Eventful. That described Leo De Gar Kulka’s career. He was an intelligence officer, recording engineer, producer and owned a recording studio and record company. That’s why eventful best describes Leo De Gar Kulka’s career

He was born in Czechoslovakia in 1921, but moved to Los Angeles in 1938. By the time the Second World War broke out, Leo De Gar Kulka was recruited by the counter intelligence corps. That was where Leo De Gar Kulka stayed until after the Korean War ended in 1953. By then, Leo De Gar Kulka had become interested in music and recording. 

Now back on divvy street, Leo De Gar Kulka got a job at Radio Recorders in Los Angeles. This was where he served his musical apprenticeship. Latterly, Leo De Gar Kulka had own recording studio, International Recorders. Among the artists Leo De Gar Kulka recorded at International Recorders were Herb Alpert, Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, Little Richard and Frank Sinatra. However, in 1964, Leo De Gar Kulka left L.A. behind, and made his way to San Francisco.

Once he had settled in San Francisco, Leo De Gar Kulka setup a new studio, Golden State Recorders in 1965. It was a state-of-the-art studio, which rivalled anything that L.A. could offer. Golden State Recorders featured the latest equipment, including a solid state board. This made Golden State Recorders an attractive proposition for everything from an orchestra, to up-and-coming bands, which San Francisco had plenty of.

The San Francisco music scene was thriving by the time Leo De Gar Kulka arrived in the city. The Bay area’s experimental rock scene was blossoming, and many of city’s most promising bands were making their way to Golden State Recorders, to record a single. Some with deeper pockets, recorded an album.

Producing these bands was Leo De Gar Kulka. who had the inside track on the San Francisco music scene. That’s why A&R men were beating a path to Leo De Gar Kulka’s door.

They wanted to hear who Leo De Gar Kulka thought were the Bay Area’s next big thing, so they could sign them to their label. As the A&R men spoke to Leo De Gar Kulka, they realised he was a talented and pioneering producer. His patience was legendary, as he teased a performance out of bands. He cajoled and encouraged, and eventually, got the best performance possible out of the bands he produced. It may have taken slightly longer than other producers, but Leo De Gar Kulka was never one to settle for second best. The A&R men that spoke to Leo De Gar Kulka realised that he was producing some of the most ambitious, innovative and experimental psychedelic music in the Bay Area. This made him the perfect producer for the bands signed to some of the major labels.

Capitol Records, Apple, Liberty/UA and CBS all came to meet Leo De Gar Kulka. Before long, he was producing Quicksilver Messenger Service, Sons Of Chmplin, Mad River and The Mystic Moods. However, many of the bands Leo De Gar Kulka producedwere unsigned. 

Some looked as if they had a big future. So Leo De Gar Kulka decided to found his own record label, Golden State Records in 1965. The only problem was, that Leo De Gar Kulka had a studio to run. So he brought onboard a triumvirate of South California music industry insiders. 

The first was San Diego DJ, Jim Marino. He was the first member of team Golden State Records. Hank Levine, who was a veteran of many L.A. studios, was the next recruit. Larry Golberg was the final addition. He started life as a P.R. man, but then went to work for Hanna-Barbera, working on soundtracks to cartoons, including The Flintstones. The theory was, that this triumvirate of music industry insiders would transform Golden State Records into one of the Bay Area’s major independents. Things didn’t pan out this way. 

Golden State Records didn’t prove to a profitable venture for Leo De Gar Kulka. Eventually, he had $80,000 is unrecoverable bad debts. That’s despite being able to regularly sell masters to various major labels. However, the deals that Larry Golberg negotiated, were always for fast money. He sold the masters, taking upfront money, rather than negotiate a more profitable, longterm deal. Theoretically, if the label that Larry Golberg sold the master to enjoyed a million selling single, Golden State Records didn’t get any more than the initial $3,000. It was no wonder that eventually, Leo De Gar Kulka called time on Golden State Records. By then, Golden State Records had recorded a hundreds of recordings.

Many of these recordings have never been released before. This includes sixteen of the tracks on Golden State Psychedelia, which was recently released by Big Beat Records, an imprint of Ace Records. This includes The Goody Box, The Immediate Family, Just Slightly Richer, Celestial Hysteria, The Bristol Boxkite, The Carnival and The Gants. The tracks on Golden State Psychedelia are the perfect introduction to one of top producers of the Bay Area’s psychedelic scene, Leo De Gar Chukka.

The Goody Box were one of many local bands Leo De Gar Kulka produced. They were from Pacifica, to the south of San Francisco. When they arrived at Golden State Records, Jerry Goldberg had a plan for The Goody Box. He wanted them to accompany singer Virginia Garcia. They would be billed as Ginger and The Goody Box. This new band’s debut single would be a cover of Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero. On the flip side, was Blow Up which opens Golden State Psychedelia. However, the single was never released. Since then, Blow Up, which is an explosive fusion of proto punk and psychedelia has lain unreleased in Golden State Records’ vaults. So has Ah Gee, The Goody Box’s other contribution. It has a much more traditional psychedelic sound. Rocky and lysergic, it’s a reminder of the Bay Area sound circa 1968.

The Carnival weren’t a Bay Area band. They were an L.A. based band, and recorded in L.A. at Danny Hardesty’s Living Sound Recorders. Then the recordings were sent to Golden State Recorders, so Leo De Gar Kulka could work his magic. He does that on Meditorium, Infinitation and Years Have Passed Away. On this trio of tracks, The Carnival plough their own furrow. One of the lead instruments is a clavinet, which is used effectively to toughen up the trippy sound. Sometimes, The Carnival’s vocals reference The Beatles, on the what’s an irresistible and innovative musical helter skelter.

Just like The Carnival, The Bristol Boxkite were a group who should’ve enjoyed commercial success. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. It wasn’t through lack of effort.They recorded several singles and an album. That’s not forgetting the four unreleased tracks on Golden State Psychedelia. These tracks showcase The Bristol Boxkite’s own brand of melodic, folk-tinged psychedelia. Their finest hour is the hauntingly, beautiful Sunless Night. Chasing Rainbows with its dreamy, hopeful sound, comes a close second. Who Are We is another track that showcases The Bristol Boxkite’s tight harmonies. Mad Rush World was recorded in May 1968, and is a reinvention of an old vaudeville standard. Sadly, Who Are We proved to be The Bristol Boxkite’s swan song. They never returned to the studio, and the band split-up in late 1968. It was a case of what might have been?

The Short Yellow roots were in jazz and classical music. This made them an unlikely signing for Golden State Recordings. However, The Short Yellow recorded a demo in September 1967. It featured three tracks, Highway Highway, Hand Full and Start Seeing. Highway Highway is reminiscent of Frank Zappa, with free jazz and psychedelia combining with pop. Hand Full is something of a slow burner, that explodes into life, with pop, rock and psychedelia melting into one. Start Seeing is best described as poppy psychedelia, and shows another side of The Short Yellow. They’re an inventive and innovative band, who sadly, were never signed to Golden State Records. This unlimitedly, lead to the group’s demise not long after the Golden State Records’ sessions.

In March 1967, The Ticket Agents made their way to Golden State Records, where they had booked a session. Leo Kulka liked what he heard, and decided to try and further The Ticket Agents’ career. He recommended them to some contacts in L.A. Then in September 1967, The Ticket Agents returned to  Golden State Recordings and recorded Black Diamonds. It’s a fusion of hook-laden power pop and psychedelia. However, Black Diamonds was never released, and some forty-eight years later, makes its debut.

Originally, Celestial Hysteria were from Daly City, where they were founded in 1967. By May 1969, when Celestial Hysteria signed to Golden State Records Mary Hazelwood was the lead vocalist and John Allan the guitarist. Both play leading roles in the success of Speed and New Song Aka Going Home. Especially John’s blistering guitar runs, as Celestial Hysteria combine rock, psychedelia and nervous energy. The result is two hidden gems that somewhat belatedly, can be heard by a wider audience.

The same can be said of The Tow-Away Zone’s Daddy’s Zoo. It’s one of the most lysergic tracks you’ll ever hear. Daddy’s Zoo epitomises the Bay Area psychedelic sound, and for many, will be a trip back in time.

Just Slightly Richer recorded My Kind Of People and Solitude at Golden State Recordings in August 1968. This wasn’t their first visit. They had covered some Young Rascals songs in March 1968. Since then, Just Slightly Richer had auditioned for a nationwide televised talent show, Happening ’68. It was a case of close, but no cigar. However, when Just Slightly Richer returned to Golden State Recordings in August 1968, they had penned two new songs, My Kind Of People and Solitude. Both are foot to the floor affairs, with the rhythm section driving the energetic arrangements along. Sadly, neither track was released, and Just Slightly Richer didn’t even get a little richer.

Even the title to The Gants’ Sunday At The Lotus Parlor sounds psychedelic. So does the arrangement, dramatic vocal and waves of harmonies. Despite undoubted quality of this 1966 recording,  it was never released as a single. Whether this hastened the demise of The Gants is unknown. All that’s known is that they split-up not long after recording of Sunday At The Lotus Parlor, which closes Golden State Psychedelia.

For anyone with even a passing interest in psychedelia, then Golden State Psychedelia will be a must have. It features twenty-five tracks, including sixteen previously unreleased tracks. This includes numerous hidden gems. They’re the type of tracks that used to feature on the Nuggets compilation. These glistening musical nuggets, are a tantalising taste of the music recorded at Golden State Recording by Leo De Gar Kulka.

He was a pioneer of the Bay Area psychedelic sound, and helped  many bands on their way. This includes the various bands on Golden State Psychedelia, which was recently released by Big Beat Records, an imprint of Ace Records. Sadly, many of these bands never enjoyed the commercial success their talent warranted. Indeed, listening to some of the tracks on Golden State Psychedelia, one can’t help but wonder why they weren’t released as singles? Similarly, one can’t help but wonder why some of the bands on Golden State Psychedelia never went on to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim? That wasn’t to be. 

Many of the bands proved to be short-lived, and split-up not long after they enjoyed their moment in the sun, at Golden State Recordings. These groups had hoped they would become part of the Bay Area’s rich and lysergic musical history. Sadly, that didn’t happen, and many of these bands are long forgotten. Not anymore. They make a welcome return on Golden State Psychedelia, which is a reminder of the Bay Area’s psychedelic heyday. Back then, happenings were commonplace, and the Merry Pranksters conducted Acid Tests against a backdrop of Golden State Psychedelia.







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