DO YOUR THING
In the late Sixties, as the LP began to eclipse the single as the ideal vehicle for musical expression, the private presses rolled on, stamping out the changing underground sounds of thousands of unknowns onto slabs of black plastic: rickety garage bands, psychedelic visionaries, hardrockers, hippie folkies, drug-addled loners, blue-eyed soul men, hotel lounge losers; you name it. Talent was optional. Marketability was not an issue. Anyone with a few hundred bucks, a handful of songs, and a dream could be a recording artist. In the do-it-yourself universe there are no rules and no quality control, only the constraints of a limited budget or a limited imagination. While some of these underground artists had genuine aspirations of commercial success, most–like so many of their antecedents–were motivated only by the drive to create something of their own, a musical document to mark a time, a place, a face, a moment of existence–a message in a bottle that may or may not ever be found, opened or understood . . .
In some cases it may be a quality as elusive and intangible as atmosphere, a pervasive strangeness, a raw excitement in the delivery, or an uncalculated purity in the songwriting. In other, more rare, instances something genuinely brilliant and inspired is unearthed, a work so perfectly realized that the listener is left wondering how on earth the world passed it by.
– Mike Stax, Ugly Things Magazine, August 2006
Foreword, THE ACID ARCHIVES – Second Edition
I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR YOUR STORY
As with any story, it is important to understand its origins – to reveal the reasons why particular individuals end up meeting and forming a connection that, in time, builds and blossoms into an unbreakable union and, through that union and friendship, they create a unique statement, a singular work of art that, from humble beginnings, reaches out and, over time, becomes celebrated, albeit to a small but growing community. This is how such legends begin …
Ken Kusudo: My biggest musical influences first and foremost have been my sisters: Jo Ann, seven years older, by virtue of her violin playing, and Kathy, five years older, who introduced me to the guitar, folk music, musical theater, and the classics.
I think I was still in elementary school when Kathy began taking guitar lessons. She would show me what she was learning, so I practiced her lessons. (Years later I studied classical guitar with her teacher.) Kathy was fully engulfed in the folk music of the time: The Kingston Trio, The Chad Mitchell Trio, The New Christy Minstrels, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Joe & Eddie; but there was also surf music in the house. I remember playing Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” on my acoustic sunburst Regal guitar.
I will be forever grateful to Kathy for taking me to my first live concert: Peter, Paul & Mary. What older sister would take her kid brother to a concert with her friends? Seeing and hearing Peter, Paul & Mary perform was key to me wanting to play folk music. I’m not sure at the time that I truly appreciated or could define what impressed me about their music, but I soon was trying to play guitar like Peter and Paul and was absolutely enthralled by the intermingling of those three voices.
I probably listened to Peter, Paul & Mary more than any other group, all their albums up to “Album 1700” that introduced John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”. Other folk groups included The Modern Folk Quartet, The Chad Mitchell Trio, Joe & Eddie, and The New Christy Minstrels. Later, I listened intently to Simon & Garfunkel’s albums “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” and “Bookends” along with Tim Buckley’s “Good-Bye and Hello”.
As far as guitar playing, I was drawn to Paul Simon, Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Donovan for finger-picking, and to Tim Buckley for both hard driving (“I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain”) and easy going (“Wings” and “Once I Was”) strumming.
When I was a little older and able to drive a car, Jeff and I saw Simon & Garfunkel with the Buckinghams in concert. At that time, it was simply Simon and Garfunkel singing with Paul playing the guitar. Paul Simon is such a good guitarist; we were mesmerized by his accomplishments. Their props included two stools and a waist-high rectangular table on which Simon laid his Guilds.
At the Hollywood Bowl we saw Simon & Garfunkel and The Lovin’ Spoonful. I’m sure we saw others on various occasions, but I can’t remember them. At the Troubadour we saw Tim Buckley, Hedge & Donna, Canned Heat, and Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. I seem to recall Buckley coming on stage and announcing “I have ten songs, two for you and eight for me.”
At the local university we again saw Tim Buckley and later Ian & Sylvia, who introduced the crowd to Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game”. It was the first time l had ever heard of her or her songs. What an introduction. At the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Jeff and I saw Moby Grape, Country Joe and the Fish, Blue Cheer, and United States of America, all in the same night.
