Spotlight Band - Children Of the Mushroom

Jerry McMillen: Lead guitar and vocals (1967-70)
Dennis Swanson: Drums (1967-70)
Al Pisciotta: Bass (1967-70)
Scott "Scotty" Lee: Guitar and vocals (1967-68)
Bob Holland: Keyboard and vocals (1967-69)
Paul Gabrinetti: Rhythm guitar and vocals (1967-68)
Jim Rolfe: Lead guitar (1968-70)

In March 1967 the Captives, a Thousand Oaks teen band, became Children of the Mushroom. The name had less to do with drugs than it did a larger social issue in the country at the time, however.

“None of the band members knew anything about psychotropic drugs then,” drummer Dennis Swanson says, “and it took some time before we realized the full impact of the name. The meaning went far beyond the simple drug connotations, signifying the mushroom clouds of the nuclear age.”

First influenced by the Doors, they gradually took on more of an Iron Butterfly sound thanks to Bob Holland’s prowess on organ, creating a new, hypnotic sound in the Tri-Counties. When local popularity hit the band, it came fast. Almost immediately they were selling out concerts as soon as their name was listed on the bill and they were picked up by Dick Parker and Dick Torst of 2D Productions who unfortunately dropped the ball in their management and promotion.

“We were already in our thirties,” Torst explains, “and [they] were so young. The youngest group we ever worked with, and one of the best. We realized that we were somehow just the tiniest bit out of step with what was ‘happening’. We decided to take a small step back and observe.”

That decision quite possibly robbed the national airwaves of what might have become a huge force in rock music at the time. Despite this, they opened for Sweetwater at the California Lutheran College auditorium in 1968 and gained a following throughout southern California and Texas.

In 1968 they released a 45 on the Soho label, August Mademoiselle (written by Holland) backed with You Can't Erase A Mirror (written by McMillen and Holland). A number of songs were recorded that day at Nashville West Studios in Hollywood, some never released, which Jerry is currently restoring for DVD. That year also saw a name change to simply, the Mushroom. With member changes, they became Lady, a band that continued well into the mid-1970s.

Children Of The Mushroom are enjoying a comeback of sorts, thanks to video uploads to YouTube and resourceful collector/bloggers on the internet. In videos shot at the annual Thousand Oaks Bandtree Reunion, which is headed up by Jim Rolfe, the band members exhibit surprise and even bemusement that young people are discovering their music after all these years. Clearly, the message of their music is as strong as it ever was and it still touches people, even those who weren’t born until twenty years after the band dissolved. This is what’s so wonderful and magical about music—and Children Of The Mushroom’s music is still magical.


Dennis Swanson said…
Thank you again Kaye for all your attention & hard work. It does bring satisfaction for all of us in the band to see that our songs are still being discovered & appreciated!

Best Regards
Dennis - Children of the Mushroom
SK Waller said…
It's my pleasure, Dennis. Absolutely.
Anonymous said…
I stumbled upon this band while searching pysch on YouTube. I was blown away, been searching for a 7" ever since. So happy for these guys.