In the 1970s, no folk singer was more terrifying and uncontrollable than The Grizzly Bear. With his guttural growling and propensity to decapitate at random will, his songs struck a cord with listeners.
Like Acoustic Angus before him, The Grizzly Bear was a wild success… right up until his natural instinct to decapitate without discrimination got the better of him.
However, he was able to record one and a half folk albums (the second truncated due to numerous decapitations) and they remain a glorious ode to the sound of screaming.
From Grizzly Bear to Folk Phenomenon
The Grizzly Bear was talent spotted by a music agent (Richard Bare) who was out hiking in the woods one weekend.
After surprising the bear by accident, the agent became convinced (whilst the beast was munching ferociously on his leg) this was the next big thing in folk music.
The year was 1975. And while Bare recovered in hospital, he had the bear that attacked him scouted out and the beast was handed a recording contract on the spot! The bear didn’t understand this gesture and so savaged the messenger, but the blood spatter across the contract was considered a legally binding policy.
The Grizzly Bear was moved into a recording studio in California, where he immediately began mauling sound engineers and anyone else he happened across.
During these attacks, his constant growling and roaring were recorded and suitably fashioned into one of the most beautiful folk albums of all time—American Bear. Although The Grateful Dead sued due to the similarity to 1970’s American Beauty, they were threatened with a bear mauling and so backed the hell down.
The 12 song album American Bear smashed straight into the US top 40 album chart, plus hit singles soon followed:
- The Sound of Screaming
- Bloody Roar
- The Bears They Are a Changin’
- Bear Over Troubled Water
- Like an Outraged Bear
Music critics noted the songs were clearly ripped off from artists such as Bob Dylan, Jodi Mitchell, and Simon & Garfunkel. However, Richard Bare disagreed. In a 1976 interview he said:
“Sure, it SOUNDS like the guttural bellows of a bear with some acoustic guitar played over the top. And that’s because that’s what it is. But it’s also so much more than that! I lost a leg to gangrene from a bear attack so the world could hear this music. It’s like whale music, but with more screaming.”
The public was greatly alarmed by the amount of high-pitched screaming on The Grizzly Bear’s debut album. These screams were recorded in studio whilst the album charged at victims.
Studio execs moved to assuage fears, calming the public with the news that only 37 employees were mauled (and 10 of them fatally).
However, this merely caused further outrage. But this notoriety led to more of The Grizzly Bear’s albums selling and more money into the coffers. Before he knew it, the bear was the world first bear multi-millionaire.
The Difficult Second Album and Disastrous Live Act
Wanting to cash-in on The Grizzly Bear’s success, a second album was commissioned with a budget of $200,000. However, due to the bear’s belligerent nature it was abandoned with only six songs recorded.
This was down to the bear’s charging, rampaging, mauling habits.
Undeterred, the sophomore album was launched with just the six tracks (most of which consisted of screams of terror and anguish). Then The Grizzly Bear began his first full tour of the United States, starting off in California.
The show did not leave California.
Those attending the concerts soon realised The Grizzly Bear couldn’t be contained on stage, couldn’t keep time with his own songs, and would rampage with wild abandon whenever startled by bright lights.
After the third consecutive night ended with several decapitations, the police and FBI moved in to try and return the bear to the wild.
The studio interfered highlighting the legally binding, blood-spattered contract.
However, once the bear mauled an FBI agent and destroyed a freshly baked box of donuts belonging to the aforementioned agent, it was decreed by state laws that enough was enough.
The Grizzly Bear was promptly returned to the wild.
An assortment of thousands of his ardent fans promptly followed him into the woods, but once they started facing maulings they fled back into the civilization to find their nearest hospital.
What Became of the Bear and Bare?
Richard Bare was banned from ever working as a music agent again and lived out his days working in a fast food restaurant. His royalties from all of The Grizzly Bear songs (and album and a half) were directed towards National Park charities.
Bare remained bitter about that until his dying day in 2003, punching anyone in the face immediately if ever quizzed on The Grizzly Bear.
As for the bear with a folk music talent, it is said he growled his last in the Eighties.
But what is clear is he mauled at least 354 people during his spell with fame, many of them fans of his, and his mark on music will forever be more than just delightful folk songs. It will also be the savage, gaping wounds he left in his victims’ unfortunate fleshy bodies.