Roots of Madness

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  (1969-73)

- Geoff Alexander -- sound effects trumpet, keyboards vocals

- Don Campau -- sound effects, vocals, acoustic guitar, slide guitar

- Joe Morrow --sound effects, recorded, trombone, percussion,



  supporting musicians: (1971)

- Gare -drums, percussion

- Jim Blind Burrell -- guitar, vocals

- Jim Kulczynski -- 

- David Leskovsky (aka Dave Dolfin aka Dave Dolphin) --

   harmonica, vocals

- P.P. McFeelie -- guitar, vocal





- The Beaver Family

- Geoff Alexander and Don Campau

- The Geoffrey Three

- Jim's Dream Band

- Morrow's Big Band


Genre: experimental

Rating: 1 star *

Title:  The Girl In the Chair

Company: De Stijl/The Child of MicrotonesTerran

Catalog:  IDN 045/COM 1971

Country/State: San Jose California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: 2205 reissue package

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2

Price: $100.00

Here''s one of those rarities that command's a fairly large investment (an original copy will set you back at least $100).   Personally, if I had an original copy, I'd sacrifice it to the gawds of commerce and take the cash for a couple of beers.


Geoff Alexander and Don Campau were the creative forces behind San Jose's The Roots of Madness.  The pair met while attending High School.  Alexander, whose musical influences were hardcore jazz and experimental genres, was working part time as a DJ at a small, local radio station (KTAQ) owned by Random House editor Bill Ryan and writer Lorenzo Milam.  Alexander and Campau quickly discovered the were High School social outcasts who shared an interest in music.  KTAQ proved to be the perfect breeding ground for their uncommon tastes given station owner Milam was a longstanding crusader for local radio and non-commercial programming.  The pair soon surrounded themselves with a little community of similarly adventuresome musicians including high school buddy Jim Kulczynski, David Leskovsky, and Joe Morrow.


Their radio station jobs put them into contact with artists like Pete Blind (who designed the album cover) and John Hayden.  A leading figure in San Francisco's "beat" movement, Hayden sponsored a host of musical and artistic events, including "jam" sessions at his home.   Inspired by the music they were hearing and playing on KTAQ, Alexander, Campau, Kulczynski, Leskovsky, and  Morrow started playing at some of those sessions.   That led to a series of recording sessions in Alexander's parents' kitchen.  Under the name Roots of Madness, Milam agreed to release their1971 album "The Girl In the Chair".  He also penned the largely incoherent liner notes on the album.


It must have been sometime in 1970. Or maybe '71. To the best of their recollection, that's when THE ROOTS OF MADNESS came together. In the suburban living room of a Del E. Webb stucco home, in San Jose, California, U.S.A.

"We thought we could sound better than anyone on radio" is the humble statement of one of the members telling why this magic group came together.

Paradoxically, and practically, THE ROOTS OF MADNESS came together in Mrs. Maddox's 12th grade Journalism Class at Leigh High School. "God, it was dingy!" is the fond memory of the group of those halcyon days at Leigh. "We couldn't handle assignments for teen-age fashion shows, so we all flunked." Thus, THE ROOTS OF MADNESS.

The group likes to think of itself as "Downtown." And when they say "Downtown" they mean the "Bascom Avenue" San Jose as opposed to the "First Street" San Jose. They like to recall the many other musicians that have grown up in, and forgotten, San Jose.

"Santana started off here, and when they got successful," says Geoff, "they started calling themselves a Bay Area Group. We, on the other hand, wouldn't be caught dead denying our heritage as part of the 'Little Los Angeles' of Northern California." Several critics have come to point out that THE ROOTS OF MADNESS is probably part of the South Bay Delta Blues Confluence, rather than the Ben Lomond Blues School as represented by Blind Joe McBlind.

August, 1970. That was the year of The Big Shock. There was a power shortage. And that was when "We found Jim Kulczynski could play nothing but the blues." Little Jim: no bigger than the palm of your hand standing a proud four foot eleven. Graduate of Leigh, proud alumnus of
The Leigh Lepers (an avant-garde group of young misfits who found themselves in music and, some say, were the direct precursors of THE ROOTS OF MADNESS.) 

"In our own way," Jim likes to remember: "We were Leigh's finest." There was Jay Horney Henry, and Rhino Boy, and The Girl In The Chair. "We were the hairyest of Leigh's intellectual maelstrom. We were the first of the North Santa Clara Musique-concrete set." It was through their passion for the use of klaxons in 3/4 time that caused them to stumble across (and partially deafen) Geoff Alexander known as "The Gumball Greek" after his patent family heritage and orthodontry problems. 

