"Hambone" from "Sandy’s Hour" Featuring Sandy Becker

Hambone - Sandy Becker
“I never play down to children,” George Sanford Becker once told the New York Times. Nor to adults, one might add, who were every bit as befuddled as their kids by “Hambone,” Sandy Becker’s singularly odd and eerily prescient TV character whose feathered helmet, coke-bottle glasses, and retro-military wardrobe softened the country up for the arrival of Elton John some years later. Hambone strutted and slid across the stage, twisted himself into odd angles, and swooped in for an out of focus close-up, his nose touching the TV camera’s lens. It all seem to be inspired by, or predicated upon, a song by Red Saunders and his Orchestra.

“Hamboning” is today best known as a lucrative job, but its origins in the US date back to slavery. When southern states passed laws forbidding slave drums and slave drumming, Africans reverted to “patting juba, involving intricate, rapid clapping of the hands against different parts of the body in quite complex successions of rhythm,” as well as beating the hell out of any object that could be coerced into making a percussive sound. Considered a lost art for many years, the practice was revived in 1965 by Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine on the 1965 Beach Boys recording of  Barbara Ann when Blaine played his famous ashtrays. But I digress.

The “Sandy Becker” version of Hambone is a minor re-edit of a 1952 Okeh single that added Sandy’s trademarked manic scream of joy to the proceedings. But here, listen for yourself:

If Clinton was our first black president, then Sandy Becker was our first black kids show host. His theme song was Afrikaan Beat:

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