Country Joe's Place

My Testimony at the Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial



THE WITNESS, Country Joe McDonald
THE COURT, Judge Hoffman
MR. KUNSTLER, counsel for the defense
MR. SCHULTZ, counsel for the prosecution

SCENE: A courtroom in Chicago, January 19, 1970

THE CLERK: You will remove your gum, sir.

THE WITNESS: What gum?

THE CLERK: That you are chewing on.

THE WITNESS: I am afraid that I don't have any gum.

THE CLERK: You may be seated, sir.

MR. KUNSTLER: Would you state your full name, please?

THE WITNESS: Country Joe.

MR. KUNSTLER: What is your occupation?

THE WITNESS: I am a minister in the New Universal Life Church. I am a rock and roll star, I am a producer of phonograph records. Father, husband, leader of a rock and roll band. Singer, composer, poet, owner of a publishing company, and a few other things.

MR. KUNSTLER: Do you currently have a rock and roll band?


MR. KUNSTLER: What is the name of that band?

THE WITNESS: Country Joe and the Fish.

MR. SCHULTZ: For the record may we have the witness's full name? Country Joe is really not sufficient.

THE COURT: I am assuming that his Christian name is Country. He is under oath. He was asked his name.

MR. SCHULTZ: It might be the name that he uses and not the name that was originally his.

THE COURT: Is Country your first name?


THE COURT: That is your first name or Christian name, is that right?

THE WITNESS: Some people call me Country, yes.

THE COURT: What is your real name?


THE COURT: You say some people call you that. What is your real name, sir?

THE WITNESS: I am afraid I don't understand what real means.

THE COURT: What is the name -- were you baptized?

THE WITNESS: No I wasn't.

THE COURT: What were you called when you went to school as a child?




THE COURT: What was your family name?


THE COURT: And your family name is now McDonald, is that right?

THE WITNESS: Yes, it is.

THE COURT: How do you spell it?

THE WITNESS: M-c-D-o-n-a-l-d.

THE COURT: McDonald, that is what your family name is, is that right?


THE COURT: And you are familiarly known as Country Joe, is that right?

THE WITNESS: Country Joe McDonald, yes. Joseph sometimes.

MR. KUNSTLER: Can you identify this?

THE WITNESS: It is a phonograph record, it is our first LP.

MR. KUNSTLER: When you say your first LP, does that mean an LP of the rock and roll band known as Country Joe and the Fish?

THE WITNESS: Yes. And this is another one of our albums that we produced for Vanguard Records.

MR. KUNSTLER: How many other albums do you have that have been released?

THE WITNESS: We currently have five albums released, five LP's.

MR. KUNSTLER: I call your attention to -- let me withdraw that answer. Do you know Jerry Rubin?

THE COURT: No, not the answer. You withdraw that question.

MR. KUNSTLER: I mean withdraw the question.

THE COURT: I just wanted you to know I was listening to you.

MR. KUNSTLER: I just did it to see if you were.

THE COURT: You still call him Country Joe even though his name is McDonald?

MR. KUNSTLER: I know, your Honor, but he is known throughout the world as Country Joe.

THE COURT: That is what you say. I never heard of him.

MR. KUNSTLER: If your Honor would look at these-- [indicating the records]

THE COURT: I will not look at them. Besides that wouldn't prove that he is known throughout the world.

MR. KUNSTLER: [laughing] Are you known throughout the world as Country Joe?

MR. SCHULTZ: I object.

THE COURT: I sustain the objection.

MR. KUNSTLER; Do you know Jerry Rubin?

THE WITNESS: Yes, I know Jerry Rubin.

MR. KUNSTLER: Can you identify him at the table?

THE WITNESS: He is the one with red pants on.

MR. KUNSTLER: When did you first meet Jerry Rubin?

THE WITNESS: I met Jerry Rubin in 1964, October 15, the march to end the war in Vietnam, the march held in Berkeley California,

MR. KUNSTLER: Did you participate in this march yourself?

MR. SCHULTZ: Objection, your honor.

THE COURT: I sustain the objection.

MR. KUNSTLER: Now, I call your attention to Abbie Hoffman. Do you know him?

THE WITNESS: There he is. He is the handsome fellow with the handsome jacket on.

THE COURT: May I suggest to you, Mr. Witness, when you are asked to identify anybody here, either you may step down, you can point to him, or you may describe him by his apparel, but do not characterize him as being handsome or in any other such manner.

THE WITNESS: I am sorry. I have never been in a trial before.

THE COURT: I accept your apology.

MR. KUNSTLER: Do you recall when you first met Abbie Hoffman?

THE WITNESS: Yes, I first met Abbie Hoffman at the meeting in the Chelsea Hotel in New York. At that meeting was Irwin Silber, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, myself, my manager, Banana Ed Denson, Barbara Dane.

MR. KUNSTLER: Who is Irwin Silber?

THE WITNESS: He is the editor of a magazine called Sing Out a folk song magazine in New York. He is no longer the editor but he was. His wife-

MR. KUNSTLER: Who is Barbara Dane?

THE WITNESS: His wife, who is a very well known folk singer.

MR. KUNSTLER: Was there -- do you remember who else was there?

THE WITNESS: Let me see, Barbara Dane, Irwin Silver, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Nancy Kunstler -- no, Nancy--

MR. KUNSTLER: You got the last name a little wrong.

THE WITNESS: That girl there, [points to Nancy] and several members of the band.

MR. KUNSTLER: When you say band, is that your band?

THE WITNESS: Yes, Country Joe and the Fish.

MR. KUNSTLER: Was there a discussion at the Chelsea Hotel?

THE WITNESS: We had a very long discussion. The meeting had been called to discuss the proposed Yippie! Convention in Chicago, to be held in Chicago. We never -- we hadn't heard much about it, and so we all met and we were staying at the Chelsea Hotel in New York and we met to discuss the Yippie! happening thing in Chicago. Jerry Rubin said to me, "We feel that the Democratic Convention being held in Chicago is a very important political event in the country, and that it represents fascist forces in America, oppression of minority groups, continuation of the war in Vietnam, and actual celebration of death, that the Democratic Convention being held in Chicago will be a celebration of death in that all of those things which are held in high esteem by the establishment, political parties in this country are those things which represent death and oppression," and that it was the responsibility of those people, young people, who are concerned with freedom in America to try to do something in Chicago which would counter-balance the evil and negative vibrations from the Democratic Convention and that since I had written the Vietnam Rag, which has become the most well known song against the war in Vietnam, and that my group was very influential with young people of America, amongst the youth, that it was very important that we try to say something in Chicago which would be positive, natural, human, and loving, in order to let the people of America know that there are people in America who are not tripped out on ways of thinking which result only in oppression and fear, paranoia and death.

At that point Abbie Hoffman wanted to know what the song was, and then I -- then I sang the song. It goes:

[he sings] "And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn. The next stop is Vietnam. And it's --"

THE COURT: No, no, no, Mr. Witness. No singing.

THE WITNESS: "five, six, seven -- "

THE COURT: Mr. Marshal --

[the marshal goes over to Country Joe and puts his hand on Joe's chin to close his mouth]

THE MARSHAL: The Judge is talking.

THE COURT: No singing is permitted in the courtroom. You are here to answer questions. You may continue telling about this conversation.


Q. Can you recite the song? Do you think you can do that?

A. Yes, The chorus of the song is:

"And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn. The next stop is Vietnam.

"And it's five, six, seven, open up the Pearly Gates. There ain't no time to wonder why -- whoopie -- we're all gonna die.

"Come on, all of you big strong men. Uncle Sam needs your help again. He's got himself in a terrible jam, way dawn yonder in Vietnam.

"So put down your books and pick up a gun. Come on, we're all going to have a lot ot fun. Come on, Generals, let's move fast. Your big chance has come at last. Now you can go out and get those reds because the only good commie is one that's dead, and you know that peace can only be won when you've blown them all to kingdom come.

