Our friends at Dangerous Minds have a piece about a new book coming out called Swim Through the Darkness: My Search for Craig Smith and the Mystery of Maitreya Kali by Mike Stax.
Craig Smith, born in 1945, was part of The Good Time Singers, the house pop-folk group on The Andy Williams Show in the 1960s. He went on to become a successful songwriter (“Country Girl” for Glenn Campbell, “Salesman” for The Monkees, and “Hands of the Clock” for Heather MacRae). But in 1968 he took a trip to the middle east, and his life unraveled.
From Ron Kretsch's Dangerous Minds story:
He started his trek in Turkey, intending to make his way to India, merrily smoking hashish and dropping acid along the way. But fatefully, when a group of fellow travelers he’d befriended was ready to move on from Kandahar to Kabul, Smith remained behind. He was to meet up with his companions in just a few days, but two of them, Ann Dignan and Mary Hurley, recall in Swim Through the Darkness not learning what had happened to him for months:
Dignan: "I ran into some people and asked about him and they said they heard about this American named Craig who went crazy. The rumor I heard was that he was hallucinating on LSD and went running through the market with a knife, threatening people or being threatened, and then just disappeared into insanity."
Hurley: "The details that they gave were sketchy, but they mentioned seeing Craig in a marketplace in Kandahar looking over the fruit. Then suddenly he had grabbed a knife and gone after a vendor in one of the stalls. Apparently this action provoked an immediate reaction from the man’s friends. The tables turned, and the last thing they saw was fruit, turbans and men flying, and Craig running for his life up over a couple of distant hills, then disappearing over a ridge with the men still in hot pursuit."
Apparently Smith got the absolute living shit beaten out of him, and he may also have been confined and sexually assaulted. Whether from the mental trauma, a brain injury, the drugs he was consuming, or a combination of all of them, a previously latent schizophrenia began to come to the fore. He returned to L.A. an entirely different person—disheveled, dour, confrontational, often filthy—and that different person changed his name to Maitreya Kali and recorded a pair of legendary but unobtainable psych albums.
Here are a couple of his songs. They're excellent!