The Original Nature Boy: Eden Ahbez

Recently Jason Bentley played a song by Eden Ahbez called “Full Moon”, and it occurred to me that many people wouldn’t know who he was.  Also the song seemed pretty hokey. But it truly reflected the back-to-nature spirit of a songwriter and musician who lived naturally and wrote one of the most famous songs ever. It was indeed Eden Ahbez (b. George Alexander Aberle, 1908) who wrote one of Nat Cole’s most famous songs, “Nature Boy”, a song that also has been recorded by John Coltrane, David Bowie, Miles Davis, Aaron Neville, and countless others.

Ahbez moved to LA in 1941 and started playing piano in a health-food store and raw-food restaurant called the Eutropheon, run by German immigrants on Laurel Canyon Blvd.

There he met and hung out with Robert Bootzin, better known as “Gypsy Boots”, inventor of the Gypsy Boots Energy Bars of the 1960s and 1970s.  The Germans, Ahbez, and Bootzin came to be known as the “nature boys”.  Ahbez camped out under the Hollywood Sign, enjoying the fresh air and outdoor life.  When LA radio host and dj Cowboy Jack Patton heard Ahbez’ song “Nature Boy”, he persuaded Ahbez to give the song to Nat King Cole.  When Cole wanted to record it, he had to track Ahbez down.  He found him camping out underneath the Hollywood Sign.  Cole recorded it and the song went to the top of the pop charts, staying #1 for months.

Ahbez was a proto-hippie, proto-beatnik, and anticipated the growth of the natural food and raw food movement.  He, like so many others, came to California to realize his dream.  And though he anticipated so much of California culture and the California psyche, he is hardly remembered today.  He died in 1995 in an auto accident at age 86.  Joe Romersa, drummer, engineer, and singer with the now-defunct Thai Country Western band Soy Cowboy, has the final works in the Ahbez collection.