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20 Jun 2017

Great Speckled Bird "Great Speckled Bird" 1970 Canada Country Rock





Great Speckled Bird performing (probably doing C.C. Rider) in Calgary, July, 1970 on the legendary Festival Express tour with special guests. L to R: Buddy Cage, Jerry Garcia, Ian Tyson, Sylvia Tyson, Jim Colegrove, Delaney Bramlett.



Hard Drugs Suck! The Great Speckled Bird - 1970


Great Speckled Bird  "Great Speckled Bird" 1970 Canada Country Rock

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Great Speckled Bird was a pioneering country-rock band that originated in Canada in 1969. Ian and Sylvia (Ian Tyson and Sylvia Tyson), a well-known folk duo who rose to popularity in the early sixties, began making records in Nashville around 1968. Ian and Sylvia wanted to form their own band that played in a progressive country style. They formed Great Speckled Bird (there was no "the" in front of it), a group that was part of the country-rock movement that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Original members of the band were: Amos Garrett, guitar; Bill Keith, steel guitar; Ken Kalmusky, bass and Ricky Marcus, drums. Ian and Sylvia were the lead vocalists and Ian played guitar. Sylvia sometimes played piano. One of the most interesting aspects of the group was that it was rarely recognized by the media by its correct name. Ian and Sylvia Tyson were so well-known as a duo that it seemed to be impossible to merge their identity into a country-rock band. All you have to do is take a look at the LP on Ampex and you will see their intentions for the group's name. It seemed the media was determined to reject the idea. This trend continues today in much of the reviews of the film Festival Express. If mentioned at all, the group is either referred to as "Ian and Sylvia and the Great Speckled Bird" or just as "Ian and Sylvia." Of course, Ian and Sylvia finally gave up on the idea with their Columbia LP You Were On My Mind when the recording artists were listed as Ian and Sylvia with Great Speckled Bird.
In 1969 Bill Keith was replaced on steel guitar by Buddy Cage and Ricky Marcus was replaced on drums by N.D. Smart. They recorded their first LP, Great Speckled Bird, in Nashville that year. It was issued on the new Ampex label (Ampex A10103) produced by Todd Rundgren, and engineered by Charlie Tallent. On those sessions, David Briggs played piano and Norbert Putnam played bass. Great Speckled Bird had their own logo designed by Walt Kelly, the cartoonist who created the comic strip Pogo. An extremely limited edition of 25 prints of the character was made, each signed by the artist.
Great Speckled Bird logo by Walt Kelly
In January, 1970, Ian replaced Ken Kalmusky on bass with Jim Colegrove, reuniting him with N.D. Smart. This band toured the United States and Canada, playing concerts, clubs that included The Troubador in L.A., The Village Gate in New York, The Cellar Door in D.C., Mr. Kelly's in Chicago and various rock festivals. They appeared on The Johnny Cash Show (the show was episode 40, aired on November 11, 1970), played Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan and performed on the legendary Festival Express tour across Canada that summer. On returning to Toronto from Festival Express the band opened the four-year run of the CTV weekly television series, Nashville North, which became The Ian Tyson Show. The first season of the series was aired in various markets in the United States in 1970 under the title Nashville Now.
Great Speckled Bird cover art In the fall of 1970, Jeff Gutcheon joined Great Speckled Bird to play piano on the television show. Amos Garrett left the group to join Geoff and Maria Muldaur's new band in Woodstock. Amos was replaced by Toronto guitarist, David Wilcox. The next member to leave was Buddy Cage, who left to perform and record with Hog Heaven, Anne Murray, and The New Riders of the Purple Sage. Buddy was replaced on steel by Ben Keith. This group performed on The Ian Tyson Show for the next two years. In 1972 they recorded an LP for Columbia titled You Were On My Mind (Columbia KC31337). The same players in this band also recorded for Bearsville Records as Hungry Chuck.
Great Speckled Bird returned to touring in 1972 but the lineup changed. N.D. Smart was replaced on drums by former Mothers of Invention drummer, Billy Mundi. David Wilcox was replaced by Red Shea, former guitarist with Gordon Lightfoot. Jeff Gutcheon was replaced on piano by Gordon Fleming, formerly of the Candian group Jericho. Ben Keith was replaced by Nashville session player, Jim Baker. Baker was soon replaced by Pee Wee Charles on steel. Jim Colegrove left the band in 1974 and was replaced by Roly Salley on bass (later of Chris Isaak's band).
You Were On My Mind cover art
Desperados - The Roots of Country RockIan kept the band going until 1976. Then Great Speckled Bird flew off into the sunset leaving only two issued records. There were numerous performances on The Ian Tyson Show that documented this band in most of its configurations. An example can be heard on the reissued Great Speckled BirdCD. The cut, New Trucker's Cafe, is a live performance from the early TV show band. Perhaps more of these performances will be issued if they still exist. The documentary film of the Festival Express was finally released and first screened September 9 and 13, 2003 at The Toronto International Film Festival. A book titled Desperados - The Roots of Country Rock by John Einarson has been published by Cooper Square Press. This book contains a historical perspective on not only Great Speckled Bird but all of the bands of that era. Another book by John, the first biography on Ian and Sylvia, has been published titled Four Strong Winds: Ian and Sylvia.........

