CRYSTAL SYPHON # 1 (since 1967)
Jeff Sanders, Jim Sanders, Tom Salles, Dave Spinkel, Roger Henry, Andy Daniel
As the San Francisco bands and culture caught local attention, The Morelochs started to write and play original music. They decided to change their name to Crystal Syphon.
I don’t really know how we made up the name. Being in the midst of the rediscovery of oriental philosophies, spells, talismans and costume jewelry, Crystal was not the name of a street drug in the 1960s. Many of my freethinking friends at the time had immersed themselves in books on the lost continent of Atlantis. According to legend and science fiction films, Atlantis has fueled their civilization with the use of crystals. The use of some kind of force with large crystals produced electricity. The physics of the old “crystal radios” and the piezoelectric electricity that powered them was a scaled-down version of the Myth. Jeff, Tom and I had grown up on farms and the idea of siphons in irrigation canals was a principle that everyone had grown up with. So, however we got the name, I always understood it as a term of physics, drawing energy from a high point of the crystal and subtracting it using a kind of pressure at a lower level. Whenever I started talking about things like that, Jeff always changed places on the sofa and sat on my right so as to return to a more rational person!! It has never worked…! (Jim Sanders)
We were looking for a name that reflected the changing aspect of the band and the ever-changing music scene. Crystal was in no way intended as a reference to the drug. I don’t think, in our relative naivety, that we knew what was called speed to in the beginning it was called crystal. (Bob Greenlee)
It is a classic to think that Summer of Love, San Francisco and Rock make a whole with drugs, yet there were bands that never – or in a truly minimal measure – approached that psychedelic way of looking at the world. One of these bands was Crystal Syphon.
The Morelochs and Crystal Syphon never did drugs as a band, except once In Orange County – that was a trip to Southern California to play some dates with a band from Fullerton (I think) maybe Wildfire – when someone dosed us all with something without our knowledge. I remember seeing some visual hallucinations when we were driving around. We went out to the coast at night and I kept thinking that I was seeing people come to the edges of some seaside bluffs as if they were getting ready to jump. I’m sure there weren’t really any people on the bluffs. Food tasted very strange. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience, except late that night it wouldn’t stop. We were in sleeping bags on someone’s living room floor. I was trying to go to sleep, but the ceiling fan kept morphing into giant spiders and things. It wasn’t scary, it was just annoying and I wanted to go to sleep. One of the things we were accused of by the the local drug crowd was that we weren’t genuine hippies because we weren’t doing drugs, and we weren’t doing drugs with them. There was truth in that. I liked the bands, the music, the politics, the new social attitudes, but drugs didn’t hold much attraction for me. (Jeff Sanders)
The drugs at the Irvine concert were some mild LSD in wine jugs being passed around the rather large crowd and some mescaline circulating back stage, which I had never taken before then. I think most of us, except Bob and Marvin took some mescaline and that led to an interesting experience akin to those described in Carlos Castenada books. Jeff’s description was very accurate. Definitely warped reality! I never took it again. (Jim Sanders)
Jeff Sanders, Jim Sanders, Tom Salles, Dave Spinkel, Bob Greenlee (bass), Andy Daniel
Around May 1967 there was the first lineup change within the Crystal Syphon. Bob Greenlee (Chicago, August 4, 1946 – January 04, 2019) went to replace bassist Roger Henry.
Roger Henry, our original bass player, seemed to be slowly losing interest. When he started reading magazines while playing songs during rehearsals, it was obvious that the time and desire to play had passed. So he went to the navy and Bob Greenlee joined the band. Andy Daniel, our original drummer, had conservative ideas. He planned to be responsible, marry and support a family. Certainly important stuff, but not compatible with the direction the band was headed. He retired and we were stuck for a while. At the time, Merced was very short on drummers. Luckily Bob’s brother Marvin Greenlee decided to become a drummer and learned to play by joining the band. (Jeff Sanders)
The dance at Sonora High School was very special, but not in a good way!
One particular high school dance was at Sonora High School. We began to play and the Principal of the school thought we were too loud. We continued to play, probably a little louder! He finally got so mad he pulled out all the power cords and demanded we leave. He refused to pay us. We sued the school in small claims court. Sonora is about an hour or so from Merced. On the day of the court date I was designated to appear on behalf of the band. For several days before there was a storm that dropped a lot of rain and flooded the usual route from Merced to Sonora. One of the small creeks had flooded and the bridge was closed to traffic. I had to take a detour that caused me to be late for court, so we lost the case by default. Needless to say, we never played at Sonora High School again. The amount we should have earned was 200 dollars. (Jim Sanders)
Performers: Bo Diddley, Morelochs
Last live of Andy Daniels as drummer of the band
I just remember Bo rockin’ out on his cigar box guitar and his chick singer troop. (Tom Salles)
In the spring of that year (1967) the Morelochs had recording sessions at Gold Star Studios on Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood. Here the band got to know Sonny Bono, of the popular singing duo Sonny and Cher.
