html> Musicians


By Ramon Sender:
Musicians at Wheeler's -- well, that was just about everybody! But there were the great talents, like Josh (Cliff) Fitzsooth who played a 'righty' guitar 'lefty' with the most amazing results. I basically learned to blues jam on the accordion playing with Josh. And of course there was Moses/Alan with his portable marimba and various recorders, always ready for a music session. Moses and I shared an interest in simple melodies that remained within a three-chord matrix, so that anybody could learn them quickly. "La Bamba" was one of Moses' favorites. And then there was Willie B., master guitarist and singer. Most well-remembered for me is his "I Can Sing About Anything" song, in which people take turns making up a verse (singing about anything), which I also believe is the genesis of the true blues style. And Drummer Dan Moore, whose talents with everything percussive also included bells and, in more recent times, the most amazing singing crystals. Who else? Steve McGee, of course, a consummate musician-friend of Moses' who moved on the land -- and is now a talented painter selling well in NYC. I hesitate to continue naming names for the fear of missing some major ones, such as Snakepit Eddie, a truly gifted jazz saxophonist who brings to mind the likes of the great Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Snakepit also goes down in tribal herstory as the capable president of the Ahimsa Church who convinced Sonoma County officialdom of the Ridgefolks' right to food stamps. Right on, Snakepit! I believe the fierce glow in his eyes, the righteousness of his mission and his amazing 'do' (front top of head shaved bare) might have helped the food stamp lady make up her mind. But I'm drifting off-topic. Suffice it to say that music was created afresh every day. Somewhere I think there must be some reel-to-reel tapes made on Moses' fancy portable recorder, but exactly where I have no ken.
Alicia Bay Laurel as a strolling twelve-string guitarist singing her own songs created a special presence on the Ridge. Songs such as "Onward, Onward Ever Flow," "Thanksgiving Song" and "In The Morning" all derive from the pre-publication of "Living On The Earth" era. With her return from a book tour at the end of 1970 and the formation of The Sheep Ridge Band, Alicia took up playing the acoustic bass guitar, a customized instrument that added a much-needed lower dimension to the clustered guitars.

Ramon Sender (by Alicia Bay Laurel)
Wheeler's and Morningstar hosted a wonderful and unique community music, courtesy of Ramon Sender, who, as you may or may not know, was an avant-garde composer of some repute before he devoted himself to yoga and sun worship. He has a masters degree in composing from Mills College, co-founded the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the early 60's with fellow composers Mort Subotnick, Pauline Oliveros and Terry Riley, and was one of the co-inventors of the first synthesizer built on the West Coast with audio engineer Don Buchla and Mort Subotnick (invented simultaneously with the Moog synthesizer on the East Coast). He was the first person ever to play a synthesizer with a rock and roll band--with Big Brother and the Holding Company at the San Francisco Trips Music Festival in January 1966. Mills College still puts on performances of Ramon's pieces from time to time. Ramon's degree centered on modes (musical scales), and what he created at the communes was an extension of this work. He removed the "machines" (chord keys) from five autoharps, and tuned them to identical pentatonic scales. This made it possible for an entire group of people--musicians, wannabe musicians, children, stoned-beyond-comprehension people--to make music together without any out-of-tune notes or needed references to rhythm patterns. Ramon did not hoard the instruments, but encouraged people to take them home, play them, and bring them to the next event. He kept his piano tuning hammer in his pocket and re-tuned the autoharps whenever they recirculated to a gathering on the land. On top of these droning pentatonic scales, spiritual songs were sung, and the occasional instrumentalist who could stay in the mode would join in--on flute or guitar, usually. Sometimes Ramon had other instruments that fit in the drone orchestra--bowl gongs, whistles, bells. As one who participated in the drone orchestra, I can say that the experience was totally enchanting at any state of consciousness.


The Land The Houses The People The Kids The Music The Steams The Hassles The End Daze Links Sitemap Guest