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