Kaleidoscope (U.S. band)

This article is about the US psychedelic band. For the British psychedelic band of the same name, see Kaleidoscope (UK band).

Original members of the Kaleidoscope as imaged on their first album, Side Trips, released in 1967
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres Psychedelic rock, psychedelic folk, world, country
Years active 1966–1970
(Reunions in 1976 and 1990)
Labels Epic, Island
Past members David Lindley
Chester Crill
Solomon Feldthouse
John Vidican
Chris Darrow
Stuart Brotman
Paul Lagos
Jeff Kaplan
Ron Johnston

Kaleidoscope (originally The Kaleidoscope) was an American psychedelic folk and ethnic band who recorded 4 albums and several singles for Epic Records between 1966 and 1970. The band membership included David Lindley, who later released numerous solo albums and won additional renown as a multi-instrumentalist session musician.



The group was formed in 1966. The original members were:

David Lindley (b. March 21, 1944, Los Angeles, California)
Solomon Feldthouse (b. January 20, 1940, Pingree, Idaho)
Chris Darrow (b. July 30, 1944, Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
Chester Crill (a.k.a. Max Budda, Max Buda, Fenrus Epp, Templeton Parcely) (b. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
John Vidican (b. Los Angeles, California)

Lindley was an experienced performer on a variety of stringed instruments, notably the banjo, winning the Topanga Canyon Banjo Contest several years in a row in the early 60s. [1] While studying at La Salle High School in Pasadena, he formed his first group, the Mad Mountain Ramblers, who performed around the Los Angeles folk clubs. There, he met Darrow, who was a member of a rival group, the Re-Organized Dry City Players.

Soon afterwards, around 1964, the pair formed a new group, the Dry City Scat Band, which also included fiddle player Richard Greene (later of Seatrain), but Darrow soon left to set up a new rock group, The Floggs. Lindley also began forming his own electric group. In the course of this he met Feldthouse, who had been raised in Turkey and, on returning to the US, had performed flamenco music and as an accompanist to belly dancing groups. Lindley and Feldthouse then began performing as a duo, David and Solomon, when they met Chester Crill. They invited him to join their band, and by the end of 1966 added Darrow and drummer John Vidican, so forming The Kaleidoscope.[2]

Recording and performance career

The group was founded on democratic principles – there was no "leader". They soon began performing live in clubs, winning a recording contract with Epic Records. The first single, "Please", was released in December 1966. It was produced by Barry Friedman (later known as Frazier Mohawk), as was their first album Side Trips, released in June 1967. The album showcased the group’s musical diversity and studio experimentation. It included Feldthouse's "Egyptian Gardens", Darrow’s "Keep Your Mind Open", and versions of Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" and Dock Boggs' "Oh Death". Crill, for reasons he never made clear (but ex-bandmates speculated had to do with concerns about overreactions from his "straitlaced" parents), was credited as "Fenrus Epp" on the first album and adopted various other pseudonyms on later recordings.[2][3]

Between them, the group played a huge collection of stringed instruments in such psychedelic songs as "Egyptian Gardens" and "Pulsating Dream." They played fusions of Middle-Eastern music with rock in longer pieces such as "Taxim," which they performed at numerous venues including the Berkeley Folk Festival on July 4, 1967 and the Newport Folk Festival in 1968. Live, band numbers were sometimes interspersed by solo instrumental turns from Feldthouse or Lindley, and occasionally Feldthouse brought belly dancers or flamenco dancers on stage. The band performed many different styles, including rock, blues, folk, jazz, Middle-Eastern and also featured music by Calloway and Duke Ellington in their repertoire. Kaleidoscope were one of the progenitors of World Music.

Cover of the Kaleidoscope's second album "A Beacon from Mars," with album art by Tad Hunter aka San Andreas Fault.

