Jimi Hendrix gave him the name Randy California, to distinguish him from Randy Texas, who also played in Jimi’s backing band the Blue Flames, during his 1966 New York stint. His real name was Randy Craig Wolfe and he was lead guitarist and one of the founders of the Psychedelic Rock Band “Spirit” who gained worldwide recognition for songs like “Fresh Garabage”, “Mechanical World” and ‘Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus’ which introduced us to Mr. Skin.
Born into a Californian music family, his ‘fate’ was settled before he was even a teenager. Born in Los Angeles on February 20, 1951, he was only 15 when he and his mom and step dad Ed Cassidy, trekked to New York for a number of gigs and Randy started playing with Jimi Hendrix in 1966. He became real close with Hendrix, who wanted to take him to England to “find Jeff Beck“; but his parents insisted he first finish high school.
As guitarist/singer/songwriter he is best known as the leader of Spirit, although he occasionally made solo albums. A guitar prodigy, California formed Spirit as an eclectic band with rock, jazz, and folk tendencies in Los Angeles in 1967. After four albums, the original quintet split up in 1971. California suffered a serious riding accident and after his recovery made a solo album, Kapt. Kopter and The (Fabulous) Twirly Birds (1972), which featured uncredited appearances by Hendrix’s Experience rhythm section of Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell.
He rejoined Spirit in 1974 and assumed lead of the band. Spirit charted with ten albums between 1968 and 1976. Several subsequent solo albums were released in Europe.
California drowned tragically on January 2, 1997 in the Pacific ocean while rescuing his 12-year-old son Quinn from a rip current near the home of his mother, Bernice Pearl, at Molokai, Hawaii. He managed to push Quinn (who survived) toward the shore, but sadly drowned himself.