Country Joe's Place

The Ed Sullivan Appearance

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The following appeared in Scott Ostler's column in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 16, 1999:

SETTING STRAIGHT the record: Last week, KPIX showed a documentary, ``Ed Sullivan's Greatest Hits: Two Decades of Rock & Roll.''

The program featured, as you may have guessed, musical highlights from the old Ed Sullivan variety show. Flashed on the screen at one point was a photo of Country Joe and the Fish, the famed Berkeley protest band.

The photo may have created the impression that Country Joe and the Fish played Sullivan. Not quite. They were the only band ever paid not to appear on the Sullivan show.

They were booked in '68, but the night before they were to be on Ed's show, they played at a beer festival in Central Park, where they debuted their soon-to-be-famous ``Fish Cheer,'' where Country Joe McDonald leads the audience, ``Gimme a big F! Gimme a big U!'' And so on, then, ``What's that spell?''

Ed himself was in the audience that night. Joe and his Fish were not only banned from the beer festival in perpetuity, but Ed himself personally approached the lads backstage and told them they could keep their $2,500 appearance fee, but they would never, ever appear on his television show.

And yet, last week there was a TV show about the Ed Sullivan Show, and there was Country Joe and the Fish, crashing the party 31 years after the fact. The boys still haven't lost their touch.

As a matter of fact that was an often-asked question on the old Hollywood Squares: "Who was paid to stay off the Ed Sullivan show? Answer: Country Joe and the Fish.) This must be one of those Robin Williams moments where I just donít remember it happening. But it is nice to be included after the fact ... I think not.

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