From playing the ’60s Berkeley coffee house scene and the Fillmore and Avalon in San Francisco to Fritz Perls’ Big Sur seminars; from trading off “quiet” sets with Country Joe & The Fish’s “dance” sets at Pauley Ballroom and performing at the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, to being featured as the hippie band in a Hollywood mock-up of the Be-In (The Love-In, 1967), The New Age played a new kind of acoustic music, with roots in folk, flamenco and the blues, Indian ragas, Middle Eastern, Japanese, gamelan, European classical and improvised music.
They created a stir at concerts and in the music industry, until the untimely death of its founder, Pat Kilroy, on Christmas Day of 1967, when Warner Bros. shelved the group’s second album.
Remarkably, over the past six months, CDs of a re-release of the group’s 1966 Elektra LP, Pat Kilroy—The Light of Day (Collectors Choice) and a first release of material meant for the canceled 1967 Warner’s album, The New Age: All Around, with additional tracks from a live KPFA recording (Raymond Dumont, Switz. May, ’08), with a re-release of Habibiyya: If Man But Knew, a ’72 Island Music album, inspired by a Moroccan sufi poet, with Kilroy’s collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Susan Graubard Archuletta (Sunbeam, UK, Dec. ‘07) have appeared and are available locally at Down Home Music in El Cerrito and Aquarius Records in San Francisco.
“The Fish weren’t just friends of ‘The New Age,’ they were fans,” said Barry Melton of Country Joe & The Fish. “It was a gentle, wafting acoustic sound Pat [Kilroy] was after, very much a stark contrast to the electric music all around us.”
The name of the band is now very much an anachronism.
“It had nothing to do with what people think of now as New Age or New Age music,” said Archuletta, now a Berkeley third-grade teacher. “I cringe to think of it! Patrick was possessed by his own visions.”
Archuletta went to Cal, where she played at vespers on the Campanile carillon, played viola in the university symphony, and participated in the Free Speech Movement.
In December 1965, Pat Kilroy, with whom she’d shared long conversations about music, but had never played with arrived from Big Sur “and in a very matter-of-fact way said he’d been looking for me, and asked me to come with him to New York to make a record together, then travel around the world, meeting indigenous musicians.”
Six weeks later, after finishing finals, Archuletta joined Kilroy in New York with her flute. Then “everything happened all at once,” she said.
After recording The Light of Day, and traveling to Europe and Morocco, they returned California, where they were joined by percussionist Jeffrey Stewart. Archuletta later met poet Daniel Moore and joined the Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company in Berkeley, as well, which reunited her with her college friend, poet and musician Louise Landes Levi.
While performing at Berkeley’s Jabberwock cafe, they met Country Joe, who jumped up on stage at the Human Be-In in January 1967 to join in on their signature tune, “When I Walk Through the Trees.”
The New Age played the Sunset Strip and began recording for Elektra, who “saw us as Peter, Paul and Mary for the new zeitgeist.” But Kilroy was diagnosed with terminal Hodgkin’s Disease. With his death came the end of the dream.
Archuletta collaborated with others, including Christopher Tree and Don Buchla, then raised her family in Mendocino. On returning to the Berkeley area to teach 11 years ago (she’s taught at Albany and Longfellow Middle Schools and Jefferson and Oxford Elementary Schools) she’s confined her public playing to the Albany Jazz Band. But a reunion and possible CD with Christopher Tree is in the works, and now that the music she helped create years ago is available again, “I hope I can live my two lives together, in Berkeley!”