The Kid Rocks Out
In the fall of 1965 a friend asked me if I’d like to join him in forming a rock band. America was in the throes of the British Invasion, and English rock groups like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and the Animals were blowing minds everywhere. The folk community was deeply — and acrimoniously — divided between those whose imagination had been captured by this new development (including our greatest hero, Bob Dylan) and those to whom any kind of music made with amplified instruments was anathema. I sided with the first faction and promptly went out and made a down payment on an electric guitar. The following spring our new group, called the Candymen — later renamed Cat’s Cradle — made its debut.

After Cat’s Cradle broke up, early in 1967, I helped form a band called the Mandrake Memorial with Craig Anderton (guitar, sitar and electronics, and yes, I’m talking about that Craig Anderton), John Kevin Lally (drums) and Randy Monaco (bass and lead vocals). When we started out we were a garden-variety four-piece band: two guitars, bass and drums. And we were pretty good. But a chance occurrence was about to transform us from a good band of an ordinary kind into a much better band of a completely new kind. We got a visit one day from a sales rep for a company called Rocky Mount Instruments, which had recently created a prototype instrument that could electronically simulate the sound of a harpsichord but at a volume level that made it usable in a rock context. Would we be interested in trying it out? What did we have to lose? Sure, we said.

It quickly became apparent that this strange new contraption, the RMI Rock-Si-Chord (an awful name for a pretty cool gadget), would give us something nobody else had. As the only member of the group who knew how to play a keyboard instrument, I became the Mandrake’s Rock-Si-Chordist. I thought I’d left keyboard playing behind forever, but now suddenly I found myself involved with it again, only this time with a seriousness and dedication way beyond anything I’d shown in my younger years.

In the fall of ’67 we signed a deal with Poppy Records, part of the MGM family, and released our first album in the spring of ’68. A followup record, ‘Medium’, came out the following year. A third and final Mandrake album called ‘Puzzle’ was released in 1970, but by that time I had left the group.

For a brief period — spring and summer of 1969 — I performed as half of a duo with Linda Cohen, a classically trained guitarist who was, like me in my keyboard player persona, interested in bringing the worlds of classical and popular music together. For a while Linda and I were out on the circuit as the world’s foremost — which is to say only — classical-pop fusion guitar-harpsichord duo. Unfortunately, we couldn’t sustain the partnership (though we found our way back to each other later). We parted ways and I decided to retire from active professional involvement in music. (With great sadness I have to add that Linda is no longer with us. Her death in January of 2009 put an end to a remarkable career and a lifelong friendship.)