1962: Clipper Cowbridge

1963: The Swiss Invasion

1965: Marilyn Kaye

1969: The Fold

1970: Yorgi

1971: Devon Shire

1972: Sandee Saunders

1976: Rockfinger

1978: The Spooky Bunch

1979: Decoupage

1981: Bleep

1984: Tiger Love

1985: Laryssa Foxxx

1986: Smasher of Things

1987: Suthrn Cuzn

1989: ~pianogirl~

1990: Razorflesh

1995: Breaker Bear

1996: Action Plus

1998: J Lounge

2001: Eesk

2004: Lazarus Project

The Fold: Clubbo’s REAL cult band (1969)

The Fold's self-titled debut album from 1969 (Clubbo Records).

EL DORADO. The Ark of the Covenant. Vermeer’s 37th masterpiece. History lists dozens of fabled treasures now lost — but for pop music fans, none are as tantalizing or elusive as the first and only Clubbo LP by psychedelic band the Fold.

Fronted by charismatic vocalist Gary “Shep” Shepheard, the Fold mesmerized Southern California listeners via a series of epic live shows in 1968 and 1969. But the Fold’s music was as heavy conceptually as it was sonically: The band’s true raison d’être was as a recruiting tool for the Major/Minor Universal Spiritual Church, a Venice Beach-based cult.

The Fold’s album may be lost forever — but we did manage to unearth this rare live recording of the band’s signature song, “Into the Fold.”


Into the Fold

“Into the Fold” lyrics and credits


Shep Shepard of the Fold. Live pic, 1968.

Gary“Shep”Shepheard in 1968.

Music and cult-like behavior go together like smoke and mirrors. Countless hands have been wrung over the horde mentality of some music fans. And surely it’s no accident that cult leaders Charles Manson, David Koresh, and Gabriel of Sedona were all failed musicians.

Which brings us to Kendrick Kerman’s Major/Minor Universal Spiritual Church. The MMUSC’s tale isn’t as bloody as that of Manson’s Family or Koresh’s Branch Davidians, but it’s every bit as weird.

Unlike Chuck, Dave, and Gabe, the Milwaukee-born Kerman actually achieved some success as an LA session guitarist in the mid-’60s. He played on dozens of songs and the soundtracks to such films as A Touch of Brussels and Kiss of Anger. He even did some Clubbo sessions — that’s Ken playing the spooky, reverb-sodden accents on Marilyn Kaye’s “Yeah Yeah No No No.”

“Ken was a real good guitar player,” recalls longtime Clubbo house engineer Charles “Chucko” O’Brien. “But he wasn’t the best team kind of player, like the saying says. He wasn’t so big on following directions. You had the feeling like he always wanted to be the leader.”

Outside the studio, Kerman dabbled in many of the offbeat mystical and spiritual movements that flourished in Los Angeles long before the term “New Age” took root. He flirted with Scientology, Psychiana, the Process Church of the Final Judgment, the Agasha Temple of Wisdom, and the Ascended Master Teaching Foundation, but never found a definitive spiritual home. Kerman was a sincere seeker, but as Chucko noted, he didn’t like taking orders. So he wove his own religion, using threads plucked from existing cults and adding his own unique music-centric focus. By 1968, Kerman had set up shop — or rather, temple — in a drafty storefront near Venice Beach. His Major/Minor Universal Spiritual Church presented itself as a forward-looking fusion of all world religions. But behind the sunny “all beliefs are beautiful” message lurked more idiosyncratic concepts.

Kerman — or Maestro Ludgang Apollonysus, as he now styled himself — preached that the universe was governed by equal and opposite forces: Light and dark. God and Satan. Treble and bass. All were equally holy. And our quest on this plane is to seek the precise intersection between these competing forces: the Fold.

