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Monday, October 12, 2020

Rick James & Neil Young: The Tale of the Mythical Mynah Birds - An In Depth Exclusive

Rick James and Neil Young

Reduced to a footnote in Neil Young and Rick James’s careers, Toronto R&B sensation, The Mynah Birds have been overlooked in the annals of rock history.

Funk legend Rick James, the Motown Records artist is best known for his 1981 hit 'Super Freak,' however, relatively little is known about the period during the 1960's when he formed a band known as the Mynah Birds with Neil Young.

The name of the band Mynah Birds was apparently a takeoff of the well known folk-rock band The Byrds.

The Mynah Birds
John Goadsby (aka Goldie McJohn), Bruce Palmer, Richie Grand, Ricky James Matthews, Jimmy Livingston and Frank Iozzo (aka Frank Arnel)
February 1965
(Click photo to enlarge)

From the book "Shakey", Jimmy McDonough writes of the electrifying gigs with James and Young:

"Neil would stop playing lead, do a harp solo, throw the harmonica way up in the air and Ricky would catch it and continue the solo."

Now how cool would that have been to see? Certainly way far out cool for the 1960's. 



This is the elusive single that Neil Young & Rick James wrote together while bandmates in The Mynah Birds back in 1966. Motown never released it because Rick was arrested for AWOL, they actually pulled it the day it was scheduled to air, then all these years later it finally sees the light of day! This would've been a definite hit had they released it back then. The other songs on the album sound similar and some are just instrumental. This does not sound like the Rick James we all know, he was into imitating The Rolling Stones Back Then, and he does a good job! So I refer to him as Rick Jagger! Neil's style of course has changed as well, but wow, they sure did come a long way... The Mynah Birds; 'It's My Time'"

In an interview with Neil Young in MOJO Magazine in 1995, Neil was asked about a 1965 Mynah Birds album being recorded which never was released.

    YOUNG: "Yeah, there are tapes of me and The Mynah Birds also. After I arrived in Toronto I tried to keep my band going and then tried to work with several others. But it just never worked out for me there. I could never get anything going in Toronto, never even got one gig with a band. I just couldn't break into that scene. So I moved instead towards acoustic music and immediately became very introspective and musically-inward. That's the beginning of that whole side of my music."

The origin of the band name is somewhat disputed. Some have claimed that it was a takeoff of on The Byrds. Another story goes that Rick James partnered with a Yorkville (Toronto Canada area) pet store which sold Mynah birds. As a promotion, the Mynah Birds dressed in yellow boots, black leather jackets and yellow turtlenecks as an advertisement for the pet shop. (See Toronto Star.)

The Mynah Birds - October 1965
(Click photo to enlarge)


In a Thrasher's Wheat In Depth Exclusive on The Mynah Birds, Nick Warburton uncovers the fascinating story behind the first largely white band to sign to Motown Records. 

Nick Warburton is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years’ experience of writing across a wide range of topical issues and is a specialist in the field of popular music. His pioneering work on The Mynah Birds was recognized by Universal Records, which contacted him to assist with the band’s entry on its Motown 1966 Singles Boxed Set.

The Mynah Birds - "Mynah Bird Hop" 45RPM
(Click photo to enlarge)

But how did an interracial Canadian R&B band come to fall under Motown’s radar in the first place, and, more importantly, what happened to the rumoured album that was shelved?

To answer these questions, we need to go back to the autumn of ‘64 and a thriving Toronto live scene, into which stepped a young man wanted by the FBI: James Ambrose Johnson Jr. 

Continue on to The Mynah Birds: An In Depth Exclusive by Nick Warburton.

More on Rick James, The Mynah Birds and Neil Young.

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At 10/12/2020 06:00:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

From Sharry, Keepin jive alive in T.O.:

No, the name came from a club on Yorkville Ave. in Toronto called The Mynah Bird.

Colin Kerr, the owner of The Mynah Bird and also the manager of the Mynah Birds, has a pet mynah bird named Rajah. The Mynah Birds took their name from the club and the type of bird Rajah was. The Mynah Birds became the house band at the club. It was Colin Kerr’s idea to dress them in the same colours as Rajah the Mynah bird.

Below is an article about it in more detail.

At 10/13/2020 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

That's cool news your thrasher of my favorite

At 10/14/2020 12:07:00 AM, Blogger John said...

New track from Archives Vol. 2 up on NYA - “Come Along and Say You Will” with The Stray Gators. It’s a good one!


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