It’s time to shine the Vinyl Spotlight! Every now and then on Paloozapalooza, I like to focus on a random LP from my collection. This week, we have:
Kingfish – Kingfish (1976)
When I was young and first discovering the Grateful Dead, it seems like I always heard about Jerry Garcia far more than anyone else in the band. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but it meant I didn’t really know about founding member Bob Weir until I got a little older.
Fast forward several years and Weir is far and away my favorite member of the group. I’m also a big fan of Weir’s early side projects, including his first solo album, 1972’s Ace, and the self-titled debut from Kingfish, a band he joined briefly in the mid 70s.
Though Kingfish existed as a band before Weir actually joined, his presence clearly make a huge impact on the band’s sound. Kingfish, which came out in 1976, grooves and shuffles along like a lost Dead album, with a little less guitar noodling and a lot more focus.
There isn’t a single song on Kingfish I don’t like, but “Jump for Joy” stands as my personal favorite. That gorgeous guitar part, those smooth vocals—just try to listen and not end up with a big smile on your face. Go ahead, try …
The second side of Kingfish is even better than first, especially the three-song streak that starts with the band’s cover of Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron” and ends with “Hypnotize.” On “Big Iron,” the band rides Dave Torbert’s two-note bassline, delivering a fresh take of a song we’ve all heard 1,000 times. Next up is the slow, steady “This Time,” which features harmonica from Matthew Kelly and a beautiful hook. And then there’s “Hypnotize,” which is sure to be a favorite of any and every Deadhead who gives Kingfish a spin. As soon as “Hypnotize” begins, you can envision the jam band dance party beginning, with shoeless women in flower dresses spinning around in a circle, crowns of dandelions bouncing around on their heads. I’m not sure if it’s Weir or Kelly playing that lead guitar part, but it’s simply gorgeous.
Overall, Kingfish is an underrated classic rock gem. If you like the Grateful Dead at all, you absolutely need to track this one down. Heck, even if you don’t, just try it out anyway; these songs are too good to miss out on.
Listen below via the almighty Spotify machine …