The Great Speckled Bird was lead by Ian and Sylvia Tyson. The above album was recorded and released in 1970. The record company pulled the album from store shelves within months, making this album rare and thus sought after. It’s not uncommon for a copy of the Great Speckled Bird to exchange hands for hundreds of dollars, if not more!

The album itself was a great mixture of early country-rock and folk. At the time it was a bold move for the Tysons to break free from their folk straight jackets. The Great Speckled Bird was supposed to signal the beginning of something new for this famous folk-rock duo. The band was very tight from live gigging, containing some good musicians such as the Remains’ N.D. Smart. Amos Garrett (lead guitar) and Buddy Cage (steel guitar) play with an added venom, incorporating different tones and textures to their guitar playing that work just brilliantly.

The concept of the Great Speckled Bird was to change the direction of folk as well as add electricity and rock n roll power to contemporary country music. The songs speak for themselves, just listen to the power in Ian Tyson’s Calgary. Both he and Sylvia are in great voice, adding a compelling and courageous element to this landmark album. Some of the songs such as Love What You’re Doing Child have that funky rural vibe while others (Rio Grande) recall their folk past. Flies in the Bottle is a beautiful country song and one cannot help but think how this album predates the Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris collaborations. At times this album rocks hard too, as heard on Bloodshot Beholder.

Definitely worth your time, the Great Speckled Bird is the best album this duo has ever released.....Rising Storm review.......

The Great Speckled Bird was lead by Ian and Sylvia Tyson. The above album was recorded and released in 1970. The record company pulled the album from store shelves within months, making this album rare and thus sought after. It’s not uncommon for a copy of the Great Speckled Bird to exchange hands for hundreds of dollars, if not more!

The album itself was a great mixture of early country-rock and folk. At the time it was a bold move for the Tysons to break free from their folk straight jackets. The Great Speckled Bird was supposed to signal the beginning of something new for this famous folk-rock duo. The band was very tight from live gigging, containing some good musicians such as the Remains’ N.D. Smart. Amos Garrett (lead guitar) and Buddy Cage (steel guitar) play with an added venom, incorporating different tones and textures to their guitar playing that work just brilliantly.

The concept of the Great Speckled Bird was to change the direction of folk as well as add electricity and rock n roll power to contemporary country music. The songs speak for themselves, just listen to the power in Ian Tyson’s Calgary. Both he and Sylvia are in great voice, adding a compelling and courageous element to this landmark album. Some of the songs such as Love What You’re Doing Child have that funky rural vibe while others (Rio Grande) recall their folk past. Flies in the Bottle is a beautiful country song and one cannot help but think how this album predates the Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris collaborations. At times this album rocks hard too, as heard on Bloodshot Beholder.
by Jason Nardelli............................

When Great Speckled Bird's album appeared in 1970, its assured country-rock came as a surprise to some longtime fans of the band's founders, Ian & Sylvia Tyson. As Ian & Sylvia, they'd been a popular folk duo since the early 1960s, known as songwriters (Ian for "Four Strong Winds," Sylvia for "You Were on My Mind") as well as interpreters of both traditional tunes and compositions by emerging folk-based contemporary songwriters such as Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan. Now they weren't even going under the Ian & Sylvia name, instead working as part of a band, Great Speckled Bird, whose name was taken from a song by country great Roy Acuff.

However, Great Speckled Bird was not so much a radical departure for the Tysons as it was a natural continuation of directions that they and many other major players of the 1960s folk scene had been exploring for years. Country music had always been a part of Ian & Sylvia's varied, eclectic influences, and they'd occasionally covered pure country music on their mid-1960s albums, recording Johnny Cash's "Come In, Stranger" and Porter Wagoner's "Satisfied Mind." Like many other folkies who'd moved into folk-rock and the use of electric instruments, by the end of the 1960s they'd both started to explore country-rock and record in Nashville. Their late-'60s LPs Nashville and Full Circle were both cut in Music City with some of the country capital's top session players. With Great Speckled Bird, they took the next step of forming a country-rock-grounded band of their own.

