Bird & Animal Names In Rock 'n' Roll History - Part 23
Grant Lee Buffalo, Stone Poneys, Country Joe & the Fish, Mallard
Author: Robert Benson
Robert writes about rock & pop music, and vinyl record collecting.
Let's continue our series about "bird" and "animal" group names in rock 'n' roll history.
Grant Lee Buffalo
Based out of Los Angles hails the rock band led by Grant Lee Phillips called Grant Lee Buffalo. Playing alternative pop rock, the group released five albums, "Fuzzy" (1993), "Mighty Joe Moon" (1994), "Copperopolis" (1996) and "Jubilee" (1998) as well as the LP called "Storm Hymnal-Gems From The Vault Of" in 2001; which is a compilation of singles, album tracks and rarities.
Often sounding like their influences (David Bowie, John Lennon, R.E.M. among many others), Phillips' songwriting received prominent critical acclaim as he gracefully tackled political and social issues with his lyrics. Musically, the band is equally adept at hard rock and roll, folk rock or haunting ballads.
The group was a popular live attraction, opening up for some of the major players at the time including R.E.M., Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins. However, as popular as the band was with their fans and critics alike, they could not break through into the mainstream music arena, despite the strong musicianship and original styles of the band. The group gave up their efforts in 1999 and Phillips launched a solo career, issuing the intimate album "Ladies Love Oracle" on the Internet in 2000. His first full-length LP, "Mobilize," was released to enormous critical acclaim in 2001. He has continued to work in the business, guesting on albums by Eels, Neil Finn, Harvey Danger (among others) and releasing several solo efforts.
Before going solo, Linda Ronstadt fronted a band called the Stone Poneys that cracked the Billboard Top 40 with a Michael Nesmith (of the Monkees fame) written tune called "Different Drum." The band's debut album did not contain this hit song (it was on the second album), but provided listeners with strong original folk material from the band's guitarists, Bob Kimmel and Ken Edwards. The Stone Poneys broke up during the recording of their third release, leaving Ronstadt to finish it up with various session men and is a great LP, including songs written by Mike Nesmith, Laura Nyro and three Tim Buckley originals. While the album served up some classic California folk rock and was well produced, it was the last of the Stone Poneys. But with this springboard, Linda Ronstadt went on to mega-stardom and recorded the number one song "You're No Good" as well as many other Top 40 Billboard hits.
Country Joe & the Fish
Although the popular California psychedelic band Country Joe & the Fish may be best remembered for their legendary performance at Woodstock with a version of the song "Fixin'-To-Die" and the obscene "Fish Cheer," the band actually capitalized on the psychedelic era with their raunchy guitars and tongue-in-cheek lyrics, free love preaching and political protest ideals.
The first release, an EP with a folk version of "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die-Rag," along with a second EP release were combined with other songs by the band for their debut album, "Electric Music For The Mind And Body" and the album fit in perfectly with the times. Subsequent releases captured audiences with more heavily a distorted guitar, organ heavy psychedelia and Country Joe's good-time lyrics and stage antics.
But the band's main claim to fame and one of the decades most famous war protest songs "Fixin'-To-Die" could never be duplicated, although Country Joe fronted several versions of the band after the group's third release, "Together," which featured a classic country Joe and The Fish tune called "Rock and Soul Music."
Mallard was a short-lived experimental rock outfit that featured several former members of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, including: guitarist Bill Harkleroad (aka Zoot Horn Rollo), bassist Mark Boston (aka Rockette Morton), and percussionist/drummer Art Tripp (aka Ed Marimba), the latter of which also played in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention for several albums, as well. Boston and Harkeford played with Beefheart for 1968 through 1974, but they had a falling out over their unhappiness with the album "Unconditionally Guaranteed."
So the unhappy musicians recruited Art Tripp and were joined by a host of others including John "Rabbit" Bundrick, singer Sam Galpin and percussionist Barry Morgan for the release of Mallard's 1975 self-titled LP. The record was financed by Beefheart fan Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull; however the LP was only available in the US as an import. Mallard's next LP "In A Different Climate" was released in 1976 but in spite of the musical talents of these veteran musicians and support from the British press, Mallard never achieved commercial success. In 1994, both albums were re-released on CD by Virgin Records in the UK and in the US.
Grant Lee Buffalo Tidbits:
Grant Lee Buffalo was - Grant-Lee Phillips (vocals and guitar), Paul Kimble (bass) and Joey Peters (drums). All three were previously members of another Los Angeles band, Shiva Burlesque.
Grant Lee Buffalo had an Americana tinged sound, clearly influenced by the likes of Neil Young and elements of old-fashioned country music.
In 1995, Phillips was voted best male vocalist by Rolling Stone Magazine.
Stone Poneys Tidbits:
The band was discovered by a couple of music industry executives while rehearsing at a soul food restaurant called Olivia's which was located in Ocean Park, a community between Venice Beach and Santa Monica that was famous for its food and clientele, including The Doors.
In 1970, the Pickwick record label licensed nine Stone Poneys tracks from their Capitol albums and released Stoney End under the name Linda Ronstadt & the Stone Poneys. The album featured "Different Drum", "One for One" and "Some of Shelly's Blues, as well as their recording of the 1960's classic "Let's Get Together."
Their misspelled name came from Delta Blues singer Charlie Patton's 1929 song "The Stone Pony Blues" (also known as "Pony Blues)."
Country Joe & the Fish Tidbits:
Country Joe and The Fish were regulars at Fillmore West and East and Chet Helms' Avalon Ballroom. 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 group's name is derived from leftist politics; "Country Joe" was a popular name for Joseph Stalin in the 1940s, while "the fish" refers to Mao Tse-Tung's statement that the true revolutionary "moves through the peasantry as the fish does through water."
Country Joe's anti-war activity led to his being called as a witness at the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial in 1969.