THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD
801) Country Weather — “Fly to New York”
I’ve never played a jam before, but today I give you a cool one by Country Weather, the great San Francisco band that never quite made it despite being a mainstay at the Filmore, the Avalon Ballroom and Winterland. As Alec Paleo says, it “has the distinct whiff of Syd-era Floyd, though melded to a spaced guitar-scape that could have only evolved from late 1960s San Francisco” (liner notes to the Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970 CD comp), and as William Ruhlmann says, the band “echoes the spacier aspects of the Dead on psychedelicized tunes such as . . . the group-composed improvisation ‘Fly to New York'”. (https://www.allmusic.com/album/country-weather-mw0001433141) The song was never officially released, as the band never snagged a record contract, but was on a one-sided promotional LP that the band made.
As to the disc, guitarist Greg Douglass explains that:
After our name change to Country Weather, we needed a promotional tool to get us gigs and to, with any luck, get some airplay on the newly formed underground rock FM stations KMPX and KSAN. We . . . cut five tunes, including “Fly to New York”. We had 50 copies of our efforts made. We got lots of airplay on both radio stations, which helped our budding career immensely. Our manager, Bob Strand, was a brilliant and aggressive promoter of the group and he made the most of the records. There were six EPs given to band members and two to the radio stations; I have no idea where the other 42 ended up. They are worth a great deal of money now. I wish I’d kept my copy. . . . In the end, “Fly to New York” . . . got a lot of airplay. . . . . It was basically just a demo, meant for getting gigs and hopefully gaining airplay on the radio. . . . It was carried by hand from place to place by our manager. . . .https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2016/02/country-weather-mistress-interview-wi.html
William Ruhlmann gives us some history:
The group was formed in the San Francisco suburb of Walnut Creek, CA, by high school students . . . as a cover band called the Virtues in 1966. . . . In 1967, they auditioned for promoter Chet Helms, who suggested they change their name and stop playing covers. Soon after, they became Country Weather. Over the next few years, they played frequently at such San Francisco venues as the Avalon Ballroom, the Fillmore Auditorium, and Winterland, opening for many of the renowned acid rock bands of the day, as well as up and down the West Coast. But they were never signed to a national record contract. In 1969, they recorded their own one-sided, five-song disc, which earned airplay on local radio stations. Country Weather disbanded at the start of 1973 . . . .
For decades, [it] was known, if at all, as a band name on several of the eye-popping psychedelic posters advertising rock concerts in San Francisco in the 1960s and early ’70s, alongside better known performers scheduled to play halls like the Fillmore. . . . Country Weather was an eclectic outfit with at least two distinct musical identities, which may have foreshadowed its eventual breakup. On the one hand, there are the pop-oriented songs written by rhythm guitarist and singer Steve Derr. . . . The band also echoes the spacier aspects of the Dead on psychedelicized tunes . . . . Contrasting with these styles is the blues-rock approach of lead guitarist Greg Douglass (the only one who went on to significant recognition later on). . . . [who] seems to want to turn Country Weather into Cream, and indeed the band’s dissolution was precipitated by his and drummer Bill Baron’s departure to form a Cream-like power trio.https://www.allmusic.com/artist/country-weather-mn0000728222, https://www.allmusic.com/album/country-weather-mw0001433141
Douglass sums it up: “The band had so many triumphant moments but we were never able to break through to that next level of making records. Our live shows were our moments of greatness.” (https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2016/02/country-weather-mistress-interview-wi.html)
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