"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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At Last! The Avengers Original Soundtrack Music!

I’m an optimist.

Back when there used to be LP stores… back when there used to be CD stores… I would dutifully head to the soundtrack section on every visit and look for certain LP’s and later, CD’s.

I knew I wouldn’t find them, because I knew they didn’t exist. But I kept looking.

Music from the Our Gang and Laurel and Hardy movies? Nah. Wouldn’t ever happen.

The OST from The Time Machine? How many would they sell, maybe three?

And, of course, The Avengers.

For my money, the best TV soundtrack music of all time.

Laurie Johnson had written some of the most memorable “generic” production music, as I found out by accident when “scoring” a corporate video from production LP’s. (It was Laurie Johnson who wrote the wonderful piece Happy Go Lively, heard in John K.’s Ren and Stimpy over and over again). Lo and behold, even the Theme From The Avengers was originally written for use as production music, as I discovered when checking the cuts on an old disc. (It was originally titled The Shake.)

It took decades. Since the original Hal Roach recordings had disappeared, it took an incredible amount of work to piece together complete versions of the songs, but my friend Piet Schreuders did it. And then it took dedicated musicians playing period instruments – The Beau Hunks – to record note-perfect recreations of the LeRoy Shield Tunes.

After a false start – a re-recording of Russ Garcia’s score for The Time Machine – the real thing emerged, just a few years ago.

The new three-CD set of Laurie Johnson music has one disc devoted to The Avengers, with 70 minutes of original music score. I just ordered my copy from Buy Soundtrax.

Now, if someone would only find the original Larry Adler/Muir Matheson soundtrack to Genevieve, I could stop looking for the one album that would never exist that, for some reason, still doesn’t exist.

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Jay Ward: The Musical Suite

Snidely Whiplash

The place: 8218 Sunset Boulevard. The time: long, long ago. The Store: Dudley Do-Right’s Emporium. The purchase: the lovely production cel image of Snidely Whiplash (above), and The Jay Ward Music Cassette, (12m) with best excerpts presented here for your listening or downloading pleasure. There are two things you cannot help but do while listening: 1) mentally insert all missing sound effects, and 2) Do your best impression of the narrations that accompanied some of these tunes.

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