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Passings: Joe Frazier of The Chad Mitchell Trio

Mitchell, Kobluk, Frazier
Joe Frazier, who was a key member of the Chad Mitchell Trio during their most popular years, died on Friday at the age of 77.

According to sources, his passing was unexpected. While he had some age-related illnesses, he had been getting stronger in recent weeks.

Frazier learned guitar and singing from his father at an early age and had his own local radio program before going into the Air Force. Unfortunately, Frazier ended up being discharged after spending three months in the stockade while he was investigated for the books he read and the music to which he listened, including Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers. As Frazier wrote on his biography page "If I wasn't a radical when I went in, I was certainly one when I left."

The original Chad Mitchell Trio was formed at Gonzaga University (Spokane, WA) in 1959 by Mitchell, Mike Kobluk and Mike Pugh. Their career received a push from Harry Belafonte and they soon found themselves on radio and TV shows with Arthur Godfrey and Pat Boone.

Pugh left the group in the summer of 1960 and, after a lengthy audition process, the group chose Frazier as his replacement. While the early group was more oriented towards traditional folk music, shortly after Frazier joined they released the political The John Birch Society which led to a much more controversial repertoire.

Over the four years, the group released eight albums including Mighty Day on Campus (1961 / #39), Singin' Our Minds (1963 / #39), and Reflecting (1964 / #29). Throughout, politically oriented material stood out including such songs as The I Was Not a Nazi Polka, The Draft Dodger Rag and A Dying Business. At the same time, they were able to dress up some traditional folk music to appeal to a larger audience.

Mitchell broke off to start a solo career in 1965 and a young John Denver was brought in as his replacement. The new version of the trio recorded two albums, That's the Way It's Gonna Be and Violets of Dawn.

In 1967, Frazier decided to leave the group because, in his words "I was living through the 60's in a more politically radical and counter-culturally questionable fashion than Mike and John. I had, frankly, become more than somewhat unreliable."

After a bit of time on his own, he attended Yale Divinity School from which he graduated in 1973 as an ordained Episcopal priest. Over the years, he has served parishes in Pennsylvania, Delaware, California and, finally, at St. Columba's Church in Big Bear Lake, CA.

Mitchell, Kobluk and Frazier reunited twice over the years, in 1987 for a few shows, including a PBS special, and again in 2005 as a semi-permanent unit that played occasional concerts.


Unknown said…
i grew up /the group & had all their recordings, including chad's solo career. they were & still r a major influence in my life. wonderfully talented in their music & humour. so sad 2 hear of Joe's passing.
Joe Frazier,Chad & Mike were special, a treat, a gift,a reward ! my opinion; The Trio never got the full recognition they deserved. Joe lives on in music & for so many of us he never met in our hearts as well.
my thanks & love to Joe,Chad & Mike.
Peter Purcell, Toronto Canada.
Unknown said…
I'm watching a PBS special on John Denver as we speak, and scenes of the Chad Mitchell Trio were included. Could somebody tell me if Joe Frazier ever worked as a psychiatric aide at the Institute of Living, Hartford, CT? I slaved away (on a manual typewriter)in the medical records department back in '58, and I used to see him in the "mess hall" and so forth. Sorry to hear of his death...he seemed like a nice guy. Thanks very much.
Heidi said…
I grew up with the CMT. My mom was a fan and I followed suit. They, more than any other influence, I'd say, coloured my 10-16 year old views on life, love, religion and politics. They were my "first love" and remain my all-time favourite folk trio. I was saddened at Joe's passing. Heidi Franke, No Home Town
Kelly said…
Much like Heidi above, I grew up listening to singin' our minds and reflecting, sometimes over and over again. I just found out about Joe's passing here while searching for those albums, revisiting that time and music. I thank them all, they made a young mind think, and warmed my heart with harmonies.
Grammylammy said…
Joe was an inspiration and a dear friend - he will be very much missed and I am thankful for his music which I can still play and get to hear his voice, now he sings with the Angels!
junehilde said…
How very sad. My thoughts and prayers are with Joe, friends and family. the Chad Mitchell Trio was a cut above everyone else, and sang songs with real meaning and heart. ne plus ultra.

Unknown said…
I had forgotten about Joe's death. I had the chance to meet and talk with him at the College of Wooster (Ohio) at a Mitchell Trio concert in the mid-60s. Joe and I bumped into each other on one of their breaks. I had lived in Lancaster, PA, not far from Lebanon which is Joe's hometown. Heart-breaking loss.