Jeff Worth also recalls his early life and influences:
My earliest musical influences were members of my family, along with Laurel and Hardy and Al Jolson. I grew up in a musical family. My grandparents played and wrote music; my father sang and played the bass in a local band; and my older brother was in several folk groups. I knew I wanted to be a participant and not just part of the audience.
After retiring, my grandparents wrote music and bought a sheet music copy machine to send their transcribed songs along with their recordings to hopefully interest friends in the entertainment business. They wrote and recorded love songs, songs about Hawaii, holiday songs, and even political campaign songs. Music was their passion. I have only one of the records they made – a 45 rpm, entitled “Nixon for President”, recorded at H R Recording Studios on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. I’m sorry that this is the only one. Fortunately, however, along with that one old recording, I also have my grandfather’s ukulele.
Pop radio was also an influence; but even more significant was my older brother. Just as with Ken and the influence of his sister Kathy, my brother, who was in a folk group, introduced me to Simon & Garfunkel and Phil Ochs. We also loved Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Donovan, Joni Mitchell, and Tim Buckley.
Ironically, a few years earlier, I thought I hated folk music. My brother’s group played songs by The Kingston Trio and The Brothers Four, and I didn’t care for that. It was after a field trip with a youth group to a folk festival in Los Angeles hosted by Guy Carawan that I became an immediate convert. That college concert was a small version of the folk festivals at Newport.
I then began going to clubs like the Golden Bear and the Troubadour, and to university venues to see artists that were a great influence. I was able to enjoy the live music of Ian and Sylvia, Peter, Paul & Mary, Judy Collins, Doc Watson, Odetta, Tim Buckley, Canned Heat, the Incredible String Band, Moby Grape, and Donovan. My favorite albums of that era included the artists I just mentioned along with the Beatles and Bob Dylan.
I asked Ken to recount how he and Jeff first met and became a musical duo:
I first met Jeff on a crowded school bus in Riverside, California at the beginning of a new school year in 1960. I was in the third grade, and he was in the fourth – a cocky but likable kid who looked a little fuzzy because of his blond hair. That day, searching for a seat, he picked me out of the crowd, the only Asian kid on the bus. “Hey, do your parents own a nursery?” His grandparents were regular customers at my parents’ nursery, and he made the logical connection. “Yes,” I said. That was just about all we would say to one another for the next several years. It wasn’t until we were both in junior high school that we would strike up a lifelong friendship.
Independently, we started playing the guitar about the time we each graduated from elementary school (1963 and 1964). I think the first song I played for an audience was Donovan’s “To Try For The Sun” during an evening event at my junior high school. I must have been about 13.
About a year later, Jeff and I were asked by a mutual friend to be part of a quartet – four junior high school kids playing three acoustic guitars and a gut-bucket bass – strumming and plucking what few tunes we all knew. It didn’t last more than two or three practice sessions, but at least now Jeff and I knew the other played guitar pretty well – each with an older sibling who also played guitar and listened to the revitalized American folk music of Peter, Paul & Mary, The Kingston Trio, and others.
Within the next year (1966) I ran into Jeff at an arts workshop sponsored by the City of Riverside. To this day, he remembers that I played “Elizabeth”, a song that I had written when I was 14 or 15. I had read the book “A Patch of Blue” and had seen the movie, starring Elizabeth Hartman and Sidney Poitier. I was so captivated by the actress and her character, I was inspired to write the song. I was filled with adolescent angst at the time, and it shows.
Jeff and I were still not a duo, just casual acquaintances. However, Jeff was so drawn to “Elizabeth” that he wanted to make his own contribution to the song. It was at that point, according to Jeff, that we became “Kusudo & Worth”. The friendship further bonded when we realized that our guitar playing also had stylistic similarities – finger-picking – as we each tried to mimic the finger styles of a new breed to folk players like Paul Simon and Donovan. We then attempted to achieve a wider tonal range by copying the technique of Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul & Mary) with one guitar capoed higher on the neck than the other, playing in the same key but fingering different chords.
I think the next song was “The Gull”, which we composed together one morning while visiting Jeff’s brother in Los Angeles. It happened rather quickly, in one sitting, I think. We were inspired by a short film called “A Dream of Wild Horses” we had seen the night before.
I don’t believe we were performing yet. About this time we were developing a Peter, Paul & Mary thing with a girl, a classmate of mine in 1967. I must have been in the ninth grade, and Jeff, one year older and in high school, was just starting to drive. The girl didn’t last too long because her father didn’t want his daughter hanging out with two lowlifes like ourselves. So we became a duo, performing at a few school assemblies and for a few church youth groups.
Then Richard Krieb entered the picture. That’s when original songs started to happen in fairly rapid succession: “For You”, “Song to a Pelican” and “Of Sun and Rain”. I was also writing independently: “Something From Nowhere” and “Bittersweet”.
Richard had been a high school classmate of my sister Kathy, and he was an older brother of a good friend of mine. Richard had the reputation of being the resident brain and was in his third year of university studies on the fast-track to becoming a scientist, mathematician, or engineer. I never thought of him as anything other than a dedicated academic. Because his youngest brother and I were so close, I was at the Krieb house often.
Richard picks up the unlikely story:
My entry into the K&W adventure was indeed quite remarkable – life-altering, in fact. It was 1967, and I was nearing the end of my junior year at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) majoring in math – with my goals firmly set on becoming an aerospace engineer. However, this all changed one improbable, fateful afternoon …
I was sitting in my bedroom at my family’s home, dutifully doing my homework (as usual) when I heard the beguiling strains of an acoustic guitar coming from my youngest brother’s bedroom down the hall. I had to investigate. There was Ken Kusudo, one of my brother’s good friends, playing his Martin D35. Ken explained that he was getting together with another pal (Jeff Worth) to write and play folk songs. Ken went on to say that they were composing some melodies that did not yet have lyrics. From out of nowhere, I offered to write lyrics for them. I had absolutely no related experience whatsoever – no creative writing nor playing any sort of instrument. I was a straight-arrow math-scientist. But there I was, volunteering to write lyrics for folk songs.
Up to that point, I had been the consummate compliant son and student who continued to exemplify the middle-class conformity that had characterized the Fifties. But from that moment on, I found myself flowering day by day into a child of the Sixties. My meticulous class notebooks, flawlessly filled with formulas and calculations, now showed scribblings of poetry – fantasies of love and protestations of latent angst.
I began spending more and more time with Ken and Jeff. I would often sit in on their practice sessions (at Jeff’s grandparent’s house) and accompany them to their ever more frequent weekend gigs. All the while, I was fashioning pages and pages of proposed lyrics. My hair was getting longer, my clothes were getting scruffier, and I was getting less and less interested in my math and physics studies. I moved out of my family’s house, petitioned for a one-year leave of absence from the university (to the shock and dismay of my dear disbelieving parents) and earnestly and enthusiastically became the full-time “&” in Kusudo & Worth.
With one apprentice-like ear trained on lyrics, I immersed myself in the glorious music of the Sixties, from folk to rock – Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, Phil Ochs, Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez, Judy Collins. Joni Mitchell, Tim Buckley, Donovan, Simon & Garfunkel, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Buffalo Springfield, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape … I could go on and on. I remember trips to the Troubadour in LA; the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach to see Tim Buckley; to the Hollywood Bowl for a Lovin’ Spoonful and Simon & Garfunkel concert; to some tiny club in the Laguna Beach-San Juan Capistrano area to see a very young and relatively unknown Jackson Browne; and several drives through Laurel Canyon in hopes of meeting, or at least catching a glimpse of, a musical hero.
Once liberated from my predictable, conventional, compliant life, I entered into the seductively insubordinate, idiosyncratic Sixties counterculture. While not demonstratively active politically, I did become sensitized and “radicalized” with regard to prevailing social issues. Within that tumultuous mileu, my two years with K&W were wondrously new and exciting. Along with a constant creative-collaborative “high” came a steady stream of performances in an ever-widening circle of coffee houses and clubs, college campuses, high school assemblies and progressive churches. Gaining a growing following, we even had the audacity, on two separate occasions, to rent a large auditorium for full-blown concerts. We were overwhelmed by the avid response. Newspaper articles were written, and it was all quite thrilling.
