An interview with Country Joe McDonald aired on the June 17 edition of Greasy Tracks where he discussed his most recent release, 50 (Rag Baby
Records) and reminisced about the 50th anniversary of the release of Electric Music for the Mind and Body by Country Joe and the Fish.
Click here to listen to the interview.
McDonald, who self-released his debut album The Goodbye Blues as a solo artist in 1965 and intended on having 50 come out in 2015 to mark the half century that had passed since his first collection of recordings were issued.
Recording and production time to whip the final effort into shape being what it was added two years to the timeline and what was initially planned as a barebones project with McDonald primarily singing and accompanying himself on guitar turned into something a bit more involved as he was augmented by drummer Prairie Prince, guitarist James DePrato, vocalist Diana Mangano and bassist Blair Hardman. Oddly enough, Hardman played guitar on The Goodbye Blues.
The focus and subject matter of the 13-track 50 isn’t anything new for McDonald who formed Country Joe and the Fish with guitarist Berry “The Fish” Melton in 1965 as an acoustic duo. McDonald has always prided himself on being a voice for the underrepresented, even if it’s just him and a guitar, chances are the songs will be about politics, the environment, love and love lost and a long list of social issues, some that have lingered for the many decades that McDonald has endeavored to raise consciousnesses about them.
Although he was rooted in folk music and heavily influenced by Wood Guthrie, McDonald would undergo a stylistic change when he and Melton expanded the line-up in Country Joe and the Fish as the band went from a folk and jug band approach to a more electric, psychedelic and inherently more creative direction, especially when it came to the composition and arrangement of its music.
New York-based Vanguard Records — historically known for its roster of jazz, folk and blues artists after starting as a classical label in 1950 — was eager to catch on to the growing psychedelic rock movement, largely stemming from San Francisco bands like the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and The Holding Company who were essentially going in musical directions that were previously uncharted.
Country Joe and the Fish became Vanguard’s first rock act and after a week’s worth of recording sessions, their jaw-dropping debut, Electric Music for the Mind and Body was released in May 1967.
In addition to the interview with McDonald, the program will feature a number of tracks from 50 and Electric Music for the Mind and Body.