Groundhogs - This legendary UK blues/rock outfit were formed in London 1963 by vocalist/guitarist Tony(TS)McPhee who named the band after a John Lee Hooker track. They travelled to New York in 1964 and released an album called "Live at The Au-Go Club, New York", with their hero, John Lee Hooker. They returned to England in 1965 and went through a number of false startsb efore finally settling on the line-up of McPhee on guitars and vocals, Ken Pustelnik on drums, Pete Cruickshank on bass and Steve Rye on vocals. Their debut album, "Scratching The Surface", was released in November 1968 on the Liberty Record label. The band trimmed to a trio when Rye left due to illness, and this line-up pretty much stayed the same for a number of years. Some oft heir best albums, notably "Thank Christ for the Bomb", "Split" and "Who will save the World - The Mighty Groundhogs", came out in the early seventies and ensured that the band built up a solid following. McPhee has kept the band alive all these years and has also recorded a number of acoustic blues albums under his own name. The latest studio album, on a par with their best, was 1998's" Hogs in Wolf's Clothing", featuring Eric Chipulina on bass and Pete Correa on drums. 
  

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Biography by Richie Unterberger
The Groundhogs were not British blues at their most creative; nor were they British blues at their most generic. They were emblematic of some of the genre's most visible strengths and weaknesses. They were prone to jam too long on basic riffs, they couldn't hold a candle to American blues singers in terms of vocal presence, and their songwriting wasn't so hot. On the other hand, they did sometimes stretch the form in unexpected ways, usually at the hands of their creative force, guitarist/songwriter/vocalist T.S. (Tony) McPhee. For a while they were also extremely popular in Britain, landing three albums in that country's Top Ten in the early '70s.

The Groundhogs' roots actually stretch back to the mid-'60s, when McPhee helped form the group, named after a John Lee Hooker song (the band was also known briefly as John Lee's Groundhogs). In fact, the Groundhogs would back Hooker himself on some of the blues singer's mid-'60s British shows, and also back him on record on an obscure LP. They also recorded a few very obscure singles with a much more prominent R&B/soul influence than their later work.

In 1966, the Groundhogs evolved into Herbal Mixture, which (as if you couldn't guess from the name) had more of a psychedelic flavor than a blues one. Their sole single, "Machines," would actually appear on psychedelic rarity compilations decades later. The Groundhogs/Herbal Mixture singles, along with some unreleased material, has been compiled on a reissue CD on Distortions.

After Herbal Mixture folded, McPhee had a stint with the John Dummer Blues Band before reforming the Groundhogs in the late '60s at the instigation of United Artists A&R man Andrew Lauder. Initially a quartet (bassist Pete Cruickshank also remained from the original Groundhogs lineup), they'd stripped down to a trio by the time of their commercial breakthrough, Thank Christ for the Bomb, which made the U.K. Top Ten in 1970.

The Groundhogs' power-trio setup, as well as McPhee's vaguely Jack Bruce-like vocals, bore a passing resemblance to the sound pioneered by Cream. They were blunter and less inventive than Cream, but often strained against the limitations of conventional 12-bar blues with twisting riffs and unexpected grinding chord changes. McPhee's lyrics, particularly on Thank Christ for the Bomb, were murky, sullen anti-establishment statements that were often difficult to decipher, both in meaning and actual content. They played it straighter on the less sophisticated follow-up, Split, which succumbed to some of the period's blues-hard-rock indulgences, putting riffs and flash over substance.

McPhee was always at the very least an impressive guitarist, and a very versatile one, accomplished in electric, acoustic, and slide styles. Who Will Save the World? The Mighty Groundhogs! (1972), their last Top Ten entry, saw McPhee straying further from blues territory into somewhat progressive realms, even adding some mellotron and harmonium (though the results were not wholly unsuccessful). The Groundhogs never became well-known in the U.S., where somewhat similar groups like Ten Years After were much bigger. Although McPhee and the band have meant little in commercial or critical terms in their native country since the early '70s, they've remained active as a touring and recording unit since then, playing to a small following in the U.K. and Europe. 

 

Rick Adams
Dave Boorman
Clive Brooks
Mick Cook
Peter Cruickshank
Alan Fish
Martin Kent
Tony McPhee
Ken Pustelnik
Steve Rye
Dave Wellbeloved
Dave Anderson
Mick Jones
Tom Parker
Mick Kirton

Family
Coloured Balls
Armageddon
Crosscut Saw
Lobby Loyde
Savoy Brown
Blodwyn Pig
Hampton Grease Band
Ten Years After
Jack Bruce
Mountain

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Groundhogs - 1968 - Scratching the Surface - 3/5

Groundhogs - 1969 - Blues Obituary - 3/5

Groundhogs - 1970 - Thank Christ for the Bomb - 4.5/5

Groundhogs - 1971 - Split - 3/5

Groundhogs - 1972 - Who Will Save the World - 4/5

Groundhogs - 1974 - Solid - 3.5/5

Groundhogs - 1976 - Black Diamond - 3.5/5

Groundhogs - 1976 - Crosscut Saw - 3/5

Groundhogs - 1985 - Razors Edge - 3.5/5

Groundhogs - 1987 - Back Against the Wall - 3.5/5

Groundhogs - 1988 - Hogs on the Raod - 3.5/5

Groundhogs - 1994 - Groundhog Night - 2/5

Groundhogs - 1995 - BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert - 3/5

Groundhogs - 1995 - No Surrender - 4/5

Groundhogs - 1996 - Who said Cherry Red - 4/5

Groundhogs - 2003 - Live at Leeds (Akarma) - 4/5

Groundhogs - 2004 - Live Ul Tour 76 - 4/5

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