- Roy Michaels plays longneck banjo in Greenwich Village in the early 60s with fellow learners Peter Thorkelson, Stephen Stills and Charlie Chin, among others. Through this connection Peter Tork later auditions for The Monkees in 1966, Charlie Chin plays frailing banjo on The Buffalo Springfield song “Bluebird” in 1967 and Roy Michaels seeks out Charlie Chin for the first version of Cat Mother, also in 1967.
- Roy Michaels plays and sings in The Au Go Go Singers with Richie Furay and Stephen Stills who record the album, They Call Us The Au Go Go Singer for Morris Levy’s Roulette Records. The group does a couple of short tours around the USA. before firing their manager and, ultimately, disbanding.
- Roy Michaels and friends from The Au Go Go Singers hire Stephen Stills to play with them in The Company. While touring coffee houses in Eastern Canada, the group – and more importantly Stills – meet Neil Young and The Squires. Within the year Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Neil Young form The Buffalo Springfield in Los Angeles.
- Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson is a creative place. Alice Smith, nee Elliott, arrived at Bard in 1962. By 1966, a band called The Ginger Men is living on campus – John and Terry (Boona) Boylan’s dorm room provides temporary housing for drummer Michael Equine, who takes advantage of dorm food as well. Also attending Bard at that time are Blythe Danner, Chevy Chase and future Steely Dan members, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.
- Roy meets Bob Smith in 1966 while Bob is putting together a band to back his future wife Alice and her girlfriend, Peter (a childhood nickname), in a Beatles-type pop band for a showcase gig cooked up, as a prank, for a local talent agent at J. Walter Thompson.
- Roy sings and plays bass in the Dirty Shames, active on the Toronto scene, fronted by Amos Garrett and Carole Robinson. At one time (1966-67) they are considered the third most popular folk act in Canada behind Gordon Lightfoot and Ian and Sylvia. Roy brings Bob into the band to play drums. The Dirty Shames take a stint as house band at the Dom on St. Marks Place. The duo write a pair of singles for The Dirty Shames before calling it quits. Albert Grossman’s assistant, Mary Martin, manages The Dirty Shames.
- Simultaneously with the last days of The Dirty Shames, Bob joins Charlie Brown’s Generation bringing in Roy along with him. Charlie Brown is a virtuoso guitarist (in the pit band of Hair) who sounds like Clarence White without using a B-bender. The band makes one single in 1967 before Bob and Roy leave to devote their energy fulltime to Cat Mother. [Brown goes on to open for Cream with a band including Dan Armstrong on bass in 1968 before becoming an A&R guy at Capitol.]
- Roy Michaels meets future wife Ellen Callas, on vacation from college in Chicago, at Steve Paul’s Scene during a show by The Young Rascals.
- Roy and Bob and Alice meet up with rock journalist Ellen Sander at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. It is their first trip west and whets their interest in California. The trio are able to get in using bogus press credentials. During the visit they stay with Bob’s mom who is living in San Jose, though Bob grew up in Starke, Florida.
- After the Pop Festival, Roy, Bob and Alice attend the Summer Solstice Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park where they continue the party with friends like Laura Nyro before returning to New York City. Bob and Alice appear in photograph (taken by Elaine Mayes) that was later a to be seen as part of a 2016 De Young Museum exhibit Summer of Love, Art, Fashion and Rock and Roll. On the trip home Bob and Roy decide to create their own group with the new-found energy.
- In his book of Bob Dylan photos from 1967, Daniel Kramer acknowledges Bob Smith “of Charlie Brown’s Generation” for typing the original manuscript of the accompanying text. Kramer’s girlfriend at the time is Arline Cunningham, manager of Charlie Brown’s Generation. When Alice met Bob he was working as a secretary at The National Council of Churches. Typing was a skill Bob learned in the U.S. Navy during his brief enlistment.
- The band The Gurus make one album (The Gurus Are Hear!) in 1967 before breaking up shortly thereafter. Gurus lead guitarist Pete Smith joins the first formal incarnation of Cat Mother. Later member of Cat Mother, guitarist Mark Gauche, played bass for The Gurus post-recording. Gauche is best heard playing harmonica on both sides of Cat Mother’s 1971 single, Relax Your Mind/The Other Side.
- Musicians who play temporarily with Cat Mother in early incarnations include future Blood, Sweat and Tears drummer Bobby Colomby and lead singer David Clayton-Thomas (as lead guitarist) as well as Danny Kalb, Amos Garrett and George Dawson.
- The name Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys is conjured up by New York writer and food maven Laurie Colwin during an ongoing conversation with Alice Smith. The name appeals to the band’s literary streak as they eventually produce their own satiric newsletter, The All Night News.
- Charlie Chin is hired by Stephen Stills to frail the banjo on the last movement of the song “Bluebird” by the Buffalo Springfield, released in June 1967.