We recorded at Gold Star Studios, also on Santa Monica Blvd. The sessions were paid for by our brother, Bob Sanders, who was involved with the band up to that time. [Gold Star is about a block north of Crystal Industries, which is a studio I was employed at in the 1970s and 1980s as a mastering engineer.] At Gold Star, we met Sonny Bono, who came in and listened to our songs and said complimentary things. (Jeff Sanders)
My dim recollection is that Sonny was there to pick up an acetate of something he had recorded or produced earlier at Gold Star. At that time there were no cassette recorders. Acetates (lathe-cut test records good for limited plays) were what you took home. Someone in the band thought that Sonny had an office at Gold Star, which is possible, but it would have been a tiny office. It wasn’t a huge building. (Jeff Sanders)
In the recording sessions at Gold Star Studios, spring 1967, we recorded an acetate with two songs ‘Daydreaming’ – a song by Tom Salles with the help of the lyrics of our dear brother Bob – and ‘Sad’ – with the text written by me, Jeff and Tom while the music was written by me and Tom. Those songs don’t appear on any of our recorded albums. (Jim Sanders)
Performers: Country Joe And The Fish, Notes From The Underground, Crystal Syphon, Lights by Merdlights
First concert as Crystal Syphon
Once we defined the lineup and found the name, Crystal Syphon, we organized a concert at the fairgrounds with County Joe And The Fish. When we went out for our first set, everyone in the audience was stunned ‘Hey, it’s the Morelochs!’. That same night, Vince Lavery launched the Doors to the American Legion Hall. By the way, ‘Light My Fire’ hadn’t been released yet! (Dave Sprinkel)
Jeff Sanders, Jim Sanders, Tom Salles, Dave Sprinkel, Bob Greenlee, Marvin Greenlee (drum)
Around June 1967 there was the second lineup change. This time, however, it was more problematic due to the shortage of good drummers who were not already in a band. Luckily Bob’s brother Marvin Greenlee bought a used set of drums and offered to try and fill the place left by Andy Daniels.
This picture above is from the same day as the picture on the back stairs/fire escape. This photo is taken looking north on L street (now Canal street). 17th street (now Main) is the cross street behind the photographer and 18th street is the cross street behind the band. The ‘Judd’s Jewelers’ sign above the band is interesting because that business is still there in 2020, at 1714 Canal street. There is a short alley behind Judd’s Jewelers which has the stairway where the other picture was taken. The substantial brick building across the street was McNamara Hardware. That building burned down not very long after the pictures were taken. (Jeff Sanders)
The picture was taken during the winter of 1967-68, Applegate Park in Merced. It was a photo shoot for publicity pictures.
Performers: Big Brother & The Holding Company, Crystal Syphon. Lights by Pacific Grass and Electric
It may have been Marvin’s first gig with us, or one of the first two or three. He was still immature but competent. This time we were playing the second act with Big Brother And The Holding Company with Janis at the Merced Fairgrounds Pavilion. Big Brother drummer David Getz played a twenty-minute drum solo at the end of their first set. Marvin was out of his mind and didn’t even want to go out for our second set. In the end we ended our set with, it seems to me, “Fuzzy and Jose” which ended with a vocal part that remembered the march of death. One after the other, each of us then left the stage. Except for Marvin. The crowd expected a solo. Marvin made three short rolls, threw the sticks down and left the stage. Tomb silence. Then the crowd understood and applause broke out. I think that show showed us that we were a pretty good band. (Jim Sanders)
At this point the band became aware of the fact that it was no longer practical to carry out the rehearsals at the Sanders home or wherever the opportunity presented itself. They needed their own rehearsal room where in addition to trying new songs they could also rehearse the shows.
It happened that Bob Greenlee had attended school with a girl named Lynne Meredith and that her father was the real estate manager of a very wealthy local lawyer. After the lawyer died, Mr. Meredith continued to work in the real estate sector and among the buildings he handled there was one, quite old, the Shannon Hardware and Pump Company on M Street in Merced.
