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Spike Jones, Original Goofball

Published: 12/14/2011

Spike Jones (Wikimedia Commons/Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA LibrarySpike Jones was the original musical goofball. Born 100 years ago today, he set the stage for countless novelty acts as he skewered popular music with his band, Spike Jones and the City Slickers.

Jones made a career of covering hit singles and injecting into his versions a wild suite of silliness: raucous tempos, winking arrangements, and, most importantly, sound effects like gargles and car horns and breaking glass. No chart-topper was safe from his treatment, and it even became a badge of honor to have your song sent up by The City Slickers. They pulled no punches with "Cocktails for Two"…

All this might feel a little familiar to anyone who was listening to popular music in the 1980s – the decade when "Weird Al" Yankovic started applying the Spike Jones treatment to hit songs of the day, parodying them with familiarly silly sounds.

Yankovic threw open the doors that Spike Jones had unlocked, releasing a flood of novelty cover bands who continue to amuse us today, from The Dan Band to Dread Zeppelin to any number of amateur parodies making the rounds on YouTube. Now it's a sign that a song is a true classic if Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have punked it up.

Fans of those latter-day parody stars can thank Spike Jones for his record-breaking levels of wackiness.

Written by Linnea Crowther

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