- In late 1967 Bob Smith decides to record a rock version of The Little Drummer Boy for Christmas release. Instead of putting the record out under the Cat Mother moniker, it is released under the name of Winky Savage and the All-Stars.
- The Pablo Light Show, headquartered in a storefront on Bleecker in the Bowery, next to Cat Mother’s practice space in Michael Equine’s loft, befriend the band and begin providing light shows at Cat Mother gigs. Members of Pablo Light Show (a collective of visual artists and technicians) join Cat Mother in Woodstock to create the light shows for the Sound Outs in 1968 and earlier at the Electric Circus on St. Marks’s Place. Through Pablo co-founder, Patrick Firpo, the band meets Dan Firpo (just returned from service in Vietnam with a Purple Heart) who becomes their loyal road manager, roadie and jack-of-all-trades.
- In Spring 1968 Cat Mother is considered one of the “house” bands at The Electric Circus on St. Mark’s place in the East Village. The Pablo Light Show provides the lights.
- Cat Mother’s All Night News is written and distributed by band members circa 1967-68. The flyers are left around Greenwich Village (Café Wha, Nite Owl) and other hot spots to keep the band’s “buzz” going for fans. The copy is typed up by Bob Smith and mimeographed after hours at an art gallery where his wife Alice is working.
- Cat Mother moves to Woodstock in May of 1968 financed by builder/athlete Dean Schambach (who lives upstairs at 7 Bleecker) and local assassinologist Rush Harp. The band are able to rent a house in the Woodstock area and to buy a 1956 Cadillac hearse for group and gear transport.
- In Woodstock, actually East Saugerties, Cat Mother lives on Pan Copeland’s property – Peter Pan Farm where bi-weekly festivals are held during the summer of 1968. The band tends to the property and improves the site to accommodate the growing audiences who come to hear the music of locals and friends from the Village. These events are commonly called “Sound-Outs” prompting one attendee that summer, Michael Lang, to borrow the idea and produce it on a super scale at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Except for Tim Hardin and Richie Havens, none of the other local acts, including Cat Mother, take the stage at Lang’s event.
- At the final Sound-Out on September 1, Cat Mother are approached after their rousing set by Jimi Hendrix’ manager Michael Jeffery who – although they are being managed by Stan Greeson – offers them a managerial deal which includes a record contract and the opportunity for Jimi to produce their debut album.
- Cat Mother is lauded as the first act signed to Polydor USA, however, Polydor does not know what to do with Cat Mother. During the time of their short career, Polydor appears to promote other artists more vigorously than Cat Mother.
- Cat Mother begins opening for The Jimi Hendrix Experience during numerous tours of North America from 1968-1970. Although they are listed as support on posters for Jimi’s last European tour in September 1970, the band does not make the trip.
- Cat Mother records their debut album, The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away, in November 1968 at The Record Plant in New York City with Gary Kellgren and Tony Bongiovi assisting. Jimi Hendrix is given a co-producer credit, though most agree Jimi really only contributed ideas to one song, Boston Burglar, their take on the Johnny McAvoy classic.
- Before their debut album appears, Cat Mother appears live on The Rick Shaw Show, in late 1968, playing their future hit single, “Good Old Rock ‘N Roll.” The performance is preserved for posterity, giving fans one of the few examples of Cat Mother performing live.
- Like so many other artists and entertainers, Cat Mother lives at the Chelsea Hotel during the fall of 1968, their residence before moving to the 10th Street brownstone in December 1968. The band also bunks at the Chelsea during later visits to New York City to record their third and fourth albums at Electric Lady Studios.
- The band rents a rainbow-colored brownstone at 250 East 10th Street, after moving back to the East Village after Woodstock. Everyone but Charlie Chin resides there, and they have some unusual guests. Certain establishments across the street are under surveillance by police or feds who arrive undercover as telephone repairmen and take up positions in the building to watch the goings-on. Janis Joplin (with her pal Joey Herena), Abbie Hoffman, Bob Fass (of WBAI) and the “Atlanta Bluesman” are visitors to the 10th Street house.
- At least one member of Cat Mother (Larry Packer) is under surveillance by the FBI due to Cat Mother’s suspected association with Bernadine Dohrn of The Weathermen. Larry is shown a picture of Cat Mother with Amos Garrett onstage at Tompkins Square Park that has the face of a woman in the audience circled. Guilt by association. Performing at benefits for WBAI and the War Resisters League, the band becomes active supporters of the anti-war movement. In late 1969 after Cat Mother moves to California, a bomb-building explosion at a Weatherman residence in the East Village kills two people and damages several buildings.
- On May 9-10 Cat Mother and the All-Night Newsboys open for The Band at the Fillmore East during their first East Coast appearance as The Band. The night is promoted as “Music From Big Pink” – an all-Woodstock show, though Cat Mother has moved back to Greenwich Village by then.
