August 8, 1969 Paul is Dead

Like the child’s game of “telephone”, the story picked up details with each retelling.  There had been an argument at a Beatles recording session. McCartney left in anger, and crashed his car. To spare the public from grief, the Beatles replaced him with “William Campbell”, the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest.

In January 1967, a car belonging to singer/songwriter and Beatles’ band member Paul McCartney, was involved in an accident.  He wasn’t driving at the time, but no matter.

The story was told and retold.  Before long, not only had McCartney himself been involved in the crash.  He’d been killed in it.

Like the child’s game of “telephone”, the story picked up details with each retelling.  There had been an argument at a Beatles recording session. McCartney left in anger, and crashed his car. To spare the public from grief, the Beatles replaced him with “William Campbell”, the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest.Paul is dead

The February issue of “The Beatles Book” fanzine tried to put the issue to rest, but some stories die hard.  A cottage industry grew up around finding “clues” to McCartney’s “death”.  Hundreds were reported by fans and followers of the legend. John Lennon’s final line in the song “Strawberry Fields Forever” sounded like “I buried Paul”.  (McCartney later said the words were “cranberry sauce”).  When “Revolution 9” from the White Album is played backwards, some said they could hear “turn me on, dead man”.

Photographer Iain MacMillan shot the cover photo for the Beatles’ last recorded album, Abbey Road, on this day in 1969. The ten-minute photo shoot produced six images, from which McCartney himself picked the cover photo. It shows the band crossing the street, walking away from the studio.

As soon as the Abby Road album hit the streets, the “Paul Is Dead” enthusiasts were off and running. It was a funeral procession, couldn’t anybody see that? Lennon, dressed in white, symbolizes the preacher. Ringo Starr was dressed in black.  He was the mourner. George Harrison was wearing blue jeans and a shirt.  Of course he was the gravedigger.Paul is dead, news

And then there was McCartney, barefoot and out of step with the other members of the band. Clearly, he symbolized the corpse. McCartney later explained that he’d been barefoot that day, because it was hot.

No one ever satisfactorily explained, nor did anyone ask, to my knowledge, how Paul McCartney got to march in his own funeral procession.  No matter, the Abby Road cover put the rumor mill over the top.

On October 12, a caller to Detroit radio station WKNR-FM told DJ Russ Gibb about the rumor and its clues. Gibb and his callers then discussed the rumor on the air for the next hour. Roby Yonge did the early AM shift at the powerhouse WABC out of New York. Yonge spent a full hour discussing the rumor, before he was pulled off-air for breaking format. WABC’s signal could be heard in 38 states at that time of night, and at times, other countries. The Beatles’ press office issued a statement denying the rumor, but it had already been reported by national and international media.

Paul is still with us-Life_magazine_nov_69The November 7, 1969, Life magazine interview with McCartney and his wife Linda finally put the story to rest. “Perhaps the rumor started because I haven’t been much in the press lately“, he said. “I have done enough press for a lifetime, and I don’t have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family and I will work when I work. I was switched on for ten years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days“.

If they’d had Photoshop in those days, we’d probably still be hearing the rumors, today.

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July 27, 1940 Bugs Bunny

A Utah celery grower once offered a lifetime supply of their product to everyone at the studio, if they switched Bugs over to a celery diet.  But carrots it was.  For fifty years, production had to stop as Mel Blanc, the real-life voice of Bugs Bunny, stopped to spit out the raw carrot he ate to make the sound of his character eating a carrot.

The earliest version of the Bugs Bunny cartoon character had something of his later personality, though he was smaller, with a voice sounded more like Woody Woodpecker.  He first appeared in “Porky’s Hare Hunt”, released on April 30, 1938, a little white wisecracking rabbit, entering the scene with the odd expression “Jiggers, fellers”.  Hare Hunt was the first to introduce the Elmer Fudd character, and first to use the Groucho Marx line, “Of course you realize, this means war!”

According to his 1990 “biography”, Bugs Bunny was born in Brooklyn New York on July 27, 1940, in a warren under Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  A Utah celery grower once offered a lifetime supply of their product to everyone at the studio, if they switched Bugs over to a celery diet.  But carrots it was.  For fifty years, production had to stop as Mel Blanc, the real-life voice of Bugs Bunny, stopped to spit out the raw carrot he ate to make the sound of his character eating a carrot.

