Tuesday, March 20, 2007

der Fuehrer's Face - part 3 - Spike Jones

Lindley Armstrong "Spike" Jones was born on December 14th, 1911, in Long Beach, California. The son of a Southern Pacific Railroad employee, Jones acquired his nickname because people thought the youngster was as thin as a railroad spike.

Jones received his first musical instrument, a drum set, when he was 11 years old. The set sparked what would eventually become a lifelong passion for making music. In the 1930s Jones performed with the Victor Young Band. For a time Jones also performed with legendary singer Del Porter. From 1937 to 1942 Jones was a member of the John Scott Trotter Orchestra.

Jones teamed with fellow musicians George Rock, Mickey Katz, Doodles Weaver and Red Ingle to form Spike Jones and his City Slickers. At the pinnacle of his career, Jones' group was composed of 16 musicians. An article appearing in the November 3rd, 1942 issue of the New York Post Magazine referred to Jones as,"the music master of a little group of jazz musicians." Jones' trademark was to parody the day's popular songs.

Jones recorded der Fuehrer's Face on July 28, 1942, in Hollywood, California. The song was released on the "B" side of a Bluebird 78 rpm record (B-11586) in September 1942. A limited number of preview pressings were distributed to radio stations around the United States and in a matter of weeks the song was the rage of the airwaves - the song spent 16 weeks on the charts and climbed as high as number three.
Click here to listen to the recording.

New York radio personality Martin Block played the song on his "Make Believe Ballroom" program. After Block played the song for the first time, the station received literally hundreds of phone calls asking him to play the song again. Block used the song as a vehicle to sell War Bonds - he offered a free copy of the record to anyone who pledged a $50 bond.

Block's promotion was so successful, "...in two days...the song had earned $60,000 for Uncle Sam...Bluebird was $350,000 behind in...orders and Southern Music, which published the sheet music...reported they had sold 15,000 copies of the song."

The record label credits Carl Grayson as the singer. The label also lists Willie Spicer on the "birdaphone," the musical instrument used to make the razzing sound. Willie Spicer was not a member of the band - as a matter of fact the name was apparently made-up just to make the label more attractive.

Like many of his generation, Jones was a heavy smoker. He died of emphysema on May 1st, 1965 and was buried inthe Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

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