Friday, December 7, 2012

In Memory of Mr. Skin - Ed Cassidy

The numerous deaths in the music world last spring seem to be repeating this month. In just two days, the world lost another legend – drummer Ed Cassidy of Spirit. Ed was 89 and died yesterday of prostate cancer. He was an old man of rock ‘n roll when he joined the band started by his step-son Randy California and his friends Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes. The band evolved into Spirit and signed for Lou Adler’s Ode Records in 1968.

Ed, who was born in 1923, was older than the oldest rockers at the time. Although twice the age of his contemporaries, Cassidy was a trend setter with his unique look – all black clothes and a shaven head. While fairly common now, it was not in 1968. Being glabrescent gained him the nickname “Mr. Skin,” and Jay Ferguson immortalized Cassidy in a song that bears that title.

The song “Mr. Skin” could fit the “Friday Flipside” category as it was the “B” side to Spirit’s single “Nature’s Way.” It would have also fit as a Repeat and Threepeat selection as it was issued multiple times. As a cut from the album “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus,” Epic Records tried as they could to make a hit out of the song. The great horn work on this song is sadly uncredited but was arranged by David Blumberg. 

“Mr. Skin” was first released in November 1970 as an “A” side with “Soldier” as the flip. In early 1971, it appeared as the flip side to “Nature’s Way.” In 1972, “Mr. Skin” and “Soldier” were reissued under a new catalog number.  By January 1973, “Mr. Skin” was again issued as an “A” side with “Nature’s Way” as the flip side. It took four tries, but “Mr. Skin” finally made the Hot 100 by charting at #92.

Cassidy didn’t just march to the beat of a different drummer – he was the different drummer. Before rock ‘n roll, Cassidy played swing, jazz, country and western, and a number of other musical genres. His kit included a marching bass drum that he played with two pedals. He also was known to play solos sans drumsticks – playing with his bare hands. A technique that Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham had mastered.

Needless to say, Ed Cassidy had stamina – he was an innovator – a trendsetter – and will be greatly missed. Not many of us make to 89 and not many of us take up rock ‘n roll in our forties and continue to play drums into our 80s. Rest in Peace Ed.


  1. That article is incorrect. John Bonham had been playing the drums with his bare hands back in 1963 with the Blue Star Trio, long before he ever saw Spirit. See:

  2. Thanks for the correction. I will make a note of it.