Goodbye to another local BBC show
SPIRIT's Ed Cassidy dies at 89
It is with sadness that Shindig! reports the death of Ed 'Cass' Cassidy, drummer with rock band, Spirit. Cassidy died on December 6, 2012 in San Jose, California. He was 89 years old.
Born in then rural Illinois on May 4, 1923, Cassidy later moved to Bakersfield, California where he began his musical career, playing in local beer halls and nightclubs. After the war, he played with many Mid-West Territorial Big Bands. In the '60s he began working with small jazz combos, jamming with jazz greats such as Dexter Gordon, Art Pepper, Thelonius Monk, and others. In '65, Cassidy joined the rhythm section of The Rising Sons, a folk-blues band featuring Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal and Jesse Lee Kincaid.
However he is best known as the instantly recognisable man behind the drumkit of the grossly underrated and neglected Spirit. Between 1967 and '70 Spirit scarcely put a foot wrong as they fused elements of pop, rock, folk, jazz and psychedelia with a combination of reckless abandon and stunning, inventive musical precision.
The Rising Sons often played the legendary Ash Grove club in Hollywood. It was here that Cassidy met Bernice Pearl, a divorcee with four children, whom he later married. Cassidy developed a close and enduring musical relationship with Bernice's son, Randy Wolfe, an accomplished guitarist. Cassidy and Wolfe (who became known as 'California') went on to form The Red Roosters along with Randy's friends and future Spirit band mates Mark Andes and Jay Ferguson, and the late Mike Fondiler. In '67, joined by keyboardist John Locke, the band Spirits Rebellious, later simply Spirit, was formed.
A strong first album, Spirit, awoke the world to their innovative sound and stellar musicianship, especially that of Cassidy and California. This was followed by the exceptional and aptly titled The Family That Plays Together, birthed in the yellow house in Topganga Canyon where the band, wives, girlfriends, musical mentor Barry Hansen and others lived communally through the summer of love. But it was the '69 release, The Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus that is widely acclaimed as the band's masterpiece and zenith. Sadly, by the beginning of '71, the band had imploded.
Cassidy continued with the Spirit moniker, mostly with Randy California, until the latter drowned in Molokai in January '97.
Cassidy, possibly one of the industry's oldest rock drummers, essentially retired at 79 after playing and recording two albums with Merrell Fankhauser in The Fankhasuer-Cassidy Band.Read Mick Sidmore's feature on Spirit, which was published in Shindig! No.12 here