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Groundhogs

The Groundhogs were not British blues at their most creative; nor were they British blues at their most generic. They were emblematic of some of the genre's most visible strengths and weaknesses. They were prone to jam too long on basic riffs, they couldn't hold a candle to American blues singers in terms of vocal presence, and their songwriting wasn't so hot. On the other hand, they did sometimes stretch the form in unexpected ways, usually at the hands of their creative force, guitarist/songwriter/vocalist T.S. (Tony) McPhee. For a while they were also extremely popular in Britain, landing three albums in that country's Top Ten in the early '70s.

The Groundhogs' roots actually stretch back to the mid-'60s, when McPhee helped form the group, naming it after a John Lee Hooker song (the band was also known briefly as John Lee's Groundhogs). In fact, the Groundhogs would back Hooker himself on some of the blues singer's mid-'60s British shows, and also on an obscure LP. They also recorded a few of their very own obscure singles with a much more prominent R&B/soul influence than their later work.

In 1966, the Groundhogs evolved into Herbal Mixture, which (as if you couldn't guess from the name) had more of a psychedelic flavor than a blues one. Their sole single, "Machines," would actually appear on psychedelic rarity compilations decades later. The Groundhogs/Herbal Mixture singles, along with some unreleased material, has been compiled on a reissue CD on Distortions.

After Herbal Mixture folded, McPhee had a stint with the John Dummer Blues Band before re-forming the Groundhogs in the late '60s at the instigation of United Artists A&R man Andrew Lauder. Initially a quartet (bassist Pete Cruickshank also remained from the original Groundhogs lineup), they'd stripped down to a trio by the time of their commercial breakthrough, Thank Christ for the Bomb, which made the U.K. Top Ten in 1970.

The Groundhogs' power trio setup, as well as McPhee's vaguely Jack Bruce-like vocals, bore a passing resemblance to the sound pioneered by Cream. They were blunter and less inventive than Cream, but often strained against the limitations of conventional 12-bar blues with twisting riffs and unexpected grinding chord changes. McPhee's lyrics, particularly on Thank Christ for the Bomb, were murky, sullen anti-establishment statements that were often difficult to decipher, both in meaning and actual content. They played it straighter on the less sophisticated follow-up, Split, which succumbed to some of the period's blues-hard rock indulgences, favoring riffs and flash over substance.

McPhee was always at the very least an impressive guitarist, and a very versatile one, accomplished in electric, acoustic, and slide styles. Who Will Save the World? The Mighty Groundhogs! (1972), their last Top Ten entry, saw McPhee straying further from blues territory into somewhat progressive realms, even adding some Mellotron and harmonium (though the results were not wholly unsuccessful). The Groundhogs never became well-known in the U.S., where somewhat similar groups like Ten Years After were much bigger. Although McPhee and the band have meant little in commercial or critical terms in their native country since the early '70s, they've remained active as a touring and recording unit since then, playing to a small following in the U.K. and Europe. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Report as inappropriate
hcdcon
I never forget their gig in the famous Star Club in Hamburg in 1969. McPhee playing his guitar in a way I never heard before. Pustleniks drumset looked like s**t with broken crashes but the Groundhogs just knocked me off my feet. Six months later they played the Hamburg Universities Audimax. After at least five encores the audience did not want them to go. Finally the security turned off the elecricity.. . Not even sure if I enjoyed Hendrix gig on the Isle of Fehmarn 1970 more than the Hogs...
Report as inappropriate
hcdcon
I never forget their gig in the famous Star Club in Hamburg in 1969. McPhee playing his guitar in a way I never heard before. Pustleniks drumset looked like s**t with broken crashes but the Groundhogs just knocked me off my feet. Six months later they played the Hamburg Universities Audimax. After at least five encores the audience did not want them to go. Finally the security turned off the elecricity.. . Not even sure if I enjoyed Hendrix gig on the Isle of Fehmarn 1970 more than the Hogs...
Report as inappropriate
bevbevan
Groundhogs was an interesting band. Not great but pretty good on the pretty good songs.
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Never heard of this band until I heard them on Spotify . They now have a new major , major FAN !!
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This review was neither the most creative nor generic. Emblematic of most music descriptions revealing the strengths and weaknesses of most critics. He says so much yet says nothing at all.
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Black diamond ???
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cowboy4576
Where's HOGWASH?
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The Groundhogs hold true to their name! "Groundhog", is when a turd pokes his head out of the hole, before I can get to the toilet.
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great band where's crosscut saw
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Please find someone who knows something about music to write a new review. Just look at your comparisons to this group. Hendrix, Walsh, Cream and Spooky Tooth. Pretty good company. McPhee was a creative song writer and a great guitarist with a voice that fit his music perfectly. Their recordings still stand up today in my opinion.
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This pathetic attempt at a review is precisely why no one should pay any attention to critics!
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Superb band, shortsighted review. They are one of a handful of bands to really stretch the blues base into unique forms. Very creative.
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Who writes these reviews!?!? What a load of garbage.
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There much more than a blues-band. Really original and creative. They must have listen to one song/ album and stop there. They sound like the first grunge band to me.
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Really reminds me of Rory Gallager
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pwayne352
I also think that this review is lame. It's offensive and way off base.
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torrymercer
Where the heck is CROSSCUT SAW and PROMISCUITY?
Report as inappropriate
str10756
what the f**k is with this review? "generic"? "songwriting wasn't so hot"? listen to split and then never write a music review again.
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yeah the review sucks! this band was better than most mainstream bands. Like depressing Neil Young! I'll take the Groundhogs over Neil Young anyday!
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yes and one of the best they did was the record... BLACK DIAMOND.. not even on here... that record rocks hard !
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I used to watch them at the Strand Lyceum at some of their all night gigs in the late 60'-70!
Proud of it too!!!
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i agree.Great band sorry review.
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I never heard of them before and don't know how I missed them. Good band, bad review.
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blues at its most generic?? what a wrong thing to say about them
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domesticschw i l l
is the idea to trash this band? some of these reviewers suck.
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syrups9907
I wonder if they saw their shadows today.
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Tasty!
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pharris7905
Split is a great record. I love these guys.
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GREAT band - I just stumbled across them.
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torrymercer
Please add their album "Crosscut Saw" to this list.
Report as inappropriate
That review doesn't do them justice at all. The Goundhogs record, "Split", is one of the best psychedelic/ blues rock/ stoner rock records ever! Way more ineresting than anything clapton or cream ever dreamed of!
Report as inappropriate
kcbomber
I think that the summarizatio n of this band is woefully underappreci a t i v e . The Groundhogs have actually managed to hold up on repeated listening, which I find bands like Ten Years After haven't quite managed to do. The bluesy roots crashed mightily into stoner metal in a way that makes the most of sweaty rock and roll of the era. If you doubt it, listen to the song "Cherry Red" and tell me that falsetto in the chorus doesn't shatter Pandora's assertion of mediocrity.
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wow you learn about new bands to me all the time

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