- After their album and debut single, “Good Old Rock ‘N Roll,” are released in June 1969, Cat Mother appear on The David Susskind Show (June 1, 1969) and The Merv Griffin Show (August 1969). Cat Mother also performs live on The Dick Clark Show that same year. A band member reports that Clark claims the live performance was a significant ‘first’. Unfortunately, no recording of that episode of The Dick Clark Show appears to exist.
- The Street Giveth, The Street Taketh Away, released in June 1969, receives a rave review from Lester Bangs in Rolling Stone #39 (August 09, 1969). Bangs states, “What we have here, as with all the best (meaning most listenable) groups, is just a bunch of cats, relaxed, enthusiastic and unselfconsciously aware of their heritage, laying down some good wailing feeling sounds.”
- Cat Mother receives an official proclamation (dated August 15, 1969) from then-mayor John Lindsay “for bringing music to the streets of New York City so everyone is able to enjoy the fun” after the band plays a free show in Tompkins Square Park.
- While Cat Mother is not on the extensive list of performers for the 2nd Newport Pop Festival at Devonshire Downs in June of 1969, there does appear- in a syndicated column – a review of the show by Kathy Orloff who claims that Cat Mother was “the happiest surprise hit of the festival.”
- Cat Mother plays the Toronto Rock ‘N Roll Revival in September 1969, the main attraction being John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, several contemporary groups and the cream of vintage rock ‘n rollers. A Cat Mother 45 single (Wherever There’s A Party/Along Came Jones) is released by the promoters in 1969. A six-cd set of performances of the show is released which contains the extra Cat Mother track, “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie-Woogie Flu.”
- Because of managerial conflicts, the core of Cat Mother moves permanently to the Mendocino Coast of Northern California in November 1969.
- Cat Mother plays a show in a Quonset hut in Manhattan, Kansas in November 1969 on their way to California. Jay Ungar uses his contacts, from years spent there at Kansas State University, to secure the gig which is rescheduled a couple times due to vehicle problems as they caravan towards California
- The Hamilton Face Band moves into the newly vacated Cat Mother 10th Street residence, probably due to a friendship between their manager, Johanan Vigoda, and Michael Jeffery.
- In late 1969, in Mendocino, Cat Mother meets John Chamberlin who later designs their last three album covers and plays with Cat Mother in various situations, including separate bands led by Bob or Roy after their heyday. John also produces a majority of the gig poster art on the Coast for the next 40 years, as well as commercial art on the Coast and in Hawaii.
- Cat Mother’s second album, Albion Doo-Wah, is recorded at Pacific High Recorders at 60 Brady Street in San Francisco (around the corner from the residences of the real Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers). Produced by Cat Mother and engineered by Bob Schumacher.
- There is symmetry to the careers of two players on the Albion Doo-Wah album from 1970. Paul Johnson co-wrote and performed the cutting-edge surf instrumental “Mr. Moto” in 1961 with the Belairs before joining The Everpresent Fullness and eventually moving to Mendocino for a few years. Jay Ungar wrote the haunting lament “Ashokan Farewell” around 1980 to commemorate the end of a music camp session at Ashokan, New York. It became the theme song for Ken Burns’ documentary on The Civil War.
- “Marie” is covered in France in 1970 by Joe Dassin as “C’est La Vie Lily.” Dassin also records a version in Italian. Later Paul Mauriat does his own instrumental version of “C’est La Vie Lily.” Also in 1970, Kai Hyttinen releases a version of “Marie” in Finnish.
- Cat Mother is listed on the Isle of Wight 1970 posters for a Saturday night slot. In continuing disagreements, the band takes exception to Michael Jeffery refusing to pay fares and expenses for their “ladies and kids” and – as such – does not play the Isle of Wight 1970 festival.
- December 21, 1970 (Monday) – At Pacific High Recorders, San Francisco Cat Mother and the All-Night Newsboys, Country Joe and the Fish, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks perform on a live radio broadcast.
- There are several references to Bob Smith and Cat Mother music in the sci-fi paperback, Sacred Locomotive Flies by Richard Lupoff, who befriended the band and often let them stay at his Berkeley digs when they were in town.
- Cat Mother records a version of Leadbelly’s “Relax Your Mind” at Wally Heider’s studio in San Francisco. Later, Bob gets the band together to jam out “The Other Side” with Johnny Winter, during which Johnny reclines for a short nap as the band continues play, until Johnny jumps up and rejoins them. New band members Mark Gauche (harp) and Steve Davidson (congas) participate in the sessions. Released as Polydor PD2- 14073.