Bob Greenlee was the same year in school as a girl named Lynne Meredith. Her father was a real estate manager for a very wealthy local attorney. After the attorney’s death, Mr. Meredith continued in real estate. The building you asked about was the old Shannon Hardware and Pump Company building on M street. It had originally been a Purity Supermarket. My father had worked out of that buildIng in the 1950s, selling agricultural watering systems. By the mid-1960s, the building had been empty for a very long time and was falling into decay and ruin. The roof leaked, there was no heat, and parts of the building were inhabited by pigeons. It still had working electricity and a working toilet, bu it was not in a condition that allowed it to be rented. Lynne persuaded her father to rent it to us for one dollar a year, with the advantage for him that we would rehearse in the building and keep it secure. The advantages for us were that we had a main room almost the exact size of the ballrooms of that era. Bands had a problem going from tiny living room rehearsal spaces to concert spaces, where everything sounded very different. We solved that problem, and also solved the problems that came with rehearsing in families’ houses, where the hours were restricted and you were always disrupting the lives and routines of the family. We had to buy endless rolls of industrial plastic and spend many hours in the rafters to block the rain and pigeon droppings from falling on our equipment (and on us). This worked reasonably well for years, until the Shannon building (actually the entire half city block) was sold to the City of Merced. Our rehearsal building and the other structures were removed. The old Shannon site became the Shannon Parcade, which is a parking structure with some office spaces attached to the new Merced City Hall and City Council Chambers. Brother Jim was elected as a Merced City Councilman in the 1990s and served for about ten years in that building. We did some recordings in that space. Mike Ascencio, a friend and kind of a roadie for the band, operated the tape machine. He was running that machine when two city policemen broke in and threatened to follow us everywhere (which they did), and “get” us (which they did not do). (Jeff Sanders)
I recall practicing at the Shannon building until I left the band in late May 1969. I believe we started renting that building in early 1968. We had been practicing at our parent’s house on East 21st. Mom was working on her Master’s degree in education. We were advised to make other plans for rehearsal. Along with that we wanted to practice in a larger space to approximate the venues we were playing in. (Jim Sanders)
There is not a very clear story regarding when and where the songs Marcy Your Eyes, Paradise, Tell Her For Me, Have More Of Everything and Try Something Different were recorded, which would become part of the Family Evil album released in May 2012 by Roaratorio Records. According to Jeff Sanders, these songs were probably recorded in early 1967 at Victory Recording in Fresno, owned by sound engineer Dick Tersian.
Tersian had a four-track Ampex tape machine. Being a novice to recording and unfamiliar with the equipment at that time, I can’t give you firm process as to how things were done. I think we did the rythmn instruments (Drums, bass, rhythm guitar, organ) together split to two tracks. I don’t know how the instruments were split onto the two tracks, but it wasn’t for stereo, it was to give more flexibility in mono mixdown. Tersian also recorded a lead vocal at the same time on its own track, with the idea that it could be used if good enough or erased and redone if necessary. The lead vocal done with the track was mainly so that inexperienced musicians like The Morelochs wouldn’t “lose their place” in the song during the recording. Background vocals got one track for overdubs, which they might share with an overdubbed lead instrument. We had written and rehearsed a number of songs and picked what we thought were the best to record. I remember being very uncomfortable overdubbing a lead vocal alone in the studio without an audience in front of me and a band behind me. (Jeff Sanders)
While according to brother Jim things went differently:
‘Have More of Everything’ was recorded in late summer of 1967 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. We also recorded ‘Marcy You Eyes’ at that same session. I came up with the words and most of the music to “Have More…” reading about how Corporate greed was taking over everything in the world. It also partly chronicled an argument with my then wife about finding a way to make more money than playing in a band and doing dead-end retail jobs to support her and my son, Paul. I thought then, that her attitude was greedy. ‘Marcy’ was a song Tom came up with mostly on his own. Jeff might fill you in on it a little more. ‘Paradise’ and ‘Try Something Different’ were recorded in 1968 in our practice building, the old Shannon Pump Company building at 18th and M Street in Merced. It was an old building with a leaky roof. Pigeons lived in the dilapidated second floor. The building was right across the street from the old Fire Station. We were often visited by the Merced Police because they were convinced we were ‘long-haired, dope smoking Hippies’ and they couldn’t wait to try and catch us with contraband. (Jim Sanders)
Certainly the formation in the studio was: Tom Salles, Jeff Sanders, Jim Sanders, Dave Sprinkel, Bob Greenlee and Andy Daniel. This should be correct until between May and June 1967 – Bob Greenlee joined the band in May and Marvin Greenlee took over from Andy Daniel in June.
At that time Bob Sanders, the band’s manager until then, moved to Los Angeles and left the band’s management to Richard DeLong.
Crystal Syphon soon performed throughout California playing the same stages as many of the big names and emerging bands of the moment, such as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
We once played at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco and several times at the Fillmore Auditorium, as well as in some very strange places in the Bay Area. There was an odd indoor/outdoor club on a beach north of San Francisco. There were outdoor stages in parks and at lakes. We played at the Kaleidoscope in Los Angeles and many times in Merced and Turlock with various San Francisco bands. We played with Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish, Janis Joplin, Credence Clearwater Revival (when they were still called The Golliwogs), Santana and many more. (Jeff Sanders)
I was still in my last year in high school at the time and was traveling to play the weekend. I remember that ‘The City’ became the usual way of referring to San Francisco among musicians, music lovers and hippies. The city it was turning into a world music center where things were happening. It was no longer acceptable to call it Frisco or San Fran among younger people. (Tom Salles)
To be continued…
Jeff e Jim Sanders, Tom Salles, Dave Sprinkel, James (Roaratorio Records), Ross Hannan, Klemen Breznikar (www.psychedelicbabymag.com), Sarah Lim (Merced County Courthouse Museum), Michael Kennedy (mercedmusic.wordpress.com), Aldo Pedron, Vincent J Lavery (A.K.A. “V.J.”), Corry Arnold (http://rockprosopography101.blogspot.com/), Chris Ellinger, Jason Ankeny (for Norman Orr biography), Modesto View (www.modestoview.com).