Berkeley, CA, psychedelic outfit Notes from the Underground formed in 1965, originally comprised of singer/multi-instrumentalist Fred Sokolow, guitarist Mark Mandell, bassist Mike O'Connor, keyboardist John Miller, and drummer Joe Luke. One of the first Bay Area rock bands of any real distinction, the group played at the first Longshoreman's Hall concert presented by the now-legendary Family Dog collective -- they also regularly headlined the local club the Jabberwock when the house band, their chief rivals Country Joe & the Fish, were taking a night off. With the exits of Miller and Luke, Notes from the Underground recruited keyboardist Jim Work and drummer Peter Ostwald; soon after, fledgling producer and folklorist Chris Strachwitz proposed helming the Notes' first recording session, which yielded a self-titled EP issued in 1966 on the Changes label.
The attendant publicity no doubt prompted an offer to serve as the house band at Berkeley's New Orleans House, followed by a contract with Vanguard Records -- after swapping Work for jazz-trained keyboardist Skip Rose, the Notes traveled to New York City to cut their lone LP (also self-titled), an expansive, eclectic affair highlighted by the single "Down in the Basement." However, both O'Connor and Ostwald resigned soon after the sessions wrapped, and Vanguard -- questioning the band's continued existence -- opted to cut its losses, spending no money on promotion and voiding their contract.
Sokolow and Mandell nevertheless forged ahead, assembling a patchwork lineup that included prodigal bandmate Miller as well as bassist Bing Nathan and drummer Furry Grasso. Relocating from Berkeley to Taos, NM, did little to stave off the inevitable, however, and Notes from the Underground dissolved in 1969. Sokolow and Mandell then returned to Berkeley and formed a new project, Prince Bakaradi; in 1977, the former also recorded a solo bluegrass effort titled Bluegrass Banjo Inventions. ~ Jason Ankeny