Mullah's Presents:  The Golden Toad Music and Dance Camp Golden Toad Camp HOME

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“Camp Gurus” at The Golden Toad Music and Dance Camp, many of which were original and early members of The Golden Toad band, play an integral part in the custom of passing down knowledge and skills.  They can be sought for private instruction, and may be found taking part in several classes taught by camp instructors.

Don Brown was one of the original members of the Golden Toad Band, playing the bass drum.

Don was the founder of Teahouse of the Mullah Nasrudin's Donkey, which he started at the Northern California Renaissance Faire in the 1970's with a small coffeehouse. He had been a staple on the Faire scene and music/dance camp scene for over 40 years.

In memoriam to Don W. Brown (1944-2009), we have left his Guru position and information posted.

Don was key in planning this camp, even coming up with the name "Mullah's Teahouse Presents: The Golden Toad Music and Dance Camp." Although he won't physically be with us at camp, he will be there in our hearts.

 

Lee Birch

Lee Birch

Lee Birch has played in many bands, including Le Cigalou with JP and Brian Steeger  and Los Costenos  (Early California Music) with Laura Garcia (La Reyna de Mariachi) and David Kilpatrick. 

Lee went to Mexico for many years and upon returning, he was awarded a grant from the Huntington Library and State parks to receive the wax cylinders of Charles Lummis (recordings made between 1890-1915).  I took those cylinders and formed the group Los Californios.  The objective was to disseminate the music throughout California.  The music splintered into many groups up and down the coast of California.  

The original inspiration for Lee to go after Old California Music was his relationship with the Golden Toad Band and more specifically Bob Thomas.  Lee Birch recorded a CD with the Foreign Four (Chuck Borsos, EZ Marc, Karen Leigh and Mary Hass); and yet another CD with the Alta Californios.  Lee has played back-up on a few more recordings and spliced the Californio Tune Book together for those who wanted to read the music (the music was written out by Charles Farwell, a Composer and friend of Lummis).  During his stint at trying to hold together the large Los Californios Orchestra  (as many as 15 members at one time), Lee played 10 years with the Normal Heights Lounge Lizards.  In addition to Lee, The Lizards were Jay Waelder, Ian law, and on occasion EZ Marc and/or Wanda Law (often times when Wanda played with them, they were called 'Wanda Law and Some Guys Her Husband Knows Band’).  They recorded a DVD and had a gig once a week at Canes Bar and Restaurant.  

Aside from all the pick-up bands, Lee Birch has been able to stay married and raise four kids (there are 5 children but the oldest stayed in Mexico).  Lee now enjoys spending time with his seven grandchildren in California.

Info coming soon!

David Brown

David Brown

 

Rita Byxbe

Rita Byxbe

Rita Weill (Byxbe) has been active in the traditional music field since the mid-1950s, as a musician/singer, recording artist (5 albums) concert producer, artists’ agent, music club manager, and editor of a number of music magazines, including Little Sandy Record Review, LA Broadside! Magazine, and the Mill Wheel. She was a free-lance contributor to other national journals such as Sing Out! Her festival appearances included the Monterey , and Newport Festivals, and the Johnny Cash Show at the Hollywood Bowl, with the Carter Family. She managed the Lion’s Share in San Rafael , and worked at the AshGrove for a number of years, designing its fliers, and running its press relations & publicity. She designed the monthly calendars for Freight & Salvage for around ten years, and helped Nancy Owen with bookings.

Along with her late husband, Michael Byxbe, she directed the Sweet’s Mill summer camps. Her areas of expertise were the West Ireland Gaeltacht, and the Ozark Mountains where she did folklore field work in ballad research. Rounding out this short history were the usual concert, university, radio, television and film appearances. She is still semi-active in music pursuits.

Info coming soon!

Jude Darnell

photo coming soon!

Sulyman Feldthouse

Sulyman Feldthouse at Golden Toad Camp

Sulyman Feldthouse at 2010 Golden Toad Camp
Photo by Sarinda Newell

Sulyman Feldthouse was one of the founding members of the 1960's psychadelic rock band "Kaleidoscope."

More info coming soon!

Ernie and Deborah Fischbach were early members of The Golden Toad band.

