Copperhead – Same (1973)

LPFrontCover1Copperhead was an American rock and roll group founded by guitarist John Cipollina, after leaving the band Quicksilver Messenger Service in 1970.

Copperhead originally consisted of Cipollina on lead guitar, Gary Phillips on vocals and second guitar and organ, Jim McPherson on vocals, piano and bass, Pete Sears on piano and bass, and David Weber on drums.[6] Copperhead was originally signed to the Just Sunshine recording label but, in 1972, (Sears left to fly back to England and record with Rod Stewart and play in a band with Nicky Hopkins; bassist Hutch Hutchinson replaced him) it was signed to a major-label record deal by Clive Davis at Columbia Records and recorded its debut album entitled, Copperhead, released in 1973. The first album was a commercial failure, and Columbia refused to release their second album and Copperhead disbanded


Copperhead was a band organized by guitarist John Cipollina after he left Quicksilver Messenger Service in 1970. Cipollina, who had been a member of Quicksilver since its formation and whose lead guitar playing was its signature sound, had grown increasingly dissatisfied after the return of band founder Dino Valenti from a prison term, when the group grew larger and he found he had less space to play. He had also grown increasingly interested in playing sessions, which the band discouraged. The early days of Copperhead were casual, with the group consisting of a loose aggregation of people playing gigs with Cipollina. Eventually it coalesced into a quartet consisting of Cipolliana on lead guitar; Gary Philippet on vocals, second guitar, and organ; Jim McPherson on vocals, bass, and piano; and David Weber on drums.


The group was initially signed to the Just Sunshine label run by Michael Lang, one of the organizers of Woodstock. But in 1972 it was signed to a major-label record deal by Clive Davis at Columbia and recorded its debut album, Copperhead, released in the spring of 1973. Unfortunately, Davis was fired from Columbia shortly after the album’s release, an action that doomed any developing band that had been signed under his aegis. The album went nowhere, and when Columbia refused to release their second album, Copperhead folded. Cipollina went on to play in many different bands before dying in 1989. (by William Ruhlmann)


Two and a half years after exiting Quicksilver Messenger Service, of which he had been the primary instrumentalist, lead guitar player John Cipollina resurfaced at the front of a new rock quartet, Copperhead. The group had come together slowly, but by the time of their debut album, they were ready for action. Second guitarist Gary Philippet contributed the more straight-ahead rockers, like leadoff track and first single “Roller Derby Star,” while bass player Jim McPherson tended to write more discursive numbers, though he was capable of strong rock & roll shuffles such as the Rolling Stones-like “Wing-Dang-Doo.” But both players took a back seat to Cipollina, whose distinctively high-pitched, slightly dissonant lead guitar work defined the band’s sound, just as it had in Quicksilver.

The labels from a Edsel Records re-issue:

One should perhaps amend that to say “early Quicksilver”; Copperhead recalled the earlier band’s heyday of the late ’60s on their own self-titled debut and the gold-selling Happy Trails more than the early-’70s edition of the group, especially on the extended instrumental passages in songs like “Pawnshop Man” and “They’re Making a Monster.” By rights, then, Copperhead should have taken off to become one of the major second-generation San Francisco rock bands of the ’70s, but it was not to be. In the wake of Columbia Records president Clive Davis’ firing shortly after this album’s release, his signings were given the company’s lowest priority, and few people ever found out there was a band and an album called Copperhead. The 2001 CD reissue on the British Acadia label adds the non-LP B-side of the “Roller Derby Star” single, another good Philippet mid-tempo rocker called “Chameleon.” Copperhead also recorded an entire second album for Columbia that the label never released, leaving these recordings and a hard-to-find live LP as the only evidence of their existence. (by William Ruhlmann)


John Cipollina (guitar, hawaiian guitar)
James “Hutch” Hutchinson (bass, vocals)
Jim McPherson (guitar,  bass, percussion, piano, vocals)
Gary Philippet (guitar, slide-guitar, keyboards, vocals)
David Weber (drums, percussion)


01. Copperhead Roller Derby Star (Philippet/Housman) 4.16
02. Kibitzer (McPherson) 3.46
03. A Little Hand (McPherson) 5.01
04. Kamikaze (McPherson/Jensen/Cipollina) 5.26
05. Spin-Spin (Philippet/Cipollina) 3.18
06. Pawnshop Man (Unobsky/Philippet/Cipollina) 5.30
07. Wing-Dang-Doo (McPherson) 4.06
08. They’re Making A Monster (Cipollina/McPherson/Philippet) 7.36
09. Chameleon (Cipollina/Hutchinson/McPherson/Philippet/Weber) 3.40



John Cipollina (August 24, 1943 – May 29, 1989):