Randy Holden
Randy Holden.jpg
Holden in 1969.
Background information
Birth Name Randy Holden
Alias Guitar God
Born 2 July 1945, Pennsylvania
Occupation Musician, Painter
Genres Blues Rock, Hard Rock, Acid Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Proto-Metal, Doom Metal, Surf Rock
Instrument(s) Guitar
Years active 1959 - 1970, 1993 - Present
Labels Imperial, Decca, Alamo, Phillips, Acta, Hobbit, Guitar God, Captain Trip Records, RidingEasy Records
Associated acts Blue Cheer, The Other Half, Population II, The Sons of Adam, The Iridescents, The Fender IV, Randy Holden
Website Official Webpage

Randy Holden (Nicknamed Guitar God.) is a guitarist known for his tenure with several 1960s surf and psychedelic rock bands, including short stints with The Other Half and Blue Cheer. Following release of the cult power duo album Population II (Which some have cited as an early example of doom metal.) he stepped away from music for years, working in various other careers including painting. Holden would return to music in the 1990s, creating new music under his own "Guitar God" label and occasionally performing live.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early Bands[edit | edit source]

Randy Holden was born in Pennsylvania and grew up on the move. He played in a number of bands through the early 1960s including the Iridescents (blues rock) and The Fender IV. Holden relocated the Fender IV from Baltimore to Southern California and they eventually became The Sons of Adam. While playing in the Sons of Adam Holden opened for the Rolling Stones at their first show at the Long Beach Sports Arena on 16 May 1965. Holden was heavily influenced by Keith Richards' guitar and amp set up which helped change his own attitude towards equipment and tone.[1] The Sons of Adam (specifically Holden) began experimenting with distortion and feedback which pushed into psychedelic rock. Holden would leave the band frustrated with the lack of original material.

Holden joined the Other Half in 1966, a psychedelic garage band from Los Angeles. The band was a regular in the California area at the time. Their sound has been compared to The Yardbirds, and contained elements of blues, hard rock, and Eastern melodic influences. Holden left the band after their debut album was recorded, dissatisfied with the recording and the guitar he was playing at the time, later stating "I was trying to accommodate everyone else, at the expense of my own soul and happiness". Despite Holden's misgivings, the album has been described as "awesome incendiary rock".[2]

The band's "Mr. Pharmacist" was included on one of the Nuggets compilations in the early 1980s, Volume 12: Punk Part Three and was later covered by The Fall, becoming a number 75 UK chart hit. A collection of their recordings, titled Mr. Pharmacist was issued in 1982. This included their entire 1968 album and several tracks from singles. Two songs, "Bad Day" and "Oz Lee Eaves Drops" appear in the 1968 pilot episode of The Mod Squad.

Blue Cheer and Population II[edit | edit source]

In 1968 Holden would join Blue Cheer, replacing Leigh Stephens, touring with them for roughly a year. When it came time to record Holden would record three songs for 1969's New! Improved!, writing all three songs and singing on two of the album's "Side B". However he quit the band in the middle of the recording sessions due to constant conflicts with management and monetary issues on top of a general disinterest in drug culture (A surprising parallel to Leigh Stephens' frustrations and departure from the band in 1968). Blue Cheer would find other musicians to round out the rest of the album, pushing their sound towards more of a commercial rock direction.

Working with Chris Lockheed, Holden would begin work on a solo album. Holden also had a sponsorship with Sunn O))) amps who made sixteen custom 200-watt amps for Holden. The vision of Holden was creating a solo record described as "nuclear", recording with all of these amps in an old opera house. The name Population II stemmed from the project being just a "power duo". Recording this album in a massive volume in late 1969 with the intent of a release that same year the album ultimately would not be released by the label and Holden's equipment ended up stolen, leaving him bankrupt and quitting the music business for many years. The duo never performed or toured in support of the record either.

