Billboard, in their January 8, 1972 edition, would report this quirky news item in the Cincinnati division of their “From the Music Capitals Around the World” column:
“Rusty York, who heads up the Jewel Recording Studio[s] here, learned last week that the new ‘Smash-Up Derby’ commercial [for Cincinnati-based Kenner Products], which he created and did all the instrumental work, has been entered into the Hollywood Film Festival as an entry to select the best film commercial of the year. The commercial is currently being spotted on all three major networks.”
Kenner SSP Smash-Up Derby TV Commercial = Music by Rusty York
Rusty York’s Jewel Recording Studio – in Mt. Healthy, just north of Cincinnati – would begin releasing 45s in 1961 and would once host The Grateful Dead, believe it or not, according to Cliff Radel’s obituary for York in the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s February 4, 2014 edition.
You can survey Rusty York’s musical legacy in three ways:
Two memorable song titles that can only be found on the Jewel label:
“Baby You Can Scratch My Egg” – vintage 1967 San Francisco-style psych blues – and “Don’t Munkey with the Funky Skunky” – “post 60’s garage/proto punk” from 1974 that features maniacal drumming and laughing choruses that are strategically interrupted by a softly-spoken catch phrase intended to win over the Pre-K crowd.
Jewel Records featured 45 #1
“Baby You Can Scratch My Egg” The Fabulous Fish 1967
“Mike Reid, defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals [previously celebrated here], and Dee Felice [musical associate of James Brown] and his group set for early recording dates at Rusty York‘s Jewel studios. Felice recently cut two sides at Jewel. Sonny Simmons, Cleveland gospel promoter, in town recently to produce an album for the gospel-singing Monarchs at Jewel studios. Others in recently at Jewel to do gospel albums were Judy Cody of Akron; The Crossmen of Lansing, Mich.; and the Cooke Duet of Wise, Va.
Mad Lydia Wood, accompanied by Cincinnati Joe, did the warbling on six commercial spots on Wiedemann Beer for the Campbell-Mithun Agency of Minneapolis at Jewel last week. Mad Lydia and Joe have held forth at various locations here for the last several years.”
Rusty York, a former King rockabilly and country singer, bought some of King’s echo equipment and microphones for his own Jewel Recording Studios in suburban Mt. Healthy, Ohio. He even bought Nathan’s desk chair. “The Neumann tube mics cost $300 new in the early ’60s,” he said. “I just sold one for $2,800. Like King, quality doesn’t go out of style.”
Bonus Jewel 45 for steel guitar fans! 1977‘s “Rose City Chimes” by Chubby Howard
According to Linda J. York (who has the booklet Dick Clark hawked at the show), Rusty York opened the first Rock and Roll show at the Hollywood Bowl for Dick Clark!
Excerpt from Zero to 180’s Facebook Page
“Zero to 180’s latest piece pays tribute to a former King recording artist – Rusty York – whose kind and gentle nature and lack of ego may have accidentally conspired to obscure his legacy as an accomplished musician (who “could play any tune in any style“) as well as recording studio founder/engineer, whose Jewel recordings run the gamut of musical sounds and genres, not unlike King (and Fraternity and Counterpart).”
Friendly reminder: for optimal presentation do not view Zero to 180 on a smart phone!
Left to right — Standing: Phil Fosnaugh – keyboard/organ (deceased); Jerry Asher – bass (deceased); John Asher – guitar (now Evansville IN); Sitting Bill Shearer – drums (Gas City IN), Keith Murphy – lead singer/rhythm guitar (Long Valley, NJ)
“Slightly Reminiscent of Her” Keith Murphy & the Daze 1968
The Daze, Keith Murphy postulates, are among King’s final signings while Nathan was still actively involved:
“Louis Innis [previously celebrated here] was a wonderful man, and you can see from the letters [featured below] how nicely he treated me. No letters in 1967, then in 1968 I reapproached him with The Daze, the band of which I was lead singer. Again, the band was so sure the idea of getting a contract with King was so slim, none of the band members went with me to talk to King. As it turns out, it was just as well, for when King wanted only me as the lead singer songwriter, they did not resent my name being on the label. This was the pattern of King I thought, to just sign the lead singer/songwriter then they had one person to deal with and the most valuable property, like James Brown and the Famous Flames, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, etc. I did insist that the band name also be on the record and they were ok with that.
