Fat City - At Least We're Not Invading China

Ethel Kennedy Residence (Hickory Hill, VA), 08/29/1972

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While a student at Georgetown University, singer-songwriter Bill Danoff worked nights as a sound and light man at Washington, DC's Cellar Door, a funky little nightclub that featured an eclectic mix of national folk and jazz acts, similar to New York City's Bitter End and San Francisco's Hungry i. Upon graduation, he began pursuing his own music full time by forming the folk duo, Fat City, partnering up with singer Taffy Nivert. Not unlike other acoustic-oriented folk musicians of the era, Fat City would create original music that fell somewhere between the more traditional topical folk music of the 1960s and the more confessional introspective singer-songwriter movement emerging in the early 1970s.

John Denver, who often played the Cellar Door, became an early acquaintance of the group. Upon the recommendation of club manager Alan Cowell, Denver visited the duo during the summer of 1970, when they were performing at another local club. Cowell had recommended to Denver a Fat City original called "I Guess He'd Rather Be In Colorado." After the club closed that evening, Danoff and Nivert played the song for Denver. Indeed impressed enough to want to record it, Denver called from New York City several weeks later to say that not only had he recorded their song, but that Mary Travers of the popular folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary, was going to feature it on her first solo album, thus establishing legitimate songwriter credentials to Fat City. Shortly afterward, they co-authored "Take Me Home Country Roads" with Denver, during a stint opening for him at the Cellar Door. After recording the song with Denver, they began touring with him, developing a following of their own. In late 1972, they changed the name of the duo to Bill And Taffy and released Pass It On, the first album under their own names the following year.

This recording captures Fat City opening for Denver at a private performance at Ethel Kennedy's home during the summer of 1972, following the release of the final Fat City album and shortly before they recorded the Bill & Taffy album, Pass It On. The performance opens with "Nobody Can Take My Dreams From Me," a track from their 1971 album Welcome To Fat City, with the unique vocal blend of Danoff and Nivert's voices immediately apparent. The performance also includes Danoff's politically charged commentary, "Readjustment Blues," from the same album, as well as "I Guess He'd Rather Be In Colorado," the first song they ever wrote to be recognized and covered by others.

However, what may be most interesting here is the material from the Pass It On album, several months before it was recorded. Some of the most intriguing material from that album is performed here, including early renditions of "Do You Believe," "Didn't I Try," and most surprisingly, the humorous educational satire dedicated to the joys of smoking pot, "The Fat City High School Fight Song." Not enamored by the Republican administration of the time, they also voice their opinion with the brief ditty, "At Least We're Not Invading China," which sums up all the things they felt the current administration was doing. As a bonus, fans of Danoff and Nivert will be delighted to find here a live performance of the rare non-album single, "Hey Loretta," featuring a nod to the Everly Brothers near the end.

Bill and Taffy would continue performing as a duo, crisscrossing the country as openers for John Denver. Moderate success would continue up to 1976, when the duo would merge with the duo of Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman to form the Starland Vocal Band. Their first single "Afternoon Delight" would became a worldwide chart-topper, earning the group two Grammy awards for "Best new artist of 1976" and "Best arrangement for voices," bringing Danoff and Nivert greater publicity and recognition than they ever imagined possible.

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