The 1940’s, SPIKE JONES & his CITY SLICKERS !
A Spike Jones concert was loud, corny, and irreverent. It was also hysterical and gave a much needed cause for laughter in the war-torn years of the ‘40’s. His orchestra, consisting of 12 to 16 talented musicians, played practically anything that made a loud noise, including cow bells, horns and whistles. A washboard was Spike’s musical choice.
His signature recording was “Cocktails for Two”, a romantically dreamy rendition of the song until he threw in sounds of hic-cups & clinking cocktail glasses. It was very funny but not my favorite.
I loved the way he murdered the classics and, particularly, his version of “The William Tell Overture”. (Da..dadum, Da..dadum, Da..dadum, dum, dum). He turned this serious classic into a frantic and corny horse race entitled “Girdle in the Stretch” and featuring the horse, “Feitlebaum”, who, against all odds runs the entire race as a distant last and suddenly surges ahead to win!
For those who have not heard it, here is a sample of the words being called as “The William Tell Overture” plays softly in the background: “It’s a beautiful day for the race. Stu Chan is the favorite today, Assault is in there, Dog Biscuit is three to one, Safety Pin has been scratched and at twenty-to-one: Feitlebaum. THERE THEY GOOOOOOOOO!...Cabbage is second by a head, Banana is coming up thru the bunch...and Feitlebaum…..etc., etc. Around the turn, heading for home, it’s Stu Chan and Dog Biscuit & Girdle in the stretch, Mother-In-Law nagging in the rear and, OH, OH, OH, here comes Feitlebaum and it’ll either be a photo finish or an oil painting...AND … THERE GOES THE WINNERRRRRRR.....it’s FEITLEBAUM !!”
My other fond remembrance was listening to the Spike Jones orchestra one night as they were playing it fairly straight. All of a sudden a telephone rang and Spike halted the music. The stage was completely silent and we all listened as Spike said. “Hello…you don’t say. (pause) Uh, huh…you don’t say. (pause) Wow...you don’t say! OK, goodbye” As soon as he hung up the phone the entire orchestra rose to their feet and yelled, “Who was it?”. “He didn’t say”, said Spike and they all sat down and proceeded to finish the song as if nothing had interrupted them!
I know...they are corny and slapstick and wouldn’t have a chance on today’s stage, but they were great fun in the 40’s and I thank Alan G. for reminding me of them.