Bugs evolution“A Wild Hare”, directed by Tex Avery and released on this day in 1940, was the first recognizable Bugs Bunny cartoon.  For the first time Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny are cast as hunter and tormentor, the first time Mel Blanc used that trademark Flatbush accent, and the first in which Bugs uses his catchphrase, “Ehhh, What’s up, Doc?” A Wild Hare was a huge success in theaters, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film and ensuring Bugs Bunny’s future as a stock character.

AWildHareIn 1941, “Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt” became the second Bugs Bunny cartoon to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film.  It didn’t win the award, and Bugs later made fun of the award in “What’s Cookin’ Doc?”.  In 1944 he demands a recount, claiming to be the victim of “sa-bo-TAH-gee”.

Bugs Bunny was receiving star billing by World War II, helping to make Warner Bros. the most profitable cartoon studio in America.   He appeared along with Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd in a 1942 US war bond commercial, going toe to toe with a group of Japanese soldiers in “Bunny Nips the Nips” in 1944.  The cartoon was later pulled due to the racially stereotypical manner in which it treated the Japanese.  Bugs went to “Joimany” to face off against Göring and Hitler in “Herr Meets Hare” in 1945, the first time he “musta made a wrong toin at Albaquoique”.

Bugs even showed up in rival studio Paramount Pictures’ “Jasper goes hunting”, once.  He popped out of his rabbit hole and said “What’s up Doc”, realizing his mistake only when he hears the orchestra play the wrong theme. “Hey, I’m in the wrong picture!” he says, and there he went, down the rabbit hole.Thats all folks

It was usually Porky Pig who brought Looney Tunes films to a close, with his trademark “Uh-b-dee, uh-b-dee, uh-b-dee, that’s all, folks!”, but Bugs replaced him at the end of “Hare Tonic” and “Baseball Bugs”.  He busted out of a drum, same as Porky, munching on a carrot and saying in that Brooklyn accent, “And that’s the end!”.

Bugs Bunny has appeared in more films, both short and feature length, than any other cartoon character in history.  He’s the ninth most portrayed film personality in the world.

Here ends this day’s Today in History.  Now, “shhh.  Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits.  Huh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh”.

June 22, 1918 Showmen’s Rest

The Michigan Central locomotive smashed into the rear of the stalled circus train at 60mph.  Strong men, bareback riders, trapeze performers and acrobats were killed instantly and others horribly maimed, as wooden circus cars telescoped into one another. 

In the circus world, the term “First of May” describes the first season when an employee comes to work with the circus.

There’s an oft-repeated but mistaken notion, that the circus goes back to Roman antiquity.  The panem et circenses, “bread and circuses” of Juvenal (circa A.D. 100), refers more to the ancient precursor of the modern racetrack, than to the modern circus. The only common denominator is the word itself, as the Latin root ‘circus’, translates into English, as “circle”.

Astleys_royal_amphitheatreThe father of the modern circus is the British Sergeant-Major turned showman, Philip Astley.  A talented horseman, Astley opened a riding school near the River Thames in 1768, where he taught in the morning and performed ‘feats of horsemanship’ in the afternoon.

Astley’s afternoon shows had gained overwhelming popularity by 1770, and he hired acrobats, rope-dancers, and jugglers to fill the spaces between equestrian events.  The modern circus, was born.

Equestrian and trick riding shows were gaining popularity all over Europe at this time, performers riding in circles to keep their balance while standing on the backs of galloping horses.  It didn’t hurt matters, that the “ring” made it easier for spectators to view the event.

In 1825, Joshuah Purdy Brown of Somers New York replaced the wooden structure common to European circuses with a canvas tent, around the time when a cattle dealer named Hachaliah Bailey bought a young African elephant, which he exhibited all over the country.  The exotic animal angle was a great success.  Other animals were added and soon farmers were leaving their fields, to get into the traveling menagerie business.

The unique character of the American traveling circus emerged in 1835, when 135 such farmers and menagerie owners combined with three affiliated circuses to form the American Zoological Institute.

Phineas Taylor Barnum and William Cameron Coup launched P.T. Barnum’s Museum, Menagerie & Circus in 1871, where the “museum” part was a separate exhibition of human and animal oddities.  It wouldn’t be long, before the ‘sideshow” became a standard feature of the American circus.

