Fish Karma’s musical career began in the early 1980s, when he chanced upon a Beatles “E-Z” chord book while lounging around a friend’s house in Tucson. Inspired by his ability to form a C chord after only ten minutes of practice, Fish, smitten by the muse of music (despite an astonishing lack of musical aptitude, such as the capacity to sing in tune or play a simple four-four beat), began saving money from his job waiting tables at a Chinese restaurant. Eventually, he was able to purchase a blue acoustic guitar from Dave’s Musician’s Shop for $35.00. After weeks of diligent practice, Fish- to the amazement of his friends- was almost able to play entire sections of “Love Me Do” without stopping or consulting the finger diagrams. Eventually, he was able to memorize nearly seven chords, including the extremely poignant A minor, which is quite handy for sad songs.
Fish began to incorporate music into his nascent comedy act, which he performed weekly-while dressed in elf shoes and a burlap dress covered with twine and bottle caps-at an unlikely mall bar called The Tequila Mockingbird. One song in particular, a regional blues parody, serendipitously caught the attention of legendary Tucson musician Al Perry (Psyclones/Hecklers/Cattle/Fraidy Cats), then working as a Mockingbird bartender. Despite Perry’s severe aesthetic revulsion, an unlikely alliance soon formed between these two former Phoenicians. Fish’s first release on Al’s Addled Records label, To Hell with Love, I’m Going Bowling, recorded on a four-track machine in the midst of an unspeakably hot summer, was often played in University-area Tucson bars at closing time to drive out recalcitrant alcoholics. The cassette included the crowd favorite “What Are The Little White Things You Find in Cans of Pork and Beans?”, as well as three versions of “Kill the Commie Bastards,” a love song about a cow, and Fish’s only hit song to date, “Swap Meet Women,” which received airplay on local radio. (OK, it was really only one station. And played late at night. On a show that featured local music.)
A few years later, Fish was living in California, for some reason (the story gets rather murky here; Fish claims to remember little of his debauched two-year sojourn in Los Angeles, apart from beer, Sherman Helmsley, and the vile kim chee at Okie Dogs), and at some point, it was decided that another tape would be recorded. The subsequent Addled release, Disco Entropy, essentially a live recording with no rehearsals, was a drunken onslaught of focused loathing and bitterness. It also included the first incarnations of “Rocking and Rolling with Little Baby Jesus,” “God is a Groovy Guy,” and “Die Like a Dog.” (And yes, another version of “White Things.”)
Fish later released a 7-inch EP on Addled Records, Hellhound on my Leg, which did NOT include a new version of “White Things” but which DID include the second versions of both “Swap Meet Women” and “Die Like a Dog.” He also contributed songs to various compilation tapes put out by Al and his taping associates.
In 1991, Fish recorded his first actual CD, originally slated for release on Alternative Tentacles but eventually put out by Triple XXX Records. Produced by Mojo Nixon, the CD, entitled Teddy in the Sky with Magnets (the title a tribute to Tucson icon Ted DeGrazia), contained even newer versions of wizened chestnuts like “Swap Meet Women,” as well as sensitive love songs like “Love Barn” and “She is the Mammal.” 1992 saw the release of Sunnyslope, another Mojo Nixon production, which featured a mini-suite of songs about the horrors of growing up in Arizona, as well as a lament for Dick York and a cover of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” And another version of “White Things.” In 1998, Fish, in collaboration with fellow elementary school teacher Andy Young, recorded The Dangerous Playground, a CD of original children’s songs that was released on Rich Hopkins’ San Jacinto label. 2001 saw the release of Lunch with the Devil on Deep Shag Records, a collection of (mostly) unreleased four-track and live-in-the-studio recordings, which was overseen and produced by Al Perry. Although the collection did include the original “White Things,” it did not, perversely, include the song “Lunch with the Devil.”
In late 2004, Fish, relocated to San Antonio after having left the field of teaching, borrowed a friend’s guitar and sang a spate of newly-written songs into a cassette recorder, which he then mailed to Jello Biafra. Receiving approval, Fish flew to Tucson in the summer of 2005 and recorded the songs with Gordon Groves, his erstwhile songwriting partner in the short-lived Tucson heavy metal/rockabilly band, The Tribulators. Entitled The Theory of Intelligent Design, Fish’s debut CD on Alternative Tentacles (with a guest appearance by Al on three songs) features absolutely no versions of either “White Things” or “Swap Meet Women, although there IS a song entitled “The Swap Meet Women Merchandising Opportunity.”