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Don Surber: Bring back the Transylvania Twist

Democrats indicted Gov. Rick Perry of Texas on a flimsy charge of abuse of power.

Their plan is backfiring as the public rallies around the Republican governor.

Glenn Foden, syndicated editorial cartoonist, depicted the Texas Democrats as Gen. Custer and the 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn.

I used Twitter to “thank” Foden for putting in my head the 1960 hit by Larry Verne, “Mr. Custer.”

To jar the memory of readers, the song’s most famous line is, “Please, Mr. Custer, I don’t wanna go.”

The song could have changed history. If President Lyndon Johnson had played it at Cabinet meetings, we may have been spared Vietnam.

The song is of an era when music on the radio was not always serious.

From the Merry Macs harmonizing “Mairzy Doats“ in 1944 to Steve Martin’s “King Tut” in 1978, the music of our lives has had its humorous moments.

The novelty song is a genre of music that reminds the other genres of music not to lighten up, Francis.

Allan Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” -- co-written with Louis Busch -- is based on Amilcare Ponchielli’s ballet, “Dance of the Hours.”

The song could use a little lightening. It is part of an opera about the Inquisition.

The 1950s were a heyday for novelty songs.

Rostom Sipan Bagdasarian, under the name David Seville, came up with Alvin and the Chipmunks, who live on today.

Unfortunately, the group has become a cover band. The days of original material for the group have gone ting tang walla walla bing bang.

Stan Freberg did send-ups of popular tunes. His targets were not always happy.

Freberg may be the only man in history to tick off both Harry Belafonte and Lawrence Welk.

Well done.

Rappers owe a nod to novelty songwriter Dickie Goodman, who sampled popular songs for his series of Flying Saucer songs. That drew legal action from the artists.

Serious singers were not above the genre.

British singer-songwriter’s Lonnie Donegan’s biggest U.S. hit asked the musical question, “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (On the Bedpost Overnight)?”

And I’d not be a Mountaineer if I didn’t mention Larry Groce’s “Junk Food Junkie” song of 1976.

Novelty songs rock. And their artists deserve respect.

Four years before he broke the charts with “The Streak” in 1974, Ray Stevens won a Grammy for the more serious, “Everything Is Beautiful.”

Most novelty songs come and go. But Halloween would not be the same without Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt Kickers “Monster Mash.“

The song asked the musical question, “Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?”

That’s a good question.

The novelty song seems to have gone the way of the pet rock.

It has been 35 years since Elmo & Patsy recorded, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

Perhaps we should blame the demise of music on AM radio and the decline in popularity of music videos, which is why MTV switched to reality programming.

Or maybe people are too darned sensitive. I doubt a record company would release “Mr. Custer” with its references to scalping.

It’s not as if there isn’t a market for novelty music. “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Mandatory Fun” album this year opened at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

The music world has gotten so serious it forgot how to laugh.

But Glenn Foden hasn’t forgotten how.

I sent him a link to “Mr. Custer” and he tweeted back, “Clicked on the link. Now it’s stuck in my head. Thanks for nothing.“

He’s welcome.


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