The Godz (New York band)

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The Godz
OriginNew York City, New York, United States
GenresExperimental rock, avant-garde, psychedelic rock, psychedelic folk, noise rock, drone
Years active1966–1973; 2007–2018
LabelsESP-Disk, Manta Ray Records
Past membersLarry Kessler
Paul Thornton
Mike Cerri
Mike Diamond
Doug Gussio
Rick Sambuco
Jim McCarthy
Jay Dillon

The Godz were a New York City based avant-noise psychedelic band that originally existed from 1966 to 1973.[1][2]


The Godz musicians were guitarist Jim McCarthy, bassist Larry Kessler, autoharpist Jay Dillon, and drummer Paul Thornton.[1] They started the band after Larry Kessler met Jim McCarthy and Paul Thornton when they all took jobs in the 49th Street location of the musical instruments store Sam Goody's.[3]

According to McCarthy they came up with their musical approach on this situation: "One day Paul came over to visit them, and the three gathered in Larry's living room to smoke a joint." What happened next was purely accidental, according to Jim: "There were all these percussive instruments lying around and out of total frustration, I got up and started shaking a tambourine or something like that, and that's how it all started. We all started to get up and make noise like a bunch of maniacs, expressing our frustration."[3]

After this event, "Larry made a suggestion that had both Jim and Paul questioning his sanity: that the three audition this impromptu 'band' for ESP."[3] Kessler had been working for the ESP-Disk jazz record label which was founded by Bernard Stollman. ESP also released recordings by another underground rock band from this era from New York City, the Fugs.

The Godz' first recording session took place on September 28, 1966 from which came their first album Contact High released in 1966.[3] They released their second LP in 1967 called Godz 2. Without Jay Dillon "the remaining three Godz cut The Third Testament (in 1968), inviting several friends to invade the studio and freak out on a few numbers (a concept borrowed from the Red Crayola's Parable of Arable Land), then filling in the rest with solo numbers by each of the three remaining members."[3] Their final album was released in 1973 and it was called Godzundheit.[3]

In July 2005, Jay Dillon's niece posted a message stating that he had died several years before. Two years later in early 2007, the surviving members, Jim McCarthy, Larry Kessler, and Paul Thornton, reunited to produce new recordings. Six of these recordings appear on The Godz Remastered, released by Manta Ray Records in 2012 and another three of the recordings from this session appear on Gift from the Godz released in 2014 by Manta Ray Records. In late 2014, original member Larry Kessler put together a road band of seasoned musicians and billed the experience as L.L. Kessler's "GODZ" show and started touring the northeast United States.

In 2015, The Godz started working on new material for release. The singles "Hungry for Love" and "America" came from these sessions. There were sporadic shows in New York, Washington D.C. and Baltimore, a few of the appearances including original member Paul Thorton. Thornton ended up joining the band back in New York City on stage at Jeffrey Wengrofsky's residency at Howl! Happening and in Baltimore at the Reverb collective.[4] In 2018, the band was slated to make appearances at the Sowebo and Charles Village festivals. In 2019, the band welcomed the arrival of Mike Walker on drums, and Charles Walker on keyboards and backing vocals. Kessler spent the final days of 2018 and early 2019 composing the psychedelic 14 minute opus titled "Thanks", slated to be released on Manta Ray Records later that year.[5][6]

In 2019, Jeffrey Wengrofsky released Here to Eternity with the Godz, a short film featuring Kessler.[7] Also in 2019, The Godz were featured in Issue 87 of Shindig! magazine.[8] In April 2019, Paul Thornton was reported to have died.[9]

Sound and musical style[edit]

Lester Bangs published "Do the Godz Speak Esperanto?" in Creem Magazine (December 1971): "What makes them so special? Well, theoretically, anybody can play like that, but in actual practice, it just ain’t so. Most people would be too stultified – after all, what’s the point of doing it if anybody can? – and as for you, you probably ain’t got the balls to do it, and even if you did, you’d never carry it through like a true Godzly musical maniac must to qualify. You’d just pick it up and tootle a few bars to prove something, and that’s entirely different. Me, I could do it because I have been years, even before I heard of the Godz. All it takes is insane persistence and a total disregard for everything but getting that yawp out of you if you gotta howl at the moon, and obviously most folks aren’t gonna howl at the moon just to prove a point. But the Godz would! And not to prove a point, but because they like howling at the moon! Which is what sets them apart."[10]

John Dougan from AllMusic describes The Godz as follows: "Few bands in the annals of rock & roll were stranger than the New York City-based Godz...the Godz coughed up some of the strangest, most dissonant, purposely incompetent rock noise ever produced...Sounding like a prototype for Half Japanese or the Shaggs, the Godz play as if they discovered their instruments ten minutes before the tape started rolling. The singing is intentionally off-key, almost parodic, and the songs...well, they sound more like improvised snippets than actual compositions. And while that may not be your idea of pop music, this works, in large part, due to the absolute glee and unself-consciousness with which they approached their peculiar brand of aural nonsense."[1]


  • Contact High with the Godz (1966) ESP-Disk 1037
  • Godz 2 (1967) ESP-Disk 1047
  • The Third Testament (1968) ESP-Disk 1077
  • Godzundheit (1973) ESP-Disk 2017
  • The Godz Remastered (compilation, 2012) Manta Ray Records QS938
  • Gift from the Godz (2014) Manta Ray Records MR 0155
  • "Hungry for Love" (single, 2015) Manta Ray Records MR 0211
  • "America" (single, 2016) Manta Ray Records MR 0243
  • America (EP, 2019) Manta Ray Records MR 0296
Side projects
  • Alien – Jim McCarthy (1973) ESP-Disk 3008
  • Pass On This Side – (Paul) Thornton, Fradkin & Unger and the Big Band (1974) ESP-Disk 63019



  1. ^ a b c "The Godz - Biography, Albums, Streaming Links". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Clamor of the Godz: Radical Incompetence in 1960s Rock" by Patrick Burke on American Music. Vol. 29, No. 1, Spring 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f ""This Is The Godz' Truth" by Ray Brazen". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Jeffrey Wengrofsky Dreaming is Free". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Remastered by The Godz mp3 downloads on mTraks". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "Godz". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  8. ^ "Shindig! Issue 87". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  9. ^ a b "We are sad to announce original Godz member, Paul Thornton has passed away....", Facebook, April 10, 2019
  10. ^ "The Books: Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'N'Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'N'Roll; "Do the Godz Speak Esperanto?", by Lester Bangs - The Sheila Variations". Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  11. ^ Ray Brazen, "This Is The Godz' Truth (Part 3)", Brazenblog, September 28, 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2019

External links[edit]