Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wednesday Coffeehouse: The Satire of the Mitchell Trio

This could be a very long coffeehouse! Almost tied with The Kingston Trio is the Mitchell Trio as my all-time favorite folk group. I have every album they have recorded and have transferred most of the songs to my computer. That’s a lot of music!

A bit of history: the original Chad Mitchell Trio was formed in 1959 by three Gonzaga University students, William Chadbourne Mitchell, Mike Kobluk, and Mike Pugh. A year later, in 1960, Joe Frazier replaced Pugh, who went back to his studies. When Chad Mitchell left the group in 1964 to pursue a solo career, he was replaced by a young John Denver, and the group became known thereafter as the Mitchell Trio. Later Frazier left and was replaced by David Boise. When Kobluk left he was replaced by Michael Johnson (who had some success as a solo artist later on). Thus ended the earliest manifestation of the Chad Mitchell Trio.

The music of the Mitchell trio was harmonic, lyrical, and by the time they began recording for Mercury Records, often satirical. Song such as Twelve Days imagined a group of former Nazis singing their version of the old carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Likewise, the song I Was Not A Nazi Polka poked fun at the Germany in which no one could find an ex-Nazi (very true: during my 2 years stationed in Germany as a U.S. army officer, I never met an former Nazi). During the 1964 presidential election, Barry's Boys made fun of conservative Republicans, the bright young men who want to go back to 1910. Phil Ochs (another of my favorites) Draft Dodger Rag address the Vietnam War.

The Mitchell Trio in its various forms created so much music that today’s Coffeehouse will feature a few of the satirical songs. So, relax, grab a coppa joe, get ready to smile and (maybe) gain some insights into how it was—how it still is—in out society, click the music thingie, and enjoy!

Elizabeth Borden took an ax

And gave he mother forty whacks

And when the job was nicely done

She gave her father forty-one

On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Four top Gestapo leaders
Three anti-semites
Rudolf Hesse's blessings
And a partridge in a pear tree

Twelve Days

We're the bright young men
Who wanna go back to nineteen-ten
We're Barry's boys
We're the kids with a cause
Yes a government like grandmama's
We're Barry's boys
We're the new kind of youth at your Alma Mater
Back to silver standards and solid Goldwater
Back to when the poor were poor and rich were rich
And you felt so damn secure just knowing which were which

Barry's Boys

I learned that wars are not so bad
I learned of the great ones we have had
We fought in Germany and in France
And someday I might get my chance
And that's what I learned in school today
That's what I learned in school

What Did You Learn in School Today?

Sarge, I'm only eighteen, I got a ruptured spleen

And I always carry a purse
I got eyes like a bat, and my feet are flat, my asthma's getting worse
Consider my career, my sweetheart dear, my poor old invalid aunt
Besides, I ain't no fool, I'm a-goin' to school
And I'm working in a defense plant

The Draft Dodger Rag

And to end this coffeehouse, the Trio’s latest (released in June, 2008) satire:

The George Bush Society

In case anyone is interested, all of the audios I post are from my own CDs.

Be cool, man. Have another cuppa joe. Click below and just listen.

Previous Coffeehouses featured:

Leonard Cohen

Bob Gibson & Bob Camp

The Kingston Trio

Carmen McRae, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Steve Allen, Dave Brubeck, Del Close & John Brent

Judy Collins & Arlo Guthrie

Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel

Theolonious Monk & Lenny Bruce

Carly Simon

Summer of Love (1967)

Holly Near & Ronnie Gilbert

The Kingston Trio Returns

Miles Davis & Jack Kerouac


  1. Don't know whats wrong I kept losing your blog when I tried to load, enjoyed the rest, thanks Nick....

  2. I don't know any of those Nick so that was a lovely introduction, thanks. :)

  3. Nick,
    I love Wednesdays!

    The Chad Mitchell Trio was never afraid to sing it the way they saw it. In the folk revival, they were one of the firsts to use music for protest.

  4. Thanks for sharing some of your Mitchell trio songs. These are some great lyrics!

  5. Thanks for bringing back some great memories. My mom used to listen to this type of music while we cleaned house. Such good times. Thanks, Nick.

  6. Thank you for introducing me to the group and their songs. I always seem to learn something new when I visit your blog.

  7. Thank you, Saintly Nick. I appreciate the satire.