I don’t know if my recollections about the recording of the LP, The Goodbye Blues, some 45 years ago are accurate. I don’t really care. I would prefer to keep some of my memories of knowing and playing music with Joe McDonald whether they’re true or not.
Joe and I met through the LA State and Pasadena City College folk music clubs. We played for civil rights groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and jammed for hours at folk music hootenannies.
Joe and I wanted to feel what it was like to have the blues, to be poor and on the streets like our heroes Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston. So one day we dressed like bums, dirtied our faces, and went to Pershing Square, a seedy downtown Los Angeles park, where Woody and Cisco had landed years earlier. We sat on a curb and played our guitars, probably standing out like the kids from the suburbs that we were. (One man on the street admired my guitar and invited me to his apartment to show me his.) For the full down and out, experience we went to a gospel mission for a lunch of beans and white bread, but first had to join in on some rousing hymns. Reminded of a college football song Joe stood up to cheer, “Fight, fight, fight for Jesus.”
Then one day Joe said he was moving to Berkeley to check out the 60s musical and political revolution. He had written “The Goodbye Blues” and suggested that, (since cassette players hadn’t been invented yet), we go into a studio and record the songs we had been doing.
I remember standing around a couple of classic old mics in a one room studio, with an engineer in the next room running the reel to reel recorder. They made us a few vinyl copies, but luckily Joe had 200 more copies pressed a few years later.
Not long ago I got a copy of The Standard Catalogue of American Records, 1950-1975 to answer trivia questions in my recording studio. One day I looked up Country Joe and found to my amazement that our LP was listed and valued in mint condition at $1000 a copy. Joe had given me 12 copies, most of which I had given away, and like in the legendary story The 12 Chairs (one of which contained a treasure) I began to hunt them down. I had a wide range of responses from friends, including “$1000, how can I sell it” to “sure I have one, would you like it?” (I did put one on Ebay and it shot up to a final bid of $11.00.)
The album represents a treasured memory of a golden time for me. It is an honor to have played with Joe and to have experienced his social commitment, artistic honesty and great sense of humor first hand. It’s all there on the album and it still comes through after all these years.
Country Joe McDonald:
After getting out of the U. S. Navy in 1962 I moved back to Southern California and stayed with my parents and my brother Billy and sister Nancy in their home in El Monte in the San Garbriel Valley. I went to a semester of college at Mt. San Antonio Junior College in Pomona. I then attended two semesters at Los Angeles State College. During the LA State College time I lived part time with my sister and her husband Charles Montgomery. Then I married Kathe Werum and we lived with my parents near LA State.
At LA State I joined the Folk Music Club and met Blair Hardman. Blair played guitar and banjo. We started playing music together. I started a magazine which was named Et Tu. Charles Montgomery was an artist and contributed some drawings to the magazine. That magazine turned into Rag Baby Magazine after I moved to Berkeley in 1965.
Blair and I once went to Pershing Square in Los Angeles and played music for the folks hanging out there and went to eat at the Salvation Army. I remember it being a fine meal.
I attended one semester and then worked in the cafeteria during the summer and helped in civil rights demonstrations that were taking part at that time on campus and around Los Angeles County. After the summer break I signed up for one more semester. I married Kathe Werum. She designed covers for Et Tu magazine. I decided to drop out of school and move to San Francisco.
I got the idea to record an album with Blair Hardman because I was leaving my friends in LA. We went to Custom Fidelity Records at 116 So. Euclid Ave., in Pasadena, California and recorded ten songs to be pressed into an LP. Ten LP’s were pressed and Blair got five and I got five. My brother in law Charles Montgomery drew cover art for two of the albums and that is shown here.
A few years later I pressed up 200 of the LPs and gave them away as Christmas presents. A few years later a company in the Northwest contracted to release the album under the title The Early Years. This company was litigated because of releasing the album in Europe without permission and the albums were supposed to be destroyed. They show up sometimes.
Blair and I are putting up this album in its entire original form for your enjoyment for the first time since 1965 -- along with our separate memories of how it came to be.