There have been no fewer than 81 major circuses in American history, and countless smaller ones.  ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ broke down its tent for the last time last month, when the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus ended a 146-year run.  There was a time though, when the circus really Was, the greatest show on earth.

The American war machine was spinning up to peak operational capacity in 1918, as the industrial might of the nation pursued the end to the war ‘over there’.hagenbeck-wallace-circus

At 3:56 on the morning of June 22, 1918, an engineer with the Michigan Central Railroad was at the controls of an empty 21-car troop train.  Automatic signals and flares should have warned him that there was a stalled train on the track ahead.  A frantic flag man tried and failed to get him to stop.  Alonzo Sargent had been fired before, for sleeping on the job.  Tonight, Sargent was once again, asleep at the wheel.

The Hagenbeck-Wallace circus was a big deal in those days.  The famous lion tamer Clyde Beatty was a member, as was a young Red Skelton, on this night tagging along with his father, who worked as a clown.

The 26-car Hagenbeck-Wallace circus train was enroute from Hammond Indiana to Monroe Wisconsin, when an overheated axle box required them to make an unscheduled stop.

Most of the 400 circus employees were asleep at that early hour, in one of four rear sleeping cars.  The Michigan Central locomotive smashed into the rear of the stalled train at 60mph.  Strong men, bareback riders, trapeze performers and acrobats were killed instantly.  Others were horribly maimed, as wooden sleeping cars telescoped into one another.  Confused and bleeding survivors struggled to emerge from the wreckage, as gas-fed lanterns began to set all that wood on fire.

hammond-circus-train-wreck

Those lucky enough to escape looked on in horror, as friends and family members were burned alive.  Some had to be physically restrained from rushing back into the inferno.

127 were injured and an estimated 86 crushed or burned to death in the wreck.  Hours afterward a clown, his name was Joe Coyle, could be seen weeping inconsolably, beside the mangled bodies of his wife and two children.

The rumor mill went berserk.  Wild lions and tigers had escaped and were roaming the streets and back yards of Gary, Indiana.  Elephants died in the heroic attempt to put out the flames, spraying water on the burning wreckage with their trunks.  None of the stories were true.  The animals had passed through hours earlier, on one of two additional trains, and were now waiting for the train that would never come.

showmans-rest-circus-mass-grave

The Showmen’s League of America was formed in 1913, with Buffalo Bill Cody its first President.  The group had  purchased a 750-plot parcel at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois only a year earlier, calling it “Showmen’s Rest”.  They had no idea their investment would be used so soon.

Only thirteen were ever identified.  A mass grave was dug for the unidentified and unidentifiable.  Most of the dead were roustabouts or temporary workers, hired just recently and known only by nicknames.  Some performers were known only by stage names, their gravestones inscribed with names like “Baldy,” “4-Horse Driver”, “Smiley,” and “Unknown Female #43.

Only one show had to be canceled, as erstwhile ‘competitors’ Barnum & Bailey, Ringling brothers and others lent workers, performers and equipment.  The show would go on.

Today, the International Circus Hall of Fame is located in the former Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus winter headquarters in Peru, Indiana.

In the elephant world, an upraised trunk symbolizes joy.  Five elephant statues circumscribe the Showmen’s Rest section of Woodlawn cemetery.  Each has a foot raised with a ball underneath.  Their trunks hang low, a symbol of mourning.  The largest of the five bears the inscription, “Showmen’s League of America.”  On the other four, appear these words.  “Showmen’s Rest”.

June 16, 1980 Blues Brothers

Eric Idle of Monty Python was once a Saturday Night Live guest host. He paid a great compliment to Aykroyd’s comedic ability, saying he was “the only member of the SNL cast capable of being a Python”.

Dan Aykroyd developed his musical talents during the late fifties and early sixties at an Ottowa club called Le Hibou, (French for ‘the owl’), saying “I actually jammed behind Muddy Waters. S. P. Leary left the drum kit one night, and Muddy said ‘anybody out there play drums? I don’t have a drummer.’ And I walked on stage and we started, I don’t know, Little Red Rooster, something. He said ‘keep that beat going, you make Muddy feel good.’

