The Holy Mackerel was an American psychedelic group. A short-lived, loosely shifting organization centered around the songwriting talents of Paul Williams (with occasional assistance from Roger Nichols), the group released an eponymous album on Reprise in 1968. Lead vocals were shared between Williams and his brother, Mentor Williams. Despite their album being a Billboard Magazine "Special Merit Pick", the group had all but disbanded before the album was ever released. Williams' later songwriting fame garnered it some attention, to the point where it is fondly remembered as a psychedelic cult classic.
When the Paul Williams/Biff Rose composition "Fill Your Heart" became a big seller for Tiny Tim (by virtue of being the B-side for his hit "Tip Toe Thru' the Tulips With Me"), Williams was approached by producer Richard Perry with an offer to record his own album in 1967. Having become somewhat disillusioned with the music industry after having been let go from White Whale Records a short time prior due to a lack of success, Williams was daunted at the prospect of recording as a solo performer, and instead opted to front a group.
The group members were seasoned musicians of various backgrounds: Bob Harvey (bass, formerly of Jefferson Airplane), Cynthia Fitzpatrick (flute), George Hiller (guitar), Don Murray (drums, formerly of The Turtles) and Mentor Williams (vocals, guitar). The Holy Mackerel was recorded throughout the spring of '68; however, Harvey and Murray left the group before the album's completion, to be replaced by Jerry Scheff (bass) and Michael Cannon (drums).
The eclectic end product, tinged with psychedelic whimsy, contains everything from Indian-influenced psych ("Wildflowers"), to country rock ("The Wild Side of Life"), to Spoonerized readings of children's stories ("Prinderella"). Despite some positive critical response, the album failed to amass meaningful sales numbers, Having since been vindicated by history, The Holy Mackerel is now considered a minor psychedelic classic. Cuts such as "Scorpio Red" and "Wildflowers" are recurring selections on compilations of 60s psychedelia, colloquially known as "nuggets" collections.
The Holy Mackerel has also seen a compact disc re-release on Collector's Choice, featuring a number of bonus tracks including non-album singles such as "Love for Everyone" and "Listen to the Voice". Paul Williams' 2006 compilation Songs for the Family of Man: A Collection 1969–1979 is the first compilation of his songs to include his releases on Reprise, including The Holy Mackerel's recording of "Bitter Honey".
The Mackerel song "Bitter Honey", one of Williams' first co-compositions with Roger Nichols, is hugely indicative of Williams' immediate future both musically and lyrically; Williams and Nichols would in two short years become among the most sought-after songwriter duos in America. Williams' 1970 debut album Someday Man would be modeled after."Bitter Honey", and certain Mackerel songs were later re-recorded by Williams as a solo performer.