The band's second album A Beacon from Mars was released in early 1968, to generally good reviews but poor sales. The album was a mix of Middle-Eastern, country, folk and rock musical styles. The title track, inspired by a Howlin' Wolf musical riff originally in his song "Smokestack Lightnin', was recorded live in the studio, and featured a long psychedelic electric guitar solo by Lindley, which later caused Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page to refer to the Kaleidoscope as his "favourite band of all time." [4] In live performances of the tune, Lindley used a violin bow on his electric guitar, probably influencing Page to use the same effect later. Another live "no overdubs" track on the album was "Taxim," with solos from Lindley on a "harp guitar" and Felthouse, who played oud and saz on the lengthy cut.

Liner notes to the much-later CD reissue claim the album's original title was "Bacon From Mars," but that the title was misprinted. This is a complete myth, initiated by a joke printed in the magazine ZigZag during their three-part feature on Kaleidoscope.[5]

Darrow left the group after recording the album and was replaced by bassist Stuart Brotman, previously a member of an early version of Canned Heat. However, Darrow returned briefly for studio work when the group backed first Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Larry Williams on their 1967 single "Nobody", and later Leonard Cohen on "So Long, Marianne" and "Teachers" on his first album. Vidican was also replaced by drummer Paul Lagos who had a jazz and R&B background, having played with Little Richard, Johnny Otis, and Ike and Tina Turner.[2]

The band recorded their third album, Incredible! Kaleidoscope, in 1968. It featured "Seven-Ate Sweet", a long progressive instrumental piece in 7/8 time signature which they had been playing live since the early days of the group. The album reached No. 139 on Billboard in 1969, the only Kaleidoscope album to chart. Around this time they also did soundtrack work on educational and other films, and also made an appearance at the Newport Folk Festival.[2]

Kaleidoscope’s fourth and final album from their Epic Records era, Bernice, featured more electric guitar work than the earlier albums, and more country influence. There were further personnel changes, adding singer-guitarist Jeff Kaplan, and bassist Ron Johnston who replaced Brotman during the making of the album. Feldthouse also left the group.

At the end of 1969, Kaleidoscope contributed two new songs ("Brother Mary" and "Mickey's Tune") to Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point, and supported Cream on their American farewell tour. The band split up soon afterwards.

Later careers

After the end of Kaleidoscope, Lindley became a highly respected session and live musician with Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and others, before forming his own band, El Rayo-X, in the early 1980s. Feldthouse performed at Renaissance Pleasure Faires, and with various flamenco and Middle Eastern groups. Darrow formed the Corvettes with Bernie Leadon before becoming a leading session musician and solo performer. Crill became an underground comic writer for a time, co-writing the Mickey Rat series, and also produced the first 78rpm record by R. Crumb's group, Armstrong's Pasadenans. Brotman became involved with the LA folk dance scene and has done considerable work as a movie extra. In the 1980s he became active in the Klezmer Revival, playing bass and tsimbl for Brave Old World and most recently is a member of the San Francisco-based trio, Veretski Pass whose most recent CD, "Klezmer Shul," was released in 2011. He is also a regular instructor at KlezKamp, KlezCanada, and other ethnic music gatherings. Paul Lagos died on October 19, 2009.[6]

Kaleidoscope reunions

In 1976, ex-members Brotman, Crill, Darrow, Feldthouse and Lagos reconvened for the reunion album, When Scopes Collide, which was released on Michael Nesmith’s Pacific Arts label. Lindley also contributed, but distanced himself from the project by appearing as “De Paris Letante.”

Fourteen years later, Crill and Darrow organized a second reunion session, this time for Gifthorse Records. Greetings from Kartoonistan (We Ain’t Dead Yet) again brought together the same lineup, with Brotman contributing the instrumental, Klezmer Suite. (Though invited, Lindley declined to participate.)


Solomon Feldthouse is the father of film actress Fairuza Balk.

Chris Darrow plays on the James Taylor album Sweet Baby James.[7]



External links

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