Eric Idle of Monty Python was once a Saturday Night Live guest host. He paid a great compliment to Aykroyd’s comedic ability, saying he was “the only member of the SNL cast capable of being a Python”.

John Belushi joined The Second City comedy troupe in 1971, playing off-Broadway in “National Lampoon’s Lemmings”. He played The National Lampoon Radio Hour from 1973 to 1975, a half-hour comedy program syndicated on over 600 stations.SNL

Belushi appeared from 1973 to 1975 on The National Lampoon Radio Hour, along with future SNL regulars Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray. A number of their radio segments went on to become SNL sketches in the show’s first couple of seasons.

Dan Ackroyd tells a story about long days of rehearsals on the SNL set. An exhausted John Belushi would wander off and let himself into the house of a friend or a stranger, scrounging around for food and then falling asleep in the house, unable to be found for the next day’s work. These outings were the inspiration for the SNL horror-spoof sketch “The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave”.

Lead vocalist “Joliet Jake” Blues (John Belushi) and harmonica player/backing vocalist Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) had their musical debut on January 17, 1976 in a comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live. “The Blues Brothers” appeared twice more on SNL sketches, both in 1978, before releasing their first album that same year: Briefcase Full of Blues.BluesBrothers

The Blues Brothers film premiered in Chicago on this day in 1980, four days before its general relase. Set in that city and sprawling across the Midwest, the musical/comedy film tells the story of a paroled convict and his brother, and their mission to save the Catholic orphanage in which they were raised from foreclosure. Their “Mission from God” needs to raise $5,000 to pay the orphanage’s property tax bill. To do so, the pair sets out to reignite their R&B band, pursued by the police and wrecking 103 cars along the way, a world record for that time.

While filming one of the night scenes, John Belushi disappeared and couldn’t be found. Looking around, Ackroyd found a single house with its lights on, and knocked on the door. Before he could ask, the homeowner smiled and said “You’re here for John Belushi, aren’t you?” The man told Ackroyd that Belushi had entered the house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich, and then crashed on their couch. To some, he may have been a real-life Thing that Wouldn’t Leave. To Dan Ackroyd, John Belushi would always be “America’s Guest”.

John Belushi died in his hotel room on March 5, 1982, of a “Speedball”, a combined injection of heroin and cocaine. The cause of death was originally considered to be an accidental overdose, but Catherine Evelyn Smith was extradited and tried on first degree murder charges after her National Enquirer interview, in which she admitted giving Belushi the shot. A plea bargain reduced the charge to involuntary manslaughter.  She served fifteen months in prison.Bluesbrothersjail

Belushi’s wife Judith arranged for a traditional Orthodox Christian funeral in which he was interred, twice. The first was in Abel’s Hill Cemetery, in the Chilmark section of Martha’s Vineyard.  A classic New England slate tombstone complete with skull and crossbones, marks the location. The inscription reads, “I may be gone but Rock and Roll lives on.”

“Fans” repeatedly felt the need to desecrate the grave.  The body was later removed at the request of Belushi’s wife, and reburied in an undisclosed location.  An unmarked tombstone in an undisclosed location marks the final burial location, where the man can finally Rest in Peace.

John Belushi is remembered on the family marker at his mother’s grave at Elmwood Cemetery in River Grove, Illinois. This stone reads, “HE GAVE US LAUGHTER”.

Jake and Elwood

May 18, 1965 Final Frontier

In his 1968 book “Making of Star Trek”, Gene Roddenberry says that James Kirk was born in a small town in Iowa. Full time Trekkie and part time Riverside Councilman Steve Miller thought “Why not Riverside”.

A boy was born on March 22, 2233 in Riverside, Iowa, destined to become the youngest captain in Star Fleet history. Before he could boldly go where no man has gone before, he had to have a name.

The WWII fighter pilot and veteran of 89 combat missions Gene Roddenberry made 16 name suggestions on this date in 1965, among them Hannibal, Timber, Flagg, and Raintree.

Star_Trek_William_ShatnerRoddenberry decided on James T. Kirk, based on a journal entry of the 18th century British explorer, Captain James Cook: “ambition leads me … farther than any other man has been before me”.

