Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Neighborhood Memorializes King Swami

Neighbors crafted a memorial on Larchmont to honor King Swami, a local street musician, who could be seen daily on Larchmont. He passed away, after suffering a stroke, on September 11, 2020.

He was known throughout the neighborhood as a kind and gentle, peace-loving man who was also quite a talented musician with a very good voice. King Swami, as he was known, a beloved figure on Larchmont, was introduced to the neighborhood nearly twenty years ago playing Regge and Calypso music, first at the Larchmont Farmers market and then later across the street. For the last ten years, King would stop by Noah’s Bagels every morning. Manager Maria Samano told us that she first met King when she was a student at Hollywood High School, because he would often play his music nearby. She and her staff helped King celebrate his 74th birthday a few weeks ago with a cake.

“I’m miss seeing him everyday,” Samano told the Buzz.

His legal name was Oscar Lee Lingo, but his stage name was King Swami. Friends told the Buzz that King started as a vendor at the Larchmont Farmers Market when the market started. He could be found surrounded by children listening to him play the guitar, the keyboard, the harmonica and drums.

“He was entirely self-taught,” Kyril Kasmioff of Kasimoff-Bluthner Piano Co.  on North Larchmont Blvd told the Buzz. “His music is really quite good. He was very popular with families in the neighborhood and occasionally would be hired to perform at children’s birthday parties. He was very good with children. He was a living minstrel of Larchmont Blvd.”

Kasmioff got to know King over the years through their shared a love of music and musical instruments. He told the Buzz that King was born in Montgomery, Alabama on August 29, 1946 and was raised in Hawaii by his mother. At some point he made his way to Los Angeles. Kasimoff, like several others on the boulevard, looked out for King and tried to help out when they could.

We heard stories about how Larchmont Dry Cleaning welcomed King when he needed space. Steve Vernetti, of Vernetti restaurant, told us how his children loved King and they purchased his music.

Levena Lewis met King years ago when she and her daughter would see him at the Larchmont Farmers Market.

“I had no idea what his life was like until I got to know him.” Lewis told the Buzz.  Once she got to know him she realized he wasn’t really able to take care of himself.

Lewis, a designer of handcrafted handbags and advocate for homeless women at the Downtown Women’s Center, used her connections in the city to help King get cataract surgery. But first she has to find him permanent housing. It seems that King mostly lived in his van and would travel around earning whatever he could playing music at various farmers markets. Thanks to Lewis, King found housing, had the surgery, and recovered, but then decided to move on from the housing. Lewis told the Buzz that it’s not uncommon for someone who has been unhoused for as long as King to prefer to live in his van.

“King would go where he felt loved,” said Levena Lewis, who met King when she lived in the Ridgewood Wilton neighborhood. “There are people all over Larchmont Blvd that loved him.”

“He was a man of peace and joy and great spirituality,” Steve Cohen told the Buzz. “I saw him everyday for nearly twenty four years. He preached unity and love and always gave you a greeting of ‘one love.’

King has no family in the area so neighbors are trying to piece together how they can honor his passing. We will keep readers posted and invite you to share photos or stories you might have of King Swami, the minstrel of Larchmont.

Steve Cohen with King Swami (photo from Steve Cohen circa 1990s)
Thanks to Levena Lewis for sharing this video of King Swami playing his upbeat music, much of which he wrote and composed himself. Click the image to start the video.


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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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  1. Long live the king! He spent at least a decade in the Lansing, Mi area and set up at various locations by Michigan State University and the local community college.

  2. Woooooowwwww first and foremost I want to say Rest In Eternal Peace to my friend King Swami….It was just by chance that I decided to google his name today and came across this article about him all the way in California?!! When I met him, I was living in Lansing, Mi. and he was playing music on the streets of East Lansing for students of Michigan State University…This was in the early 1990s…We quickly became friends because I was very much into reggae and dancehall music so naturally I would gravitate to someone playing reggae music. I often drove him around town to different places to play music, sometimes I would accompany him on the drums (I used to be a hip-hop/house dancer back then, but had absolutely no rhythm when it came to playing instruments). One day a music store located in the Frandor Shopping Center gave him the opportunity to have a concert in front of their store. People who came were given the opportunity to play alongside him. I lost touch with him after I moved from Lansing to Kalamazoo in the mid 90s…Every once in awhile I would wonder what ever happened to my friend, which lead me to google him today…I hope those who knew him in California loved him as much as we did in Lansing and East Lansing…Again may Jah bless him and may he rest in eternal peace!!!

  3. There is a special place in my heart for the one and only King Swami G. I grew up in Hancock Park in the 90s/00s and would see Swami G on Larchmont practically every Sunday. I must have seen him last just before he passed in 2020 RIP. I’ve gravitated towards reggae since I was about 10 years old for whatever reason it resonates with my soul. In fact the first CD I ever bought with my allowance was Exodus when I was 13. The first song I ever learned on guitar was Redemption Song, and the day I met King Swami he let me play it on his guitar as we sang together and he played on the djembe with one hand in a mitten and the other with a drumstick. Every time I saw him after that he would ask me to sing or play djembe while he played his music and I always felt honored. In high school I was the singer/drummer of a reggae/rock band, and would not have had the same confidence if not for the experiences I shared with my friend Swami G. Rest in peace King.


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