Folk music and Yorkville Coffeehouses

And Your Birds Can Sing: The Mynah Birds Band

Even though they did not play the coffee house, The Mynah Birds will forever be entrenched in the history of the venue as well as in the history of popular music as one of the strangest supergroups ever formed.

Rick Matthews, later known as Rick James (yes, THAT Rick James) fled to Toronto from New York to escape the Vietnam draft and first formed an R&B band called The Sailor Boys with Nick St. Nicholas, who would later form the band Steppenwolf. Colin Kerr was introduced to this band and for whatever reason, saw a way for them to promote his myna bird shop. He paid them to change their name to The Mynah Birds and became their manager. They first recorded a song called "The Mynah Bird Song" which although there is no evidence of it on the internet, you can listen to a version sung by Colin Kerr and his pet myna bird Raja here. According to Nicholas Jennings, Kerr forced the band to dress in only black and yellow to resemble the myna bird, paid screaming girls to chase the band through Eaton's department store on Queen Street and had them adopt Raja as their mascot - even teaching the bird to say "hello Ed Sullivan" in anticipation of a possible appearance on his show. Although the latter never occurred, Kerr's antics were enough to actually get the band several American media appearances. Kerr's involvement with the band did not last long. When he asked the band to shave their heads to further look like myna birds, the band had enough and fired him. He then turned his sights to opening his coffee house.

After Kerr's exit from the band, they changed to a bluesy Motown sounds and St. Nicholas was traded for future Buffalo Springfield bassist, Bruce Palmer. Adding more Canadian royalty to this group, Neil Young joined the band in 1966 before leaving to California with Palmer. The band did not last but many of the musicians to pass through the supergroup would go on to become world famous.

You can hear the Palmer, Young and Rick James Mynah Birds lineup in the playlist below:


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