Kozmic Blues John Till

Kozmic Blues John Till

Kozmic Blues John Till
From Festival Express promo
Happy birthday
December 24, 1945

John Till was the guitarist in Janis Joplin’s Kozmic Blues Band at Woodstock. His path from Stratford, Ontario  to that famous Bethel stage is an interesting one because it includes some familiar names along the way.

Kozmic Blues John Till

Musical family

John Till was born into a musical family. His mother played piano and his father played  pretty much any stringed instrument.

In his AllMusic bio, Joe Viglione wrote of Till: “Till’s family never pushed him into music or forced him to take lessons. They told him years later that their philosophy was to just have the musical instruments “around” and to make sure there was lots of music to be heard in the house. Till describes his parents as being “totally supportive” when he showed an interest in playing music himself. His father taught him to play the four-string tenor guitar and banjo by ear, and also taught him the concept of improvisation — “taking off on the chords” — which is such a big part of Dixieland. They weren’t rich, but when he became interested in rock & roll around the age of 11, they managed to buy him his first electric guitar and amp.”

Kozmic Blues John Till

Bands

At Stratford Central High, John and a few classmates formed the Revols. One of the band mates was Richard Manuel.

John later became part of Larry Lee & the Leesures and Max Falcom and the Falcons. At one point, Till played with David Clayton-Thomas who would also be at Woodstock with Blood, Sweat and Tears.

When Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm left Ronnie Hawkins, new Hawks replaced them. One group of replacements included Richard Bell, Larry Alamniuk, and John Till. Those three would go on to become part of Janis’s last band, The Full Tilt Boogie Band, but John was with Janis before that.

Till can be heard on Hawkins’s 1967 single, “Home From the Forest.”

Kozmic Blues John Till

Who’s Janis Joplin?

John stayed with the Hawks until July 1969 when he replaced Sam Andrew in Janis’s Kozmic Blues Band.

It was after Janis abandoned the Kozmic Blues Band that she “created” the Full Tilt Boogie Band. The reason for qualifying the word create, is because the Full Tillt Boogie Band had actually begun as a side project of John Till and thus the double-L spelling of Tillt.

Kozmic Blues John Till
Till performing w Janis Joplin on the Dick Cavett Show

On January 19, 2018, the day that Janis would have been 75, John Till spoke on CBC radio about his time with Janis. Here are some of his observations:

  • before he joined the band, he’d never heard of Janis.
  • he wondered what he’d gotten himself into, but…
  • he realized her greatness when he first heard her live
  • he thought her performance at Woodstock was great because all the delays would have given her an excuse to slide
  • he thought Janis felt isolated at that point in her career and that that sense of isolation pushed her to the use of opioids
  • he said that she felt the Full Tilt Boogie Band was the perfect band and that “She’d be pissed if they ever left her.”
  • following the band tour and back in California recording her last album, Pearl, she would take out for dinner John, his wife Dorcus, and son Michael.
  • she made a purple necklace for Dorcus
  • the song, Buried Alive In the Blues was the only song on the album that she didn’t sing live with the band as she’d done with all the other cuts. The band recorded it separately. She never did record a vocal because she died before she could. It became an instrumental on the album.
  • the band was unaware of her opioid use.

Also regarding the Full Tilt band from a Wikipedia entry: Joplin and her management then hired Till, bass player Ken Kalmusky (also from Stratford, and who used the stage name “Ken Campbell”), as well as pianist Ken Pearson (from nearby Woodstock, Ontario), to fill out her new band, called Full Tilt Boogie. The band appeared on The Dick Cavett Show and were booked on the Festival Express which toured across Canada. The group recorded their classic Pearl album, which reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts in 1971, after Joplin’s death.

After Joplin’s death, and the subsequent breakup of Full Tilt Boogie, Till played with Bobby Charles, Bob Burchill and his ensemble in the Stratford apartments.

In the foreword of Love, Janis, Laura Joplin’s biography of her relationship with her famous sister, Till and his Stratford born wife, Dorcas, are thanked for providing some of the material for the book.

Kozmic Blues John Till

Lifer

Kozmic Blues John Till
John on left

After Janis’s death, John moved to Woodstock, NY and did sessions with Bobby Charles at the Bearsville studios. He returned to Canada in 1976. He continued playing and occasionally recording for other artists. He teaches guitar as well.