Kirk was killed in 2329 on the Enterprise (B), after the ship was eaten by a Nexus energy ribbon on its maiden voyage. Only he didn’t die, because Jean-Luc Picard found him alive in the timeless Nexus, negotiating hotel deals for Priceline.com. Or something like that.

In his 1968 book “Making of Star Trek”, Gene Roddenberry says that James Kirk was born in a small town in Iowa. Full time Trekkie and part time Riverside Councilman Steve Miller thought “Why not Riverside”. In 1985 Miller moved that Riverside declare itself the Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk.  The motion passed unanimously. The town’s slogan was changed from “Where the best begins” to “Where the Trek begins,” and the annual summer festival changed from “River Fest” to “Trek Fest”.

Star_Trek_William_Shatner_Future_Burial_Place.jpeg

The Riverside connection became Holy Writ, when the 2009 film Star Trek identified the place as Kirk’s home town. There is a granite monument in Riverside, population 963, declaring itself to be the “Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk.

In case you were ever curious about what the “T” stands for…its Tiberius.

 

March 31, 2016 Toot Toot Tootsie, Goodbye

I can’t imagine many Allied soldiers ever tried to serenade their Nazi adversaries during World War II. The ones who actually pulled it off must number, precisely, one.

James and Kate Kaminski’s little bundle of joy came into the world on June 26th 1926, in Brooklyn. They named this, their fourth son, Melvin James. James died of tuberculosis at 34, when the boy was only two. A small Jewish kid growing up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood, Kaminsky learned the value of being able to crack a joke. “Growing up in Williamsburg”, he said, “I learned to clothe it in comedy to spare myself problems—like a punch in the face”.

The boy had a talent for music. He was taught by another kid from Williamsburg, Buddy Rich.  By 14 he was good enough to be playing drums for money.

Melvin Kaminsky, 1Melvin attended a year at Brooklyn College before being drafted into the Army, in WWII. After attending Army Specialized Training at VMI, Corporal Kaminsky joined the 1104th Combat Engineers Battalion, 78th Infantry Division in the European theater.  There, he served through the end of the war. Most of his work was in finding and defusing explosives, though on five occasions his unit had to drop their tools and fight as Infantry.

At one point Kaminsky’s unit gathered along a River. They were so close they could hear Jolson, BlackfaceGerman soldiers singing a beer hall song, from the other side. Kaminsky grabbed a bullhorn and serenaded the Germans back, singing them an old tune that Al Jolson used to perform in black face, “Toot Toot Tootsie, Goodbye”.  Polite applause could be heard from across the river, afterward. I can’t imagine many Allied soldiers ever tried to serenade their Nazi adversaries during World War II.  The ones who actually pulled it off must number, precisely, one.

Kaminski went into show business after the war, playing drums and piano in the Borscht Belt resorts and nightclubs of the Catskills. It was around this time that he took his professional name, adopting his mother’s maiden name of Brookman and calling himself “Mel Brooks”.

Brooks started doing stand-up, when the regular comedian at one of the clubs was too sick to perform. By ’49 he was “Tummler”, the master entertainer at Grossinger’s, one of the most famous resorts in the Borscht Belt.  He was making $50 a week writing for his buddy Sid Caesar and his NBC “The Admiral Broadway Review”.Mel Brooks

In 1968, Mel Brooks wrote and produced the satirical comedy film “The Producers”, about a theatrical producer and an accountant who set out to fleece their investors. The scheme was to do a play so bad that it was sure to flop on Broadway, then to abscond to Brazil with their money when the play closed. Problem was, the show turned out to be a hit. The fictional play is a musical, called “Springtime for Hitler”. Even before the age of suffocating PC, I don’t know many guys beside Mel Brooks, who could have gotten away with that one.Melvin Kaminsky, 2

There isn’t one of us who doesn’t know his work. From the 2,000 year old man with “over forty-two thousand children, and not one comes to visit me” to Blazing Saddles’ “Candygram for Mongo” (“Mongo likes candy”).

Brooks has risen to the top of his chosen profession, winning the coveted “EGOT”, an acronym for the entertainment industry’s four major awards, the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Only eleven others have ever risen to this level: Richard Rodgers, Helen Hayes, Rita Moreno, John Gielgud, Audrey Hepburn, Young FrankensteinMarvin Hamlisch, Jonathan Tunick, Mike Nichols, Whoopi Goldberg, Scott Rudin, and Robert Lopez.  As of this date, Brooks only needs another Oscar to be the first “Double EGOT” in history.

