Check out the official symbol of the Wandervogel (traveling bird) society born on November 4, 1901, in Berlin as a back-to-nature group that worshiped freedom and the spirit of adventure. Although later co-opted by the Boy Scouts and the Hitler Youth, this society was an influence on the hippie generation, at least in Los Angeles.
Eden Abez (George Aberle) wrote a song called “Nature Boy” about an enchanted lad who wanders far and wide spreading magic vibes. The song became a #1 hit for Nat “King” Cole in 1948. The song was really written about a group Abez hung out with in Laurel Canyon, headquartered at a pioneering raw foods restaurant run by John and Vera Richter, German immigrants trying to keep the original Wandervogel spirit alive. The group also included Gypsy Boots (Robert Bootzin) who opened his own health food store and would evolve into a major writer and prophet for the tribe.
My cousins knew two brothers from Flint Lake, Indiana, who went off to Los Angeles in the early 1960s to go surfing and came back looking like Buddhist monks. They spent the next ten years traveling around the country playing conga drums. The Nature Boy/Wandervogel spirit had obviously infected them.
But the most interesting figure to emerge from this scene is Father Yod (James Baker) a decorated Marine who served in WWII and founded his own organic vegetarian restaurant on Sunset Strip, a place made famous in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Father Yod also created an important commune called The Source.
Father Yod had a council of 13 beautiful goddesses, some of whom became his wives, and some of whom bore his children. They lived with their extended tribe in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Yod was driven around in a white Rolls Royce and treated like a king, although he left the details of running the kingdom to the goddess council.
I love this shot of Yod’s Temple Dragons (his sons), all of whom were very well-trained by their dad in bow-and-arrow as well as martial arts. Although the group worshiped peace and love, obviously nobody fucked with this commune when the Savage Sons were around.
Like many charismatic leaders of the hippie movement, Yod has been treated badly by the media, which usually paints him as a Manson-like cult leader. Isn’t it weird how anyone who tries to wear a ceremonial hat is branded a fraud and “occult” cult-leader, but when the Pope puts on a similar hat, it’s called “religion” and treated with the utmost respect? How organized religion pulls off this scam is beyond me. It’s all magic, and it all runs on the same spiritual juices no matter who wears the big hat or what that hat looks like.
Music is a major part of spirituality and Yod built a recording studio in the mansion for his improvisational jam sessions. These recordings were sold for a few dollars out of his restaurant, although today the records are avidly sought by a handful of devoted collectors. Yod’s lyrics can be difficult to decipher, but he comes off like an impassioned cross between Captain Beefheart and Howling Wolf .
Keep your eyes open for the documentary The Source Family opening next month. It made a huge splash at its recent debut at SXSW.
Here’s a link to one of their songs on Youtube I really happen to like.