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Who Were Spike Jones and His City Slickers?

June11, 2009

Spike Jones (left) with Marylin Monroe and Ken Murray, 1952

One of the heppest orchestras of the 1940s was Spike Jones and His City Slickers. And part of their appeal rested in their ability to successfully spoof the popular songs of the day. They played masterfully, allowing crowds to immediately identify the tunes, then they'd add in the occasional outrageous disruption--the sound of a person burping, aluminum crunching, the incessant crinkling of rough paper. Any strangely displaced sound was fair game.

These sound effects made the band's radio show--aptly titled Spike Jones and His City Slickers Show--all the rage during its three-year run. The program debuted on NBC radio in 1945, then remained unaired until 1947, when it re-emerged on CBS. It was then renamed Spotlight Revue, and during its run, Chase and Sanborn coffee and Coca Cola served as sponsors.

Guest performers and characters often cropped up on the zany series, including comedian Ish Kabibble, Doodles Weaver, George Rock, Sir Frederick Gas, George Rock and Horatio G. Birdbath. Aside from Mike Wallace and Michael Roy, who served as the show's announcers, Dorothy Shay, aka the Park Avenue hillbilly, performed as a vocalist on most episodes of the program.

1949 was the last year the show aired, but Spike Jones' influence was only beginning. Even today, many popular songs retain the City Slickers trademark of adding disparate sound effects to a smooth and unfettered melody.


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