- The archetypes for Fat Freddie and Freewheelin’ Franklin of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers (originally published in 1968) are former Cat Mother guitarist “Fat Charlie” Prichard and his friend, roadie Houston White. Prichard and White are friends of Gilbert Shelton in Austin, Texas – a place originally home to a handful of Mendonesians. Shelton eventually moves his operation – Rip-off Press – to San Francisco.
- Cat Mother does benefits for Soledad Prisoners, Hells Angels Defense Fund, the Greenwood Dentists Clinic and many others as they did in New York City for causes like The War Resistor’s League and WBAI-FM. They often play shows performed for “hippie Insurance” purposes, giving the proceeds to needy recipients.
- Cat Mother plays the Midem Festival in Cannes, France. Midem takes place from Jan 20-Feb 02, 1972. The Byrds are also performing at Midem. Gene Parsons seeks out Cat Mother, introduces himself and says, “I just moved to Mendocino. Do you guys know John Chamberlin?”
- Cat Mother’s third – eponymous – album, Cat Mother, is recorded in September 1971 at Electric Lady Studios in New York. Band members mention that engineer, John Jansen, seems to follow manager Michael Jeffrey’s request to rush the band through the recording process.
- After Jimi Hendrix’ death, Cat Mother tours the UK and parts of Europe opening for “A Film About Jimi Hendrix” in 1972. Chas Chandler (original Hendrix manager) is on Cat Mother UK Tour guarding Jimi film cannister. The opening act is Jimmie and Vella, also (mis)managed by Michael Jeffery, whose guitarist, Charlie Harcourt, returns to the USA with Cat Mother and plays on their final album, Last Chance Dance.
- During the UK tour in early 1972, Cat Mother performs at Stirling University in Scotland and is quite surprised to find out the audience is made up of a large number of Cat Mother fans.
- The fourth and final Cat Mother album, Last Chance Dance, is recorded from September 1972- January 1973 at Electric Lady Studios. Produced by Cat Mother and engineered by a sympathetic Buzz Richmond, who befriends the band.
- Cat Mother’s last official recording – a demo – is recorded at Kaye-Smith Studios in Seattle in September 1973. The players are Bob, Roy and Stevie D. The session is produced by Buzz Richmond, who took a liking to Cat Mother when he engineered their final album the year before. Cat Mother friend Billy Service plays guitar on the session.
- The Dave Clark Five recorded their version of ”Good Old Rock ‘N Roll” on an album of the same name (year?) which also included full versions of the rock ‘n roll classics memorialized in the hit single.
- Cat Mother worked with various other entertainers in their early shows, for example magician Ricky Jay, jugglers Hovey Burgess and Judy Finelli, Larry Pisoni clown and Pickle Family Circus founder, and mime Michael Grando, whose brother Richard played saxophone on Cat Mother’s Last Chance Dance.
- Dan Firpo was not only Cat Mother’s Road Manager, but also did the same for Ravi Shankar and worked with George Harrison on his Concert for Bangladesh
- Sandy Pinkard was a friend of Jack Elliott. He jammed with Cat Mother in 1970.
- Paul Johnson was a founding member of The Belairs who recorded the innovative surf 45 “Mr. Moto” in 1961. Johnson co-wrote the song.
- Michael Equine backed (as guitarist/narrator) mime Richmond Sheppard and Sykes Equen in the Mime and Me. Played drums on the 1967 psych pop album The Appletree Theater by Playback.
- Charlie Prichard played in The Conqueroo who were based in Austin, Texas and popular at the venue, The Vulcan Gas Company. They later moved to San Francisco, CA and broke up allowing Prichard an opportunity to join Cat Mother in mid-1970.
- Larry Packer backed Bobby Charles in his segment of The Band’s Last Waltz and has played on LPs by innumerable artists. Larry “Israel” Packer played guitar for Sha Na Na from early 1970 to February 1971.
- Jay Ungar transcribed Jimi Hendrix songs for Aaron and Abby Schroeder of Schroeder Publishing. The transcripts were sent to the Library of Congress and later published in Jimi Hendrix songbooks. Later he founded the Ashokan Music Camp for which he wrote the mournful ballad “Ashokan Farewell,” used by Ken Burns in his Civil War documentary.
- Billy (Willie) Shay played in the band Ambergris in 1970 and also with Charlie Brown.
- Charlie Harcourt was a founding member of the band Lindesfarne, from Newcastle-on-Tyne in England. Prior to that he played in Junco Partners and was working with Jimmie and Vella when Cat Mother first heard him play.
- Ellen Callas has been involved with The San Francisco Mime Troupe since 1986 and is currently Collective Member and General Manager.
- Alice Smith worked for many years as a Production Stage Manager for San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater and touring productions of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, and the Tony-Award winning Def Poetry Jam on Broadway and its national and international tours. Currently she is a practicing psychotherapist in Los Angeles, CA.
Written by Phil with help from Ellen and Alice.