The Peanut Butter Conspiracy
|The Peanut Butter Conspiracy|
The group in 1966. From left-Barbara Robison, John Merrill, Jim Voigt, Lance Fent, and Alan Brackett.
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Associated acts||The Ashes, Spencer Dryden, Clear Light, Jefferson Airplane|
|Past members||John Merrill
Barbara "Sandi" Robison
Lance Baker Fent
Michael Ney (Stevens)
The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was a Los Angeles-based psychedelic pop/rock group from the 1960s. The band is known for lead singer Barbara Robison, and for briefly having Spencer Dryden of Jefferson Airplane as a band member.
The band formed in Los Angeles in August 1966 from the folk rock group, "The Ashes", which included John Merrill (guitar/vocals), Barbara "Sandi" Robison (vocals), Alan Brackett (bass/vocals), Spencer Dryden (drums), and Jim Cherniss (guitar/vocals). The group had earlier been known as The Young Swingers, who released two obscure singles. The Ashes released a first single in February 1966 on the Vault label, "Is There Anything I Can Do?" written by Jackie DeShannon. Dryden left The Ashes (May '66) to replace Skip Spence in Jefferson Airplane, Robison left (June '66) to give birth and the group temporarily disbanded. Alan Brackett hooked up with a new guitarist, Lance Baker Fent, and a new drummer, Jim Voigt, naming the new trio "The Crossing Guards". Merrill and Robison rejoined and the five-piece band became The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.
The group signed with Columbia Records in late 1966, releasing a single "It's A Happening Thing" produced by Gary Usher. It reached number 93 on the national pop chart. The band's first album, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy Is Spreading followed. It was also produced by Usher who brought in studio musicians including Glen Campbell and James Burton to bolster the group's sound. The album charted at number 196 on the Billboard 200. Their second single produced by Samuel Tarney "She's My Girl" failed to chart. Their late 1967 single "Turn On a Friend (to the Good Life)" failed to chart. However, they toured nationally and added a new guitarist, Bill Wolff. They recorded a second album for Columbia The Great Conspiracy, generally regarded as their best. The group recorded songs for movies including: Angels from Hell, Run Angel Run, Jud, Cherry Harry and Raquel, Hell Ride, 2000 Years Later, and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
In 1968 they moved to the Warner Bros. Records subsidiary label Challenge, with a revamped line-up featuring ex-Clear Light organist Ralph Schuckett and drummer Michael Ney (Stevens). they recorded their final album, For Children of All Ages, in 1969. The record was written and conceived by Brackett. Meanwhile, Merrill had reformed a version of Ashes, whose only LP was eventually released in 1970 on the Vault label.
The Peanut Butter Conspiracy undertook a final tour and split up about 1970. Merrill and Brackett continued writing and producing for other artists. Brackett worked as a music publisher and produced Randy Meisner's first solo LP after leaving the Eagles. He also produced, wrote and performed songs for scores of movies and television shows including Witness, Happy Days, and Top Gun.
Robison joined the L.A. musical production called Hair for a 18-month stint. Afterwards, she continued performing locally. In September 1971, Robison, Merrill, and Brackett joined a band called Froggy which worked in a local saloon in Pasadena, California. By late 1972 she joined another American band called Rush in which Merrill also joined. Here she worked with pianist Ivan Jean, who she continued to tour with for years to come. Tragically, Robison fell ill while performing in Butte, Montana and died 16 days later from toxic shock poisoning on April 22, 1988 in a hospital in Billings.
Guitarist Fent continues to create rock and roll through his GreenManMedia label. The three surviving members of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy performed Brackett's song, "Eventually" at Amoeba Records on September 22, 2009. The song was originally recorded in 1966 and is part of the Rhino box set, Los Angeles Nuggets — Where the Action Is. A new female singer, Karen Mitchell and drummer Jim Laspesa joined original members Brackett, Merrill and Fent in the re-formation of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.
In 2005, Spreading From The Ashes was released on Ace Records in England. It covered the years that Merrill, Robison, and Brackett were together prior and during the time they were in the Peanut Butter Conspiracy, including songs by the Young Swingers and The Ashes and many songs previously unreleased by the PBC.
In 2014 a further CD was issued, Barbara, compiled by Brackett and featuring tracks recorded by Robison. It is a tribute to her life and her career. The album has a mixture of genres with the purpose of focusing on Robison's musical talents. Some diverse tracks include the psychedelic folk song "Shuffling Tune", bluesy "Fool Hearted Woman", and the vocal-pop song "Good Feelin'". These tracks and others reveal her skills as a vocalist with and without the PBC.
According to Brackett:
I got together upon John's recommendation with Fent and Voigt and, with the help of Owsley, we learned 50 or so songs in one day and went out that night and got our choice of about three gigs in Hollywood. We played at the Sea Witch on Sunset Blvd. as the Crossing Guards. We were a power trio, and then John and Barbara joined back up with us and we changed our name to the PBC. The PBC was a name that Voigt came up with-- actually it was the Peanut Butter Controversy originally, but we changed it to Conspiracy right away.[this quote needs a citation]
- The Peanut Butter Conspiracy Is Spreading (Columbia Records, March 1967)
- The Great Conspiracy (Columbia Records, December 1967)
- For Children of All Ages (Challenge Records, 1969)
- Spreading from the Ashes (Ace Records, 2005)
- Living Dream - The Best of the Peanut Butter Conspiracy (Sundazed Records, 2005)
- Barbara (2014)
- "The Peanut Butter Conspiracy". Allmusic.com. 2015-01-04. Retrieved 2015-01-04.
- Rich Weidman. "The Doors FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Kings of Acid Rock". Google.com. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
- Vernon Joynson. "Fuzz, Acid, and Flowers: A Comprehensive Guide to American Garage, Psychedelic, and Hippie Rock".
- "The Peanut Butter Conspiracy". Discogs.com. 2015-01-04. Retrieved 2015-01-04.