Country Joe and the Fish

A psychedelic band from Berkeley, California, led by Joe McDonald.

McDonald saw his group as an ideal hook to attach radical political messages to that were served up to an audience with a predominantly progressive orientation. The group agitated in particular against the US presence in Vietnam.

Why band name Country Joe and the Fish - StalinThe spiritual father of the band name is supposed to have been the manager of the band, Eugene 'ED' Denson. He came up with a name that linked two extremely revolutionary persons to each other - Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili and Mao Zedong.

In the western world Dzhugashvili is better known as Joseph Stalin (a pseudonym that means something like 'man of steel') and with that 'Country Joe' would immediately be explained - because according to internet encyclopedia Wikipedia that was one of Stalin's nicknames.

Whether or not this is the right interpretation we don't know, but we do know that during the Second World War Stalin was called somewhat condescendingly 'Uncle Joe' by the allies. The parents of Joe McDonald – just as radical - seem to have deliberately given their son the first name of the Russian dictator.

The role the Great Chinese Leader Mao Zedong played in choosing the band name requires some explanation. Denson referred in this respect to a famous phrase by Mao: 'The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.' Hence the Fish.

All in all Denson proposed to call the band Country Mao and the Fish. McDonald's band members found the reference to Mao not appropriate however and changed the band name to Country Joe and the Fish.

Everybody happy.

Active: 1965-1971, USA

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