Words by Thomas Silverman
The 60’s were coming to a close, and with the end of the decade of optimism brought the on set of war, the grim realities of 70’s American politics, and hoards of lost, burned-out acid flower children.
Fresh from the love of the 60’s, with an aborted career as a Hollywood stuntman and two violent murders under his belt, James Edward Baker opened L.A’s first vegetarian health food restaurant on the Sunset Strip. Having recently left the Sikh Yogic teachings of Yogi Bahajan, Baker decided to create his own philosophy based on Western esotericism. Baker soon changed his name to Father Yod, and later Ya Ho Wha, which when written without vowels or spaces is YHWH, the name of The God of the Israelites as used in the Hebrew Bible. I guess burnt out hippies don’t care too much about a messiah complex when it’s from a charismatic father figure who could “kick anyone’s ass.”
Frequented by Lennon, Brando and McQueen, the Source restaurant was a big success turning over a reported 10,000 1970’s U.S dollars a day. The place was staffed entirely by hippies and underage kids looking for the modern, healthy, spiritual utopian dream. So what was Father Yod supposed to do with his $10,000 a day fluttering out of the pockets of his white floor length robe? Rent a mansion in the Hollywood Hills, move everyone in and become the patriarchal figure to 150 seriously lost kids. Oh, and maybe take 13 of these young girls as wives whilst you’re there Father?
“Jupiter! Solar power of the universe! Solar plexus of Tahuti. To the sun from which he came, Thoth! The Atlantean. You can become part of the great beings brain!”
One of the family members was sent out with $30,000 to spend on ‘the best’ musical equipment. The house’s garage was soundproofed, and Ya Ho Wha 13, the Source family band was formed. With Father Yod as the self appointed lead singer, the band would play improvised sessions every morning at 6am, just after the 3 hour morning meditation session. Yod was the controller of the sound, when the band had got into a rhythm of repetitive, trudging, psychedelic fuzz, he would smash at his single large drum whilst yelling and screaming until eventually the off beat would force the band to mould the sound into a completely new groove. What the band produced was (often but not aways) good, raw psychedelia. Which raises that ever present question, should someone being an abhorrent human affect you liking their creative output?
Ya Ho Wha 13 recorded over 65 full length albums of mostly spontaneous improvised music, which were then sold at the Source restaurant. The family band members would be sent out by Yod to pitch the recordings to record labels, they were turned down every time. The next move to try the new generation’s ears…live gigs at high schools.
“We heard that this was the high school with the conciseness. That’s the fact of it. My sons go out and the look around, pick up on the vibrations and say “Father, our sound can be heard at that school, I know it.” We number at about 140, and we’re looking for about 4000, just like you. You believe in reincarnation don’t you? You will come again won’t you? Yeah, you’ve always been here. I’m the father you all wanted, never thought you had, but you do have.”
What followed was booming, trance like, repetitive, dirty and attention grabbing. People would come up to the band members after the show and want to know what it was all about. What was Father Yod talking about that seemed to speak directly to them? They would be told, “you want to know more? Come to morning meditation, 3am tomorrow morning.”
And so the family grew.