Jac Holzman of Elektra Records once called Cyrus Faryar "the Persian minstrel of Barham Boulevard" -- that is high praise, indeed, for a man whose signings include Arthur Lee, Jim Morrison, Tim Buckley, Carly Simon, Judy Collins, Ed McCurdy, and Fred Neil, to name just a few, What's even more astonishing is how little-known Faryar remains, despite being a downright ubiquitous figure in 1960s music -- he turns up in association with everyone from Dave Guard of the Kingston Trio to the Firesign Theatre, and a lot of wonderfully strange music in between.
Born in Tehran, Iran, Faryar lived in England for several years before moving to Hawaii; he was raised in Honolulu, where he was a classmate of Dave Guard, the future co-founder of the Kingston Trio, though the two had parted company in their teen years. Faryar had done some work in drama and some singing, and even owned a tavern in Honolulu for a time, but it was his friendship with Guard that brought him headlong into a recording career. Guard had quit the Kingston Trio at the start of 1961 and was assembling a new group, ultimately called the Whiskeyhill Singers, and Faryar was his first recruit, getting his old friend out from Hawaii to San Diego, California. It was Faryar who steered Guard to a singer he'd seen named Judy Henske.
The Whiskeyhill Singers only lasted into 1962 before Henske checked out and the group as a whole followed suit soon after. Faryar next showed up as a member of the Modern Folk Quartet, a group that showed up a little late in the folk boom for real success but managed to hook up briefly with Phil Spector and get a shot at being more than a rock & roll footnote -- he even managed to make it on to film as a member of the quartet, in The Big TNT Show. In 1967, Faryar collaborated with synthesizer virtuoso Paul Beaver on the Cosmic Sounds album, a pioneering psychedelic LP on the Elektra label, and was on Cass Elliot's 1968 album Dream a Little Dream of Me, but his main attempt at stepping into the spotlight was a strange one -- he was the leader of a band dubbed the "Group With No Name," which made an anonymous appearance at the Monterey International Pop Festival.
Despite a pair of solo albums for Elektra in the early 1970s that cast him in a singer/songwriter mode, Faryar has probably been most visible as a producer and participant on the classic recordings of the Firesign Theatre (most notably on How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All), and playing sessions for Linda Ronstadt, John Simon, and others during the 1970s, all of which, along with many of his early-'60s recordings, have seen reissue in recent years. He probably would have been more visible in the music business had he not returned to Hawaii to live. In 2003, after many years out of the spotlight even as a session musician and producer, Faryar turned up on Teresa Bright's Quiet Nights album -- of Hawaiian-based music -- playing ukulele and singing, working with his former Modern Folk Quartet alumnus Chip Douglas (who was producing). ~ Bruce Eder