The church’s sigil, which shows the junction between these extremes, doesn’t depict just any old piece of folded paper — it’s stylized sheet music. It’s not easy to find the Fold, Kerman admitted, but we have spiritual guides in our quest: “The Eighty-Eight Ascended Maestros,” a supernatural league of musician-philosophers whose numbers include King David, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Boethius, Richard Coeur-de-Lion, Frederick the Great, Benjamin Franklin, and of course, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig Van Beethoven, who jointly conferred the “Ludgang” moniker.

Kerman recruited young musicians at beaches, parks, music stores, and anywhere else guitars are earnestly strummed. He relied on classic conversion techniques, isolating inductees from family and friends while immersing them in the sect’s routines. He showered them with love and flattery and promised them eternal glory as musical avatars, so long as they obeyed his dictates. These included wearing only black and white clothing, eating only black and white foods (these being the sole shades of sheet music) and performing spiritual exercises such as clapping their hands against their ears until they perceived the ringing of the “Cosmic Tuning Fork.”

It’s difficult to find a cult leader of the era who didn’t regiment and exploit the sex lives of his followers, and Maestro Ludgang was no exception. Members of the church lived communally, sharing food, beds, clothing, and chores according to a complex rotating schedule created by superimposing the twelve-tone scale onto the lunar calendar.

Venice, CA, headquarters of "The Fold" cult, 1968.

The MMUSC’s headquarters in Venice, CA, 1968.

Maestro Ludgang controlled their musical lives as well, telling the young musicians what they could play and who they could play with, in accordance with the directives of the Eighty-Eight. Since Maestro Ludgang banned all private property (that is, followers deeded all possessions and money to him), he enforced his rulings by bestowing and withdrawing instruments as reward and punishment. A drummer caught eating an orange might suddenly find himself learning clarinet rudiments. When acolytes weren’t rehearsing, they were out on the street scrounging money for the cult — usually by selling origami figures fashioned from old sheet music.

One promise Maestro Ludgang made good on: He put his musicians in front of audiences, initially booking them into mainstream rock-and-roll clubs (where they aggressively courted new followers), and then staging dedicated MMUSC happenings. These events were designed to reflect the cult’s principles. A typical show might open with a set of classical chamber music as an illustration of the Apollonian ideal. Next, the house rock band — named the Fold in honor of the sect’s dualist ideas — presented the Dionysian alternative. Finally, Maestro Ludgang would bring the evening to a climax with his Ascended Maestro Rockestra, a group that fused the complexity of classical music with the power of rock.

At least that’s how the events were supposed to proceed. Unfortunately for Kerman, his pompous Rockestra sucked ass. And the Fold was good. Very good.

The Fold's 1969 press photo (courtesy Clubbo Records).

The Fold in July 1969 (L to R): Connie McCormack, Shep Shepheard, Nancy Bacar.

The Fold specialized in slow, throbbing, trance-inducing songs, punctuated by the shamanistic exhortations of charismatic frontman Gary “Shep” Shepheard. Their swirling, sexy music captivated listeners who were left cold by arid chamber music and the Rockestra’s complex, jerky arrangements. And the attractive young musicians were a lot easier on the eye than Ken Kerman, who fronted the Rockestra sitting down, squinting at sheet music through thick bifocals.

Maestro Ludgang was not pleased about being upstaged — though by all accounts Shep was a pious church adherent, at least initially. “Shep was really upset when Ken Kerman accused him of deliberately taking away focus from the Rockestra,” recalls the former Connie McCormack, the Fold’s keyboardist, who today runs the Constance Klein Literary Agency out of her home in La Jolla, California. “He tried, really tried, to not put on such a good show, but he couldn’t help it. He just had this amazing magnetism. The word got around, and audiences started leaving right after we played.” (Klein agreed to speak under the condition that we emphasize she had no part in any of the MMUSC’s illegal activities.)

Kerman responded by literally stealing the Fold’s thunder: He informed the group that Claude Debussy had told him to induct Fold bassist Gerry Paganelli into the Rockestra, and that the Fold would henceforth perform as a bass-less quartet. “I didn’t know much about bass,” says Connie. “I just started playing more with my left hand. And as it turned out, most people didn’t even realize Gerry was gone.”

