Country Joe McDonald House

Born in Washington, D.C., Joe McDonald grew up in Los Angeles where he was a street performer. While in college, he became involved in the flourishing Bay Area alternative music scene. McDonald was the frontman for a psychedelic rock band named Country Joe and the Fish. McDonald has recorded 33 albums and has written hundreds of songs over a career spanning 60 years. In 1965, he and Barry Melton co-founded Country Joe & the Fish which became a pioneer psychedelic rock band with their eclectic performances at the Avalon Ballroom, the Fillmore Auditorium, the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, and both the 1969 original and 1979 reunion Woodstock Festivals. According to conventional wisdom, the band’s name comes from references to Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. McDonald’s parents reportedly named him in honor of the Soviet leader whose Second World War nickname was “Country Joe.” The fish is a reference to Mao’s comment about the importance of a guerrilla moving among the people like a fish swimming in the sea. During his time with the band in the 1960s, McDonald lived in an apartment building located at 612 Ashbury Street. Called the Fish Tank by local performers, it was in the heart of the Haight-Ashbury music scene and near counterculture luminaries like Hunter Thompson, Allen Ginsburg, Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead. It was here that McDonald wrote “The Fish Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag,” which is better known as the Vietnam Song. After all these years the private residence is still known as the Country Joe McDonald House.


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