Tuesday, 12 March 2013

THE INCREDIBLE FISH STORY

 
The autumn of 1967 was a turbulent time for Country Joe and the Fish - they had completed an East Coast tour in August and very early September and had returned to the Bay Area to play what appears to be a single show in Canyon with Johnny Talbot and da Thangs and the Grateful Dead. Interestingly, a "Teen Times" interview in the Valley (Van Nuys) News, actress Deborah Walley (then in her mid 20s) talks about how friends of hers in a band -Country Joe and The Fish - were looking for an apartment in Los Angeles, but landlords would not rent to long hairs. I’ll follow up on this LA/Deborah Walley link to see if anyone recalls her.

But by October 6 the Berkeley Barb was reporting that Joe had left the band. This would result in Joe taking off to perform in the Pacific Northwest and the band to play a number of shows under the name The Incredible Fish - with some promoters still listing the band as Country Joe & The Fish (no doubt deliberately) and for at least one as simply “The Fish”. The band were also featured in a photo-shoot that would see them on the front cover of "San Francisco" magazine.


A timeline of events with the occasional anecdotal note:

06 October 1967 October 6-12 Berkeley Barb reports “Country Joe splits from Fish”. It is worth remembering that Max Sheer’s Berkeley Barb was very much the organ of the hip Berkeley community and the student population of the city. ED Denson was at this point the manager of the band and writing a regular column for the Barb and in most cases the reporting was something that could be relied upon.

13 October 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland OR (Country Joe McDonald solo) Originally the Electric Flag was booked to play this weekend, but some band members got busted in Los Angeles, and they were replaced by Country Joe and The Fish. But with Joe and the rest of the band going through a trial separation, Joe ended up headlining the shows as a solo act.
14 October 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland OR (Country Joe McDonald solo)

20 October 1967 Retinal Circus, Vancouver, BC, Canada (Country Joe McDonald solo)

20 October 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland OR (Incredible Fish show without Country Joe) After Joe had played the Crystal Ballroom the previous weekend, the The Incredible Fish (Barry Melton, David Cohen, Bruce Barthol and Chicken Hirsh) made the trip up to Portland to fulfil an existing commitment.
21 October 1967 Retinal Circus, Vancouver, BC, Canada (Country Joe McDonald solo)
21 October 1967 Crystal Ballroom, Portland OR (Incredible Fish performance)
27 October 1967 Yellow Brick Road, Hayward, CA (Incredible Fish - but advertised as "The Fish", Wakefield Loop (replacing or in addition to Collective Works)). Anecdotally, Corry and I at one time managed to confuse ourselves between the Yellow Brick Road band that feature Jeannie Piersol (who was also in the very first incarnation of The Great! Society) and would become Hair when Darby Slick joined them, and the Hayward venue of the same name.

28 October 1967 Continental Ballroom, Santa Clara, CA (Although originally billed as a Country Joe and The Fish performance, this was a commitment fulfilled by the Incredible Fish show without Country Joe).
30 October 1967Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Incredible Fish, Steve Miller Blues Band, Sopwith, Camel, Collectors, Committee, Mother Earth (KPFA Benefit) - This was an Incredible Fish show without Country Joe. Pink Floyd were advertised but cancelled due to visa problems - Steve Miller replaced them.
 
03 November 1967 Straight Theatre, San Francisco, CA Incredible Fish, PH Phactor Jug Band, Congress of Wonders, Ann Halprin (Kinetic Dance Happening) – Again this was an "Incredible Fish" show without Country Joe.
04 November 1967 Straight Theatre, San Francisco, CA Incredible Fish, PH Phactor Jug Band, Congress of Wonders, Ann Halprin (Kinetic Dance Happening)
17 November 1967 Eagles Auditorium, Seattle, WA Country Joe McDonald, United Empire Loyalists
18 November 1967 Eagles Auditorium, Seattle, WA Country Joe McDonald, Fat Jack
19 November 1967 Straight Theater, San Francisco, CA Country Joe McDonald, John Fahey. Although at the Straight, a fairly regular haunt, this show stands out from the others as it was billed as a solo show and featured two acoustic performers on a Sunday night. Previous Sundays had recently seen the likes of Kaleidoscope, Charlie Musselwhite and the Incredible Fish. The following Sundays we see Mad River, Santana Blues Band, Mt. Rushmore and Phoenix perform. So it seems out of place to me.
19 November 1967 Skate Arena, 1525 Almaden Road, San Jose, CA Incredible Fish, The Tingleguid, Bubble, Aphrosense (A Barn Benefit). This was an "Incredible Fish" show without Country Joe. An interesting line-up that sees Chocolate Watchband offshoot Tingleguid perform.
25 November 1967 Terrace Ballroom, Salt Lake City, UT Incredible Fish (billed as Country Joe and The Fish), Moby Grape, Spirit. I have always wondered if there are a couple of missing Incredible Fish shows around this time.
08 December 1967 Retinal Circus Vancouver, BC Country Joe McDonald, United Empire Loyalists, Papa Bear's Medicine Show, Iban Dover. Joe reportedly asks the United Empire Loyalists if they would be his new band around this time.
09 December 1967 Retinal Circus Vancouver, BC Country Joe McDonald, United Empire Loyalists, Papa Bear's Medicine Show, Iban Dover
 
Around December 11 or 12, 1967 KQED Channel 9 TV record “A Day In The Life of Country Joe and The Fish” before the band head to Los Angeles to perform at the Shrine Auditorium. The separation is over.






3 comments:

  1. I believe that during the November '67 shows at Eagles in Seattle, Joe raised the possibility of his opening act joining him on tour. He had met the United Empire Loyalists, a Vancouver band, when CJF had played British Columbia in the Spring. At some point, probably November '67, he suggested to them that they could join him on tour.

    Of course, Joe rejoined the other band members, and no such merger took place. Still, the Loyalists learned "Rock And Soul Music," and history might have been different.

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  2. I included it under December 8 as whilst I am aware it happened, I have never figured out a date. I asked Joe about it a few years ago and he has no recollection of this period, leaving the band nor a solo tour at all. He thinks I made all of this up.

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    1. If you did make it all up, it was very clever of you to get the whole story included in the United Empire Loyalists archival cd (complete with their sort-of-rehearsal demo of "Rock N Soul Music."

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