Bob Johnston – who famously produced Bob Dylan‘s Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde and Johnny Cash‘s Folsom Prison, among many other classic albums – left us last August. How startling to discover that Johnston used Nashville’s finest session musicians in 1966 to record a “dazzling anti-masterpiece” (as notes AllMusic’s Mark Deming) that delighted in “punking” the pop radio hits of the day — a Columbia release with the comically bloated title, Moldy Goldies — Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston And His Mystic Knights Band And Street Singers Attack The Hits.
Sean Wilentz, in Bob Dylan in America, would deem it “one of the most obscure rock albums of the 1960s.” Nashville Cream, in a 2012 interview with Johnston, would describe the album as, “superbly demented.”
Check out the vaguely Sgt.Pepper-inspired album cover
And yet this album was released in 1966 – prior to Pepper!
Listen as Bob and the boys deconstruct Shirley Ellis‘s “The Name Game” to hilarious effect — try not to laugh when Johnston starts to lose it:
Leader – Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston
Bass – Henry “Big Irish” Strzelecki
Drums – Kenneth “Sledgehammer” Buttrey
Tambourine – Durl Glin & Kenneth “Sledgehammer” Buttrey
Guitar – Charlie “Bugs” McCoy & One-Finger Mac Gayden
Upright Piano – Hargus “Pig” Robbins
Player Piano – Jerry Smith
Harmonica – Charlie “Bugs” McCoy & Henry “Big Irish” Strzelecki
Trombone – Wayne “Tailgate” Butler
Trumpet – Charlie “Bugs” McCoy & “Taps” Tidwell
Violin – Brenton “Ping-Pong” Banks
Vocals – Durl Glin, Princess La Mar Fike, Mortuary Thomasson & Tommy “Mole” Hill
Vocals – [Swamp Women] – Incomparable R. Lean & Luscious Norma Jean Owen
Producer = Bob Johnston
Engineer = Mortuary Thomasson
Liner notes –
Here they are, America, direct from their triumphant concert engagement at Snyder’s Garage, deep in the heart of our nation’s cultural melting pot! MOLDY GOLDIES brings you all of the majesty, spectacle and glorious sound of Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston and his Mystic Knights Band and Street Singers. They cast today’s fleeting hits in a mold that indelibly stamps on each the word “Forever.”
The recording session at Willard Fleeber’s studio in Wounded Knee, New Jersey, was truly a sight to behold. As the Colonel shook his plumed shako, tapped a brown-and-white oxford, and gave his famous figure-eight downbeat to the musicians, an engineer in the control booth marveled, “They’re not to be believed!” But hearing is believing.
As vividly as the pages of history have immortalized Custer’s Last Stand at Little Bighorn, so the miracle of recording has preserved the sound that will someday be heard ‘round the world. MOLDY GOLDIES, as devastatingly performed by Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston and his Mystic Knights and Street Singers, not only attack the hits, it annihilates them!
The nucleus of the great Mystic Knights band is pictured on the cover [above] in a moment of inspiration. Front row (left to right) O. X. Bellyman, wizard of the tuba, crackerjack percussionist Montezuma Lovechild, and the beloved Colonel himself. In back row, barely standing: Sir Wallace Bile, soft-shoe and sleight-of-hand star, sneak violinist “Swine” Halbstarker, and Tonto Levine, artisan of miscellaneous wind effects.
Final musician credit:
Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston: Demolition expert 3rd Class, planned and led the gallant charge on these hits; was awarded the medal of the Brass Spittoon with cluster for this dangerous mission.