"Come on, Wall Street, don't be slow. Why, man, this is war au go go. There's plenty good money to be made by supplying the army with the tools of the trade. But just hope and pray, if they drop the bomb, they drop it on the Viet Cong.

"Come on, mothers throughout the land, pack your boys off to Vietnam. Come on, fathers, don't hesitate. Send your sons off before it's too late. You can be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in a box."

Q. Now was there any further conversation that you can recall?

A. Yes, there was a lot of conversation. The Abbie Hoffman said that he liked the song very much. I said that I would try to -- I said that I thought that it was a good idea to try to do something positive to counter-balance all the negative political vibrations. We asked Jerry Rubin where the festival was going to be held. Jerry Rubin said it was going to be held in the park. My manager, Ed Denson, asked if permits had been secured and explained that it was very necessary for the bands involved that they have permits, because without a permit it would probably be impossible to get a good P. A. system, a good stage, and organization established so that a concert could actually happen, and that if there were no permits, the bands involved would probably get arrested. There would be police action, and we wanted to avoid that at all costs.

Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman then both agreed. They said that they were in the process of beginning to start work towards getting permits that we could do what we wanted to do in a legal way.

I then suggested that we get lots of other bands to participate. Jerry Rubin asked if it were possible for me to contact other bands and talk to them and possibly try to get some support for a Yippie! festival in Chicago.

I said that I would do that, that-- then I asked them to further elaborate on the festival.

Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman talked about the possibilities of getting famous movie stars, famous Black entertainers, famous political figures, to come, getting people to provide medical assistance, because in every gathering of large people there is a need for medical assistance, to get food so that everyone would have food, to try to secure permission for people to sleep in the parks or in the beaches close by, and we eventually were convinced in his conversation that there was a real possibility of putting on a positive musical festival and celebration for life in Chicago, and the conclusion of our discussion was that we would put our support behind the festival to be held in Chicago at the time of the Democratic Convention.

Q. Do you remember, approximately when you next saw Jerry Rubin?

A. Yes, I saw Jerry Rubin at Stony Brook about two weeks after our meeting at the Chelsea Hotel.

Q. Who else was present, if you know names.

A. Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs, and all the Fugs were there. A lot of just people working in the Yippie! Party were there, students, I believe some students from the campus, themselves, and a lot of police were there, too, all lined up in a row, refusing to let us in.

Q. Can you describe how people that came to you were dressed, or some of them?

MR. SCHULTZ: Objection. What happened there is not relevant to this proceeding.

THE COURT: Sustain the objection.

MR. KUNSTLER: Your Honor, one of the claims is that the Yippies-- the term "guerrilla theatre" has been used by Mr. Schultz and Mr. Foran on many occasions. We are trying to indicate what guerrilla theatre is and how the Yippies utilized it, and Stony Brook is one place, just before Chicago, when they did.

MR. SCHULTZ: If they will talk about Chicago, we have no objection, but not whatever this is at Stony Brook.

THE COURT: I sustain the objection.

BY MR. KUNSTLER: Do you remember what the next time that you saw Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin was, after Stony Brook?

A. Yes, I met with Abbie Hoffman. Jerry Rubin, Ed Sanders, Nancy, my wife Robin was there, at Jerry Rubin's apartment in the East Village in New York.

Q. Do you know approximately when that was?

A. Towards the end of April.

Q. In 1968?

A. Yes.

Q. Would you state what was said by whom?

A. Jerry Rubin asked me: how I was doing in getting response for the Yippie! Festival. I informed him that since our original meeting at the Chelsea Hote1 I had talked to people and I had talked to other bands, and I found that they were constantly relating to me stories of orders in Chicago for the police to shoot on sight in regards to the racial riots of that month, that at least two thousand civilian vigilantes were being authorized as deputies to arrest all trouble makers around the convention, that the National Guard was being assembled to prevent people from getting close to the convention hall, that the sewers of Chicago were being prepared as dungeons to put demonstrators in, that generally the vibrations around Chicago were very, very uptight and getting worse, that there was a possibility of incredible brutality, maliciousness, and fascistic type tactics on the part of the police force, and that I was having a hard time getting people to be responsive to the possibilities of anything positive happening in Chicago during the Democratic Convention.

