Circus Maximus (American band)

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Circus Maximus was an American band in the late 1960s, who combined influences from folk music, rock, and jazz into a form of psychedelic rock.[1]


The band, originally called the Lost Sea Dreamers (Vanguard Records insisted on a name change, as the initials "LSD" were considered too linked to the drug culture), was formed in 1967 by Bob Bruno and Jerry Jeff Walker. Bruno's song "Wind", from their eponymous first album, became a minor hit in the United States, particularly through airplay on "progressive" FM radio stations. This track was a great favorite on Boston radio including Dick Summer's seminal "Night Light" program on WBZ-AM, and also on WNEW-FM in New York, where pioneering DJ Rosko put "Wind" on his eclectic playlist.

In late December 1967, they performed in an unusual pair of "Electric Christmas" concerts together with the New York Pro Musica, an ensemble devoted to performing early music. There were two 80-minute performances . The material performed included a reworking of 14th-century composer Guillaume de Machaut's "La douce dame jolie" as an English-language song "Sweet Lovely Lady" which was arranged by Robert M.Bruno for the ensemble and a Bruno original "Chess Game" that, unbeknownst to Bruno himself but noted by John White, director of the Pro Musica, strongly echoed the "Romanesca", a piece first written down in 16th-century Spanish lute books.[2]

The concert was not a critical success. Donal Henahan, writing in The New York Times, said that it "fell somewhat short of being the total-environmental trip that was promised… the night summed up most of the esthetic ideas now in the air: incongruity, simultaneity, games theory, the put-on, the parody, the Trip… and the effort to create a 'Total Environment' in which all the senses can come into play." Henahan opined that the concert's commercial success showed a breakdown in the separation of classical and popular audiences.[3]

Bruno's interest in jazz apparently diverged from Walker's interest in folk music, and by July 1968, the band had broken up and Walker was appearing at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village, sharing a bill with Joni Mitchell.[4] Bassist Gary White went on to write Linda Ronstadt's first solo hit, "Long, Long Time." By 1972 Bruno was appearing with Noah Howard's groups which included several appearances at the NY Free Jazz Festival . He is on the recording called "Noah Howard Live at the Village Vanguard" with Noah Howard, Franke Lowe, Earl freeman, Juma Sultan, and Rashid Ali (Freedom records and re-released on Iron Man in 2004 as a Cd.) Robert Shelton included the Circus Maximus album Neverland Revisited in a November 1968 list selected to represent "the breadth… of today's rock".[5]


  • Jerry Jeff Walker, rhythm guitar and vocal (credited on first album as "Jerry Walker")
  • Bob Bruno, lead guitar, organ, piano, vocal
  • David Scherstrom, drums
  • Gary White, bass
  • Peter Troutner, vocal and tambourine; also some guitar work (died January 11, 2008)[6]



  • Circus Maximus, Circus Maximus, Vanguard VRS-9260 (mono) and VSD-79260 (stereo) (1967)
    1. Travelin' Around (Bob Bruno)
    2. Lost Sea Shanty (Jerry Jeff Walker)
    3. Oops, I Can Dance (Jerry Jeff Walker)
    4. You Know I've Got The Rest Of My Life To Go (Bob Bruno)
    5. Bright Light Lover (Bob Bruno)
    6. Chess Game (Bob Bruno)
    7. People's Game (Jerry Jeff Walker)
    8. Time Waits (Bob Bruno)
    9. Fading Lady (Jerry Jeff Walker)
    10. Short-Haired Fathers (Bob Bruno)
    11. Wind (Bob Bruno)
  • Circus Maximus, Neverland Revisited, Vanguard VSD-79274 (1968)
    1. Hello Baby (Bob Bruno)
    2. How's Your Sky, Straight Guy Spy (Bob Bruno)
    3. Come Outside, Believe In It (Jerry Jeff Walker)
    4. Parallel (Bob Bruno)
    5. Trying To Live Right (Jerry Jeff Walker)
    6. Lonely Man (Bob Bruno)
    7. Mixtures (Jerry Jeff Walker)
    8. Negative Dreamer Girl (Jerry Jeff Walker)
    9. Neverland (Bob Bruno)
    10. Neverland Revisited (Bob Bruno)
    11. Hansel and Gretel (Jerry Jeff Walker)



  1. ^ The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (John Pareles and Patricia Romanowski, eds.), Rolling Stone/Fireside Books, 1983, p. 580, ISBN 0-671-44071-3, describes the band as "psychedelic"; Hughes 1967 says "psychedelic rock".
  2. ^ Hughes 1967, Strongin 1967, Schonberg 1967.
  3. ^ Henehan 1967.
  4. ^ Shelton July 1968.
  5. ^ Shelton November 1968.
  6. ^ Bob Bruno, Music and Paintings.
  7. ^ a b Liner notes and record labels from Circus Maximus and Neverland Revisited.


  • Allen Hughes, "Pro Musica et Circus Maximus To Meet in 14th-Century France; Romanesca Variant Multimedia Collage", The New York Times December 15, 1967. p. 54.
  • Theodore Strongin, "Contemporary Classical Disks Rising; 'Catholicity of Taste' Pioneer Disk Top Seller", The New York Times, December 20, 1967. p. 49.
  • Harold C. Schonberg, "Like Ahab in Quest of the White Whale", New York Times December 24, 1967. p. 67. Also includes a photo by Henri Dauman depicting members of the various groups involved in the concert.
  • Donal Henahan, "Noel Plugged in at Carnegie Hall: Pro Musica Collaborates With Electric Circus; Group Sugarplums Danced on Walls" The New York Times December 27, 1967. p. 44.
  • Robert Shelton, "Singer-Songwriters Are Making a Comeback; Developing Trend Indicated at the Bitter End by Jerry Walker and Joni Mitchell", The New York Times July 5, 1968. p. 21.
  • Robert Shelton, "The Best of Rock: A Discography", The New York Times, November 24, 1968. p. H4.