Jim Sanders gazed over the throng of 300 or so teenagers gathered at the downtown Merced American Legion Hall on a cool April evening back in 1966, as he nervously pondered what the electric night would bring.
Earlier that day, Sanders and his five band-of-bros in Merced's cover band The Morelochs had been scrounging up gear for the gig -- their biggest since forming in 1965.
Failure wasn't an option.
Case in point, they were on the same bill as a happening Bay Area band called The Golliwogs, with a young guitarist by the name of John Fogerty. Nevertheless, Sanders, who at the time was 19, strapped his Gibson SG Junior over his shoulder and faced the eager crowd.
"It was a big venue, we didn't want to make mistakes, and we didn't want to look foolish," Sanders laughs, looking back 46 years later. "That was the biggest event we'd played at. As I recall, we were pretty well received."
The gig with The Golliwogs, who later emerged from their mid-60s cocoon as Creedence Clearwater Revival, would be the first of many high points for The Morelochs, who took on the name Crystal Syphon in December 1966 after they began writing their own material.
Several appearances around the state, including three at San Francisco's Fillmore West, would follow. Notable heavyweights they shared the stage with included Bo Diddley, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and Santana, among others.
But life happens, and by 1970 the band had called it quits, sailing over the horizon into the pages of local rock history.
But fans of music from that era don't have to turn back the clock to hear the psychedelic rock of Crystal Syphon, as they sounded to crowds from San Francisco to San Clemente.
Roaratorio Records, a Minneapolis-based independent label, recently released Crystal Syphon's "Family Evil," an album of 10 songs compiled from studio recordings, in addition to live takes from Fillmore West and rehearsal tapes.
To celebrate the record's release, Sanders and members of the band will hold an album preview 7 p.m. Saturday at the Partisan in downtown Merced.
Sanders, who sang and played guitar with Crystal Syphon, will be joined by Bob Greenlee (bass), Tom Salles (vocals and guitar), Dave Sprinkel (vocals, organ and percussion) and Jeff Sanders (vocals, organ and percussion). Drummer Marvin Greenlee died in 1999.
An exciting find
Crystal Syphon's music for the most part disappeared after the band's breakup in 1970. About three years ago, however, several of their recordings from 1967-68 made it into the hands of James Lindbloom, owner of Roaratorio Records.
Lindbloom said the sounds were reminiscent of psychedelic bands such as Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service. He was excited by what he heard.
"These guys really seemed to have it: great combination of good
songs and excellent musicianship," Lindbloom said. "I am amazed that music this good is still being uncovered."
After the recordings were cleaned up, the band signed an agreement with Roaratorio Records to release "Family Evil."
The album's cover is taken from a 1960s Fillmore concert poster for the band, drawn by legendary artist Norman Orr. Orr gave the band permission to use the drawing of an old American Indian chief on their album, Sanders said.
"Family Evil" is available online at iTunes and Roaratorio Record's website (www.roaratorio. com), revealing the band's fuzzy guitar riffs and psychedelic sounds to a whole new generation. Lindbloom said the album is selling well. "The response has been fantastic," he said.