From: San Francisco, CA, USA
This Bay Area band formed in late 1965 with original members Peter Kraemer (lead vocals, flute, tambourine, saxophone, harmonica, kazoo, synthophone, arp), Terry MacNeil (piano, guitar), Rod Albin (rhythm guitar, viola), Dan Duncan (bass) and Fritz Kasten (drums). Kraemer named the group the Sopwith Camel after a World War I British fighter biplane that was featured in the Peanuts comic strip. In early 1966, Kraemer and MacNeil reorganized the lineup with William Sievers (12-string rhythm guitar, bass, trumpet, tambourine), Bobby Collins (bass) and Norman Mayell (drums, percussion, harmonica, marimba, sitar, Egyptian nose flute), replacing Albin, Duncan and Kasten respectfully. Collins only lasted a few weeks however and was promptly replaced by Mayell's friend Martin Beard (bass, vocals). Finally the ensemble was stabilized culminating in a debut gig at the Matrix on February 7, 1966. Along with the Matrix, they kept busy playing other popular local area venues with bands like the Charlatans, predominately at the Firehouse until graduating up to the Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore Auditorium.
By the summer of '66, the band was in high demand, playing alongside the likes of the Grateful Dead, 13th Floor Elevators, Great Society, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Country Joe & The Fish. In August of that year, they even played the Cow Palace as one of the opening bands for the Rolling Stones! In the fall, they flew out to New York City where they played a gig at the Night Owl Cafe in Greenwich Village and signed to Kama Sutra Records, where they were to be groomed as the West Coast answer to the Lovin' Spoonful, which had already become an East Coast hit machine for the label. The Sopwith Camel then recorded their seminal 45 ('Hello Hello' b/w 'Treadin'') at Bell Sound Studios in Midtown Manhattan. After the single's November release, the group embarked on an East Coast mini-tour, opening up for the Lovin' Spoonful at various well respected venues. In December of 1966, 'Hello Hello' peaked at #26 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the first Bay Area band to have a Top 40 nationwide hit. Later that month, the group played the Seattle Center Coliseum and the San Francisco Civic Auditorium, opening up for the Beach Boys.
In early 1967, the Sopwith Camel began recording their second record and also appeared alongside Neil Diamond on the TV show <>Where the Action Is<>. 'Hello Hello' was also a huge hit in Canada, peaking at #9 there, which prompted more television appearances in the Great White North ('Robin Seymour's Swingin' Time and The Bill Anderson Show). In March of 1967, their second 45 ('Postcard From Jamaica' b/w 'Little Orphan Annie') was issued but only made it to the #88 spot. In April, they recorded a slew of Levi jeans ads along with the Jefferson Airplane with many of them featured here on TWOS. In August of 1967, they went back to Bell Studios and recorded a collection of other songs for a soon to be released LP. In October, a third 45 ('Saga Of The Low Down Let Down' b/w 'The Great Morpheum') along with their debut, self-titled LP were issued but neither charted. Unfortunately the group simply could not match the success of their debut single, but continued to play various shows until finally splitting up in June of 1968.
In 1971, the band reunited with all of the main members except for Sievers, initially replacing him with Bob "Bix" Feldman (saxophone, flute) and then Jimmy Stringfellow (guitar, saxophone, organ). This lineup released a second LP on the Reprise label titled The Miraculous Hump Returns From The Moon in 1973. Unfortunately, the album made little impact prompting the group to call it quits for a second time in 1974. They reformed again in 1977, but split for a third time by the end of that year. In 2009, Kraemer and Beard brought a new lineup back together and played sporadically until Beards death in late 2015. The band made what appears to be a final appearance on Halloween, 2016 in San Francisco where it all started.
Artist information sources include: The book, 'Fuzz, Acid, and Flowers Revisited' by Vernon Joynson.
(Original 45 Label: Kama Sutra KA217, B - November, 1966)
Songs from this album played on TWOS:
(Original 45 Label: Kama Sutra KA217, A - November, 1966)
(Original 45 Label: Kama Sutra KA224, B - March, 1967)
(Original 45 Label: Kama Sutra KA236, A - October, 1967)
(Original 45 Label: Kama Sutra KA236, B - October, 1967)