Live in Berkeley CD
Latest Update: August 6, 2009
Copyright © 2004-2009 Ross Hannan and Corry Arnold. All Rights Reserved.
Country Joe Band CD - Buy it here from Country Joe
Country Joe Band - Live in Berkeley
Groovy People, Far Out Music and Legendary Stories
This is a limited edition CD of the Original Country Joe Band recorded live at the Freight & Salvage Coffee House in Berkeley, California. The show featured original Country Joe and the Fish members Country Joe McDonald (vocals, guitar and harmonica), David Bennett Cohen (guitar and keyboards), Bruce Barthol (bass and vocals) and Chicken Hirsch (drums and percussion).
The set was recorded on July 29, 2004 and the CD was produced by Hirsh and Sons, who also created the artwork.
Entertainment Is My Business (4:29)
Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine (4:37)
Rock and Roll Again (4:15)
Masked Marauder (3:02)
Who Am I (4:54)
Cakewalk To Bagdad (4:18)
Death Sound Blues (4:13)
Bass Strings (5:17)
I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag (3:01)
Save The Whales (7:39)
In August 2005 The Country Joe Band returned to the UK for another tour promoted by those nice people at Barking Spider. Downloads of the nifty and collectable eHandbills can be found here.
A Little Bit Of History
History is shaped by events, some clearly significant at the time, some not so. In the summer of 1965 members of the Instant Action Jug Band were in the home studio of a friend, Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz, recording I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag for what was to become the first talking issue of Rag Baby, a Bay Area folk magazine run by Joe McDonald and ED Denson. This ad hoc group of musicians could not have known at the time that I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die would become, in all probability, the best known anti-war song of the 1960s.
Amazingly, although “distribution” consisted of being sold by Joe and Barry Melton in Sproul Plaza during the UC Berkeley Campus Teach-In Against the Vietnam War and being available at Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue, the independently released record started to sell a little bit. As a result of this, McDonald and Melton did a tour of campuses and other activist hotbeds in the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 1965 as Country Joe and The Fish with sponsorship provided by Students for Democratic Society.
Returning to Berkeley in late 1965, Joe and Barry found themselves living adjacent to The Jabberwock coffee house on Telegraph Avenue. The Jabberwock was located at 2901 Telegraph Avenue at Russell (near Ashby) and was owned and run by Bill "Jolly Blue" Ehlert. It was on the site of a former jazz club called Tsubo’s and where Berkeley jazz station KJAZ-FM ran its operations from in the early days. The Jabberwock followed a booking policy where a typical month saw mostly blues and folk, with some jug and bluegrass mixed in.
Poster artist Tom Weller remembers: When I came away to college in 1962, I lived in a rooming house around the block from the Jabberwock. It was a beatnik sort of place at that point, walls all painted black and espresso and cool jazz. A few years later it became part of the folk scene and then the hippie scene (but the walls stayed black).
With roommate Bruce Barthol, Joe and Barry spent many evenings in the Jabberwock which is where they first met David Cohen. David recalls how he came to join the band: I went to California from NYC and joined a band called Blackburn and Snow, playing guitar. Fooled around with a bunch of other musicians in Berkeley and hung out at a club called "The Jabberwock". I was really only interested in playing guitar, but I used to bang out some boogie-woogie on an old piano they had there. Barry Melton liked the way I played the piano and when Joe decided that he wanted an organ sound in his band, Barry said, "Well, David can play the organ". Of course, I never played organ before, but I joined the band, anyway, doubling on guitar and organ, which I learned "on the job".
The first half of 1966 saw the Joe, Barry, Bruce and David, supported by Paul Armstrong on bass and John Francis Gunning on drums, playing small clubs and coffee houses, such as the Questing Beast and the Matrix, around the Bay Area as well as maintaining their semi-residency at The Jabberwock. You can find out more about the good old 'Wock by visiting the history page.
After Armstrong left in July, a break came when the band filled in for the 13th Floor Elevators at Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium on August 27th. This was their first show in a major San Francisco dance hall and was a reflection of their growing reputation. By December 1966, Country Joe and the Fish had established themselves as major force on the local music scene and were regulars both at the Fillmore and at the Avalon Ballroom where shows we being hosted by the Family Dog.
But it was to be another seemingly insignificant event that would finally shape Country Joe and the Fish. A friend of ED Denson’s arranged a show “for the mind and body” at the Hot Springs down the coast at Big Sur on December 7, 1966. The band was to play for $1 donations that would fund a week away from the Bay Area where the band could generally relax a little and put in some practice. Although circumstances meant that the show had to shift to the lawn of the local art gallery, the relevance of this Wednesday night was in the line-up. This was the first time that the band was joined by Chicken Hirsch who had been playing with Blackburn and Snow.
It was this line up that was to go on and record Electric Music for the Mind and Body in January and February of 1967 for Vanguard, a record so good that Ralph J Gleason of the SF Chronicle remarked it should only be played on religious occasions.
Country Joe and The Fish created a style of music that captured the feelings of many youth at the height of the Free Speech Movement. With songs such as "Sweet Lorraine" and "Section 43," Country Joe and The Fish became one of the first bands to create the distinct psychedelic sounds of the 60s era. This line-up went on to produce two further albums for Vanguard before eventually seeking separate careers, each becoming successful in their own right.
Bruce Barthol went on to become an award winning composer/lyricist in the Tony-Award-winning political theater group the San Francisco Mime Troupe.
David Bennett Cohen moved back to his native New York and is an accomplished composer and pianist. Performing in clubs across the nation and working with Broadway musicals like Rent have fed David’s love of music. David is also a practicing Buddhist and political activist, who has been honored by the Harper’s Ferry NAACP.
Chicken Hirsh moved to Ashland, Oregon turning to his other passion, painting. He is now a dedicated painter and father. Chicken also owns a very successful graphics company that indulges his passion for the arts and plays with a local jazz band.
Country Joe McDonald went on to have a successful solo career throughout the 70s and early 80s, releasing over 20 albums. In early 1990 McDonald’s passion for history connected him with the life and times of Florence Nightingale. His extensive knowledge on the subject has made him a nationally recognized scholar on the life Florence Nightingale.
Bruce Barthol, David Bennett Cohen, Gary "Chicken" Hirsh and Joe McDonald, are now back together again in the form of The Country Joe Band. These four musicians have reunited to capture the psychedelic sound that has been banished to "oldies" radio stations and basements full of warped vinyl. Encouraged by the nation’s political division caused by the war in Iraq, The Country Joe Band is back with an edgy sound that is strengthened by a political voice.
They have taken their experiences from their lives after the 60s and have applied them to this new union. Reunited in the spring of 2004, The Country Joe Band has rekindled a sound and force that is reminiscent of the once-lost sound of the Summer of Love.