"Dylan went to Nashville first," Sylvia Tyson told me in a 2001 interview. "And it wasn't that we were copying Dylan, but just that we thought that was a really good idea. Because there were wonderful players down there. There were writers down there that we admired, producers. We got to record in the studio that Elvis Presley recorded in. How great is that, you know? I mean, we got to play with people like Jerry Reed. What a guitar player." Yet, she added, "We were on the road almost all the time, and when we did the two albums in Nashville, we took almost a year off after those albums were put out, and realized that part of what we were feeling was that we did not want to go out on the road with just a guitar player anymore. If we could not reproduce the material that was on those records, we didn't want to be performing. And that's when we put together the first version of the Great Speckled Bird."

Elaborates Sylvia five years later, "When we did the Nashville album, we decided that we really wanted to be able to do that music onstage. Because we used some great pickers, and it was time to make a step. Certainly the whole kind of folkie era was petering out, and we were moving into a more contemporary form, not doing as much of the traditional stuff. We were just looking to stretch out. We had pretty well done what we could do in the previous format, and felt that we didn't have a lot to lose in making the full change to an avant-garde country thing, as opposed to avant-garde folk. And we had already made those connections with the great players. [When] we put together the band Great Speckled Bird, we pretty much knew who we wanted to have. Certainly, like most really good bands, it was kind of a movable feast; people came in and out of it."

Also in the lineup that recorded Great Speckled Bird was steel guitarist Buddy Cage, later to join the New Riders of the Purple Sage; lead guitarist Amos Garrett, who developed a distinctive technique of bending two and three strings, in part from working in tandem with a steel player (and would later work with Maria Muldaur, playing the solo on her hit "Midnight at the Oasis"); and drummer N.D. Smart II, who'd played with the Remains and Mountain (and would later play alongside Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons in the Fallen Angels). When they recorded the album in Nashville in late 1969, the producer was a young Todd Rundgren, then just starting his simultaneous careers as a producer and solo recording artist.

"We were managed by Albert Grossman, and Albert managed Todd Rundgren as well," explains Sylvia. "Todd was interested in becoming more of a producer. It was a peculiar marriage, god knows. Todd Rundgren in Nashville turned a few heads. You have to understand that we were doing that at Jack Clement's studio, right in the heart of Nashville, with all of the old boys that we'd played with dropping by. And there was Todd, [who] dressed weird, and had long hair. Not only that, but he brought with him his girlfriend, of the GTOs. She was perfect—she just sat there and knitted a sweater the whole time, for Todd."

The material on Great Speckled Bird was about evenly divided between songs written either by Ian Tyson or Sylvia Tyson, though the pair collaborated on "Calgary," and Garrett got a co-credit with Ian for "Rio Grande." The sole cover to find its way onto the LP was "Crazy Arms," a huge country hit for Ray Price in the mid-1950s, and subsequently covered by everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, and Chuck Berry to Linda Ronstadt, Patsy Cline, and Waylon Jennings. "Ian and Sylvia's album was the first record of its kind cut in Nashville," N.D. Smart observed in John Einarson's Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock. "They couldn't get used to the longhairs. They all figured that you had to have the hit done before lunch or there was something wrong with you. But we weren't in there for two or three hours watching the clock. We were in the studio for eighteen hours at a stretch. And [Nashville session men] David Briggs [on piano] and Norbert Putnam [on bass] were loving this, because they were getting triple scale."

Although Great Speckled Bird was admired by fellow musicians and adventurous listeners, the Tysons ran into some resistance when they performed the material onstage. "When we first put together the Great Speckled Bird, we had some very adverse reaction," Sylvia told me in our 2001 interview. "We had some situations where the minute people saw pedal steel on stage, they would get up and walk out. They thought of us as folk music, as the acoustic thing, and the idea of an electric instrument on stage was an anathema to certain people who, for whatever reason, just couldn't deal with it." The album didn't sell well, though Great Speckled Bird were part of the 1970 Festival Express tour, a sort of traveling rock festival that barnstormed Canada by train, also including Janis Joplin, the Band, the Grateful Dead, and Delaney & Bonnie. Great Speckled Bird can be seen, albeit briefly, in the Festival Express movie, though that footage didn't give them any publicity at the time, as the film didn't come out until 2003.

