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February 20: Play the Blues

Lawrence Bush
February 20, 2010

Blues guitarists collage smThree great electric guitarists were born on this date: John Geils (J. Geils Band) in 1946, Walter Becker (Steely Dan) in 1950, and Randy California (Spirit) in 1951. The latter two were neighbors as kids in Forest Hills, New York, where Randy helped Walter learn to play the blues. Randy California (born Randy Wolfe) received his stage name from Jimi Hendrix, with whom he was playing at age 15. When Hendrix was invited to perform in England, Randy’s parents would not let him go on the tour. Randy California drowned in the ocean while trying to rescue his 12-year-old son Quinn from a rip current near the home of his mother at Molokai, Hawaii. Before he drowned, Randy managed to push Quinn toward the shore, and the boy survived. To see old man J. Geils playing “Lonely Boy Blues” with Duke Robillard and Gerry Beaudoin (J. Geils is on the left), look below. To see Randy California making like Hendrix on Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” look further down.
“Now I can hardly hear you anymore
Your eyes are empty and your voice is hollow
I see you waving from a distant shore
And where you’re going I don’t dare to follow” —Walter Becker, “Junkie Girl”

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.