Jerry Rubin then asked me if I had any ideas about other types of people that we could have come to the convention.

I suggested circus performers, jugglers, clowns, the Harlem Globe Trotters, and many other things of that nature - positive groups and entertainment groups that could possibly show up in Chicago.

Q. Now, Country Joe, I ask you whether you came to Chicago during Convention Week?

A. Yes. It was just a few days before the beginning of the convention and it was on Friday because we played on Friday and Saturday. We arrived Friday on the afternoon.

Q. Where did you play?

A. We played at the Electric Theatre, an establishment owned by Aaron Russo.

Q. At any time on Friday or Saturday did you have occasion to meet with Jerry Rubin or Abbie Hoffman?

A. Yes, I met with both of them at the Electric Theatre on Saturday.

Q. Would you state what was said and who said it?

A. Abbie Hoffman said to me "Are you going to be in the Festival?" I said to Abbie Hoffman, "No, I was not going to be in the Festival because the vibrations in the town were so incredibly vicious that I felt it was impossible to avoid violence on the part of the police and the authorities in Chicago." I felt that my group's symbolic support of the Festival had to be withdrawn because there would be a possibility that people would follow us to the Festival and be clubbed and Maced and tear-gassed by the police and that the possibility of anything positive or loving or good coming out of that city at that time was impossible, and that I had no choice but to withdraw my support.

Q. Did they say anything about that, either one?

A. Abbie Hoffman said that perhaps I could come down to the park and see what was going on there because there hadn't been very much violence at all and it looked as though it might be very groovy. I said that I would try to come down the next morning, that would be Sunday morning, I would try to come down Sunday morning and see, but that I doubted very, very much if we could support or participate in the Yippie! festival.

Q. Did you get down on Sunday to Lincoln Park?

A. No, I did not. We left. We left in a hurry.

Q. Country Joe, the question is what happened to you? Don't do any supposing about anything, just what happened to you, if anything.

A. I performed two sets for the audience at the Electric Theatre. I left the Electric Theatre and on the way out was insulted by some of the people standing outside, drunk motorcyclists.

Q. And what happened?

A. They insulted us, we tried to be polite and avoided a violent conflict and went to our car, got in our car, drove to the Lake Shore Hotel on the Lake where we were staying, got out of our car, walked into the lobby of the hotel. We were followed by three men about my age, with crewcuts, what I would say straight looking with slacks and shirts, who were drunk. One of them began yelling about having served in Vietnam and wanted to know how I could walk around the streets looking like--

MR. SCHULTZ: I object, Mr. Kunstler stated that -- he assured the Court this was relevant. The witness has explained it now for three or four minutes and I see no relevance.

THE COURT: He got down to the Lake Shore Drive Hotel and he is telling about some drunken man. That is nothing that happened to him.

MR. KUNSTLER: Well, an incident in a moment will happen to him.

THE COURT: He may continue.

[Judge Hoffman leans over -- he is interested in what happened to Country Joe]


Q. Then what happened?

A. Then I attempted to get into the elevator with my organist, David Cohen, and I was struck in the face by this person, my nose was fractured. My organist attempted to get out of the elevator to get to a phone to call the police. He was then struck in the face. They scuffled about in the lobby. Then all three of them ran out the back door. The police were called, newspapers were called, I was taken to the hospital by the police, and they fixed my fractured nose the best they could.

MR. KUNSTLER: The witness is with you.

MR. SCHULTZ: Thank you, Mr. Kunstler.

MR. KUNSTLER: My pleasure.



Q. You don't mind if I call you Mr. McDonald, do you Mr. McDonald?

A. No, sir.

Q. Mr. McDonald, you said that on a particular occasion you told Rubin about shooting to kill. Do you remember that in your testimony?

