Kingfish were formed in San Francisco, U.S.A in 1973 by Matthew Kelly, who had been guesting with The Grateful Dead, and Dave Torbert, who had been the bass player in The New Riders of the Purple Sage. The band were completed by fellow San Francisco boys Robbie Hoddinott on lead guitar, Chris Herold (drums), and Mick Ward on keyboards, the latter being tragically killed in a car accident later that year. He was replaced by another San Francisco musician, Barry Flast.
The band quickly gained a strong live reputation but were given a huge shot in the arm when Bob Weir of Grateful Dead fame joined their ranks and performed on their first two albums: “Kingfish” (1976) and “Live‘n’Kickin’” (1977), which both did very well on the American billboard charts. But it was of course when playing live that the band packed them into huge mega dome stadiums.
When the Grateful Dead came out of their sabbatical and returned to the road, Bob Weir of course went back to his mother band, taking with him Heddinott and Herold. But Kelly and Tolbert carried on with replacement musicians. However, in 1979 a line was drawn in the sand and other projects were taken up. Sadly, in 1982 Dave Torbert died of a heart attack.
From 1984 there were the occasional Kingfish reformations, but nothing to really raise the roof. They even released a very respectful studio album title “Sundown in the Forest” (1999).
This album under review was recorded by the King Biscuit organization on April 3rd 1976 and finds the band at their pinnacle. Blasting their way through songs from the first two Kingfish albums, cover songs like “CC Ryder’, two Chuck Berry classics, “Around and Around” and “Promised Land” (both strongly associated with The Grateful Dead) as well as future Grateful Dead classics that Weir took with him, including “Lazy Lightning/ Supplication”, although I can never remember hearing the Dead playing any of these songs with such fire. The three-pronged guitar attack of Kingfish certainly had a sting while the driving rhythm section was right up there too.
The only mystery to me is why, if this concert was recorded in 1976, was the album not released until 1996?
Matthew Kelly said of the recording: “The one thing I remember about the Beacon Theatre concert was how great the audience was and how incredible the acoustics were. It was a great place to play, big enough to make it exciting but not so large like the stadiums we played that had no soul. There was some kind of chemistry with the first Kingfish that was magical. We were a live band more so than a studio band. We worked off the audience. On a good night we were able to create some kind of special magic.”
For those rock music lovers that live outside of the United States, think of a very good Rockpile (Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe etc.) They even played a lot of the same songs.
Album rating: 5 stars.
Kingfish in 1976 were:
Matthew Kelly – guitar, harmonica and vocals
Dave Torbert – bass and vocals
Robbie Hoddinott – lead guitar and vocals
Chris Herold – drums and vocals
Bob Weir – lead guitar and vocals
Mystery Train/Mule Skinner Blues
The Battle Of New Orleans
Goodbye Your Honor
I Hear you Knockin’
All I Need Is Time
Around & Around
Home to Dixie
Bye and Bye
Jump For Joy
New Minglewood Blues
One More Saturday Night
Note: Written By Mott The Dog and Hells Bells who can always be found boogieing down at Jameson’s The Irish Pub, Soi AR, North Pattaya.