His current (last?) band is (was?) called B.W. Pawley & Plum Loco. Friend Ken Kalmusky  had been the band’s bass player until his death in the fall of 2005. John’s son Shawn now plays bass. Postings and comments on their Facebook page suggest that the group disbanded in June 2016.

Kozmic Blues John Till

Bassist Doug Metzner

Bassist Doug Metzner

Doug played bass with Country Joe and the Fish at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

He has has a minuscule internet footprint. As far as his part at Woodstock, Wade Lawrence and Scott Parker write in their WoodTALK article on the band’s performance that drizzly Sunday evening: The group followed this with a short jam based around a Barry Melton guitar solo before moving gracefully back into “Rock and Soul Music,” this time taking the jam out to some length. This came close to falling apart when bassist Doug Metzner got completely turned around on the beat, forcing the group to fumble around for a few moments before righting the ship and bringing the main set to a powerful close.

Bassist Doug Metzner

CJ Fish

The first Fish album he appeared on was CJ Fish, which they recorded  in January 1970 at the Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles.

Bassist Doug Metzner

According to Brandon Budenz’s AllMusic review of CJ Fish: Country Joe and the Fish went through a personnel change for their fifth album, CJ Fish, adding Greg Dewey, Doug Metzner, and Mark Kapner in place of David Cohen and “Chicken” Hirsh. They retained, however, their primary composers Barry Melton and Country Joe MacDonald, keeping the sound and style of the original band. CJ Fish is not as strong as their other albums, but it does have a few highlights. The content is typical Country Joe and the Fish: more love, less war, and the tunes are only a little fresher than the ideas. On their previous release Here We Are Again, they experimented with various styles. On CJ Fish, they tried to recapture the sound of their previous success, but they “went back to the well” only to find there wasn’t much there. Most of the lyrics are thoughtful and bright; many are in rhyme as many of that time were. The overall timbre is interesting, being both joyful and sobering at the same time. Some bright spots in the material are “Hey Bobby,” “She’s a Bird,” and “Hang On,” which are delightfully Country Joe. Overall it’s not a bad album and no Country Joe and the Fish collection is complete without it.

I realize that that is a review of an album that bassist Doug Metzner was on, but not much about Doug himself.

I’m buying time, I guess, because I cannot find much about Doug.

ALLMUSIC doesn’t have much more. It indicates that Metzer was also on their 1971 albums, Quiet Days in Clichy and From Ashbury to Woodstock.

Also a 1981 compilation The Life and Times of Country Joe & the Fish and a 2009 compilation Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm, which is a Woodstock festival album, not a Country Joe & the Fish album.

Bassist Doug Metzner

Help

So other than what appears to have been a brief time with Country Joe, I cannot find any other references about life before Woodstock nor life since the Fish.

If anyone has something, please email or comment.

Bassist Doug Metzner

Bible Scholar Alan Cooper

Bible Scholar Alan Cooper
Bible Scholar Alan CooperIt should stop surprising me when I do a blog piece on a Sha Na Na band member and discover that he on to do something very much different than recreating 1950s doo wop music. I must remind myself that the members of the band had formed at and were attending Columbia University.

At the Hop

Alan Cooper was one of the original 12-member band and sang bass. He is featured in the Woodstock film when Sha Na Na continues their 30-minute set with a rousing  performance of  “At the Hop.”

He remembers that there was no water to drink, “…but plenty of champagne. The guys in Ten Years After had a camper and lots of food,
which they were happy to share with Cooper and his gang.”

Bible Scholar Alan Cooper

1971 Exodus

He would remain with the band until 1971, a time span that put him on both The Tonight Show and The Merv Griffin Show — no small feat.

He left the band (Jon “Bowser” Bauman replace him) and was graduated from Columbia with a BA in religious studies in 1971 and would go on for additional degrees, a Masters in Philosophy  from Yale University in 1974 a doctorate in Biblical Studies at Yale as well.

Bible Scholar Alan Cooper

Dr Cooper

He served on the faculties of McMaster University and Hebrew Union College. In 1997, he was appointed to a position at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS).

In 1998, he was appointed Professor of Bible at Union Theological Seminary in New York, becoming the first person to hold a joint professorship at both Union and JTS.

Alan Cooper is the provost of JTS and also serves as the Elaine Ravich Professor of Jewish Studies at JTS.

From a South Coast Today article by David Briggs: “The experience of the divine, to know what God wants for the world, what God wants for me, is important to me,” he says.

Quite a path!

Bible Scholar Alan Cooper

What's so funny about peace, love, art, and activism?

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