Saturday, August 11, 2007

Jones Spiked the Music ...

Lindley Armstrong Jones likely had quite an influence on your music appreciation values. Especially if you listened to lots of radio and regularly played 78 rpm records during the 1940s and early 1950s.

Lindley, whose nickname was “Spike” was born in 1911 and he grew up to become a popular musician and bandleader. He was nicknamed “Spike” because he was so skinny and his father worked for Southern Pacific Railroad. So Lindley became “Spike” relating to thin railroad spikes . The very name of Spike Jones became synonymous with crazy music.

Jones specialized in performing satirical arrangements of popular songs. Also, he would “rip” up ballads and classical works with gunshots, whistles, cowbells and weird-sounding vocals. During his early tours through the United States and Canada, his band was known as, “The Musical Depreciation Revue.”

I first heard about Spike Jones from my big sister, Ann. You see, when I was about 10 years old, Ann was 14. We had a record player and radio console in our living room. It was a Zenith floor-model. Ann had talked my dad into buying this music-playing piece of furniture because she wanted it. You know, big sisters have a way of getting whatever they want out of their dads. Little brothers don’t stand a chance. I even had to save up my allowance to buy an electric train for Christmas. Of course Santa Claus brought the train to me but I had to mail him the money to pay for it. Did you ever hear of anyone having to pay Santa for Christmas presents? Anyway, my sister just said, “Puh-leeze, Daddy,” and he bought her this console.

Ann loved to play her 78 rpm records at full volume. Now “full volume” was really loud if you were turning it up on a Zenith floor-model radio/record player console. Those huge twin magnet speakers in the lower portion of the machine would vibrate and the entire neighborhood could “enjoy” my sister’s music. Remember that in those days, there was little air-conditioning to go around. Most of the houses utilized attic fans that would pull air in through the windows and exhaust through vents in the attic. But with the windows open for air to come in, that meant there were open windows for loud music to go out. And it did. My sister constantly was buying new recordings to keep on hand her favorite songs of the day.

One day as I was approaching the house I heard laughter. Not just a little laughter from one person but lots of loud uncontrollable laughter by several individuals. The closer I got to the house the louder the laughter became. It turned out that my sister had fallen in love with some of the crazy music of Spike Jones and his band known by this time as The City Slickers.

The song causing the laughter was, “The Flight of the Bumblebee.” Of course Spike Jones’ rendition was quite different from the original written by Nicolai Rimsky-Koraskov in his opera, “The Tale of Tsar Saltan.” It seems that the soloist on Spike’s recording, playing a tuba, could not quite get going. Everytime he began his solo, he would have to stop and sneeze. This tickled the other band members to such an extent that finally they could do nothing but laugh. And laugh they did, for nearly two full minutes. Even today most folks of that era refer to the recording as, “Spike Jones’ Laughing Record.” Read more about this madman of music at

Later in life I purchased for myself a nice RCA Radio/Turntable/Cassette Console. When my daughter saw it, she wanted it so I gave it to her. After all, she said, “Puh-leeze, Daddy.” Go figure …

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise


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