Ken explains the joint songwriting process:
So Richard, Jeff, and I began collaborating on songs. Usually Jeff or I would devise a chord progression and melody to Richard’s lyrics. He’d come to either of us at any time of the day or night. I had always thought he simply came to whomever was available or awake at the time. Later I learned that he shared his more “Dylanesque” lyrics with me – those with an edge or some tension – while softer, gentler words and themes – more “Donovanesque” – were given to Jeff. For example, he wrote some lyrics one gray and rainy day when he was feeling a bit melancholy. Late that night he brought them to me, hoping a song might emerge and lift his spirits. We sat at the kitchen table. I strummed the guitar ever so quietly and, almost whispering the words, I voiced a melody while hoping not to wake my parents. In less than half an hour, we had “Of Sun and Rain”.
But Richard’s instincts for aligning lyrics with the most compatible musical sensibility are best realized in “For You”. It’s my favorite love song because it’s truly about love. Real love. It shows that even a broken heart can go on loving the person who, knowingly or unknowingly, has broken it. And Jeff’s melody so aptly reflects the spirit and sentiment of the words. I think it’s a brilliant collaboration.
Sometimes a song just had to unfold with each of us simultaneously in his own dream, crafting his own piece of the music – Jeff finding a theme while arpeggiating chords, Richard changing lyrics to fit the cadence, and me shaping a counter-lyric and melody. When it worked, it all came together, and we had a song like “Love Is Naught”.
So for most of the songs, we each brought our own dish to the buffet. Once the basic song – melody, chord progression, and lyrics – found its home, Jeff and I would play it over and over again, searching for the most effective vocal and instrumental arrangement. But often there were surprises. None of us can recall, for example, what possessed Jeff to tune his guitar to an open D modal chord, slap a magnetic pick-up on his Martin D-21, plug it into a Fender amp, and slide a harmonica across the strings for “I Would Like to Hear Your Story”. We had been listening to Tim Buckley at the time, but I don’t remember that technique being part of the Buckley repertoire.
Richard also recalls their collaboration:
What I remember with greatest fondness were our little collaborative sessions. I would visit either Ken or Jeff with a sheet of new lyrics. If the words projected a rather playful, peaceful, cheerful mood, I headed over to Jeff’s house. On the other hand, if the lyrics painted a more somber or vexing theme, I would drive to the Kusudo home. That’s when pure magic would happen! Both Ken and Jeff were quite extraordinary in their ability to read over the words, play something on the guitar, and – presto – start singing a brand new song! For me, it was “instant gratification” and a rapturous experience! The subsequent arranging, practicing, performing, and recording for the album – all combined to produce more enjoyment than any human should be allowed to have!
I seem to remember one of our collaborative adventures being quite unique. The three of us decided one summer evening to experience a touch of Hollywood and a rambling sampling of Sunset Boulevard. We booked a room in some cheap motel and then joined the sidewalking swarms of kids and tourists – our late night highlighted by the listening booths at Wallichs Music City (which stayed open until 2am). At least one guitar had been brought along just in case we got inspired. Sure enough, after we returned to the motel room, a new song entitled “In My Town” soon appeared out of nowhere.
With a growing repertoire and confidence in their musical abilities, Kusudo & Worth began to play live locally on a regular basis, as Jeff and Ken recall:
Jeff: Ken and I started getting asked to play at more and more venues. However, this led to a couple of problems – Ken’s voice was much stronger than mine and the audio equipment available at most places was poor. So we took a simple interest loan to buy a Vox P.A. system which enabled us to control our own sound and thus improve our performances for an increasing number of church youth groups, school assemblies, colleges, coffee houses, and a few clubs. We also attended a few folk society meetings, but Ken and I kept pretty much to ourselves. We even played a few parties, but the most fun was loading up the car (or Ken’s dad’s truck) with our equipment and instruments and heading out of town.
Ken: We had begun performing locally at a few school assemblies and for a few church youth groups, but mostly at the Dialogue, a small venue in the basement of the First Congregational Church in downtown Riverside, where, on Friday nights, songwriters and performers could showcase their work to an earnest and attentive audience of listeners (which included other performers waiting their turn).
