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A Cid Symphony

Unquestionably a harbinger of the times, A Cid Symphony -- a folk-and-ethnic music collective that incorporated instruments as wide-ranging as dulcimer, hand-held brass, and Hindustani ankle bells into their extended Middle Eastern-c*m-country and folk music drones -- was instigated and helmed by Dustin Mark Miller. Miller, was a part of the mid-'60s Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley, spending his time selling protest records to raise money for the movement. The musical passion stuck, so in 1966 he enlisted old pal and neighbor Charles Ewing, whom he had known since kindergarten, and Ernie Fischbach to start a folk/ethnic flower-child band aligned with the San Francisco Diggers. Ewing was an avid flamenco guitar aficionado, and he had met Fischbach while the two were in graduate school together at Cal State Long Beach. The two shared a passion for music, and Ewing soon discovered Fischbach could play any instrument with strings, as well as drums and harmonica. The trio converged in Los Angeles and A Cid (originally Acid) Symphony was born.

Early in the band's genesis, Fischbach married teenage model Deborah Cleall, who promptly became a part of the group, which, more like a collective, soon grew into a loose group of nomadic friends, a family, a tribe. John Goeckermann and Tom Harris often added their percussive skills, and David Goines contributed as well. A Cid Symphony began playing mostly at colleges, often with like-minded peers the Firesign Theatre and sponsored by friends, Students for a Democratic Society, or whoever would support the music. They also crashed the Monterey Pop Festival, playing on the grounds of the festival and meeting Ravi Shankar. According to Digger principles, the band would hold free concerts at which they fed everyone that showed up.

When the band earned its first write-up in the Sunday Los Angeles Times, they all quit their jobs on the spot and migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Ewing and Fischbach studied Hindustani music at the Ali Akbar (Khan) College of Music. San Francisco music columnist Ralph J. Gleason introduced Miller to Max Weiss of Fantasy Records. Weiss allowed the band to use Fantasy's studios, and they recorded and released their first and only record, a self-titled triple LP, in 1967, published by the Thermal Flash Music label of Denise Kaufman, an original Merry Prankster. Fischbach and crew went on to play with the Golden Toad, one of California's premier folk/ethnic music bands led by Bob Thomas and a sister band of sorts to the Grateful Dead. They would often join A Cid Symphony at functions such as the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. By the late '60s, after three years together, A Cid Symphony dissolved for the most part as a collective musical entity. Miller and Ewing's families, however, went on to live communally for the next two decades. ~ Stanton Swihart
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