At the heart of Tampa, Florida’s teen rock scene were The Tropics, whose Columbia record deal made them local heroes during the back half of the 1960s. In ’69, Tropics bassist Charlie Souza introduced fellow bassman Paul Forney to Brother—guitarist Benjamin Schultz and drummer Wally Watson, who’d recently parted ways with original bassist Houston Lennard. Fashionably progressive, Brother had been tearing up Southern Florida University, earning desirable opening slots for southern rock acts including the Allman Brothers. At the center of Brother’s collegiate volunteer staff were manager Brian Feldman and roadie Chris Luhn. Slotted to open for Chicago horn-rock progenitors The Flock, Brother sound-checked a long, organic jam, during which Watson stormed off in disgust. Forney and Schultz invited Luhn to take the drummer’s vacated seat Luhn. The new trio rebranded itself Wizard, to better illustrate its progressive bent.

Next, Wizard embarked on a sprawling 1970 tour that crept up the Eastern Seaboard before doglegging west into the Rust Belt, and to the Ann Arbor, Michigan, pseudo-commune inhabited by Detroit-area hippie hard-rockers the Third Power. Settled in during the first weeks of August, Wizard stepped in to substitute for Rod Stewart at Goose Lake International Music Festival, a Woodstock-styled outdoor event held outside Jackson, Michigan; one Detroit Free Press scribe named Wizard a “best of the festival,” alongside Chicago and Mountain. After playing to an estimated 250,000 free-spirited midwesterners, Wizard fielded overtures from Decca records A&R rep Bob Fletcher. Fletcher would sign the group and fund the recording of Wizard’s only LP at Atlanta, Georgia’s LeFevre Sound. Released by the Peon label in 1971, the record wore “The Original Wizard” stampings, to differentiate Wizard’s power rock from the bizarre glam of Roy Wood’s Wizzard. Despite a catchy chorus, crunchy chords, and fashionable occultism on “Séance,” the record conjured up little industry interest. Fed up, Wizard split. While Luhn headed for law school, Forney found a home within the Jimmy Castor Bunch, and Schultz co-wrote and co-produced Buddy Miles’ pair of Casablanca LPs.

Wizard Appears on: