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Randy California: Los Angeles-born Randy Craig Wolfe, renamed by manager Chas Chandler of The Animals.
Randy California was born into a musical Jewish family in Los Angeles and spent his early years studying varied styles at the family's Los Angeles folk club, the Ash Grove. His uncle, Ed Pearl, was the founder of the Ash Grove. He was 15 years old when his mother Bernice Pearl and new stepfather, Ed Cassidy (later to become a founding member of the band Spirit, with Randy), moved to New York City in the summer of 1966 because Cassidy had a number of jazz gigs lined up. It was there, at Manny's Guitars, that Randy met Jimi Hendrix. He played in Hendrix's band Jimmy James and the Blue Flames that summer. California, Cassidy and Pearl lived in an apartment building in Forest Hills (Queens), New York called the Balfour, whose other residents included future Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker, who cites California's blues-based guitar style as an influence on his own playing.
The stage name "Randy California" was given to him by Hendrix to distinguish him from another Randy in the band, Randy Palmer, whom Hendrix dubbed "Randy Texas". When Hendrix and California were invited to come to England by Chas Chandler, former bassist of British Invasion band the Animals - who became Hendrix's manager and producer - Randy's parents refused to allow him to go, insisting the 15-year-old stay and finish high school. By some accounts, Chandler wanted Hendrix as the only guitarist for the band and nixed California's going to England.
Together with Cassidy, songwriter/front-man Jay Ferguson, bassist Mark Andes (with whom California and Cassidy initially had formed a band called the Red Roosters) and keyboardist John Locke, California founded the band Spirit.
Their first, self-titled, album was released in January 1968, a month before California's 17th birthday. He then wrote the band's biggest hit, 1968's "I Got a Line on You" for Spirit's second album, The Family That Plays Together. He also wrote the single "1984", released in early 1970 and banned from most AM radio stations at that time. He also penned Spirit's other hit, "Nature's Way", for the band's best-selling album, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. Christopher Cross covered "Nature's Way" on his 1994 album "Windows."
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