Ed Cassidy – an unlikely rock star

Ed Cassidy, the drummer for the legendary 1960s rock band Spirit, died in San Jose, California on December 6th last year, after battling cancer.

Cassidy was an unlikely rock star – when he died he was aged 89.

For those of us of a certain age, Spirit were one of the great bands of the era. I first heard them on the famed CBS sampler ‘Rock Machine Turns You On’ – their track ‘Fresh Garbage’ from their debut album was and is one of the iconic tracks of the era. Cassidy at the time seemed positively ancient – in his mid 40s!

So how come Cassidy, a ‘drummers drummer’ with a shaved head, well before it became fashionable, get to join and play in a fine progressive rock band?

Ed was born on May 4th, 1923 in a town outside of Chicago. His musical career began in 1937, when his family moved to Bakersfield, California. He served in  World War II in the Navy and held down a series of jobs before returning to music in the 1940s, working n a succession of big bands and country and western bands. He also worked on film soundtrack sessions and played in the San Francisco Opera.

Cassidy spent the 1950s working playing with jazz artists such as Art Pepper, Roland Kirk and Gerry Mulligan. He joined Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder in the Rising Sons before forming the Red Roosters, in 1965, comprising of Cassidy, his stepson Randy California on guitar, Mark Andes on bass, and singer Jay Ferguson.

They changed their name to Spirit, added keyboards man John Locke and joined L.A. music impresario Lou Adler, releasing their debut album ‘Spirit’ in 1968. They followed the album up with ‘The Family That Plays Together’ in the same year.

In 1969 they opened for Led Zeppelin and a year later released the classic album  ‘Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus,’ following which the band fell apart.

Cassidy continued with Spirit until Randy California died in a drowning accident in Hawaii in 1997.

He continued to play with surf musician Merrell Fankhauser until he retired from performing. In later years he was also involved in acting, appearing in ’2010′ and ‘The Escape Artist’ on the big screen, and twice in minor roles on the television soap opera ‘General Hospital.’

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