As flower power descended into acid-fried rock thunder in the 1960s and '70s, cult California rockers Spirit indulged in loud, psychedelic, proggy jams and have long claimed that their track 'Taurus' was the inspiration for the Led Zeppelin classic 'Stairway to Heaven'. Front man Randy California got his start as a 15-year-old playing in one of Jimi Hendrix's early groups, but it was with his step-father Ed Cassidy that he started the band in 1967, originally under the name The Red Roosters. The bald-headed 40-year-old Cassidy was a jazz drummer who had served in WWII and played with Cannonball Adderley and Thelonious Monk and was a unique sight as the band of young, long-haired hippy kids honed their sprawling, frazzled riffs on their self-titled debut album in 1968. Their wired, garage-pop single 'I Got a Line On You' helped second album 'The Family That Plays Together' to number 22 in the US charts, but it was in the 1970s that they embarked on loose, trippy grooves and sci-fi themes on concept record 'Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus' and explored country rock on 'Feedback'. Despite a few splits, plenty of craziness and a lack of mainstream success, they continued on until 1997 and were often compared to the likes the Grateful Dead and Phish thanks to their eccentric sonic experiments and a loyal following that continued to support later albums such as 'The Thirteenth Dream' and 'Rapture in the Chambers'. The band ended when California drowned in Hawaii and Cassidy later died of cancer in 2012, but they made headlines again in 2014 when their family launched a copyright case against Led Zeppelin. The English rock icons supported Spirit on their first visit to the US in 1968 and it is claimed that they lifted the introduction to 'Stairway to Heaven' from Spirit's instrumental track 'Taurus'.

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