I’m going, I’m going where the water tastes like wine

Formed in Los Angeles in 1965 by blues aficionados Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite, the provocative name comes from a 1928 Tommy Johnson song, “Canned Heat Blues” about a poor inebriate who turns to drinking Sterno, or “Canned Heat” as it’s commonly known.

Derived mainly from ethanol, methanol and a dyed gelling agent that allows it to be burned directly in the can, Sterno has been used to heat chafing dishes and camp stoves for over a century.  Although the methanol is added to make the stuff too toxic to drink, it famously has not deterred those at their wit’s end from using the inexpensive Canned Heat as the high-test ingredient of “Jungle Juice.”

Ever providing interesting conversation around the dinner table, I well remember my father, who made a study of such things, describing how such a concoction is made, first by cutting off the ends of a loaf of bread, and then squeezing the Sterno through the loaf. The resulting liquid (aka “Squeeze”) is then blended with Kool-Aid or fruit juice and those who imbibe quickly become “blind” (sometimes permanently so) drunk.

While the life expectancy of a Sterno drinker is sadly marginal, the life span of Canned Heat, the full-tilt-boogie band now in its fifth decade, has been a marvel to behold. Although none of the original ’65 line up remains (and dozens of musicians have come and gone through the years) three members from the group’s “hippie era” still do: Larry “The Mole” Taylor, Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra and Harvey “The Snake” Mandel.

Thanks in large part to the Monterey Pop and Woodstock festivals, Canned Heat acquired a worldwide reputation for its exhilarating live performances. And “Going Up the Country” which reached Number 11 in the US and Number 19 in the UK, would go on to become the unofficial Woodstock theme song as featured in the opening credits of Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 documentary of the festival.

Sung by Boston-born “Blind Owl” Wilson (who would tragically OD soon after Woodstock) it first appeared on the group’s 1968 album “Living the Blues”.  Although Wilson is credited with writing the song, the flute part is a note for note rendering of “Bulldoze Blues” as recorded in 1927 by Blues musician Henry Thomas.


Going Up the Country

 I’m going up the country, baby, don’t you wanna’ go

I’m going up the country, baby, don’t you wanna’ go

I’m going to some place where I’ve never been before

 I’m going, I’m going where the water tastes like wine

I’m going where the water tastes like wine

We can jump in the water, stay drunk all the time

 I’m gonna leave this city, got to get away

I’m gonna leave this city, got to get away

All this fussing and fighting, man, you know I sure can’t stay

 Now, baby, pack your leaving trunk, you know we got to leave today

Just exactly where we’re going I can not say

But we might even leave the USA

‘Cause it’s a brand new game, and I want to play

 No use of you running or screaming and crying

‘Cause you got a home as long as I’ve got mine

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