Nature Boys

In front, eden ahbez and Bill Pester, Los Angeles, 1940s

Nature Boys emerged in the early 1900s, embracing long hair and sun-kissed skin as symbols of their deep connection to nature. Jack Kerouac mentioned them in “On The Road,” recalling encounters with these “Nature Boy saints” during his 1947 travels in Los Angeles.

Eden Ahbez, a standout among the Nature Boys, was a musician and songwriter who frequented the Eutropheon. He played piano and crafted flutes, eventually composing the hit song “Nature Boy” for Nat King Cole as an homage to their lifestyle. The song topped charts for eight weeks and became a classic, performed by artists like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Peggy Lee.

Despite the attention, Nature Boys led hermit-like lives, seeking solitude in hills, trees, and caves. The term “Nature Boy” loosely translated “naturmenschen” and was embraced mainly by German immigrants and their followers, adherents of “Lebensreform” or life reform.

Bill Pester, an early Lebensreform influencer, mentored the Nature Boys. He left Germany at 19 to avoid military service in 1906, promoting nature worship, literature, music, nudism, and a raw foods diet. Settling in Palm Springs, he roamed the desert barefoot, playing his guitar and forming bonds with Native Americans.

In the 1960s, elder Nature Boys influenced the emerging Hippie generation, serving as spiritual guides and role models. However, they didn’t endorse all Hippie aspects, as Lebensreform discouraged drug use. Gordon Kennedy’s book, “Children of the Sun,” traces Hippie origins to 19th-century Germany, revealing the deep roots of the American counterculture.

Recognizing these earlier movements reshapes our understanding of the 1960s and the global consciousness movement today. The Hippie narrative, often focused on middle-class youth dropping out, only scratches the surface. A deeper story stretches back to the 1940s with the Nature Boys and Lebensreform movements introduced by German immigrants.

Bill Pester, Palm Springs desert, 1917


About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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1 Response to Nature Boys

  1. rangerdon – Teacher, photographer, Ranger, writer. Author, THE LIFE AND TRUTH OF GEORGE R. STEWART. Father, grandfather. Wanderer
    Ranger Don says:

    Good article, John. Clearly, the Dunites of the Oceano Dunes influenced them/were influenced by them. Grist for the mill of the new book!

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