Melvin Kaminsky will be 92 in a couple of months. Last year, March 31, 2016, the Averhill Park K-12 School District in upstate New York kicked off a three day production of “Young Frankenstein”.  Let me know if you can think of another 92-year-old guy, who remains that current.  I can’t think of one.

March 22, 1958 Bocephus

For the media, the business model depends on renting an audience to a sponsor. The “controversy” would be squeezed for all it was worth, but Bocephus would have the last word.

Hank WilliamsRandall Hank Williams was born May 26, 1949 in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of country singer/songwriter, Hiram King “Hank” Williams. Surprisingly for a guy who could neither read nor notate music and died at the age of 29, the elder Williams has been described as “one of the most significant and influential American singers and songwriters of the 20th century”.

His father called the younger Williams “Bocephus” after the ventriloquist’s dummy used by Grand Ole Opry comedian Rod Brasfield.

A lifelong problem with drugs and alcohol ended the elder Williams’ life, way too early. All that police found in his Cadillac, were empty beer cans and handwritten, unfinished song lyrics.

The younger Williams was raised by his mother Audrey, after his father’s untimely death in 1953.  The apple didn’t fall far from the musical tree. Audrey encouraged the boy to copy his father’s dress and musical style. “Hank Williams Jr.” made his stage debut in Swainsboro Georgia, on March 22, 1958, at the age of 8. Audrey Williams

Some of the top musicians, singers and songwriters of the era came to visit the family: Johnny Cash, Fats Domino, Earl Scruggs, and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name a few. They all taught Bocephus a little of their musical instruments, and musical styles.

Bocephus was nearly killed in 1975, while climbing Ajax Peak in Montana. The snow collapsed beneath him, plunging him nearly 500 feet to the rocks below. There were multiple skull and facial fractures. Williams required several reconstructive surgeries, and had to learn to talk, and to sing, all over again. The signature look of beard, sunglasses and cowboy hat have all become part of his brand, but it all began to hide the scars from that mountain climbing accident.

Williams’ work in the 60s and 70s earned him a string of country music hits, but he wanted to be more than a “Hank Williams impersonator”.  A prodigously talented musician in his own right, Williams’ repertoire includes guitar, bass guitar, upright bass, steel guitar, banjo, dobro, piano, keyboards, harmonica, fiddle, and drums.

The country music establishment was slow to accept the new sound, but Hank Williams Jr. would not be denied. Sometimes recording and releasing two albums a year, Williams released 21 albums between 1979 and 1990, all certified “gold” by the Recording Industry Association of America. There were 44 Top Ten singles on the Billboard Country charts, including 10 No. 1 singles over the course of his career. In 1982, Bocephus had nine albums on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, simultaneously.HLN

From 1989 to 2011, a version of Bocephus’ song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” opened Monday Night Football broadcasts. In an October 3, 2011 interview with Fox News’ “Fox & Friends”, Williams described a June golf game between President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner as “one of the biggest political mistakes ever”.  Asked to explain, Williams said, “Come on. That’d be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu … in the shape this country is in?”

Predictably, the media outrage machine came to life – this would not do.  ESPN pulled the song from that night’s football game, the first of the season. Williams described his analogy as “extreme – but it was to make a point…I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me – how ludicrous that pairing was. They’re polar opposites, and it made no sense. They don’t see eye-to-eye and never will.” No matter. ESPN announced three days later that, after 22 years, Williams and his song were being pulled from all future broadcasts. ABC and the National Football League, were quick to follow suit. hank_jr_001

For the media, the business model depends on renting an audience to a sponsor.  The “controversy” would be squeezed for all it was worth, but Bocephus would have the last word.  He responded with a song, criticizing President Obama, ESPN and Fox & Friends, calling it “Keep the Change”.  As I write this, the song has had over 988,000 views on You Tube. Williams released the track on iTunes and via free download at his website, where it was downloaded over 180,000 times in just two days.

In the words of the song, Bocephus and all his rowdy friends were “outta there”.  A demonstration that, in an age of suffocating and humorless political correctness, even then, “A Country Boy will Survive”.