Eli Radish, also known as the Eli Radish Band, were among the great enigmas of late-'60s rock music -- a year before the Byrds began popularizing country-rock, they were playing it to receptive audiences and (mostly) unsympathetic record executives. They were founded between 1967 and 1968 in Ohio by bassist Danny Sheridan, who later became a producer, actor, and radio host (and was married to Bonnie Bramlett for a time); the other early members included guitarist Tom Foster (aka "the Foss"), singer Ken Frak (aka "the Reverend"), and drummer Skip Heil (aka "Skip Towne"). Together they melded country and blues into a rock format that went over well with audiences, and then extended this sound with the addition of Eva Karasik, a virtuoso violinist whose presence allowed them to stretch out their songs on-stage, as well as experiment with unusual timbres.

Eli Radish were signed to Capitol Records in 1969, and for their debut album they decided to make a combined musical and political statement -- their politics were very leftist and antiwar, and for their debut LP, ultimately titled I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier, they put together a collection of traditional patriotic songs about war and bravery done in a loose, sometimes decidedly off-key, and always irreverent country style. In 1969 this was pretty potent stuff, or should have been -- the backlash against the antiwar movement had manifested itself with the election of Richard Nixon to the White House (and Spiro Agnew as vice president), and Capitol, ironically enough, was already capitalizing on one aspect of the latter with Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee." Unfortunately, neither the record label nor most of the record-buying public got the irony or the joke behind the record, and the album's commercial fate was sealed, though it did become a cult item in the ranks of the antiwar movement, an underground success along the lines of David Peel's releases of the same era (though Eli Radish had a lot more obvious musical talent manifesting itself in their ranks). Musically, they sounded somewhat like the Band, mixing several genres within the same songs.

Ken Frak left the band after the recording of the debut album, and over the next few months they added two new members -- guitarist Rick "Muskrat" Kennedy and singer David Allan Coe, then not long out of prison and still starting up his music career. He was there for a couple of years, as the band's career and popularity peaked and then wound down. Coe lasted until 1972 and was succeeded by Jonah Koslen (later with the Michael Stanley Band). The Eli Radish Band broke up in 1973, leaving behind the Capitol album, plus a rumored live album -- cut for Sun Records no less -- that has never seen the light of day. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi