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Blackburn & Snow

One of the most interesting folk-rock acts of the 1960s to totally miss out on meaningful national exposure, the male-female duo of Jeff Blackburn and Sherry Snow had a lot going for them. Their male-female harmonies were nearly on par with those of the early Jefferson Airplane, and they boasted a wealth of fine original material by Blackburn that deftly combined folk, rock, country, and light psychedelic influences into a melodic blend that was both commercial and creatively idiosyncratic. What they didn't have was a regular release schedule. Indeed, there were only two poorly distributed singles on Verve, including the classic "Stranger in a Strange Land," before they split up in the late '60s. However, they did record an additional album's worth of quality unreleased material, which with the singles comprised a CD of their work that finally came out in 1999.

Sherry Snow began playing folk music in California in the early '60s. Her path intersected with those of other struggling folkies on the scene that would become folk-rock and psychedelic rock stars in a few years, such as Paul Kantner (of Jefferson Airplane) and David Freiberg (of Quicksilver Messenger Service). In fact, she lived in the same apartment as Kantner and Freiberg for a while in San Francisco in the mid-'60s. In 1965 she became a romantic and professional couple with guitarist and songwriter Jeff Blackburn, and the pair were signed by Bay Area music entrepreneur Frank Werber, manager of the Kingston Trio and the We Five.

In early 1966, with the rhythm section of the We Five, Blackburn & Snow recorded "Stranger in a Strange Land," an excellent song strongly rumored to have been written by David Crosby. Although it was credited to the mysterious Samuel F. Omar, the rumor is given credence by an unreleased instrumental track called "Stranger in a Strange Land" on a bootleg of mid-'60s Byrds material, which has a similar melody to the tune cut by Blackburn & Snow. "Stranger in a Strange Land" was quite progressive folk-rock for its era, but unfortunately, for obscure reasons, it would not be issued for about a year.

In the meantime, Blackburn & Snow continued to record for Frank Werber's production company, Trident, devoting themselves almost exclusively to Blackburn originals. Although Blackburn had not written "Stranger in a Strange Land," his compositions were similar in their unusual shifting melodies, frequent haunting use of minor chords, and hazy yet pungent lyrics reflecting the freewheeling spirit of the embryonic San Francisco hippie counterculture. A skilled guitar player with an interesting voice not unlike the Everly Brothers, his vocals were ably complemented by the soaring, higher ones of Snow, who (according to Alec Palao's liner notes on Blackburn & Snow's Something Good for Your Head CD) declined an offer to replace Signe Anderson in the Jefferson Airplane in August 1966. Some of the tracks the duo recorded during this period (usually with various electric backing musicians, including bassist Harvey Brooks, Country Joe & the Fish drummer Chicken Hirsh, and Los Angeles session guitarist Jerry McGhee) were in the classic folk-rock style with ringing guitars and a light rhythm section. Others exhibited a strong country influence or a melancholy, nearly (or totally) acoustic ballad feel that recalled the musicians' coffeehouse roots, but with more creative melodies and contemporary, expressive lyrics than would have been found in the early-'60s acoustic folk scene.

Like the other acts signed to Trident (the Mystery Trend, the early Sons of Champlin), Blackburn & Snow, for murky reasons, only managed to release a meager slice of the material they recorded for the organization on poorly distributed singles, although they recorded quite a few numbers in the studio. "Stranger in a Strange Land" appeared on a single by Verve (whose parent company, MGM, had a deal with Trident) in early 1967. A second single, the country-rock-flavored "Time"/"Post-War Baby," appeared in October 1967, although only promo copies were pressed. An entire album was scheduled for release in spring 1967, but never came out as the Trident/MGM deal foundered.

Blackburn & Snow separated from Frank Werber in late 1967. Shortly afterwards, the pair's romantic relationship ended, and although they continued to play together briefly, they soon broke up as a professional act, as well. Sherry Snow sang with Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks before leaving the music business, and Jeff Blackburn remained active as a musician in Santa Cruz, joining Moby Grape from October 1973 to May 1975, and played live with Neil Young in the Ducks in 1977. ~ Richie Unterberger
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970

Disc 1

2. I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag

3. You Were On My Mind

6. Don't Talk To Strangers

7. Anything

8. It's No Secret

9. Johnny Was A Good Boy

10. Free Advice

12. Stranger In A Strange Land

13. Who Do You Love

14. She's My Baby

15. Coffee Cup

16. Live Your Own Life

17. Fat City

20. Section 43

21. Hello Hello

Disc 2

1. Psychotic Reaction

2. Got Love

3. Satisfaction Guaranteed

4. Foolish Woman

5. My Buddy Sin

6. Streetcar

12. I'm A Good Woman

13. No Way Out

14. Hey I'm Lost

15. I Love You

17. Fly To New York

18. Thing In "E"

19. Hearts To Cry

Disc 3

1. Alabama Bound

2. Carl Street

3. Somebody To Love

5. Two Days 'till Tomorrow

6. Omaha

8. The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)

9. Codine

10. Down On Me

12. White Rabbit

13. Roll With It

14. Why Did You Put Me On

15. Underdog

16. Summertime Blues

17. Glue

18. Soul Sacrifice

Disc 4

1. Evil Ways

2. Red The Sign Post

3. Lemonaide Kid

4. 1982-A

5. How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away

9. Murder In My Heart For The Judge

10. Light Your Windows

11. I'm Drowning

13. White Bird

14. Dark Star

15. Fool

16. Mexico

17. Mercedes Benz

18. Get Together

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