It wasn’t long before we were doing small concerts and college coffee houses. Richard’s influence and encouragement led the way to many of these performances. Not only did he write lyrics, but he also acted as soundman and often drove us to the gigs. We used to somehow pack the P.A. system, three Martin Dreadnoughts, along with our three bodies into his VW Bug. Arriving at the venue, we then had to somehow untwist ourselves from our seats after a sometimes rather long journey.
Following months of increasingly frequent and more notable and wide-ranging performances, in late 1968 Kusudo & Worth conceived a plan to record their own songs and make a record.
As Ken explains:
It was the Vox P.A. system that inspired us to record our album in the winter of 1968. After too many performances depending on someone else’s shoddy sound system, we decided to purchase our own equipment. We came up with the idea of recording and selling a record of original songs in order to pay for the P.A. system. The album would also serve as a demo to shop around. Up to that point we had a few songs that we’d recorded during live performances on a portable Wollensak with a mike hanging in the middle of a room. Not only was the quality bad, but we had also recorded every conversation in the audience between or during a song. So we pre-sold about 50 albums at $5 each to finance the recording; we booked a studio and rehearsed endlessly for what we knew had to be a very short recording session.
We chose Custom Fidelity – with its small studio in West Hollywood. We knew about its recording/mastering/vinyl-pressing services because the chamber singers from my high school had also produced several albums through the same company. We didn’t know it at the time, but this particular studio was also where up-and-coming artists, like Country Joe McDonald, recorded demo albums.
At the studio, the songs were recorded in order, with no overdubbing, to minimize editing, and usually in no more than two takes. The entire process from beginning to end – from start to finished master – took no more than three hours, including a quick discussion about the content and layout of the album’s front and back covers. At $50 an hour, we couldn’t afford any more time than that. As I recall, our first pressing produced 50 albums for our pre-sale friends and followers, but then a second pressing of 50 allowed for additional sales whenever and wherever we performed. After one performance at a high school, I can picture Richard running out to his parked VW Bug to grab some albums to sell. There was another time when we rented an auditorium and sold albums at the concert.
Neither Jeff nor I remember much of that afternoon recording in Los Angeles. Jeff mostly recalls being very nervous, knowing that we could afford only so much studio time to record those ten songs. There was little time for playback or discussion, and we depended heavily on Richard to determine if our performance was passable. There was some hurried editing and mixing that could have been better had we had more time, but we didn’t.
Jeff also looks back on that experience:
We needed to make some money to pay back the loan for the P.A. gear. My grandfather had recorded a few songs that he and my grandmother had written. So, making a record seemed perfectly sensible to me, and Ken’s choice of Custom Fidelity was fine. We did the math and figured we could make the needed profit to repay the loan (which had been thankfully co-signed by my father). The cash needed to make the record was collected by way of advanced sales to schoolmates and fans who were friends. It just seemed right, and it worked.
Speaking of the record, there’s a great story of how the remarkable cover photo came to be.
Richard had done some summer work for a printing company, and he knew we needed posters for our concerts. He borrowed his father’s Kodak “Brownie” and directed his brother Larry to climb on top of a small commercial building and take a picture while Ken and I stood on the porch of this beat-up old house that we all loved – a worn out Victorian that sat behind the Dairy Queen ice cream shop. This lonely old uninhabited house was owned by a local plumber who was using it for storage. It was he who discovered us on his property that overcast morning and asked us what we were doing. I recall Larry, with a broad grin on his face, matter-of-factly saying, “Taking some pictures.” The plumber’s immediate response was, “Get outta here!” Fortunately, Larry had already snapped a few shots, so our favorite one was made into a poster – with some blank space under the picture for us to felt-pen information in regarding our next performance. When an album cover was needed – that photo (which had originated as a tiny two-inch square negative) was a natural.
I asked Ken, Jeff, and Richard whether there was any forethought regarding the album’s song order.
Ken: I don’t remember the reasoning behind the ordering, but each side seems to build to a powerful climax. We may have opened with “Elizabeth” because it was the first song we played as Kusudo & Worth and also one with which our listeners identified us.
Jeff: I also don’t recall just how we decided on the order of the songs for the album. Most decisions were made by the three of us after some discussion, but Richard and Ken generally had stronger opinions.
