The lead singer was “Country” Joe McDonald. The lead guitarist was Barry “The Fish” Melton. Co-founders McDonald and Melton added musicians as needed over the life of the band.
The band was an early example of Psychedelic music. The LP “Electric Music for the Mind and Body” was very influential on early FM Radio in 1967. Long sets of psychedelic tunes like “Section 43”, “Bass Strings”, “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine”, “Janis” (for and about Janis Joplin) and “Grace” (all released on Vanguard Records) were often played back to back on KSAN and KMPX in San Francisco and progressive rock stations around the country. Country Joe and The Fish were regulars at Fillmore West and East and the Family Dog at the Avalon. They were billed with such groups as Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Led Zeppelin, and Iron Butterfly. They played at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. In 1971 the band appeared in a Western film starring Don Johnson as an outlaw gang called the Crackers. The film, entitled Zachariah, was written by the Firesign Theater and was billed as “The First Electric Western”. They also appeared in the George Lucas film More American Graffiti.
Their biggest hit was the anti-war “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag”, which debuted the same year of the band, but became best known after Country Joe’s solo acoustic performance of it at Woodstock. Country Joe was involved with legal disputes with the family of Kid Ory due to the tune’s similarity to Ory’s Dixieland jazz standard “Muskrat Ramble”. In August of 2003, the court case was decided in Joe’s favor due to the long time between the debut of “Fixin’ to Die” and the first legal claim against it by Ory’s family. (Copyright on Country Joe’s song was registered in 1968, and Babette Ory registered her father’s 1926 song in 2001.)
Barry Melton was later a founding member of The Dinosaurs and has recently released new recordings of that band whose members included Peter Albin from Big Brother and The Holding Company and John Cipollina from Quicksilver Messenger Service and Copperhead.
Edited by gratefulmolly on 26 Nov 2006, 17:37
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