|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Genres||Psychedelic rock, psychedelic folk, world, country|
(Reunions in 1976 and 1990)
|Past members||David Lindley|
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, and Chris Darrow who later performed and recorded with a number of groups including the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
The group was formed in 1966. The original members were:
- David Lindley (born March 21, 1944, Los Angeles, California)
- Solomon Feldthouse (born January 20, 1940, Pingree, Idaho)
- Chris Darrow (born July 30, 1944, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, died January 15, 2020)
- Chester Crill (a.k.a. Max Budda, Max Buda, Fenrus Epp, Templeton Parcely) (born Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
- John Vidican (born 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. 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.
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.
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 and the Family Dog at The Avalon Ballroom (San Francisco) 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.
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 Lightning", 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 Kaleidoscope as his "favourite band of all time."  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.
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.
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.
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.
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 joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band after Kaleidoscope and later 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, "The Magid Chronicles," was released in 2019. He is also a regular instructor at KlezCalifornia and KlezKanada, and other ethnic music gatherings.
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.
- According to Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery, that band's recording of "O Death" on their album Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart was intended as a tribute to Kaleidoscope.
- Side Trips (1967)
- A Beacon from Mars (1968)
- Incredible! Kaleidoscope (1969)
- Bernice (1970)
- When Scopes Collide (1976)
- Greetings from Kartoonistan... (We Ain't Dead Yet) (1991)
- Bacon from Mars (1983) (compilation)
- Rampe, Rampe (1983) (compilation)
- Egyptian Candy (A Collection) (1990) (compilation)
- Beacon from Mars & Other Psychedelic Side Trips (2004) (compilation)
- Pulsating Dreams (2004) (compilation of the four Epic albums and other recordings of that period)
- "Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest History". Topangabanjofiddle.org. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- "Kaleidoscope". Pulsatingdream.com. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- "The Rise and Fall of the Neoprene Lizards - The Kaleidoscope Story". Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved July 4, 2010.
- "Chris Darrow's website". Home.earthlink.net. Archived from the original on 25 March 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- Biasotti, David (2010). "Kaleidoscope". In Pulsating Dreams: The Epic Recordings [CD booklet]. London: Floating World Records.
- "Paul Lagos". Api.discogs.com. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- "Noted Claremont artist Chris Darrow dies at 75", January 16, 2020. Retrieved January 17, 2020
- "Chris Darrow interview on Outsight Radio Hours". Archive.org. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- Fricke, David (19 May 1988). "Camper Van Beethoven's Notes from the Underground". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 8 November 2018.