 years since that initial introduction to his work at Joey's party, I've essentially been gathering expressions which all have a central theme; Randy. I never really understood it until I watched the video. Through the ups and downs, through the losses and the gains, in and out of the limelight, one thing has never veered; Randy. He is the soul of Spirit, then, now, and forever.

I will selfishly miss the potential achievements he could bring to the world in the years to come, however, thanks to technology, I will always be able to listen and reflect back on my life with Randy and Spirit as the measure of some of the best times I've had. Unfortunately, for his family and friends, that will not be enough, and to them, I wish them the best and say to them it's important to know that his life made a difference in my life, as it will for those who will come to know him in the future.

-Andrew Cohen

Alfonso Montuori

"I first heard Spirit in 1977--Future Games, of all things, probably Spirit's strangest and, in my opinion, most original album. I was completely won over--I had never heard such a sound before, particularly since Randy had literally included "everything" in here... I think the album was an incredible personal statement, and I know that my 17 year old mind was completely turned around by it. It's influenced everything I've done since--and now I teach at a University, so you can imagine what my courses are starting to look--and sound like!

I've been following Spirit ever since Future Games, and felt a great deal of love for the band, and from the band, the few times I had the privilege of meeting them. Once, while I was living in London and playing in a band Spirit came over to do the Potatoland tour. We had dedicated our album to Randy and Cass, and I wanted to give them a copy. I called the Hammersmith Odeon where they were playing, and asked if I could drop copies off for them there. Someone asked for my phone number, and the next thing I knew, Randy California called me at home! Like another Spirit fan who wrote in these pages, I too was tongue-tied--and i too was made to feel comfortable by this kind and brilliant man. I'll never forget it.

Perhaps this is all a strange dream--a Kahauna Dream--and soon Randy will reemerge out of the waves. I fear not, and hope we will all stay together to keep the Spirit alive. My thoughts and love are with Randy's family, and with Cass, whose life remains an inspiration."

Rob Giffen

To Randy California, Spirit

I could say I never met you,
Never saw you face to face,
Never caught you live in concert,
Never hung out at your place,

Yet, I've heard your music playing,
And the sound of your guitar
Has always touched me deeply
In the place my feelings are.

A musician's work seems transient;
It disappears in air,
Yet never leaves the hearts of those
Who recognize and care.

Yes, I could say I never met you
In your earthly days too few.
I could say I never met you,
But that wouldn't be true.

-Rob Giffen 1/16/97

Josh Blinder

Not much to say, except--

Goodbye to a man who had a unique vision and a unique sound to bring it to fruition. Thank you, Randy California, for sharing your music with all of us.

My deepest sympathies to his family for their loss.

Josh Blinder

Don Fleming

Randy was one of the best, and we will all miss him. I had my 1st exposure to Spirit in 1971 as a 13 year old listening to my cousin Jeff's copy of 12 Dreams. It was a mind blowing experience and has always remained as one of my favorite records. I was lucky enough to catch the band a couple of times, in 1984 in D.C. with the reunion tour and a couple of years later in Liverpool. My band, Gumball, was playing on the same night and a journalist who had been traveling with us was going to hook up with Spirit the following day. He was able to get us into the show and we got to meet Randy. He was really cool and I remember they did a great version of "Downer". The next morning we dropped the writer off at their bus and Randy was standing outside, wearing a clear plastic mask, and smoking a cigarette through it! That was the last time I saw him. I have been keeping up with all the new releases and re-releases, and can't really get used to the idea that he is gone. I know that a lot of guitarist have really been influenced by him, I remember early Roxy Music interviews where Phil Manzenara cited him as a main influence. My heart goes out to his family and friends, I hope that everyone knows that his achivements will never die.

- Don Fleming

Roger Glover

This was posted by Roger Glover of Deep Purple in the Deep Purple newsgroup:
(Randy once played a gig with Deep Purple)

I was very sorry to hear about Randy's death. It was only one gig and it was a long time ago but that night in Quebec is large in my mind. He was a charming man and a great talent. My heart goes out to his family.


Bruce Pates

Like everyone I'm devastated by the news of Randy's death, and can only convey to the SPIRIT family, friends and fans my deepest condolences. Randy was a beautiful human being, an incredible and vastly underrated musician, and my dear friend. He brought much joy to my life with his music and his friendship, and it will be hard to accept the fact that he's not with us anymore.

However, Randy's music will always be with us, so now is the time for all SPIRIT fans to rededicate themselves to spreading the word to convert the uninitiated to a good thing. To complete the title of SPIRIT's second album, "The Family That Plays Together Stays Together," and we must all now come together to perpetuate Randy's memory and musical legend.


Bruce Pates

Wolfgang Schmidt


the first time I heard a Spirit song was 1971 when I got the CBS Sampler 'That's Underground' containing a strange second song. I was sixteen and it was totally different to everything I had ever listened to before. This song was Mechanical World. That was the moment the spirit caught me and I became a Spirit fan.

In March 1978 I listened to Spirit's Rockpalast Festival live gig on a little black and white TV, but it didn't matter becaused I felt the spirit.

In May 1981 I went to a Spirit concert at the Stadtpark in Hamburg, and in November 1991 I went to another gig at the Grosse Freiheit in Hamburg.

I'll never forget these two concerts. They were great and there are still a lot of pictures and sounds in my mind.

I heard of your disappearance by Johan's email on monday 6th and I really couldn't believe it. It should be a nightmare! But today it seems to be reality.

May your spirit lives on forever, though without YOU there can not be SPIRIT.

Rest in peace, Randy!

Wolfgang Schmidt

Brian Van Alstyne

I am writing this on behalf of my brother who was a huge fan of Spirit, as I was in the early days of the band. I just heard of Randy's accident and the saving of his son, Quinn. I can think that the same energy and drive that produced the music he played also caused Randy to push his son to shore. I am very sad to hear of this tragic loss to the music world and Spirit fan's especially.

Brian Van Alstyne

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