Geoff --- on his own --- had just begun to experiment with “The Sunnyvale Sound” as it was later to be called. It consisted of Electric Trumpet, Short-wave Radio (tuned to WWV - Denver), and Proctological Tubing. The melody base was an obvious borrowing from the blues-guitar style of the late P.P. McFeelie. In fact, the entire ROOTS OF MADNESS proudly claims brotherhood with this obscure Ebo City musician who died tragically of Phlebitis shortly after recording YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE (included here for comparison).

It was perfectly natural, given the ethos of that fateful journalism class at Leigh, that Geoff should run into Joe Morrow. '' Big-Little' Joe, standing (then, as now) an even 6' 8" in his stocking, and weighing in at an even 374 pounds. Joe, with his unabashed affection for two-inch 'sweet potatoes' --- bringing with him the brilliant Don Campau.

"It was Donald who was our great inspiration," says Joe through his speaking tube. (An early, and unfortunate bout with Kyphosis, makes it impossible for Joe to use his larynx. Doctors have fashioned an experimental plastic reed which is inserted directly into his duodenum. Thus the piercing sound in some of the compositions as Joe 'plays' with his voice as if it were a flute). "Don was an inspiration because of his willingness to play piano with only one arm."

Here Joe is referring to Donald's tragic experience at age 5 when he lost one arm in a player piano ratchet. And yet, ironically, it is the player piano that Don favors the most --- hitting it (pounding it, really) with his one remaining arm. "It may be twisted and horney --- but man! Can Don do the old 88s!" says Joe with obvious approbation through his clear plastic flue. Joe likes to think of himself as "An Attentive Ear" as Don races up and down the vary instrument that tried to "eat" him.

It would be Impossible for me, in this short time, to give you the intimate feeling of inspiration, musicianship, guts and sheer sweat that sets THE ROOTS OF MADNESS apart from other folk, blues, rock, and modern musicians. I first heard them on Country KTAO --- a Santa Clara County radio station which calls itself "a peep-hole into the very nuts of life.”

Twice a week, Geoff would wheel himself into the studios of KTAO, put his hook into the trumpet, adjust his Speculum Bag —- and blow his heart out. It was and is a very moving experience. Even the janitor whose job it was to clean out the bile-pipes would be moved to listen. A visitor once asked him what he thought of Geoff and His Residue (as the group was called then) and he said 'It's a Gol-darn mess. It is.' It was said that he was frightened by 'Old Gimpy' Dolfin who, in those days as in this, would remove and leave on the table his stump when he was working the Short Wave Receiver.

Enough speculations. I want you to set down your dislikes and your incomprehensions. I want you to lay aside your prejudices about San Jose and its deformed and crippled. I want you to open up your ears to some of the swingin'-est, smarmiest, satinist music since Holst hung up his act.

If you like Glen Yarborough, you'll delight in the tragic WE HAD A LOVE (BUT IT DIED). Let the strains of the alto sax clarinet, and Little Upright Organ scour through your mind, delicately 'mash' the stuff of your heart.

LISTEN! Let your ear soar Into THE OLD MAN'S ASS. Remember that this brave group, THE ROOTS OF MADNESS, can only count five arms, seven legs, two glass eyes, an iron lung, a half-dozen mouths, and one bladderpump among them. And yet --- despite all odds --- they can produce such music. SUCH MUSIC! Don't be put off by their self-mocking fantasy. You might hear the rattling of Don's Sputum Cup on THE FLIGHT OF THE OCKA BIRD. You might not even be aware of the fact that Geoff had a petite mal seizure during the actual recording of REALISATION II.

Forget all the rumors of incest, pederasty, masochism and onanism that their detractors are trying to lay against THE ROOTS OF MADNESS. Even in San Jose, the Prune Capital of The World, there are vitriolic detractors out of the very Steven's Creek avant-garde that spawned this hardy band.

Even as this precious, once-in-a-lifetime disc is going to press, Don is busy penning an opera THESES DE FECES. Joe is forming Morrow's Big Band featuring ESP-type jazz and poetry; Jim's Dream Band is exploring the fine points of blues, and the Geoffrey 3 (trumpet, trombone, guitar) attempts to achieve knowledge of the inner concept of existential non-confinement.

THE ROOTS OF MADNESS has been and will always be an original, soulful, great 'dingbat, diddle-burdled, batshit’ --- to quote from their song dedicated to memory of the San Jose Water Works Project. THE ROOTS OF MADNESS is "Nihility in Being" (from Lord Chesterfield), and no miscreant essaying to bring them and their instruments into the Reyes Point Veteran's Hospital for "observation" (as has been tried more than once) is going to threaten the depth of feeling and obvious originality of this "genteel, gibbous, genial, ganglia in genitalia..."

