4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

The King is dead

In his new book, Swim Through Darkness, local rocker/writer Mike Stax examines the mysterious decline of '60s pop hopeful Craig Smith

One-time pop hopeful and future “King of the World” Craig Smith had a mysterious fall from such Hollywood heights.
One-time pop hopeful and future “King of the World” Craig Smith had a mysterious fall from such Hollywood heights.

In 1966, Craig Smith was friends with Beach Boy Mike Love and Monkee Mike Nesmith. Smith was a successful songwriter and singer marked as a potential pop star.

By 1969, he believed he was the future “King of the World.” By 1973, he had tattooed a black widow on his forehead and serving time for attacking his mother.

Video:

Swim Through Darkness

...book trailer

...book trailer

By the mid-1970s, Smith was pretty much homeless on the streets of Studio City until his death in 2012.

Now Smith’s life is the focus of a new book, Swim Through the Darkness: My Search For Craig Smith and the Mystery of Maitreya Kali (Feral House), written by Loons lead singer Mike Stax, publisher of the music zine Ugly Things.

Stax first heard Smith’s music 15 years ago and became obsessed.

“Craig really could have been a huge star, or at least had a successful career in the music business,” Stax said. “But rather than just failing, it went horribly wrong in the complete opposite way. He ended up on the fringes of society, thrown away, cast aside into the gutter.”

Smith’s mental illness may have been exacerbated by massive amounts of LSD and PTSD suffered after being attacked and sexually assaulted while in Afghanistan in 1968.

By the time Smith got back home to Los Angeles, he was telling people he was Maitreya Kali, a living deity who would be crowned King of the World by 2000.

Despite having songs recorded by Glen Campbell, Andy Williams, and the Monkees, most of Smith’s own recordings were never officially released during his prime years.

For years, Stax tried in vain to interview Smith and perhaps help him get off the streets. It never happened.

The one exception is “Apache/Inca” a vanity record he had made in 1971. Stax believes it was Smith’s last stab at getting his music heard before his mental illness completely took over his mind.

Original copies sell for thousands of dollars, but Stax was surprised by how much he liked it.

“Based on the cover art, I was very surprised it was coherent,” Stax said. “How could this guy who was clearly schizophrenic make this beautiful, well-thought-out music?”

For years, Stax tried in vain to interview Smith and perhaps help him get off the streets. It never happened.

Now Smith’s ashes are sitting on top of a bookshelf in Stax’s La Mesa home, claimed from the Los Angeles County Crematory after Stax learned Smith’s family didn’t want them.

“My plan is to start a GoFundMe to pay for a burial plot up in L.A., at Hollywood Lawns in the valley,” Stax said. “The estimate I got from the cemetery is over $10K, but I think people will step up and help make it happen.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Stand-up paddleboarders can be tiresome

"I’m not going to try to drop in on someone"
Next Article

When burrito met Philly at El Pollo Grill

“You’ve never had better meat in a burrito.”
One-time pop hopeful and future “King of the World” Craig Smith had a mysterious fall from such Hollywood heights.
One-time pop hopeful and future “King of the World” Craig Smith had a mysterious fall from such Hollywood heights.

In 1966, Craig Smith was friends with Beach Boy Mike Love and Monkee Mike Nesmith. Smith was a successful songwriter and singer marked as a potential pop star.

By 1969, he believed he was the future “King of the World.” By 1973, he had tattooed a black widow on his forehead and serving time for attacking his mother.

Video:

Swim Through Darkness

...book trailer

...book trailer

By the mid-1970s, Smith was pretty much homeless on the streets of Studio City until his death in 2012.

Now Smith’s life is the focus of a new book, Swim Through the Darkness: My Search For Craig Smith and the Mystery of Maitreya Kali (Feral House), written by Loons lead singer Mike Stax, publisher of the music zine Ugly Things.

Stax first heard Smith’s music 15 years ago and became obsessed.

“Craig really could have been a huge star, or at least had a successful career in the music business,” Stax said. “But rather than just failing, it went horribly wrong in the complete opposite way. He ended up on the fringes of society, thrown away, cast aside into the gutter.”

Smith’s mental illness may have been exacerbated by massive amounts of LSD and PTSD suffered after being attacked and sexually assaulted while in Afghanistan in 1968.

By the time Smith got back home to Los Angeles, he was telling people he was Maitreya Kali, a living deity who would be crowned King of the World by 2000.

Despite having songs recorded by Glen Campbell, Andy Williams, and the Monkees, most of Smith’s own recordings were never officially released during his prime years.

For years, Stax tried in vain to interview Smith and perhaps help him get off the streets. It never happened.

The one exception is “Apache/Inca” a vanity record he had made in 1971. Stax believes it was Smith’s last stab at getting his music heard before his mental illness completely took over his mind.

Original copies sell for thousands of dollars, but Stax was surprised by how much he liked it.

“Based on the cover art, I was very surprised it was coherent,” Stax said. “How could this guy who was clearly schizophrenic make this beautiful, well-thought-out music?”

For years, Stax tried in vain to interview Smith and perhaps help him get off the streets. It never happened.

Now Smith’s ashes are sitting on top of a bookshelf in Stax’s La Mesa home, claimed from the Los Angeles County Crematory after Stax learned Smith’s family didn’t want them.

“My plan is to start a GoFundMe to pay for a burial plot up in L.A., at Hollywood Lawns in the valley,” Stax said. “The estimate I got from the cemetery is over $10K, but I think people will step up and help make it happen.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Cobra Kai cassettes

Tijuana’s La Rola records noticed the increase in used cassette sales in 2020
Next Article

The fate of Tijuana's 300,000 stray dogs

Injections instead of electocuting
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close