of Spike Jones and His City Slickers
, who created the funniest music parodies
of the 1940s
, including "Der Fuehrer's Face", "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth
," and "Pal-Yat-Chee." Still heard on Dr. Demento
Jones was born Lindley Armstrong Jones in 1911 in Long Beach, California (the nickname came from his father being a railroad worker), and started out as a drummer in big bands, but became well known for adding unusual percussion (such as anvils) and other noises to his playing. This made him stand out from other sidemen doing radio and session work. He played on such songs as Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," as well as with Fred Astaire and Hoagy Carmichael.
Jones formed the City Slickers in 1942, and they would do shows where the band would play straight music before the intermission and comedy afterwards. They became so successful after "Der Fuehrer's Face" that, like "Weird Al" Yankovic later, "it became a badge of honor with pop musicians that you really hadn't tasted true success until Spike Jones & The City Slickers destroyed your song," according to Cub Koda on allmusic.com. They did their own versions of popular songs and classical standards, with band members switching from one instrument to another and a train car to transport all their stage props on tour.
Spike married one of his vocalists, Helen Grayco, and the two would later become parents. In the fall of 1947, the band got its own weekly radio show, with skits, their novelty music, and a few normal songs to give the audience time to breathe. That ran for two years, being broadcast live from various cities when the band was traveling.
By 1955, after constant recording and touring, Spike and some of his band were burned out. Spike was also starting to suffer from shortness of breath, later diagnosed as emphysema. He continued to work when he could, sometimes bringing oxygen tanks on tour, but compared to the earlier furious pace this was definitely a slow-down. In May 1965, Jones died from complications of the emphysema.