Sunday, July 6, 2008

A third side of Jim Stafford

We all know that Jim Stafford recorded some humorous songs.

Some of us know that Jim Stafford recorded some excellent bayou songs, such as "The Last Chant" (I just referred to it).

But what I didn't know is that Jim Stafford is a master of the guitar. Listen to this video, in which he eventually gets around to playing "Classical Gas."

Sort of.

And of course, you know why Stafford would play this song in Tom Smothers' presence.

Mason [Williams] composed the song while he was the head writer for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" in 1968, and he appeared on the program playing the song a number of times. He and the Smothers Brothers have collaborated on a number of TV specials and recordings, and they have played quite a role in each others entertainment careers.

But Williams worked on another comedy show, but not in its glory days. Kenneth Bowser's TV special had little - very little - OK, nothing - to say about Williams:

Jean Doumanian produced [Saturday Night Live] in 1980-81, an awful season....

From that first, tumultuous post-classic "SNL" season, we hear from Joe Piscopo, Gilbert Gottfried and a few others, but not from Doumanian. We don't hear from Charles Rocket, who recently died, though we do see his infamous "F-word" utterance on live TV. And Mason Williams, lured out of early retirement after "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" to head the writing staff, isn't even mentioned.

Hill and Weingrad said a little more in the purple book. Here's a brief excerpt:

Williams began challenging Jean [Doumanian] aggressively, telling her "over and over again," he says, that she didn't know what she was doing and that she should turn the creative work over to him. Just as quickly Williams soon found himself without even a semblance of power on the show....

Mason Williams left Saturday Night '80 (and his $4,000 a show salary) by Christmas, six weeks after he arrived. He went back to his house in the Oregon woods and threw away his television set.

And today? Jim Stafford is in Branson, Mason Williams is standing in a river, and Jean Doumanian was a producer for a film about Neal Cassady.

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