A. I hate to say that I said something that I didn't say -- the way that you are wording it -- Perhaps you could word it a different way.

Q. What did you say?

MR. KUNSTLER: Your Honor, he wants to finish to answer to the question.

BY MR. SCHULTZ: What did you say about shoot to kill?

Q. I said that there were very negative responses from my friends and people in what is termed the underground youth community in response to Mayor Daley's order to the police to shoot to kill as far as rioters were concerned in the ghetto of Chicago in the riots of April.

Q. Did you tell Rubin that what the Mayor said was to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone who was in the process of throwing a Molotov Cocktail at a building?

A. Yes, I did.

[Schultz tries to trip up Joe - Mayor Daley's shoot to kill order was given on April 15th]

Q. That is how you put it, right? Now, by the way, when was that conversation?

A. That conversation was in Jerry Rubin's apartment about a month - no two months after - it was April, late April.

Q. About when in April was it, please?

A. If you take the month and divide it up in four parts, it is in the third fourth.

Q. Did they (Hoffman and Rubin) tell you that during the time they were negotiating with the authorities to get permits, some of the things that Hoffman said in his writings and orally were that during the convention the people would fight the police? Did they say that?

A. Gosh, that's really a strange question. Perhaps you could say it again.

Q. I am asking you as to whether or not Rubin and Hoffman told you that when they were negotiating for permits during that period one of the things that they were stating was that people would fight the police during the convention?

A. They couldn't say that because that would be a lie, you know.

Q. No, I am asking you whether or not one of them said that he had said that or written that?

A. Of course not.

Q. Or that they had said that there would be public fornication during the convention week out in the parks?

A. Your Honor, I deal in words, that is my job. I write songs. I have been doing that for about ten years. Certain words have certain connotations and multi-meanings to them, and in the world that I live in, in what is probably called the hippie underground, when we refer to fornication, we are not really referring to the actual sexual act of fornication at all times; we are referring to a spiritual togetherness that can be done without physical contact at all.

Q. Let me ask you this way: did they tell you when they were negotiating with public officials that they told the public official that people during the convention would fuck in the parks? Did they tell you that?

A. I get arrested for saying that.

Q. Did they tell you that that is what they were doing in their negotiations, these were some of the things that they said?

A. That is ridiculous.

Q. They did say that, didn't they?

A. What did -- I don't want to trap myself. What did you say?

Q. You are not being trapped, I am asking you --

A. What did you say to me?

Q. I am asking you whether or not either of them told you that when they were trying to get permits and negotiating with the city?

A. This question implies that they did say that, doesn't it?

Q. They didn't, did they?

A. Well, doesn't it imply that, though?

Q. Yes, it does.

A. Well, for me to answer that question is for me to acknowledge the fact that you made an statement that is rational.

Q. Now I am asking you the question -- are you done?

A. Yes, I am done.

Q. I am asking you the question as to whether or not either of them told you that that is what they had said to city officials?

A. Your Honor, that is a leading question, I mean, really --

THE COURT: You may answer it, sir. I order you to answer the question. Read it to the witness.

[question read]


A. I can't remember that ever arising.

Q. Did Abbie Hoffman offer to pay you, by the way, for your playing in the park?

A. We made it known to him that we would do everything for free.

Q. You made it known to him, did you not, that the other musicians, if you could get them, were going to do it for nothing, without cost, isn't that right?

A. No, I never said that.

Q. Did you tell him that some of the other musicians were going to charge?

A. No, I never said that.

Q. Did you tell him that you were arranging with the other musicians for them to do it for nothing?

A. No, I never said that.

Q. Did you discuss with him what the other musicians were going to charge if they were going to charge?

A. No.

Q. Did you discuss payment of the other musicians with either Hoffman or Rubin?

A. I don't discuss money with my friends.

MR. SCHULTZ: Oh, I have no more questions, your honor.

THE COURT; You have no more questions?


THE COURT: Is there any redirect examination of this witness?

MR. KUNSTLER: I don't think so, your honor.

THE COURT: All right. You may go.

[witness excused]


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