‘Country’ Joe McDonald was born on 1 January 1942, in El Monte, California. Shades of his future political activism were evident in his first song, written for a friend’s campaign to become President of his high school.
After four years in the US Navy McDonald spent a year at college and then moved to Berkeley, where he began singing on the campus and in local folk clubs.
He formed Country Joe and The Fish with guitarist Barry Melton in 1967 (from the ashes of the Instant Action Jug Band), and their first performances were at college demonstrations where Joe’s anti-Vietnam War song Fixin’ To Die became popular.
Country Joe and The Fish released their first Vanguard album later that year (Electric Music For The Mind And Body) – the first album made solely and specifically to be listened to on LSD. They followed it in 1968 with Fixin’ To Die.
One of the few electric groups to sing protest and social comment songs in the era of peace and ‘flower power’, the Fish’s popularity spread through the growing political youth movement of the USA.
Through his appearance in the Woodstock movie (1970) – including his “give us an F” chant – he became well known in Europe too.
In 1969 the band recorded their sixth and last album, C J Fish, before Joe went solo and released his Thinking Of Woody Guthrie album in 1969.
He followed this with the albums Tonight I’m Singing Just For You, Hold On It’s Coming, Incredible Live, Paris Sessions and Country Joe McDonald, as well as lecturing and appearing in films including the ‘psychedelic western’ Zachariah and a film about American involvement in Chilean affairs.
Country Joe McDonald
John Francis Gunning
Gary ‘Chicken’ Hirsh