The Red Crayola began as a psychedelic experimental rock band formed by art students at the University of St. Thomas (Texas) in 1966.
The band was led by singer/guitarist and visual artist Mayo Thompson, along with drummer Frederick Barthelme and Steve Cunningham.
The abstract tendencies of The Red Crayola were greeted with befuddlement when they released their debut album – The Parable of Arable Land – in 1967.
The album was self-described as a “Free Form Freak-Out,” and remains one of the most infamous in their catalogue, with one track – Hurricane Fighter Plane – described as “one of the closest American approximations of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd“.
The album Coconut Hotel was recorded in 1967 but rejected by International Artists for its lack of commercial potential. The album did not see release until 1995.
The band’s second album to see release (and the first to be released with the new “Krayola” spelling) was 1968’s God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It.
Having veered away from the cacophonous psychedelic approach of their first album, the band performed short, minimalist songs on guitar, bass and drums (interspersed with occasional a cappella harmonies and piano interludes) to achieve some surprisingly melodic results and even more surprisingly off-kilter lyrics.
The album was not well received and the Red Krayola’s original lineup disbanded.
Mayo Thompson continued to make music, both under his own name and as The Red Crayola. He teamed up with American drummer Jesse Chamberlain and recorded the single Wives in Orbit and the album Soldier Talk.