The Rising Sons

The Rising Sons literally formed within the walls of the Ash Grove. All five of the musicians were young regulars, who had spent countless hours studying the music and performances of the older folk and blues artists. Ry Cooder, then 18 years old, had been frequenting the Ash Grove for several years, partnering up with the likes of Jackie DeShannon and Pamela Polland as a frequent opening act at the venue. Taj Mahal, who had just turned 23, had journeyed from Massachusetts with his friend, Jesse Lee Kincaid, a few years prior and had also become Ash Grove regulars. Needing a rhythm section, Cooder and Mahal recruited two additional regulars, bassist Gary Marker and the significantly older jazz drummer, Ed Cassidy, who had worked with Cannonball Adderly, Thelonious Monk, and Roland Kirk, among others. (With his stepson, Randy California, Cassidy would later form the band Spirit.) Then going by the stage name, Cass StrangeDrums, Cassidy would leave the group following a hand injury, being replaced by future drummer for the Byrds, Kevin Kelly. By the time the group recorded their 1966 sessions for Columbia Records, Kelly had already replaced Cassidy, so the original Rising Sons were thought to have never been recorded—that is until now!

Although the group's repertoire primarily consisted of cover material by the older artists they admired, their eclectic mix of blues, folk, and anything else that tickled their collective fancy clearly anticipated the development of psychedelic rock music. The following year, new groups like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, who were also young folk, blues, and traditional music fans, would mine similar territory, creating the so-called "San Francisco Sound," that would fuel dance halls like the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom.

To say the Rising Sons were ahead of their time is a major understatement, as few knew what to make of the band at this time. Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder were young scholars of traditional blues and folk music, but now they were embracing electric guitars! This recording was still two months prior to Bob Dylan's electric debut at Newport, and the Rising Sons were already heading in a similar direction. This, along with the fact that the Sons were an integrated group, pretty much sealed their fate. Racial prejudice was undoubtedly a factor that prevented the group from becoming more successful. Fearing trouble, few booking agents or club owners would hire bands of mixed ethnicity in 1965. So, the Rising Sons never strayed far from home and became what could be considered the "house band" at the Ash Grove.

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