Guitarist Randy California Missing, Feared Drowned
Randy California, lead guitarist of the innovative rock group Spirit, is missing after swimming off the Hawaiian island of Molokai and is presumed dead, family and friends said Wednesday.
Last Thursday, California, 46, of Ojai, went for a swim with his 12-year-old son, Quinn, and was caught in a riptide, said Debbie Pollard, his personal assistant. After searching for two days, authorities called off the rescue operation. California was in Molokai to visit his mother, who lives on the island.
“After Randy and Quinn were caught in the riptide, Randy shoved his son into a wave, so it would propel him to shore,” Pollard said. “He saved his son’s life. Quinn made it to shore, but Randy was nowhere in sight.”
California’s real name was Randy Wolfe, but when he was a teenager and played briefly with Jimi Hendrix there was another musician in the band named Randy. Hendrix began calling the young guitar player Randy California.
In the late 1960s, California joined his stepfather, drummer Ed Cassidy, and they started Spirit. Between 1968 and 1971, when the band split up, Spirit produced four critically acclaimed albums that were an amalgam of hard rock tinged with folk, jazz, country and blues. “I Got a Line on You” was a Top 40 hit in 1969.
California and Cassidy reunited Spirit in 1974, but after three albums in three years, the group split up. During the next two decades, Pollard said, “California kept the name of the band and kept performing with new members.”
Spirit recently completed a new CD called “California Blues” and was scheduled to launch a European tour this summer.
“Randy was one of the most gifted musicians we’ll ever see,” Pollard said. “Eric Clapton, Greg Allman and many other great guitar players were big fans of his. He lived for his music. He didn’t care if he was playing for five or 5,000 fans. He was just happy to be playing his music.”
He is survived by his son, his mother, Bernice Pearl, and three sisters.