Great Speckled Bird did continue for a while in the early 1970s with different lineups. Cage's replacement, Ben Keith (who would later gain recognition as a longtime sideman for Neil Young), is on the 1972 album You Were on My Mind, credited to Ian & Sylvia with Great Speckled Bird. Great Speckled Bird itself, however, would be the only LP the group recorded as the featured artist. "The Great Speckled Bird was kind of a changeable thing," notes Sylvia. "People moved in and out of it, and that was fine. That certainly kept things interesting. We always had great players, like Ben Keith, [who] left us to go with Neil Young. That sort of thing was constantly happening, and Buddy Cage went with the New Riders. I guess you could say that we were a farm team for the hot groups." By the mid-1970s, Ian and Sylvia Tyson had begun solo careers, ending their longtime partnership.

"Not blowing our horn or anything, but that album was so far ahead of its time that it really took a long time for people to catch up with us and figure out what we were doing," feels Sylvia. "And we had some lean years there. I mean, it's only now that you pay $300 for a sealed copy of that album. It's considered to be a seminal album by a lot of people, but it wasn't then." Fortunately, you don't have to pay $300 now to hear the music, given a United States reissue on this CD from Collectors' Choice Music. -- Richie Unterberger ...........................

You can't trace the evolution of country-rock without listening to this 1970 album by Ian & Sylvia and thier crack band of Buddy Cage, Amos Garrett and N.D. Smart II; like our previous reissues of records by the Dillards ('Wheatstraw Suite' and Beau Brummels ('Bradley's Barn'), 'Great Speckled Bird' brought a whole new "longhair" sensiblity to Nashville, and broke through the barriers that had separated country from rock for over a decade. As Sylvia Fricker herself says in our liner notes, "Not blowing our own horn or anything, but that album was so far ahead of its time that it really took people a long time to catch up with us and figure out what we were doing." Well, we're glad we caught up, and you will be, too, when you hear this lost classic; includes 'Love What You're Doing Child'; 'Calgary'; 'Trucker's Caf‚'; 'Long Long Time to Get Old'; 'Flies in the Bottle'; 'Bloodshot Beholder'; 'Crazy Arms'; 'This Dream'; 'Smiling Wine'; 'Rio Grande'; 'Disappearing Woman'; 'We Sail', and a bonus live rendition of 'Trucker's Cafe'. Produced by Todd Rundgren - a Collectors' Choice Music exclusive!..............

It is probably fair to say that this is Ian & Sylvia's most important album, and yet it was never sold under their name. It marks an astonishing intersection of roads, bringing together the well-known folk duo, drummer N.D.Smart III (already of Barry & the Remains and Mountain and later a Gram Parsons sideman), two Canadian newcomers who would enjoy higher profile careers afterward (Buddy Cage and Amos Garrett) and Todd Rundgren as producer while Nazz was still in business. This high-powered concoction yielded one of the best country rock albums of all time.
Released in 1969 on the Ampex label for the five minutes that this old recording equipment manufacturer flirted with running a record company, "Great Speckled Bird" immediately sank without a trace and remains a genuine dark horse today. A search of "Ian & Sylvia" will not pull up this release on Amazon; you have to already know about it even to think of buying it.
And buy it you should. Propelled by the toughest country rock sound anybody was doing in 1969, Ian Tyson brings together a handful of timeless classic songs seldom matched, particularly "Calgary," "Long Long Time to Get Old," "Flies in the Bottle" and "Rio Grande." Sylvia's contributions are suprisingly modest here but her "Truckers Cafe" is a classic country woman's lament.
It's tempting to imagine what might have become of this record if it had been released on a proper record label and if it had been billed as "Ian & Sylvia & the Great Speckled Bird." Surely it would now be on every record shelf that also holds "Sweatheart of the Rodeo," "Nashville Skyline" and Michael Nesmith's first few solo albums..........By Randall E. Adams...........

Personnel
*Ian Tyson - Guitar, Vocals
*Sylvia Fricker Tyson - Vocals
*Buddy Cage - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Amos Garrett - Guitar, Vocals
*N.D. Smart - Drums
*David Briggs - Piano
*Norbert Putnam - Bass Guitar
*Todd Rundgren - Producer

Tracklist
A1 Love What You're Doing Child 3:37
A2 Calgary 3:00
A3 Trucker's Cafe 3:19
A4 Long Long Time To Get Old
Backing Vocals – Amos Garrett
3:08
A5 Flies In The Bottle 3:43
A6 Bloodshot Beholder 2:56
B1 Crazy Arms 2:51
B2 This Dream 3:36
B3 Smiling Wine
Backing Vocals – Amos Garrett, N.D. Smart II
3:05
B4 Rio Grande 3:49
B5 Disappearing Woman 2:10
B6 We Sail 4:33 

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