Lorenzo. Milan
Director  Dogmouth Records


Pete Blind's hideous cover art provided a pretty good indication of what was to come. This was not the cover art you would find gracing a collection of top-40 pop, or West Coast psychedelia ...  If the cover art didn't give you a clue/warning, then song titles like 'Nihility In Being', 'Mass At Time Of Circumcision Of King Leopold XVII Of Belgium For Massed Chores, Bull-horns, Glass Harmonica. Tympani, and Fret-work Drums' and 'Flight of the Ocka Bird'  should have sent up warning signals.  Recorded live on a Sony reel-to-real tape recorder using two microphones, this was "real people" music for real people.  Forget about traditional musical concepts like harmonies, melodies and rhythm.  This was either a group of talented guys looking to push the musical envelop in directions unexplored ...  Or these where a group of wise asses who were having a joke on everyone else.  Look how clever we are.  


"The Girl In the Chair" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Realization II (instrumental)  (Don Campau - Geoff Alexander - Joe Morrow) - 11:35   rating: ** stars

Simply looking at the performance credits was enough to tell you this was going to be a rough eleven minutes ...  "Don: shortwave variations, vocal; Geoff: shortwave, walkie-talkie, trumpet, percussion, vocal; Joe: shortwave, recorder, trombone, percussion, clarinet, vocal; Gare: drums"  The first two minutes were basically the sound of music boxes and then the short wave radio sounds, discordant trumpet  flatulent trombone, sound effects, and screams  kicked in ....Who would have ever thought musique concrete could sound so good in comparison !!!  One of those close-the-party-down selections.
2.) Nihility In Being   (Joe Morrow) - 1:07
   rating: ** stars

Joe Morrow reciting some hideous poetry ...   wonder what grade he got in his High School English class for this project ?   Luckily it was brief.

3.) Mass At Time Of Circumcision Of King Leopold XVII Of Belgium For Massed Chores,
Bull-horns, Glass Harmonica. Tympani, and Fret-work Drums (instrumental)   (G. Beaumont)  - 1:72

4.) Cat's Trail (instrumental)  (Don Campau) - 1:35  rating: ** stars

Well it was nice to lean that Capau could play acoustic slide guitar.   At least the tune had something approaching a recognizable melody.

4.) We Had a Love (But It Died)   (Jim Kulczynski) - 5:08  rating: ** stars

The first somewhat conventional performance, 'We Had a Love (But It Died) featured acoustic guitar, unexpectedly nice group harmonies with occasional restaurant sound effects. 


(side 2)

1.) The Yell  (instrumental)  (Dave Dolfin) - 1:47  rating: * star

Starting out with a scream, the song had a pretty apt title.  From that point on it was just irritating harmonica with two more screams at the end..

2.) The Big House (instrumental)  (Geoff Alexander) - 6:50  rating: * star

Imagine your ten year old hammering away on grandma's piano ...  I don't know about you, but I would end my child's musical career after hearing this.

3.) The Old Man's Ass ((found in Old St. Paul's Church) (translated by G. Alexander)  - 2:36   no stars

Oh gawd, more poetry, though this time with a totally gross theme and some bad jazz guitar.  I wonder how I can give a song a negative rating ...  Seriously, no stars.

4.) Flight of the Ocka Bird (instrumental)   (Don Campau) - 5:21   rating: *** stars

Campau showing off his blues slide guitar with someone repeatedly bumping into the microphone.  From that point on it was mildly amusing to hear the song basically deconstruct in front of your ears.   Alexander and Morrow's horns became more and more dissonant so that by the end of the song, even Captain Beefheart would have said "enough".   I'll actually give this one an extra star for having some semblance of a musical plotline.   LOL

5.) You Are My Sunshine (traditional) - 1:30   rating: * star

I've debated whether this was a heartfelt cover, or the sound of someone about to go postal ...  Regardless, it sounded like it had been recorded in a shower.


The band pressed 500 copies which were handed out to friends and relatives, with 100 copies being distributed by Norm Pierce of San Francisco's Jack's Record Cellar.


KTAQ closed shop in 1974 and Alexander and Campau continued their professional partnership opening Dogmouth Records.  After their used record store shut down, Alexander went to the Berklee College of Music.  Ober the years he's recorded several solo albums.


Campau formed Lonely Whistle music, has recorded dozens of collections of original music and hosts the "No Pigeonholes" radio show. Here's a link to his website: