'60s Bands That Almost Made It
For the years from 1965 to 1970, popular music in America was in a state of revelry. The British Invasion took off with the Beatles' arrival and was still going strong when the war in Vietnam exploded in 1966-67. Yet by the Seventies, American songwriters and performers had reclaimed their home territory. If there was any doubt, the Woodstock festival of August 1969 delivered the message: American music was back, and it had something to say.
Here are ten bands that almost made it big back in the late-1960s but couldn't break out from the crowded field of talent.
1. Quicksilver Messenger Service
Quicksilver is just an old-fashioned name for mercury. Still, the dual nature of quicksilver—liquid and fluid on the one hand, while also metallic and silver-like—became the moniker of this San Francisco psychedelic band that cut a handful of popular albums in the late-Sixties. Still, when all was said and done, the six-member band just did not have the same staying power and contemporaries Jefferson Airplane and the Dead.
2. The Youngbloods
This group coalesced around the noted folksinger, Jesse Colin Young, who played solo before The Youngbloods came together and then returned to a solo career after the band broke up in the early '70s. While together, the four-piece combo cut three albums and had one fairly successful single release, a nifty little tune called "Let's Get Together," which was actually written by a member of Quicksilver Messenger Service. Here is Jesse in later years (2009) performing Darkness, Darkness.
3. Blue Cheer
Blue Cheer came out of the San Francisco psychedelic scene of the late-Sixties. They produced three albums, but their first release, Vincebus Eruptum, was the best seller and most popular. Originally, Blue Cheer was a six-piece blues band, but after seeing Hendrix play at Monterrey, they trimmed down to three, turned up the amps, and took off. By 1970, the band had split up, but today Blue Cheer is credited with beginning the heavy metal style and turning an Eddie Cochran rockabilly tune, Summertime Blues, into a rock and roll classic.
4. Vanilla Fudge
Vanilla Fudge was a psychedelic rock band of the late-Sixties that hailed from the New York City area. Their specialty was taking popular songs and creating an extended psychedelic track featuring a strong Baroque-style organ accompaniment. They did this best with a Supremes song, "You Keep Me Hanging On." The band lasted until 1970.
5. Bonnie and Delaney
Delaney and Bonnie were a talented musical due that had a great few years together in the late-Sixties and early-Seventies before parting ways in 1972.
Their list of musical companions reads like a who's who list of rock legends:
- Eric Clapton
- George Harrison
- The Allman Brothers
- Dave Mason
- Rita Coolidge
- Leon Russell
The band had a great stage presence and released a half dozen albums before they disbanded.
6. The Chambers Brothers
The Chambers Brothers were four African-American siblings from Mississippi who relocated to Southern California in the '50s and formed a singing quartet. During the early-Sixties, this group found limited work playing in folk clubs around Los Angeles.
Around 1965 they were discovered after some gigs in Greenwich Village in NYC. Between 1967 and 1975, the band recorded several albums. They had one very popular song called "The Time Has Come Today," which received substantial airplay in the late-Sixties, eventually earning recognition as one of the major anthems of the psychedelic era.
7. The Jim Kweskin Jug Band
With Maria Muldaur as the lead singer, this ragged collection of musicians very much resembled the old-time jug bands. The group featured a washtub bass and a jug player along with stringed instruments. In the late-Sixties the band released several albums, gaining a lot of FM play in the process. Maria recorded a sizable hit on her own in 1973, titled "Midnight at the Oasis."
8. Sir Douglas Quintet
The Sir Douglas Quintet was a long-haired band from Texas formed in 1964 and continued playing together for several decades. They had several hit singles in the Sixties, including "She's About a Mover" and "Mendocino." As a young band just starting out in Texas, the Sir Douglas Quintet incorporated many musical styles, such as Cajun, country, and Tex-Mex, into their music. In the late '60s, the band moved to the West Coast to try their hand at psychedelic rock.
9. Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal is the stage name for Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr., a successful blues musician who broke out in the late-Sixties with three well-received albums. Before his solo career, Taj Mahal played in Rising Sons, a short-lived blues-American roots band featuring Ry Cooder. The band did not last long, but it sprung the musical careers of two very talented musicians. Taj Mahal still performs today. In fact, he has never really stopped. His musical career has now spanned five decades.
10. Dr. John and the Night Trippers
In 1968, New Orleans session musician Mac Rabaneck released a voodoo-spirited album called Gris-Gris. For this recording, and ever since, the New Orlean musician has used the stage name, Dr. John. Even stranger is that back in the 1800s, there was a real Dr. John named Harold Batiste. Harold Batiste was originally from Senegal but lived in New Orleans as a free person of color who sold gris-gris charms and was a healer. For most of his musical career, Dr. John has been fascinated with New Orleans voodoo culture.
© 2017 Harry Nielsen