Ultimately Population II was released on Hobbit Records in 1970 unknown to Holden, whom had moved to Hawaii without any intent of ever releasing the record at the time. The original masters had been passed through multiple labels and ultimately lost. In 1991, Holden would find out about it's release to the public and the cult following that came from it and spark his interest in writing music and possibly performing again upon moving back to California. With a winning lawsuit against a label not named, Holden regained the rights and royalties to Population II, with subsequent releases of the record officially authorized by him.

Solo Career[edit | edit source]

After finding out about the cult following attained from Population II, Holden would win the legal rights to the album and resume his solo career, eventually leading to his second solo album Guitar God in 1997, released by Japanese label Captain Trip Records. The same label would also release a collection of early recordings from 1964 - 1966. Holden would sporadically play live (Including a 2016 reunion with The Fender IV) but largely work as a studio musician, releasing more studio albums via his Guitar God label (2001's Guitar God 2001, 2007's Raptor, 2009's Visions of You and 2011's Psychedelic Blue). In 2019 he would work with RidingEasy Records for a re-issue of Population II. On 21 December 2019 he'd perform a career spanning set at The Whisky-A-Go-Go with Mario Rubalcaba (Metroschifter, OFF!, Earthless) on drums.[3][4]

Personal Life[edit | edit source]

When not composing music Holden is also known for his painting endeavors, with many of his works available to view on his website. Randy is married to American artist Ruth Mayer. His son, Marlon Holden, is a professional photographer.

Bands[edit | edit source]

  • The Iridescents - Guitar, Vocals (1962)
  • The Fender IV - Guitar, Vocals (1963 - 1964, 2016)
  • The Sons of Adam - Guitar, Vocals (1964 - 1965)
  • The Other Half - Guitar (1966 - 1968)
  • Blue Cheer - Guitar, Vocals (1968 - 1969)
  • Randy Holden - Guitar, Vocals (1969 - 1970, 1993 - Present)

Selected Discography[edit | edit source]

  • The Other Half - The Other Half (1968, Acta Records)
  • Blue Cheer - New! Improved! (1969, Philips)
  • Randy Holden - Population II (1970, Hobbit Records)
  • Randy Holden - Guitar God (1997, Captain Trip Records)
  • Randy Holden - Early Works '64 - '66 (1997, Captain Trip Records)
  • Randy Holden - Guitar God 2001 (2001, Guitar God Records)
  • Randy Holden - Raptor (2007, Guitar God Records)
  • Randy Holden & Jaclyn Guthrie - Visions of You (2009, Guitar God Records)
  • Randy Holden - Psychedelic Blue (2011, Guitar God Records)

External Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

V·T·E Blue Cheer
Past Members Dickie PetersonLeigh StephensPaul Whaley • Eric Albronda • Jerre Peterson • Vale Hamanaka • Jere Whiting • Allen "Gut" Turk • Randy Holden • Mitch Mitchell • Tom Weisser • Bruce Stephens • Ralph Burns Kellogg • Norman Mayell • Gary Lee Yoder • Troy Spence Jr. • James L. Curry • Ruben de Fuentes • Terry Rae • Nick St. Nicholas • Tony Rainier • Mike Fleck • Brent Harknett • Billy Carmassi • Eric Davis • Andrew MacDonald • David Salce • Dieter Saller • Gary Holland • Prairie Prince • Joe Hasselvander
Studio Albums Vincebus EruptumOutsideInsideNew! Improved!Blue CheerThe Original Human BeingOh! Pleasant HopeThe Beast Is BackHighlights & LowlivesDining With The SharksWhat Doesn't Kill You...7
Other Releases Blitzkrieg Over NürembergLive & Unreleased, Vol. 1: '68/'74Live & Unreleased, Vol. 2: Live at San Jose Civic Centre, 1968 & MoreHello Tokyo, Bye Bye Osaka – Live in Japan 1999Live Bootleg: London – HamburgRocks EuropeLive at Anti WAA Festival 1989Party Hard at the Underground CologneThe '67 Demos
Associated Bands, Artists, Etc. The Oxford CircleKakThe Other HalfThe Sons of AdamPopulation IIPentagramDeath Row
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