Richard: For me, the process of ordering the ten songs on the album was great fun – a multidimensional puzzle to be solved. Remember, we were dealing with an old-fashioned vinyl record, with two sides. We wanted five songs on each side. We wanted the two sides to be of similar length. We wanted the first song on each side to be extra inviting. We wanted the last song on each side to be extra powerful, with some sort of crescendo. We wanted Ken’s voice and Jeff’s voice to be distributed as evenly as possible. We wanted each side to have both “heavier” and “lighter” songs. We considered “Elizabeth” to be the perfect “extra inviting” song to begin the album. “The Gull” was also an appealing candidate, so it was designated to start off the second side. “I Would Like to Hear Your Story” provided a super crescendo for Side 1, and “Of Sun and Rain” completed the album with its own dramatic ramp up. Plus, “Of Sun and Rain” was deemed the ideal title song for the album due to its overarching theme of all that life encompasses.
The release of the album OF SUN AND RAIN (CFS-1882) was in December 1968, which has been confirmed by Mike Stax of “Ugly Things” – the essential U.S. music magazine that published the fascinating story of Custom Fidelity Records in Issue 42 with an in-depth interview with founder Dave Berkus who advised that the Custom Fidelity catalogue numbers were coded. According to Mike, the catalogue number A12LA983 confirms that this was a December 1968 release and Custom Fidelity’s 983rd record produced. Of course there was no official release. It has also been confirmed that a second pressing of the album was made soon thereafter. Little did anyone know at that time how highly regarded and greatly sought after this record would become in the following years.
As part of his Custom Fidelity Records article, Mike Stax also championed OF SUN AND RAIN, and I provided the quotes from Kusudo & Worth. I wholly recommend that you seek out and read this excellent exposé in “Ugly Things” Issue 42.
Curiously, I inquired as to the three collaborators’ choices for possible singles (even though none were ever released):
Ken: I think “The Gull” would have been most appropriate as a single. It’s short enough and includes both of us singing and playing. The instrumentation is also representative of our style of play.
Jeff: My choices for singles would have been “Of Sun and Rain” and “The Gull”.
Richard: In my opinion, “The Gull” and “Elizabeth” both would have made excellent singles.
Almost like asking parents to choose a favorite child, I asked the guys to name their favorite song(s) on the album:
Ken: My favorite song is “For You”. I remember in the studio, after Jeff recorded the song, one of the engineers marveled at the delicate lyrics and thematic conceit. Another noteworthy song is “Mill Valley Woodlands” for the lyrics and the celebratory nature of the tune. While I wish we would have had the luxury of more time to record, edit, mix and master each song, I can find redeeming qualities in each song. “I Would Like to Hear Your Story” is provocative and experimental. “Of Sun and Rain” has a nice arrangement. “Love Is Naught” demonstrates some creative voicing and guitar playing. I appreciate “Elizabeth” for what is is: the honest expression of adolescent angst and longing.
Jeff: My favorite songs from the album are “Of Sun and Rain”, “The Gull”, and “Love is Naught”.
Richard: While I certainly admire each and every song, my three favorites are “The Gull”, “Mill Valley Woodlands”, and “Of Sun and Rain”. “The Gull” is splendid in every way – beautiful melody, superb dynamics and musicianship/vocals, with excellent lyrics. Plus, it was a wonderful and memorable collaborative experience for Ken and Jeff. On a trip to the Bay Area, which included an informal gig at UC Berkeley, the three of us got to spend a little time in Mill Valley/Muir Woods. The vibe was so happy and harmonious, it was a joy to memorialize in song.
When I brought the lyrics to Jeff, I remember asking him to create the music in a Joni Mitchell tuning. And then came Ken’s marvelous double-reed harmonica accompaniment. I still love to listen to “Mill Valley Woodlands” and be sublimely transported back to those halcyon “hippie days” in Marin County (where I would find myself living a couple years later). Finally, I consider “Of Sun and Rain” to be a musical masterpiece that lends powerful poignancy to the lyrics.
On into 1969, with an album to promote, Kusudo & Worth looked at various ways to elevate their profile and navigate their future.
Jeff: UCR had its own radio station that played our music every now and then. The album also received some FM play on a couple of hip LA stations along with a few other college stations as well.