Shortly afterward, Clubbo co-founder Morris “Bo” Bogerman attended an MMUSC concert with Clubbo office assistant Carrie Madden after hearing her rave endlessly about Shep and the Fold. Bo pegged the cult as a not-very-slick scam. But he immediately saw that the Fold could be huge.

The Fold in a 1969 press photo (Clubbo Records).

When Maestro Ludgang learned that Bogerman wanted to sign the Fold, but not the Rockestra, he received a visitation from J.S. Bach, who pointed out that since he’d never needed a drummer, the Fold probably didn’t require one either. “That was sort of a turning point,” says Connie. “We started wondering whether everything Ken Kerman said came directly from the Eighty-Eight. And when we started wondering about that, we started wondering about a lot of things. Like, why couldn’t we play anywhere but at MMUSC events? And how come we couldn’t eat anything but cottage cheese and licorice? And how good could our band get if we didn’t have to spend every afternoon on the Santa Monica pier selling origami animals?”

Bogerman took the Fold into the studio, where the group tracked an entire album in a week. Kerman refused to excuse former Fold drummer Troy Miller from Rockestra rehearsal, so Bogerman hired session stickman Jim Kinealy, who later became a full-time member of Devon Shire’s band. Bo also funded a photo shoot, from which came the few surviving photos of the group. (Note that Shep, Connie, and guitarist Nancy Bacar have abandoned the MMUSC’s black and white in favor of unapologetically colorful hippie duds.)

The Fold vocalist Shep Shepard in 1969 press photo (Clubbo Records).

“We made the record so fast, it’s hard to remember much,” says Connie. “I think if it had ever come out, it really would have made a splash. But we’ll never know for sure.”

On the night of August 6, 1969, someone broke into Hitbox Studios in Burbank, CA, started a fire in the reception area, and made off with all the Fold tapes, including the safety copies. The LAPD immediately suspected an inside job. The Fold accused Ken Kerman. Kerman accused the Fold. On August 8, Kerman, Shep, Connie, and Nancy were all booked on suspicion of theft and attempted arson. The arrests would have warranted splashy coverage in the Los Angeles Times had not the Manson Family’s Tate murders occurred that night. Lacking evidence, the authorities released the Fold, but Kerman was arraigned on unrelated charges of drug possession, statutory rape, and tax evasion. Freed on bail the following day, he fled to Mexico. Kerman’s name has since been connected with cult activity in Brazil, Switzerland, New Zealand, Fiji, and Iceland. His current whereabouts are unknown.

And the Fold album? The tapes were never recovered. All that remains in the Clubbo archives is the planned artwork for the LP and a handful of band photos. Bogerman tried to persuade the band to re-record the album — but Shep, bitterly disillusioned by Kerman’s betrayal, vowed to sever all ties with both the music and religion industries. Musically, all we’re left with is the tantalizing thought of what the Fold might have been — and this rare live recording, captured in April 1969 by a tape-recorder-toting fan.

August 8, 1969: Connie McCormack, Shep Shepheard, Nancy Bacar and cult leader Ken Kerman arrested.

August 8, 1969: Connie McCormack, Shep Shepheard, Nancy Bacar, and cult leader Ken Kerman arrested.

Connie McCormack returned to college at USC, majoring in English. Nancy Bacar became a Pan Am stewardess. And Gary “Shep” Shepheard moved to Death Valley, where he pumped gas and repaired tires at one of the area’s few service stations. Today he is a Laughlin, Nevada, real estate agent. He declines all interview requests, including ours.

Despite his bad experience with the Major/Minor Universal Spiritual Church, Bogerman later signed several former members of the Rockestra when they reunited sans Kerman as the progressive-rock band Plynth. Their best-known album, Stone Age Symphony, was a minor Clubbo hit in 1974.