Return of the Nature Boys: The Source Family

“Things are worse than they may seem. Let’s try my little scheme. Yeah! Dream! Some other dream.” Father Yod, Fire in the Sky

Check out the official symbol of the Wandervogel (traveling bird) society born on November 4, 1901, in Berlin as a back-to-nature group that worshiped freedom and the spirit of adventure. Although later co-opted by the Boy Scouts and the Hitler Youth, this society was an influence on the hippie generation, at least in Los Angeles.

Eden Abez (George Aberle) wrote a song called “Nature Boy” about an enchanted lad who wanders far and wide spreading magic vibes. The song became a #1 hit for Nat “King” Cole in 1948. The song was really written about a group Abez hung out with in Laurel Canyon, headquartered at a pioneering raw foods restaurant run by John and Vera Richter, German immigrants trying to keep the original Wandervogel spirit alive. The group also included Gypsy Boots (Robert Bootzin) who opened his own health food store and would evolve into a major writer and prophet for the tribe.

My cousins knew two brothers from Flint Lake, Indiana, who went off to Los Angeles in the early 1960s to go surfing and came back looking like Buddhist monks. They spent the next ten years traveling around the country playing conga drums. The Nature Boy/Wandervogel spirit had obviously infected them.

But the most interesting figure to emerge from this scene is Father Yod (James Baker) a decorated Marine who served in WWII and  founded his own organic vegetarian restaurant on Sunset Strip, a place made famous in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Father Yod also created an important commune called The Source.

Father Yod had a council of 13 beautiful goddesses, some of whom became his wives, and some of whom bore his children. They lived with their extended tribe in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Yod was driven around in a white Rolls Royce and treated like a king, although he left the details of running the kingdom to the goddess council.

I love this shot of Yod’s Temple Dragons (his sons), all of whom were very well-trained by their dad in bow-and-arrow as well as martial arts. Although the group worshiped peace and love, obviously nobody fucked with this commune when the Savage Sons were around.

Like many charismatic leaders of the hippie movement, Yod has been treated badly by the media, which usually paints him as a Manson-like cult leader. Isn’t it weird how anyone who tries to wear a ceremonial hat is branded a fraud and “occult” cult-leader, but when the Pope puts on a similar hat, it’s called “religion” and treated with the utmost respect? How organized religion pulls off this scam is beyond me. It’s all magic, and it all runs on the same spiritual juices no matter who wears the big hat or what that hat looks like.

Music is a major part of spirituality and Yod built a recording studio in the mansion for his improvisational jam sessions. These recordings were sold for a few dollars out of his restaurant, although today the records are avidly sought by a handful of devoted collectors. Yod’s lyrics can be difficult to decipher, but he comes off like an impassioned cross between Captain Beefheart and Howling Wolf .

Check out the documentary The Source Family.

6 Replies to “Return of the Nature Boys: The Source Family”

  1. Hey Steven, I was actually in the Source Family from ‘70 until we all dispersed in Hawaii and as entertaining as it is to read what you have posted; it is very much an exaggeration. I’m not sure which topic that you wrote about to try and correct (put into a more realistic perspective), but let’s just say that you have embellished the story quite a bit. But, with the documentary soon to be released, many of us from the experience are more relieved to read someone’s positive take on the whole thing; as opposed to being compared to the Manson Family. Your energy & enthusiasm for the story & music is great, though.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Laura. I didn’t have much to say, other than I like the music and a film is coming out, but I would love to know more. Any chance of a free copy of the book could come my way so I could write something more accurate in my High Times column? I’m a student of counterculture history and The Source Family reminds me a lot of the Lyman Family from Boston, two of whom were convicted of bank robbery, although other than that one episode they were mostly law-abiding and managed to publish one of the best underground papers ever, The Avatar. I always investigate roots of a story first, which is why I began this one with the German nature movement at the turn of the century. It’s really just a sketch of an idea of something I’d like to keep investigating.

      1. Yes, it’s an interesting social phenomena that took place in the late sixties into the seventies, with the formation of counterculture groups like The Source and so many others, some which are still going strong. The Source Family was composed of more young hippies, than anything else. Most of us who joined Jim Baker/Father Yod on his magical mystery ride were spiritual seekers who gravitated to Los Angeles and found Father Yod by an inner longing (or calling) similar to how the group of people in Close Encounters were all drawn subconsciously to one specific place. The majority recognizing immediately that we had found what we were looking for, whereas others really didn’t realize why they were there, but went along for the ride. Although, our story was rather short-lived it was unique in it’s origin and place….the Sunset Strip.

  2. Hi Steven…thank you for being interested and including us in your write up and book. i hear you now have my book and the source documentry is being release on dvd form …. i know you will love if you can- obtain a copy :)) our website is stay in touch xo isis aquarian

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