Thursday, August 22, 2013

Right up the Old Kazoo

A song came on my MP3 player the other day, which reminded me of one of my family’s classic pranks, from back in the early 80s. Let me set the stage…

Back then, it was our practice to keep in touch with our departed friends via cassette tape. (Obviously, I mean “departed” as in “departed from our neighborhood,” as opposed to “departed this life.”) Mostly, we sent tapes back and forth with our buddy Billy G, who had moved to Georgia. It was a fun way of keeping in touch and a way in which the recipient could hear from several people all at once.

So, my dad had a friend who lived in Worchester Mass, and went by the name of “The Lob.”  You may remember The Lob from a previous post called “The Legend of the Rattler,” where in an audio clip, Dad tells the story of a red-eye train trip he took with The Lob, that left them falling down drunk... literally.

Dad decided that we should do a tape for The Lob, and since he was providing the Barn and the beer, we were up for it. The Lob knew our neighborhood group from when he came along on one of our Steelers/Browns trips to Cleveland. Since he was basically a 50-year-old kid anyway, he fit right in.

Director’s DVD Commentary: “The Lob” is an old-time term for one’s junk. I have no idea how the guy came by the nickname, (I suspect it was self-appointed), but I’m sure there are a lot of people that know him by that name only.

I don’t remember all that we did on that tape, but I remember two bits. In one, Dad simply brought the tape recorder around to everyone and asked what we thought of The Lob. That brought this exchange with one of our teen-aged neighbor girls:

Dad: What do YOU think of The Lob?
Girl: I LOVE The Lob!

Dad said The Lob played that part over and over. I think the girl thought he was called The Lob because of his tennis game.

The other bit took a bit more planning. 

Remember back in the early 80s, when they had songs out like “Stars on 45” or “Hooked on Classics?”  They were made up of a bunch of song snippets all strung together, usually with a disco beat behind them. “Hooked on Classics” was made up of famous riffs from classical music.

I had a bunch of Doctor Demento compilation records and on one of them, there was something called “Kazooed on Klassics,” by a group called the Temple City Kazoo Orchestra.  Basically, it was 2 minutes of “Hooked on Classics,” done on kazoos. You may have even heard a part of it before… it was used in “16 Candles” for a scene on a school bus. Anyway, it was fairly intricate, with multiple parts all going at once, not unlike an orchestra.

We were including some goofy Doctor Demento stuff for the Lob Tape when it occurred to me, due to my college radio training, that we could make it sound like it was us performing the song. I had a kazoo myself, and with some audio sleight of hand, we were able to sell the story.

Dad went into a big introduction about how we got all the kids in the neighborhood together to practice a song for him, and how we worked so hard on it. Then to “introduce the band,” we went around the room and Dad would ask, “Are you ready?

The person would answer yes, and then give a toot on the kazoo. Then he’d ask the next person, we’d pass him the kazoo, and they’d give a toot, and so on.

After we’d all blown a note on Kazoo, bringing to mind a whole Kazoo-tooting army, he counted us down: OK, 1….2…3!

(This is the real song, not “our version.” I love how the William Tell Overture goes right into the Can-Can. Straaange bedfellows.)

We recorded the song using a portable tape player, as opposed to taping it internally with the stereo.  That way, our vocalizations and exhortations could be heard simultaneously with the song. And because I was an “experienced radio DJ,” I knew how to have the needle on the record ahead of time, so the needle plunking down on the record wouldn't come across on tape. I was just praying it wouldn't skip. When the song ended, we all erupted in cheers, as if we’d just given the performance of a lifetime.

We totally pulled it off. When we played it back, it really sounded like it was us playing the song.  Luckily, The Lob didn’t know us well enough to know that we would have been completely incapable of playing something that intricate, without months of practice. (And who had time for that, when there was so much beer to drink?)

Usually, when I made a tape for someone, I’d knock off a copy for myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that with The Lob Tape. I’d love to hear it again, to see if it was as good as I remember.

Anyway, Dad said The Lob bought our act completely. He said he was touched that we’d put in that much effort just to entertain him. I kept asking Dad when he was going to tell him that it was actually a record, but Dad wouldn’t tell him. Even now, it’s 30 years later and he still hasn’t told him about it. To me, a prank isn’t a prank until the victim realizes it’s a prank. 

Knowing Dad, he’s probably got a second part to the plan, just waiting for the right moment…

And just so you don’t think we were picking on the guy, he and Dad had a long history of pranking each other and sending joke packages. This little con fit right in.


Mary Ann said...

Da Lob is alive and well and still unaware.

bluzdude said...

...of a great many things, I bet...

sherry stanfa-stanley said...

I know I've mentioned this a zillion times, but I really wish we'd known each other in high school. We'd have been great friends. And probably prom dates.

When I was packing to move a couple months ago, I came across a few cassette tapes of some funny stuff my friends and I did in junior high. I look forward to playing them when I finally finish unpacking--probably in 2025.

bluzdude said...

You would have fit right in.

I still have a whole bunch of tapes we made from that era. Both BillG and I were aspiring radio personalities, so we had our creativity running freely. Like I said, I wish I kept a copy of this one.