They teach World Music Program, Cultural Arts and Music K-12. The program focuses on the music and musical history of world cultures, with students drawing the displayed instruments as they listen. They follow musical history from Ancient Persia through Afghanistan and India, the Moorish civilization to Renaissance Europe and today. Playing Antique and unique instruments from their own collection, this husband and wife team plant the seeds of culture into the imaginations of the students, giving them much food for thought.

Ernie and Deborah Fischbach play in a Middle Eastern Band called Zincali, that was named by the late great Chris Carnes—an Andalucían gypsy word meaning “the people.”  Zincali is a family band playing country eastern music from Morocco, Turkey, Afghanistan, Persia, Egypt and their own compositions. The orchestra is composed of David Brown, Ernie Fischbach, Brian Steeger, Melissa Fischbach, Marianne Steeger, Deborah Fischbach, and Barbara Brown, instruments, percussion, vocals and dance.

http://www.institutefortraditionalstudies.org/elf_music_history.html

Ernie Fischbach &
Deborah Fischbach

1968 Deb and Ernie Fischbach, Golden Toad band

institutefortraditionalstudies.org

Sylvester Lee (JP)

Sylvester Lee (JP)

 

Sylvester Lee (JP) was one of the original four band members of The Golden Toad band that formed in 1968.

More info coming soon!

Info coming soon!

Darioush Sami

Darioush Sami

Will Spires &
Lisa Pesce

Lisa Pesce and Will Spires

 

Singer, fiddler and guitarist Will Spires has been professionally active in traditional folk music since his debut at the legendary Ash Grove in Los Angeles in 1962.  He has acquired his unique repertoire through first-hand study with many of the leading American master musicians of the 20th century, particularly with mandolin legend Kenny Hall and with Cajun fiddler Dennis McGee.  His major areas of musical performance are Cajun and Creole music, British and Irish dance music and song,  Mexican corridos and canciones,   Southern ballads and folksongs, Will Spires has appeared on stage as a soloist and with the New Tranquility String Band, The Louisiana Playboys, the New Lost City Ramblers,  Galway accordion legends Joe Cooley and Kevin Keegan,  Norteña master Lydia Mendoza,  master piper Robert D. Thomas, and the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band.  He was a founding member of The Golden Toad, a breakthrough 1960s ensemble that helped to open the door to an appreciation of world music.    

His performance with the New Tranquility String Band was hailed by Rolling Stone as a highlight of the 1969 Sky River Rock Festival, which attracted 60,000 participants.   The late master Cajun musician Dewey Balfa called Will “a Cajun in his heart and an ambassador of our music.”  He was invited by native American Tarahumara fiddlers to join their community of musicians for sacred and secular fiesta orchestras.    

Will Spires appears on Folkways Smithsonian Recordings, and has been filmed by documentary filmmakers Les Blank, John Cohen, and Chris Simon.  He is a member of the faculty of College of Marin and Santa Rosa Junior College.

info for Lisa coming soon!

Brian Steeger, resides in San Juan Bautista, with wife Marianne and is a known instrument maker. He has devoted over 35 years to studies of world music with masters from America, Europe, Central Asia and Indonesia.

In the 1970's, Brian was one of the early members of the Golden Toad band. In the 1980’s he received an artist in residence grant from the California Arts Council,   to revive and teach old California music with Luis Valdez’s “El Teatro Campesino” in San Juan Bautista, CA. Brian Steeger later became the musical director of their winter “Pastorela” Productions at the San Juan Bautista Mission.  

Brian continues to further California music and performs today with “The Alta California Orchestra”,* recipient of an “American Masterpieces-California” touring grant in 2007. He teaches and plays at California music festivals, events, workshops and Camps.
* (formerly Los Californios Orchestra).

Brian Steeger

Brian Steeger

Marianne Steeger

Marianne Steeger

Marianne Steeger has been playing music since she was a child. She is an accomplished musician on stringed instruments, piano, accordion, percussion, and vocals. 

Marianne has performed with “El Teatro Campesino’s” winter productions of “La Virgen Del Tepeyac” and “La Pastorela” in San Juan Bautista eventually becoming co-musical director with her husband Brian.  Marianne has sung with San Benito County’s “Oriana Chorale”, and is currently with “The Alta California Orchestra” a group that features the music of California 150 years ago.

Marianne Steeger was also a member of the Golden Toad band.