Classic Rock

Saying Goodbye to Ed Cassidy, Spirit’s “Mr Skin”

by Lee Gonnella on December 31, 2012

It’s a brand new year, but before we move on, I’d like to say good-bye to Ed Cassidy.

If you lived in the classic rock era, among your records was at least one Spirit album, “The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus“.  No decent record collection was complete without it.    It was record that mixed psychedelic rock with jazz, folk, and Indian music, and still stands up today.  It is with great respect and sadness that we say goodbye to Spirit’s drummer, Ed Cassidy, who passed away at the age of 89 on December 6th.

Ed Cassidy could be the answer to any number of trivia questions involving music.  He started out playing jazz before and after a Navy stint in WWII, playing with such greats as Chet Baker and Cannonball Adderly.  He was the original drummer the Rising Sons with Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder.  His life and that of his step-son would change forever when Ed moved his family to New York City in 1966.

While Ed was immersed in New York’s jazz scene, his step-son Randy was jamming with a young Jimi Hendrix.  Randy was soon a member of “Jimmy James and the Blue Flames” and would for the rest of his life go by the nickname Hendrix had bestowed on him, Randy California.   When Hendrix was “discovered” by Chas Chandler and whisked off to England, young Randy was left behind.  He had been however, heavily and forever influenced by his time with Hendrix…..

After the family returned to California, 16 year old Randy California reunited with former band-mates Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes to form SPIRIT.  On the drum kit, with the shaved head, was his 44 year old step-father, Ed Cassidy, nick-named “Mr Skin” for his trade-mark hair-less dome, which back then was certainly unusual (Kojak and Mr. Clean being exceptions).

The original Spirit line-up recorded a handful of seminal albums, including “The Family that Plays Together…“,  before breaking up right after releasing “Dr. Sardonicus”.  That album would eventually go gold and become a cult favorite.  Spirit would survive in different incantations, until Randy California’s tragic drowning in Hawaii in 1997.  The one constant in all Spirit albums was the drumming of Ed Cassidy.


Spirit were one the  greatly under-rated bands of their time, and highly influential for their forays into World music.  For Hendrix fans like me, they were a direct line back to Jimi.  Randy California even looked a bit like Hendix, and never stopped giving him credit.

Rest in peace, Mr. Skin.




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