Wednesday, August 27, 2014

G Is for the Gogolala Jubilee Jugband

Jim Henson was born in rural Mississippi in 1936, where he spent the first ten years of his life before mainly living his adolescence in Maryland and the Washington, DC area. People say there were parts of him that were very much the reserved, polite Southern gentleman--particularly in his manners--but you can also see his rural upbringing in some of the music he liked and often featured on The Muppet Show and in other projects.

The Gogolala Jubilee Jugband were a way to get some of the country and novelty music he'd liked as a kid onto The Muppet Show. They barely had names or distinctive personalities; they were mainly a music delivery device for fun little numbers. In fact, they were so non-distinct in character that they often had different performers. They were put together out of what the Muppet people call Whatnot Muppets, which are blank Muppets that any features can be molded on to. And their name speaks to Jim Henson's love of nonsense words.

They first appeared performing Roger Miller's song "You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd" on the fourth episode. Here are some other appearances:

:: Backing up Jim Nabors for "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."
:: Backing up Paul Williams for a Dixieland version of "Just an Old-Fashioned Love Song."
:: Asking the deep questions in the novelty song "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?" (with Jerry Nelson on the lead vocals).
:: Peter Friedman doing lead vocals on another old novelty song, "I'm My Own Grandpaw."
:: A breakneck version of "Mississippi Mud." Richard Hunt particularly seems to be having a great time singing the hell out of this.
:: Backing up Twiggy and a Muppet known only as Hillbilly Singer (performed by Jim) for a version of the old Tennessee Ernie Ford and Kay Starr duet "Ain't Nobody's Business But My Own."

The Hillbilly Singer had appeared earlier in the season, in a slightly different look, for probably my favorite segment featuring the Gogolala Jubilee Jugband, this cover of Tompall Glaser's "Put Another Log on the Fire," featuring Candice Bergen. (This song was, of course, written by Shel Silverstein.)

The final appearance by any of the Gogolala Jubilee Jugband is this little spot from late in the first season, a performance of the old Carson Jay Robison song "Life Gets Teejus, Don't It."

I'm not sure exactly why the decision was made to drop the band. They were part of a musical tradition that Jim Henson deeply enjoyed. They were actually the second Muppet country music band; the first was the Country Trio, which are really caricatures of Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson. They pre-date The Muppet Show, appearing first on The Perry Como Winter Show, then on The Dick Cavett Show, and intermittently on The Muppet Show.

I wonder a little bit if the decision was made partially because of the departure of the two of the band's performers, Eren Ozker (seen above with Richard Hunt) and Peter Friedman, after the first season of The Muppet Show. Or, really, Jim could have just found new designs he liked and gone with them, as sometimes happened. Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy were redesigned after that first season. The Gogolala Jubilee Jugband was replaced by Lubbock Lou and His Jughuggers, who stayed throughout the show and even appear in the "Happiness Hotel" song in The Great Muppet Caper.

The Muppet Encyclopedia says the group disbanded over an argument about whether or not to put a hole in the washtub, which is a nice wink at Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas.

Either way, we got some fun performances out of them while they lasted.

Have a music-filled day!

ABC Wednesday


Reader Wil said...

Thank you for showing these videos of the muppets.
Every body loves the muppets, I think.
Wil, ABCW Team

Roger Owen Green said...

My, I'll have to listen to these when I get home! I'll bet the Daughter will like them.
Great narrative.
So you HAVE the Muppet Encyclopedia; if you didn't, I might have been compelled to buy it for you.


bettyl-NZ said...

I so love the Muppets and always will! They had such talent behind them and I still watch them whenever I can.

Cristina Pop said...

They`re so sweet and funny :))