Spike Jones

Active - 1945 - 1992  |   Born - Dec 14, 1911   |   Died - May 1, 1965   |   Genres - Comedy, Music, Musical

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Biography by AllMovie

Diminutive, silver-haired bandleader Spike Jones didn't intend to gain fame as "the man who murdered music" (as he was described by one biographer); it just turned out that way. During the first 12 years or so of his professional career, Jones, the son of a Long Beach railway station agent, worked as a drummer for radio orchestra leaders Victor Young, Henry King, Cookie Fairchild, John Scott Trotter, and Billy Mills. In 1940 he formed his own group called the City Slickers. Essentially a Dixieland aggregation (one of the best, in fact), Jones and his boys got together on weekends to perform wacky variations on such classics as "The William Tell Overture" and "Dance of the Hours." This peculiar form of musical relaxation became a full-time job when, in 1942, the City Slickers recorded a novelty tune titled "Der Fuhrer's Face." The song caught on like wildfire with the public, its immortality assured when it served as the basis for a Donald Duck cartoon. By the end of 1942, Jones and company were touring the country with their "musical depreciation revue," performing on such novel musical instruments as the anvilphone and the latrinophone. The City Slickers used cowbells, shotguns, and the gurgling gullet of comedian Mickey Katz (Joel Grey's dad) to slaughter such standards as "Cocktails for Two" (hic!), "Chloe" ("Where are ya, you old bat?"), and "You Always Hurt the One You Love" (kar-RUNCH!). Thanks to constant radio exposure, such City Slickers as Doodles Weaver, Carl Grayson, and Horatio W. Birdbath became as famous as Jones himself. The group made its feature film debut in Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), making subsequent guest appearances in Bring on the Girls (1945), Variety Girl (1947), and many others. In 1954, Jones and the City Slickers were teamed with Buddy Hackett and Hugh O'Brien (last-minute replacements for Abbott and Costello) in Fireman Save My Child (1954), in which they were required to act as well as make music. While they never became movie stars, Jones and his boys continued to flourish on television into the 1960s in such weekly series as Club Oasis, most of these featuring Jones' wife Helen Grayco as vocalist. After the death of Spike Jones in 1965, the band made a few sporadic appearances under the baton of Spike Jones, Jr.