Prolific folk-rock and children's music duo composed of guitarist Ezra Idlet and bassist Keith Grimwood. Although they made themselves known with catchy, silly songs suitable for children (but certainly listenable for adults), many of their albums also include more serious folk-rock and sometimes country fare. Despite being a total No-Hit Wonder, they're prolific enough to have garnered four Grammy nominations.
Prior to the duo's foundation, Grimwood and Idlet were members of the folk group St. Elmo's Fire. They began recording together in The '80s, forming the independent label Trout Records to distribute their own music on CD. Many of their songs have been played on Dr. Demento's radio show over the years.
They took their name from the 1967 novella/travelogue by Richard Brautigan.
They have also published two children's picture books, My Name is Chicken Joe and Chicken Joe Forgets Something Important, both of which include a CD of songs related to the story in the book.
- You Bore Me to Death! (1979)
- Hot to Trout (1983)
- Yes, the Fish Music (1987)
- Stark Raving Trout (1988)
- Truth Is Stranger Than Fishin' (1990)
- Big Trouble (1991)
- Over the Limit (1992)
- Mine! (1994)
- Who Are These People? (1994)
- Reel Life (1996)
- My World (1997)
- Family Music Party (1998)
- Closer to the Truth (1999)
- InFINity (2001)
- It's a Puzzle (2003)
- Merry Fishes to All (2004)
- My Best Day (2006)
- Who Knows What We Might Do (2007)
- Big Round World (2008)
- Lookin' at Lucky (2010)
- Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers (2013)
- The Strangest Times (2017)
- The Dusty Dozen (2018)
Tropes present in their work:
- An Aesop: "Hard Ball" from My Name is Chicken Joe has one of these, but it meanders off to the point of approaching a Spoof Aesop..."The moral of this story is to do what this parents tell ya'. And if you can't do that, a friend's advice might help ya'. And if you can't do that all is still not lost. Take a tip from me, just be lucky with the toss!"
- The Big Easy: Not New Orleans proper, but two of their songs are themed to Louisiana: "Sing It One More Time Like That" and "Murrell's", the latter inspired by a restaurant in Shreveport.
- Censorship by Spelling: On the CD included with their picture book Chicken Joe Forgets Something Important, one of the songs is called "C-A-T in the H-E-N House." Lyrics include stuff like "There's a D-O-G in the D-O-Ghouse, wants a W-A-L-K. Dogs go C-R-A-Z-Y if that word you ever say!"
- Cerebus Roller Coaster: Serious "adult" album, funny children's album, "adult" album with softer and funnier songs they've been everywhere.
- Christmas Songs: Merry Fishes to All
- Diaper Check: Occurs in "Baby's Got the Car Keys". The dad in the song realizes the baby needs a diaper change, but puts it off in favor of finding the keys so the family isn't late. He later gives in and changes the diaper anyway, only to discover the keys inside them.
- Doo-Wop Progression: "Lightning"
- Early Installment Weirdness: The albums prior to Big Trouble didn't contain much in the way of children's songs, and were more straight-up folk rock.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: "When I Was a Dinosaur," "We Are the Dinosaurs."
- Fat and Skinny: Keith and Ezra, respectively. Ezra is also a good 15 inches taller.
- Food Songs Are Funny: "Pico de Gallo", an ode to the type of salsa:Pico de gallo, you oughta give it a try-o
Even if you're from Ohio, it'll get you by-o
Don't get it in your eye-o, unless you wanna cry-o
So come on, don't be shy-o, it's pico de gallo
- Heavy Sleeper: Chicken Joe, the titular main character of their Chicken Joe Forgets Something Important is actually a cat who sings that he needs "16 hours of way down deep / 16 or 17 hours of sleep / at least 16 hours of sleep..." He'd have more, but he has to eat.
- Here We Go Again!: In "Baby's Got the Car Keys", the baby has stolen the car keys and put them in her diaper, making the entire family late for work and school. By the time the keys are recovered, the dad discovers that his wallet is missing... because the same baby threw it in the trash.
- Literary Allusion Title: They're named after the Richard Brautigan book.
- Multi-Armed Multitasking: "Two Brains" plays this for laughs in that he wishes he had more body parts to keep up with daily life.
- Must Have Caffeine: "What I Want Is a Proper Cup of Coffee".
- New Sound Album: Big Trouble was their first album to push the children's music to the forefront, although the core sound did not change drastically.
- Nobody Loves the Bassist: Discussed and inverted in "The Day the Bass Players Took Over the World":Now one day the bass players, they decided to uprise
They were tired of being sidemen to all those other guys
So they kidnapped the horn section, they put drugs in the drummer's drink
And they tied up all the guitar players with their big ol' flat-wound strings
- Non-Appearing Title: "Eleven Easy Steps", a song about childhood imagination. According to Ezra, the title came from the instructions for a playplace that he was building for his and Keith's kids to use.
- Self-Plagiarism: "Hall of a Hundred Doors" (from Mine! in 1994) has almost the exact same melody as "Murrell's" (off Reel Life only two years later).
- Single Stanza Song: "The Day the Bass Players Took Over the World"
- Something Blues: "Day Care Blues," "Breakfast Blues," and "Dead Egyptian Blues."
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: "Why I Pack My Lunch" from My Name Is Chicken Joe is about a guy who packs his lunch because of the bizarre stuff served in the cafeteria, such as "grilled toenails with a side of bunions, sauteed bats with lots of onions." The song includes the line "Good food's rare as Halley's Comet, but this stuff makes me want to... leave the table."
- Vocal Tag Team:
- They split the vocals about 50/50, but some of their more popular songs such as "When I Was a Dinosaur", "My Hair Had a Party Last Night", "What I Want Is a Proper Cup of Coffee", etc. are sung by Ezra.
- "18 Wheels on a Big Rig" and "Sing It One More Time Like That" are among the only songs where they alternate.
- "The Day the Bass Players Took Over the World" is unique in that it is effectively a solo piece by Keith. (Justified, as he's the bass player.)
- Word Salad Lyrics: Some of their up-tempos go this way, such as "Spider's Fence" and "My Front Door".