Spike Jones Off the Record: The Man Who Murdered Music (paperback)
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Spike Jones Off the Record: The Man Who Murdered Music (paperback)

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“Spike Jones Off the Record: The Man Who Murdered Music”

by Jordan R. Young


The definitive career study and behind-the-scenes look at Spike Jones, whose cowbell-washboard-and-gunshot renditions of popular songs helped brighten the darkest the darkest hours of World War II and the post-war era. Now available in a revised and expanded 4th edition, coinciding with the 80th anniversary of Jones’ first recordings for RCA Victor.

              An unconventional biography of an unconventional man—a serious musician in a funny suit; a no-nonsense boss with a razor-sharp tongue and a ribald sense of humor; and a public relations wizard who worked his best magic backstage, when no one was paying attention.

Highlights include:

  • More than 100 interviews with Jones’ friends and associates, including George Rock, Doodles Weaver, Billy Barty, Sir Frederick Gas (Earl Bennett), Mickey Katz, Stan Freberg, Paul Frees, Bill Dana, Dr. Horatio Q. Birdbath, RCA and Liberty executives, staff writers, high school friends and teachers, and the cooperation of Spike’s eldest and youngest daughters.
  • An anecdotal history of The Musical Depreciation Revue, on and off the road.
  • Access to Jones’ private papers, office correspondence, contracts, and union documents.
  • Arrangements from the remnants of the band’s music library.
  • Details on the resurgence of interest in Spike in recent years, spotlighting his presence on compact discs and DVDs.
  • Who’s Who in the Spike Jones Disorganization, profiling his key associates, as well as lesser lights and recurring guest artists.
  • Comprehensive Discography, Radiography, Filmography and Videography, compiled by Jones’ archivist Ted Hering and Skip Craig (designated “#1 City Slicker Fan” by Spike himself) over several decades.

What’s new in The Ultimate Edition?

  • The untold story of the “Mexican” bootleg of “Der Fuehrer’s Face.”
  • More candid comments and revelations from Doodles Weaver’s diaries.
  • New details on Spike’s dealings with RCA Victor, his recordings, and his unrealized record, film and television projects.
  • Previously unpublished photographs, arrangements, script excerpts, set lists, itineraries, and other memorabilia.
  • Further info on band members like Del Porter, Perry Botkin, Red Ingle, the original Slickerettes, the original “Glow-Worm” singer, and Spike’s brief associations with Kaye Ballard, and Homer and Jethro.
  • The Spike Jones History Tour, listing many extant sites in Hollywood and Los Angeles associated with the bandleader.

"It is fair to say that Spike Jones was in his own category. By late-1942 with the release of “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” Spike Jones and his City Slickers were the most popular comedy band in the world. The next 20 years were very busy for Jones before ill health cut short his life.

"Spike Jones actually began his career as a jazz and studio drummer. Few probably know that he was the drummer on Bing Crosby’s original recording of “White Christmas.” However Jones, while not being a verbal comedian himself, loved creating unusual sounds on his drum set in his spare time, he listened closely to the other more humorous bands, and he came up with his own conception. A natural-born salesman and a workaholic who was very open to new ideas if they were funny enough, he gathered together skilled and versatile musicians (most notably trumpeter George Rock) and unique comedians for his City Slickers. His band was heard at its best on such classic satires as their versions of “Cocktails For Two” and “Chloe,” and their stage shows were quite riotous. Spike Jones and the City Slickers specialized at making fun of the more pompous side of classical music (which Jones actually loved), pop singers, overly sentimental ballads, and boring dance bands, often really tearing apart the music with bizarre sounds.

"The fourth edition of Jordan R. Young’s 484-page Spike Jones Off The Record has all of the information one could possibly want about Jones, his life, and his career. Published 37 years after his first edition (which by itself was definitive), Young starts out with the full story behind “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” has chapters on Spike Jones’ early life, his career in jazz and the studios, and the other comedy bands that preceded his. There is a lot of information on the early evolution of the City Slickers, and separate sections on the band’s theatre tours, its recordings, radio shows, film appearances, and television appearances. Jones had a regular television series at various times in the 1950s, and fortunately most of the programs still exist. Young was able to interview virtually all of the City Slickers and later band members who were still around in the 1980s and ‘90s, adding to the insight and humor, color and many details of this very enjoyable book.

"One of the joys of this work (which has many photos) is learning how Spike Jones and his crew were able to stage such elaborate gags (most of the time every little detail was planned in advance) while occasionally playing tricks on each other. It is enlightening to hear about the supporting cast and the many unique comedians who were part of the shows, particularly Doodles Weaver. There are also chapters on Spike Jones’ other bands, his last years, the more current comedy bands who he influenced, and the many special Spike Jones tributes. And after the main narrative, there is a lengthy Who’s Who that has biographies of the key contributors to Spike Jones’ bands and projects, and a very full discography, radiography, filmography and videography.

"The many hilarious stories along with the detailed descriptions of how Spike Jones and his cast put together their shows will lead readers to his unique recordings where every belch, glub, gunshot, and cowbell accent was planned in advance."
- Syncopated Times