Groundhogs

The Groundhogs were an English experimental blues-rock/psych band that issued four albums on Liberty, starting in 1968 and culminating with the popular 1970/71 titles Thank Christ for the Bomb and Split. In 1972, they signed to United Artists for the albums Who Will Save the World? The Mighty Groundhogs and Hogwash. After issuing their 1974 effort Solid on the short-lived WWA label, they returned to U.A. for the 1976 titles Crosscut Saw and Black Diamond. Guitarist/frontman Tony (T.S.) McPhee also moonlighted as a backing musician.

Members: Tony T.S. McPhee (guitar, vocals), Peter Cruickshank (bass, 1963-74, 2003-04), Dave Boorman (drums, 1963-65), Bob Hall (piano, 1963-65), John Cruickshank (vocals, 1963-64), Ken Pustelnik (drums, 1965-72, 2003-04), Tom Parker (keyboards, 1965), Steve Rye (harmonica, 1968), Clive Brooks (drums, 1972-74), Dave Thompson (bass, 1972), Mick Cook (drums, 1976), Martin Kent (bass, 1976), Dave Wellbelove (guitar, 1976), Rick Adams (guitar, 1976)


The Groundhogs originated from pre-beatsters The Dollar Bills, formed in 1962 New Cross, London, by bassist Peter Cruickshank (b. 1943) and his singing brother John Cruickshank (b. 1945). Within months, they were joined by guitarist Tony McPhee (b. 1944), who steered them toward blues-rock and suggested they rename their band after the song “Groundhog’s Blues” by John Lee Hooker. The lineup was rounded by drummer Dave Boorman and a sequence of keyboardists.

In 1964, The Groundhogs backed Hooker on his UK tour. This was followed by backing gigs behind fellow visiting bluesmen Little Walter and Jimmy Reed. McPhee assumed the mic from a departed John Cruickshank and the band issued their first single, “Shake It” (b/w “Rock Me”), on Interphon Records in January 1965. Soon thereafter, Boorman cleared way for drummer Ken Pustelnik. The following year, McPhee played (alongside Eric Clapton) on the Decca release From New Orleans to Chicago by pianist Champion Jack Dupree.

In 1966, McPhee and Peter Cruickshank cut two singles as Herbal Mixture with drummer Mike Meekham. (Further recordings under this name were issued 30 years later on the Distortions Records compilation Please Leave My Mind.) The guitarist also issued two blues originals, “Someone to Love Me” (b/w “Ain’t Gonna Cry No Mo'”), under the nickname T. S. McPhee, the initials standing for “tough shit.”

By 1967, The Groundhogs had settled into a trio of McPhee, Cruickshank, and Pustelnik. They signed that year to EMI-subsidiary Liberty Records and released their debut album, Scratchin’ the Surface, in November 1968. It was produced by the label’s 19-year-old Head of A&R Mike Batt. They were joined on this release by harmonica player and singer Steve Rye, whose playing dominates on his contribution,  “Early In the Morning” (not the Vanity Fair/Cliff Richard hit), as well as the McPhee numbers, including the lengthy “Man Trouble.” Musically, the album is steeped heavily in the Chicago blues tradition.

In September 1969, the trio issued Blues Obituary, which finds them moving toward a looser, more jam-based style. It features six McPhee originals, including “Mistreated,” “B.D.D.,” and “Daze of the Weak,” plus their own arrangement of the traditional “Natchez Burning.” McPhee himself handled production on this and all subsequent Groundhogs albums.


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