What a thrill to hear our music played along with songs by well-known performers who were so influential in our lives. We performed several times at “The Barn” (an old horse stable that had become a funky on-campus live folk music hub).
And then, most notably, we were booked for a concert on April 19, 1969 in the University Theater – an evening which included comedy by a very young up-and-coming Steve Martin and a set by folk singer Steve Gillette, who I’ve been told brought John Hartford with him.
Ken: With the album finished, we experienced the pitfalls of having to deal with the run-arounds of “management” and even a few of the rather depraved aspects of the recording industry. What we discovered was a weird world of exaggerated plans and empty promises. A would-be manager and promoter assured us a record contract and an appearance on the Tonight Show as “the next Simon & Garfunkel.” He tried to get us to bolster our commercial appeal by handing us a song that compared life to a merry-go-round. The song was very pop and terribly corny; and besides, Joni Mitchell had already written and performed “The Circle Game” – the quintessential song about life and carousels. On one strange occasion, an L.A. music producer’s son had promised us a meeting with his father, but first he wanted us to join him on a visit to a nudist camp, Then there was the time we were taken to a popular radio and television personality’s home to audition our music, but it didn’t take long before we were hurried off because he had a “guest” in his bedroom, and he found our songs “depressing”. All in all, we experienced enough disillusionment and moral bankruptcy hidden in the shadows that we had no desire to participate.
We began to inform potential “managers” that we “weren’t ready.” Besides, we had never had any grand illusion about being the next Simon & Garfunkel, and we became increasingly convinced that our real ambition and joy was simply to create music.
Alas, life brings changes …
Ken: Kusudo & Worth, as we had come to know it, was coming to an end. We performed at regional concerts, a couple of peace rallies, and kept doing sets at the Dialogue until Jeff, a month after graduating from high school, eloped with Michele, his high school sweetheart, in July 1969. From that point, I planned on becoming a teacher, Richard was off to San Francisco to start a rock band, and Jeff, with Michele, had decided to tend his grandparent’s orange grove in California’s Central Valley.
Fortunately, Kusudo & Worth lives on …
Ken: Finding ourselves both back in Riverside in the mid-1980s, Jeff and I considered reigniting Kusudo & Worth. We even bought new Martins. But rather than focus on music, we began gardening and landscaping together. While Jeff has continued on as a master gardener, I got into teaching – six years of sixth grade, followed by composition and developmental English at two local colleges. Richard also became a teacher, enjoying a terrific career that included kindergarten and elementary school Gifted and Talented Education, and now involves university-level ESL online. I must also mention that he has published three children’s picture books (as Mr Krieb) and continues to add to a lifetime collection of his own songs.
Over the years, Jeff and I have fortunately found time to once again play together. While live performances have been rare, we eventually began meeting weekly to record at a friend’s home studio. It’s been like our lodge meeting or bowling night out. We’ve recently finished mixing some favorite early songs of Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Paxton, and Tim Buckley. We’ve also recorded new arrangements of several traditional folk songs and a couple other tunes from the Sixties: “Walk Away Renee” and “Suicide Is Painless”. We’re not sure where all this is going, but we are having a wonderful time hanging out and making music, just like the old days. In August 2015, Jeff and I gave a little concert outdoors at a local restaurant.
We’ve done some mixing of the live recording and are happy to have the evening documented. Listening to the recording, I like the simplicity of our style. I think this minimalist approach to our music represents our shared artistic sensibility and who we are.
To sum up, it is my opinion that OF SUN AND RAIN stands shoulder to shoulder alongside the known folk classics of the late 60s and early 70s, including Simon & Garfunkel, Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, and Donovan, amongst others. The music of Kusudo & Worth shares the same aching romanticism and heartfelt personal intensity of these classics and yet mirrors none of them – their sound and voice is unique. Like the best of that era, this 1968 Kusudo & Worth album features extraordinarily strong material and works as a seamless, artistic whole. That this was the work of sixteen and seventeen year old amateur musicians with no professional production, and recorded, edited, mixed, and mastered in just under three hours is utterly staggering. I do not believe I am alone in heralding OF SUN AND RAIN as a lost classic.
I would like to sincerely thank Ken Kusudo, Jeff Worth, and Richard Krieb for sharing their music and their memories.