AIthough Pat Kilroy's 1966 Elektra album Light of Day attracted little attention upon its release, it's sjnce come to be recognized for what it is, a groundbreaking wedding of lysergically-enhanced mysticism and exotic instrumentation. Nowadays we call such music acid folk, and you'd be hard pressed to come up with an earlier example of it than this, predating as it does the Incredible String Band's 5,000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion by a year. That said, Light of Day is not a seamless listening experience.
The presence of straightforward blues numbers such as "Canned Heat" on an album otherwise devoted to far-out and eastern-leaning songs like "Vibrations" and "Star Dance" is indeed more than a little puzzling. Knowing something about how the album came to be, however, helps make sense of it all. Pat Kilroy grew up in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, and Antonio Pineda, a classmate at the Jesuit prep school St. Ignatius, remembers Pat as "a capricious, well-humored bloke with a lot of prankster in him, as well as a penchant for reaching for the stars."
For whatever reasons, Pat left St. Ignatius and transferred to Galileo High, graduating in 1962. While enrolled at the University of California in Berkeley, he started getting serious about music, and his guitar teacher, Perry Lederman, turned him on to open tunings, something Pat would continue to explore for the rest of his short life. Once he started performing locally in folk clubs, Pat became known for his extraordinary vocal powers.
Greenwich Village musicians Stefan Grossman and Marc Silber, both of whom would later play on Light of Day, first saw Pat on a trip to California in the summer of 1964. "Pat was phenomenal then," remembers Stefan. "Whether it was a Child ballad or a slow blues, you could hear a pin drop. He sounded like a choir boy with soul." During his Berkeley sojourn, Stefan befriended Pat and his then-girlfriend Roberta, and this initial connection would eventually lead to Pat's Elektra album.
Pat's future musical partner Susan Graubard, then a freshman majoring in music and ceramics at Cal Berkeley, first heard Pat in the Student Union. "He was just sitting there by himself, singing these beautiful Child ballads," she remembers. "I was really drawn to Patrick, his voice and his singing." She would again occasionally see Pat on campus, but didn't share more than a few words with him before he left for Big Sur with Roberta. It wouldn't be until spring break of '65 that Susan next encountered Pat, under very serendipitous circumstances.
On her way down to Santa Barbara with some friends, the VW bus they were riding in broke down at the Big Sur Hot Springs, and Susan ran into Pat there. He was living in a lean-to with Roberta and working in the kitchen of the Esalen Institute. There Susan and Pat had a chance to get to know one another a bit, and found a musical connection in their shared fascination with eastern music. The Pat Kilroy of spring 1965 was a very different person from the coffee house ballad singer of the year before.
Through psychedelic experience, spiritual exercise, a vegetarian diet and immersion in both Indian music and esoteric literature, Pat had undergone something of an epiphany there in Big Sur, one that he would later describe in his liner notes for Light of Day as "a growing awareness of existing universal unity." There was also in him an emerging desire to bring this new-found awareness, through music, to the wider world. "He was definitely on a mission," says Bob Amacker, who met Pat in Big Sur that summer, and would later play tablas on Light of Day. "The mission was a little vague, but it was clear that he was on one." Apart from a hitchhiking excursion with Pat and Roberta, Susan wouldn't see Pat again until December '65, when he appeared in Berkeley with his guitar, his backpack, and an extraordinary proposal.
He and Roberta had split up. As Susan remembers it, "Pat said, 'I want you to come to New York with me and make a record together, and then we'll take the money and we'll go around the world seeking out indigenous musicians, playing music, and collecting instruments.'" Susan said yes, and met Pat in New York the following month. Upon arriving in New York, Pat stayed at Stefan Grossman's house on St. Mark's Place, which was, along with Marc Silber's Fretted Instruments in the Village, a favored musicians' hang out.
Although Pat didn't perform publicly while he was in the city, he soon got heard. "Pat Kilroy made quite a stir when he showed up," remembers Artie Traum. "Not only could he play and sing beautifully, Pat had a mysterious quality about him. At the time he reminded me of James Dean." Stefan introduced Pat to his friend and former band mate in the Even Dozen Jug Band, Peter Siegel, who'd recently been hired to do engineering and production work for Elektra.
Peter was impressed with Pat's singing, and in due course Pat was signed to the label. There was one potential problem, though: Peter thought he'd be getting a bluesy record, and that was not exactly what Pat had in mind. One of the first people Pat looked up in the city was Bob Amacker, who'd been studying tabla for several months.
As Stefan recalls, "Pat was very impressed, because Bob was really learning Indian music, the structure and rhythms of it, and Pat was trying to learn that from him." Once Susan got to New York, the three began rehearsing together. "At first I didn't know how we could do it," Susan remembers. "Neither Pat nor Bob could write nor read music and I was like, 'Well, I don't know how to play without music in front of me!" So, it took some time to figure out how to integrate her flute into what Pat and Bob were playing.
Pat wanted her on the album—that was why she'd come to New York, after all—and in the end convinced her that, with Susan playing on the record, they'd have a bit more money for their impending trip to Europe. Precisely which songs they recorded before leaving is something Susan can't recall, but believes they included numbers the trio had been initially rehearsing, "Light of Day" and the raga-like "Cancereal" (which derived its name from the fact that all three of them were Cancers).
After landing in Iceland, Pat and Susan worked their way through Europe, often sleeping under bridges or in cow pastures while they wrote and rehearsed new songs, checked out local musicians, played casual gigs, and collected instruments. As Pat was Irish on his father's side and Basque on his mother's, they made a point of hitting Ireland and Spain. They eventually ferried down to Tangiers, where Pat became seriously ill, forcing them to cut their trip short. They had an album to complete, in any case.
Pat and Susan were very high on the new songs, "Vibrations," "Fortune Teller" and "Star Dance," all of which featured the glockenspiel they'd found in London. According to Stefan, though, Peter Siegel didn't quite share their enthusiasm for the new material. "Pat was really adamant that this was his new music, and then it got to be 'Well, we don't want to record it; this is not what we signed you up to do.' Then it had to be negotiated, so you get these songs like 'Canned Heat' that has nothing to do with Pat—he'd never even played that song."
A compromise was reached: the new songs stayed, but Stefan, Marc Silber and Eric Kaz were brought in for the blues numbers. If the resulting album was disjointed, the haunting power of its best moments, like the title track and "Star Dance," is undeniable. With the album completed, Pat and Susan returned to the Bay Area. Though he'd been asked to join them, Bob Amacker declined, and Berkeley conga player Jeffrey Stewart was eventually brought in.
Pat's new direction was maybe a little too weird for the Greenwich Village of 1966, but the emerging Bay Area scene seemed to get it, and Pat Kilroy and the New Age regularly performed there and in Big Sur in the coming months. Says Barry Melton of Country Joe and the Fish, "A lot of us had at least some kind of investment in the spiritual side in those days -at least as much of it as was available on a sugar cube- but Pat was the real deal."
Pat was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma during sessions for a Warner Brothers debut album, and passed away on December 25, 1967. Upon hearing of Pat's death, Stefan Grossman wrote "Requiem for Pat Kilroy," which would appear on his 1968 album with Danny Kalb, Crosscurrents.
by David Biasotti
1. The Magic Carpet - 2:02
2. Roberta’s Blues - 2:35
3. Cancereal - 4:24
4. A Day At The Beach - 3:43
5. The Pipes Of Pan - 2:37
6. Mississippi Blues - 3:38
7. Vibrations - 3:14
8. Light of Day - 3:00
9. The Fortune Teller - 2:46
10. Canned Heat - 3:01
11. The River - 4:08
12. Star Dance - 1:58
All titles by Pat Kilroy
*Bob Amacker - Tabla
*Susan Graubard - Flute, Glockenspiel
*Stefan Grossman - Guitar
*Eric Kaz - Harmonica
*Pat Kilroy - Bass, Cymbals, Glockenspiel, Guitar, Jew's-Harp, Vocals
*Marc Silber - Guitar
*Jim Welch - Congas
Pat Kilroy's New Age
1967 All Around