My Musical Roots - Spike Jones & His City Slickers

First off, it's important for you to understand that my dad was a clown of the hobo/bumpkin variety, like Emmett Kelly or Clem Kadiddlehopper. Sometimes he dressed up for parades, in which he swept up after the horses only to threaten to deposit the "road apples" on the feet of innocent bystanders. This always elicited a lot of laughter as the kids ran away screaming. It was his schtick, and he came by it naturally as his father had been a child star in Vaudeville who grew up to be a clownish song-and-dance Man, as they were termed in those days...

Granddad did outlandish things on stage like run around his drum set, playing and never missing a beat, and playing the piano upside-down, backwards, and with his toes (not simultaneously. I don't think). While Dad (who inherited his father's Austrian toilet humor) was often mistaken for William Bendix, his sense of humor was more like Red Skelton's.

Being a show-off was a must if you wanted to survive our family, and it's something I naturally continue to perpetuate with my own family and friends. Everyone got their turn in the spotlight, and if that would be troublesome for you, you wouldn't last long. Not that we'd cast you out, we'd just rush to get our time on stage and run you over. It's nothing personal, you understand. The Wallers have always lived to entertain and to play for the laugh.

I have a colorful family.

Dad loved Spike Jones & His City Slickers so much that he frequently had me sit with him in front of the TV late on Saturday nights to watch old footage of their antics. He also raised me on the Ritz Brothers, the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

Growing up with Spike Jones helped me to develop my already well-established Waller humor, but it taught me something else: how to add humor to music. I tried my own hand at it when I was a teenager, although I didn't know that's what I was doing. I mean, I knew I was writing comedy/parody songs, but I didn't know I was just following in some pretty impressive footsteps.

MAIN INFLUENCES: Musical parody, satire and sight gags. "Bastardizing" songs—changing the lyrics to something funny (I was doing that LONG before anyone ever heard of Weird Al). Use of "funny" instruments such as the kazoo, slide whistle, etc.

Here's Spike et al.