Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Mason Williams: Music + Comedy + Art

From David Bianculli‘s history of the Smothers Brothers’ groundbreaking television variety show, I discovered that Mason Williams was much more than the guy who wrote the million-selling instrumental, “Classical Gas.”   Williams not only recorded albums for Warner Brothers (and Mercury & Vee Jay) but also wrote incisive and edgy sketches for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (as well as The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Roger Miller Show, and Saturday Night Live, et al.) and produced a couple clever pieces of conceptual art, most notably an actual-size photograph of a Greyhound bus in 1967.

Mason Williams’ Bus Book –

A strictly do-it-yourself affair that came packaged thusly

That same year Williams released The Mason Williams Phonograph Record album with a cover photo that once again explored the intersection of art and Greyhound buses.  One of the more intriguing album tracks is a composition in which Williams fuses “baroque” musical elements with a bossa nova backbeat and sunny syllables sung in classic West Coast fashion:


Mason Williams (1968)

Billboard deemed the album a “Special Merit Pick” and posted this review in their March 23, 1968 edition:

TV comedy writer Mason Williams, known for his clever, satiric material on the Smothers Brothers Show, has put together a wacky and whimsical ode to musical styles, touching on all bases — classical, pop, folk, jazz, and compositions for orchestra.  Williams shows off a pleasant voice and a wealth of talent in “Wanderlove,” “She’s Gone Away” and “Long Time Blues.”


October 1968

Baroque-a-Nova” would faithfully serve as the B-side for “Classical Gas” worldwide — except in the Netherlands, where “Baroque-a-Nova” defied expectations by assuming the role of A-side (and “Classical Gas” – surprisingly – would not see single release until 1976).  “Baroque-a-Nova” would make “a very strong showing” in Canada, as reported in the October 21, 1968 issue of RPM Weekly, while here in the US, “Baroque-a-Nova” would reach at least the #79 position in the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the week ending October 26, 1968.


February 10, 1968



“It began by accident,” said Williams.  “Sort of a put-on that grew.”  Folded into an eleven-pound cardboard box, the project is boldly titled on the cover, “BUS,” and in smaller type it says:  “by Mason Williams.  Warning — Do not open in the wind.”  “I made 200 copies,” he said, “So far I’ve sold about 150.  I charge only what they cost me – $35 each – so I don’t make any money on it.  The oversized bus was merely another whim-come-true for a man who has roadtested a Royal typewriter by throwing it out of a car, and “painted” a sunflower by skywriting stem and leaves around the sun — which was the blossom.

Though Williams writes for the popular Smothers Brothers and wears a Mickey Mouse watch, he is surprisingly quiet and concerned about his work, its quality and progress.

Warner Brothers ad


June 21, 1969


“Baroque-a-Nova” would get reworked into a guitar-led orchestra arrangement (in a ‘Classical Gas’ vein) for Williams’ next Warner Bros/Seven Arts album, 1968’s The Mason Williams Ear Show,

Baroque-a-Nova (For Guitar & Orchestra)”

Mason Williams [1968]


LINK to Sunshine Pop

LINK to Brazilian +/- Bossa Nova

LINK to Vocal Instrumentals


The Three Song” – Pop Fugue

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One Response

  1. Chris,

    Checked out your blog. Thanks for the posting of info. Send me a mailing address and I’ll send you Baroque-A-Nova CD and music.

    Check me out on CD Baby if you’re interested.

    Mason Williams

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