We recorded the record in May of 1968, but it was not released until September or October of that year. I see in their final letter, it was chaotic. Actually, Syd Nathan died in March 1968, and it was chaos then too, as I recorded about 2 months later. I suspect, but do not know, that I was one of the very last artists that was approved by Syd Nathan himself. Louis mentions that he wanted to see me alone to proceed forward, and they were releasing the record in England. I had just graduated from college, had a baby daughter, had a regular job and was too busy to attend to everything. I don’t think I ever went back. I think he mentioned something on the phone about re-recording the songs.”
The same single would find its release 6 months later in the UK on Polydor, albeit with the A and B sides flipped. Murphy would inform Zero to 180:
“I attached a picture of the exact Yellow King record [below] that was sent to England to see if Polydor was interested. As you can see, they considered ‘Dirty Ol’ Sam’ the A side there. I do know they must have shipped the tape or master there, as ‘Sam’ does not fade out in the UK version and is 7 seconds longer with a limp ending. It is a near miracle I have that record. The person who sold it worked for Polydor UK and was asked to clean out the warehouse or library. He kept the records, and confirmed it was where it came from and the markings on the record are the numbers that ended up as the Polydor number.”
This very King 45 led to the song’s issue in UK on Polydor: note ‘A’ & ‘B’ markings
The single’s UK release of 15 November, 1968, unfortunately, would be a mere 8 days or so before Starday* would sell the entire Starday-King operation to Lin Broadcasting for a mere $5 million (*see related vintage news item appended to this piece).
UK release on Polydor – with A & B sides flipped!
“Dirty Ol’ Sam” Keith Murphy & the Daze 1968
Keith Murphy & the Daze at Cincinnati’s King studios – May, 1968
Photo notes from Keith Murphy
“Here is the sole picture that was taken in the King Recording studio in May, 1968. L to R: Phil Fosnough – Keyboard; John Asher – Lead Guitar; Bill Shearer – Drums; Jerry Asher – Bass, Keith Murphy – Lead singer, songwriter. I remember two incidents during the recording session: Someone came in and said they needed to send somebody to the jail to give Hank Ballard a pack of cigarettes, he had been arrested for public intoxication. The other memory is that it was a hot day, and along side the building, the workers had the doors open and had a pressing machine partially outside to get some cooler air for the workers!”
Louis Innis & Keith Murphy:
Selected Correspondence || 1965-1968
Dec. 14, 1965: “Have [Becky Wiggins] do 3 or 4 different type songs” [see Q&A]
Dec. 21, 1965: “Please find copy of my agreements” + “5% of the retail price”
Jan. 25, 1966: “Anxious to get the sides recorded” + “what a rat race I’m in”
Feb. 17, 1966: Pardon the delay – “echo chambers have been out in the studio”
Apr. 13, 1966: “Returning your contracts so you can do something else” (!)
Sep. 16, 1968: “Record should be out pronto” + keep your chin up
Oct. 9, 1968: Final note = 45 to be issued in UK, but King “under new management”
PDF copy below of Keith Murphy’s contract with King (click on link)
Prior to the King 45, Murphy had actually recorded under the name Keith O’Conner as part of The Torkays, who recorded exclusively for Chicago’s Stacy Records (home of Al Casey, guitarist/bandleader behind three Lee Hazlewood A-sides in 1963 & 1964 for the label and not to be confused with The Torquays from Cincinnati’s Walnut Hills High School, located across the [future] interstate, interestingly enough, from King Records).
In that pre-Beatle era, O’Conner was part of a Mark, Don & Mel-type of arrangement (sorry, kids – that’s a Grand Funk Railroad joke) with The Torkays — Frank, Keith, and Jimmy — who would write a martial arts-themed composition, “Karate,” for their recording debut in 1963, with “I Don’t Like It (But What Can I Do)” on the flip.
Q & A with King Recording Artist, Keith O’Conner Murphy
Q: What led up to your getting signed by King? A: I started with a side project apart from my band The Daze. They felt the chances of getting on a R&B label was such a long shot that they did not want to pursue it. I wrote a Sonny and Cher type song called “We’re Gonna Get It” for myself and a girl named Becky Wiggins. I started talking to Louis Innis of King in 1965. He was very interested, as reflected in his letter which I have shared. Sometime in 1966, Ft. Wayne native Troy Shondell, who had the big hit “This Time,” persuaded her to record for his small label 3 Rivers as Beck Holland with “I’m Going Away.” So that scuttled the King deal. In 1968, I then connected with Louis again, by myself, as the band still did not think it was worth the effort. I actually was hoping to get on the Cincinnati Fraternity label, and interviewed with Harry Carlson, the owner. He was a genuine caring person, but did not see a place in their current roster for me. I liked his artist Mouse and the Traps, and he gave me a copy of their newly released “Sometimes You Just Can’t Win” – still one of my favorites. The label was also home to Lonnie Mack, who recently passed, and my all time guitar instrumental favorite “Memphis.” My next stop was King, and Louis was ready to go once I dropped some of my bold royalty demands!
Q: Was Louis Innis Innis your main point of contact, given Syd Nathan’s death in March, 1968? Who were some of the staff – as well as artists – you encountered during your time with King? A: I only worked with Louis Innis, a man I cannot say enough kind words for. The only other person was a King engineer who I do not know the name of. A white guy maybe in his 30’s.
Q: Where was “home base” during your time with King — and what were your impressions of Evanston, as well as Cincinnati, during your tenure with the label?
A: My home was the small country town of Sweetser, Indiana, and the other guys lived in the “big” town of Marion or the nearby Gas City. Grant County Indiana is the same small rural county that Fairmount is in — home of James Dean and Jim Davis who created Garfield.
Q: Did you live in Cincinnati for any extended period of time? A: I never lived in Cincy. Being in the middle of Indiana, we knocked on doors in Chicago, Memphis, Nashville, and Cincy — the major cities with record companies. I love Cincy, however, the hills and the friendliness and especially the Chili!
Q: I dig the far-out backdrop used in your King promotional photo — was that photo taken at King’s art studio and who designed the cool “Daze” logo? A: We had a booking agent, Bill Craig Jr. of Muncie, Indiana who I think partially owned a TV station there. He also managed the Chosen Few, who later were on RCA and Mercury. That photo was taken at a nightclub he owned called Halcyon Days, and he used it to get bookings. Our keyboard player who used a Hammond B3 Organ with a Leslie speaker, he made that DAZE sign which had colored lights that rotated behind it.
Q: Which make/model of electric guitars, basses & drums were plugged into the Fender amplifiers pictured in the King promo photo?
A: John played a Fender Jazzmaster, and at that time it looked like he was using Fender amps. At other times he used Sunn, and I think for a short time the rolled and pleated Custom amps. Jerry played a Fender bass, but bought a bass like Paul McCartney played sort of looked like a violin, a Hofner. He didn’t have it long when it got stolen off the stage when we played a club in Detroit called The Mummp.
Q: Where was home base originally for The Torkays, and what was the local response to your “Karate” 45 (which has a cool musical bridge, by the way, that loops back nicely to the verse)? A: “Karate” never got off the ground except in Pittsburgh. Stacy’s biggest hit record, “Surfin’ Hootenanny” rightfully pushed everything else aside. For some reason it has been revived on YouTube with several people posting it and 6,000 total views. I wrote a song “Tiddlywink” for a German rockabilly band Black Raven, and they recorded it. They have notified me they want to record “Karate.” I am surprised at the interest in this record.
← ↑ →
“Two Kings”: A True Tale by Keith Murphy
“Chip Taylor — did not know him, but we were both on the King label. He was on King under his real name Wes Voight.
“He was doing a concert here in NJ and I called him and left a message, and said I would like to meet him afterwards, telling him I was in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Well, I was out in the yard, but fortunately he left a phone message congratulating me! I met him after the concert and brought my and his King record and had him sign it along with my copies of “Wild Thing” on both the Atco and Fontana labels by the Troggs. Reg Presley of the Troggs died around that time, and Chip had flown to England to attend the funeral, as their careers were forever bound together by that one iconic great rock song. It is the example I always give of how important arrangement is. The Troggs had the creative genius to put an ocarina and other stuff on there. Chip just was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame [also famous for 1968 smash hit, “Angel of the Morning”] this summer, and I called him and congratulated. He should have been in there a long time ago.”
“Two Kings”: Chip Taylor (a.k.a., Wes Voight) and Keith Murphy
Keith Murphy is also a voting member of the Grammys and Country Music Association
A K i n g R e c o r d s V i n t a g e H i s t o r y M o m e n t
Lin Broadcasting Buys Starday-King for $5 Mil; Execs Policy Retained
NASHVILLE — Lin Broadcasting Corp., owner of communication outlets, has purchased Starday and King Records and their affiliated companies for $5 million.
Fred Gregg Jr., Lin’s chairman of the board and president, said this would mean a great expansion program here. “It will mean an additional $6 million to $8 million in gross income to the Nashville music economy,” he said.
The corporate structure of Starday-King will remain the same, with Don Pierce, president; Hal Neely, vice-president; Jim Wilson, vice-president for marketing; Johnny Miller in charge of the Cincinnati office; Henry Glover, manager of the New York office; and Harlen Dodsen, general counsel.
“Nashville will now be a complete operation in the rhythm and blues field,” Pierce said. Pierce said James Brown now would record here, and would bring in the “right musicians for the r&b sound.” Just having Brown record here, he said, would give tremendous impetus in this direction. “Now that we’re working under a huge corporate structure,” Pierce said, “we can effect economies, efficiencies, acquisitions and total expansion. We can compete for larger acts, go after great catalogs.” He made it clear, though, that the sale in no way affects the operation of the business or its past policies.
Both Gregg and Pierce said they plan new overseas music companies in England, Germany and France at first, and eventually in other nations. Pierce said the firm would expand its overseas distribution and exploit its various companies around the world.
The Starday president said he was obtaining a record club contract for King with Columbia, RCA and Capitol, the same ones with which Starday now has an arrangement. He said the club membership would include James Brown.
Pierce, one of the founders of the Country Music Association, was Billboard’s Man of the Year in 1962 and is vice-president of RIAA. Starday was founded in 1952 in Los Angeles and moved here in 1957.
Recently (Billboard, Oct. 26) Starday acquired the King Records operation. Those holdings included the record and distribution operation and masters, Lois Music and its publishing subsidiaries, the Royal Plastics Pressing operation, and the long-term contract of Brown. Starday holdings include Hollywood, Look and Nashville Records, and Starday, Tarheel and Kamar Music.
Bonus Craft Project! Make Your Own King Records stationery
In his profile of Van Dyke Parks from this past April, Elyadeen Anbar wrote that “despite his unfavorable opinions on anglo-pop music [i.e., during Beatlemania’s first wave], Parks did become more interested in songwriting and landed a hit with his composition ‘High Coin,’ when it was recorded by San Francisco beat group The Charlatans” – i.e., on their 1969 debut album — two years after Battyn’s version.
As it turns out, “High Coin” had already been recorded by a handful of artists going back as far as 1965 with Bobby Vee, who, by the way, appears to have muscled his way in on the songwriting credits. Note that the song, however, got passed over for A-side when released in Australia.
“Well, I was working for a group called the Brandywine Singers, playing guitar, and I was earning £3,000 a week playing at this casino in Reno, Nevada. That was a lot of money then… it’d be a lot of money now! And we had a two-week job there, and I got in a Mustang convertible with Hal Brown, the bass player – who went on to become the Supreme Court justice of Alaska – and we drove to this almost ghost town, an old wild west town with a few dozen people left living there, and we got out of the car and walked into the saloon. Hal had his double bass and I had my guitar, and in the saloon there were four guys in the corner, in a crowd of smoke that smelt funny.
“They were the house band, The Charlatans, and they all looked like Neil Young on a bad day! One of them was Dan Hicks. And we asked if we could play a song or two, and they were derisive because I looked like a little square, but I got on and I sang ‘High Coin‘ and they fell on the floor and asked if I’d mind if they recorded it. I was just delighted. They took the song, I went back to Los Angeles, and I was broke… but then I got the news that ‘High Coin‘ was on the radio in San Francisco. And that established me with the counter-culture.”
It’s always a thrill when somebody who actually served on the front lines of music history reaches out to help fill in some of the historical gaps. Just last month, Danny Faragher of the Peppermint Trolley Company chimed in on an earlier NRBQ piece that attempts to identify the earliest popular recording of a clavinet:
“I played a clavinet while recording with our group, the Peppermint Trolley Company (1967-68). We cut our hit single, ‘Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind’ in November of 1967 for Acta. The record broke in May and June of 1968. I played the instrument through a Fender amp with the tremolo prominent. I used it throughout our eponymously titled LP. In the Seventies, recording with the bands, Bones, and the Faragher Brothers, I would return to the ax occasionally, playing more in the R&B style pioneered by Stevie Wonder and Billy Preston.”
“Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind” Peppermint Trolley Company 1967
“Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind” would stay in the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for ten weeks and peak in July, 1968 just inside the Top 60. Billboard would identify this single as worthy of its “Special Merit Spotlight” (new singles “deserving special attention of programmers and dealers”) in the February 3, 1968 edition: “Smooth blend of voice, good material in an easy beat folk rock vein with much commercial appeal.”
Picture sleeve for UK 45 on EMI’s Stateside imprint
But wait a minute, why does the song title sound familiar? And Jesse Lee Kincaid, the person who penned the tune — why does that name ring a bell? That’s because Zero to 180 already featured “Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind” back in December, 2014!
How curious to learn that the Peppermint Trolley Company would be part of a lineup for a big music event attended by 120,000 people at an amusement park in Aurora, Ohio in 1968, just one year before my dad would relocate to that rural Cleveland suburb from Cincinnati — as chronicled on Danny Faragher’s website:
“‘Our live dates were rare’ – (says Faragher) – ‘We probably played about ten gigs during the entire life span of the band… Bakersfield, Phoenix, and then there was the Biggie in Cleveland.’ This ‘Biggie’ was a package concert …WIXY’s second annual ‘Appreciation Day,’ held on August 2, 1968 in Geauga Lake Park, just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. The Peppermint Trolley Company. shared the stage with Gene Pitney, The Box Tops, Jay and the Techniques, The 1910 Fruitgum Co., and [Ted Nugent’s] Amboy Dukes. The event drew a crowd of 120,000 attendees. At that time, it was the largest audience ever assembled in the Cleveland area.”
In addition to arranging and singing the original Brady Bunch theme, the Peppermint Trolley Company would also make a guest appearance on The Beverly Hillbillies, as well as this episode of detective series, Mannix (where the owner of the recording studio is played by Harry Dean Stanton, who would later introduce The Replacements on their sole Saturday Night Live appearance):
The Beatles – EMI artists – listed on the rear of Peppermint Trolley’s UK picture sleeve:
Yesterday’s piece about London’s Chalk Farm Studios omitted the fact that this recording facility had actually begun life as Rayrik Sound – established in 1964 by Bruce “Ray” Rae and Caro “Rick” Minas. And although Eric Clapton & Cream’s debut album had been recorded at Rayrik two years later, the studio would be close its doors in 1968, only to re-open that same year as Chalk Farm.
Rick Minas, who had begun his musical career as part of a songwriting partnership with Mike Banwell, would strike out in the mid-60s for a solo career. Minas – using the alias, Sasha Caro – would release a pair of singles in 1967 and 1968 that found none other than Cat (“I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun“) Stevens sitting in the producer’s chair. In a cheeky move, Caro would select (ironically perhaps) “Never Play a B-Side” for the second single’s B-Side — summon the courage to play it, if you dare:
Rick ‘Sasha Caro’ Minas “Never Play a B-Side” 1968
Cream’s Inaugural Single: Doo-Doo
American audiences are largely unaware that Cream’s UK debut single – recorded at the Chalk Farm sessions – would be excluded from their 1st album (except in Sweden, oddly). “Wrapping Paper” would be the A-side of their first 45 released in the UK, Germany, and Australia. Ginger Baker, in a 2007 interview, would denounce “Wrapping Paper” as “the most appalling piece of [poo] I’ve ever heard in my life!” and express more than a little frustration that the song was merely a vehicle to generate publishing royalties for the emerging songwriting “club” of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown.
Rare [mimed] Performance of “Wrapping Paper” 1966 French TV
[Is Jack Bruce playing a 6-string bass during this televised performance?]
45Cat contributor, BiffBamPow, would hilariously describe “Wrapping Paper” as “the most ridiculous debut single by anybody” and point out that B-side “Cat’s Squirrel” is much more representative of the band’s sound.
Yesterday’s piece about Sagittarius (et al.) brought to mind one particular Curt Boettcher song that too few people have heard, 1969’s (demo only) “Lament of the Astral Cowboy” — one hundred forty mesmerizing seconds, each one of them echo-filled:
Could this be what Gram Parsons had envisioned when he came up with the idea of “Cosmic American Music”? Curt Boettcher, who would compose/produce for Sagittarius and Millenium and also serve as house producer for Columbia, would briefly form a label with Gary Usher & Keith Olsen (Together Records) and ultimately give “Lament of the Astral Cowboy” to Together artist, Michele O’Malley, for her one and only album release, Saturn Rings (where O’Malley would alter the title slightly to “Astro Cowboy”).
Boettcher would later release a solo album on Elektra, 1973’s There’s an Innocent Face, after the folding of his label. Sessions for a follow-up album, Chicken Little Was Right, did take place briefly before Curt left Elektra to pursue a career as a session vocalist, and as the liner notes indicate, “there is reason to believe ‘Astral Cowboy’ was planned to appear on Chicken Little Was Right.”
Glen Campbell: The Voice Behind “My World Fell Down” by Sagittarius
Tip of the hat to The Big Takeover‘s Jack Rabid for his illuminating and well-researched review in AllMusic of Sagittarius’s Present Tense from 1968, an album centered around its ‘enthralling’ single, “My World Fell Down” – a song that features, surprisingly enough, the guest vocal talents of Glen Campbell:
“The initial 1967 single, “My World Fell Down” — which went to number 70 in the charts — is largely sought after by the most fanatical of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys followers, since it not only replicates that unique and incomparable production value, but benefits greatly from a lead vocal by Glen Campbell. Not his “Rhinestone Cowboy” voice, it’s the more angelic, boyish Mike Love tones he employed when then touring and recording with the Beach Boys. As well, real Beach Boy Bruce Johnston sings a key part, as does fellow producer Terry Melcher and vaunted session man Hal Blaine sits in. Mixing “Good Vibrations” with “God Only Knows,” “My World Fell Down” is a missing link to pre-breakdown Brian Wilson’s obsessions, particularly the bonus-track single version, which blends in pre-psychedelia sounds of a bullfight, an alarm clock, and a crying infant. Subsequent recordings found Usher teaming with singer/writer/producer Curt Boettcher, whom Usher met while working with Wilson, and some use songs from the latter’s singing group Ballroom and players from Boettcher’s new, real band Millennium.”
“Sister Marie” – a great song that slipped between the cracks – found belated release as a bonus instrumental on the CD release of Sagittarius’s Present Tense (1968 Columbia LP, originally). According to the liner notes: “Gary Usher recorded this backing track with Sagitarrius in mind but decided to give it to Chad & Jeremy instead.” Chad & Jeremy’s version of “Sister Marie,” meanwhile, was released as a non-LP single (that didn’t chart), while Nilsson’s version would end up a mere B-side. I agree with the 45Cat contributor who declares “Sister Marie” to be “one of the great lost Nilsson recordings”:
“Sister Marie” by Harry Nilsson — February, 1968
In a fascinating bit of coincidence, Nilsson would release his B-side in February of 1968 at the same time Columbia would issue for the German market an A-side also entitled, “Sister Marie,” by the artist, Marquis of Kensington. Not the same tune, as you can hear:
“Sister Marie” by Marquis of Kensington — February, 1968
Says Chad Stuart on the Chad & Jeremy website:
“‘Sister Marie’ was our last single and if it does anything at all, it clearly illustrates the production expertise which comes from a lot of hours in the studio. Curt Boettcher’s higher-than- high voice is evident on this track, as is the technical wizardry of Keith Olsen. Jeremy hated all that “ear candy” as it later came to be called, and in retrospect, I can understand how a Moody Blues sort of bloke like I was then would not get along too well with a J. J. Cale kinda guy like Jeremy aspired to be!”
At some point in my youth – can’t pinpoint exactly when – the name “Nimrod” began to enjoy heavy use by male teens as an epithet of some repute in terms of its ability to convey strong public doubt about the intended victim’s masculinity. Wiktionary points out that a Bugs Bunny reference to Elmer Fudd as a “poor little Nimrod” may have greatly contributed to its current use as a pejorative term akin to “idiot,” “doofus,” or “lamebrain.”
But then in a recent episode of TV sketch comedy, Key & Peele, I was struck by a small bit where you see the two comedians tooling down a desert highway in a classic 1960s muscle car, casually informing viewers, in the course of conversation, that Nimrod was – contrary to public perception – depicted in The Bible as a mighty hunter and man of great power (according to the Book of Genesis and the Books of Chronicles, this son of Cush and great-grandson of Noah was also once the King of Shinar).
So, of course, I had to go search the 45Cat database to see if any pop/rockers had embraced the power of the Nimrod name prior to the 1980s, when it had greater cachet. The answer? New Zealand’s own, The House of Nimrod. The song? “Slightly-delic.” The year? (braying of brass) 1967!
“In late 1967, House of Nimrod gobbled up New Zealand’s Christmas pop charts with the mischievous oddity ‘Slightly-Delic’, a song experimenting with the sound of the summer – harmony-laden psychedelic pop.
“A chance meeting between Bryce Petersen, a North Shore based children’s folk singer/songwriter, and Australian guitarist Johnny Breslin, produced enough creative sparks for a band and two singles. Breslin had been trying to get a group together and knew a 20 year-old drummer from South Auckland, Billy Lawton, late of The Plague (with Corben Simpson). Lawton knew a blue-playing guitarist and philosophy student Tony Pilcher (21) and young Māori bass guitarist Larry Latimer (20).”