Search This Blog

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Disco Duck

Hi, everyone!  Are you read for another SUNDAY JUKEBOX entry?  I hope you are.

Now, you might be wondering why I've chosen the colour pink to use for the highlight text this week.  Well, pink happens to be the colour that represents breast cancer awareness, and since October is breast cancer awareness month, I thought that I would show my support towards this and other cancers.  Maybe one day, we will find a way to eliminate all cancer from this world.  It's certainly a dream that many of us are wanting.

In the meantime, how about we bring out another #1 smash single from the past?

Now, I have to admit that finding scary, spooky Halloween songs for this blog has not been an easy task.  Many of the Halloween songs I know never even charted, let alone hit the top of the charts, and those that have, I've either reviewed before, or hit the top of the charts in a month other than October. 

So, I decided for this month that I would go with novelty songs.  After all, they could be played during Halloween parties, and they very well could have inspired several Halloween costumes as well for all I know.

Well, before we get to today's novelty song - that somehow made it to the top of the Billboard charts - I want to tell you a story about my childhood, if you're interested.

Now, it's no secret that when I used to work on my homework on weekends, I would always have the radio on.  After all, I am definitely not the type of person who can really concentrate on work in absolute silence.  Many people are, and good for you if you do.  I have to have some background noise or else I'm completely lost.  As I type this entry right now, I'm watching television.

Well, okay, I'm not EXACTLY watching television.  I just have it on because I can't stand complete peace and quiet.  Besides, it's Sunday morning anyway.  Nothing's on television except religious programming, infomercials, and that omnibus of "Coronation Street" that airs on CBC.

Anyway, on with the story.

I always liked to do my homework on weekends because that was the time in which they did those Top 40 countdowns.  And back in the 1990s, the countdown shows were actually worth listening to.

Of course, I had my favourite countdown show.  I always liked "American Top 40" with Casey Kasem at the helm, as well as when he did "Casey's Top 40" in the 1990s after he left "AT40" in the late 1980s.  I still can't believe that it's only been a few months since his passing.

But of course, there was a time in which I couldn't listen to Casey Kasem.  There was a period between 1991 and 1995 which I call the "non-Casey" years.  At that point in time, Shadoe Stevens had taken over AT40, and none of the radio stations in my neck of the woods had syndicated Casey's Top 40.  So, I had to find another countdown show to listen to during those four years.

Thank goodness for Rick Dees.

Yes, in the early 1990s, "Rick Dees and the Weekly Top 40" was my go to radio show on weekends.  And to be honest, it was a fairly decent show.  He often inserted song parodies in his show every so often (which as you may well know, I dig a good parody every now and again), and his show certainly offered up a lot of wacky humour.  But he also knew a lot about music, and he did have some rather awesome contest giveaways back in the day.

His show has been on radio since 1983, and at the age of sixty-four, I don't see Rick Dees slowing down any time soon.  It's been a while since I tuned into one of his countdown shows (mainly because my appetite for current pop music started to sour circa 2002), but I should probably tune in once more for old times sake.  Bring back some old memories.  Actually, if you go on his website, you can listen to his radio show online.

But I should also note while Rick Dees has been in the radio business for a long time, he also worked as a television talk-show host (though that endeavour barely lasted one year), and he also had a brief career as a recording artist.

In fact, he had the #1 song in America thirty-eight years ago this week.  And, well...I'm just going to just post it below.  Believe me, we're going to have a lot to say about this one.

ARTIST:  Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots
SONG:  Disco Duck
ALBUM:  The Original Disco Duck
DATE RELEASED:  September 4, 1976
PEAK POSITION ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS:  #1 for 1 week  It's like Huey, Dewey, and Louie from DuckTales all got together and released a song!  And, the fact that it went to the top of the charts could be partly because of the fact that 1976 was a year in which disco dominated the music scene.  Try releasing this single in 2014 and see if it goes anywhere!

The song itself was written by Dees himself and he was inspired to come up with the song after hearing another novelty song from the 1960s entitled "The Duck".  It only took Dees one day to pen the lyrics to the song and come up with a basic melody for the single, but as far as recording the song went, it took much longer for him to get enough musicians together to record the single.

Apparently nobody wanted to have their name and talent attached to a song about a disco dancer that quacked.

Nevertheless, once a team of people were assembled, the song was recorded and released in early September of 1976.  As far as the meaning of the song goes...well...there isn't much of one.  A guy goes to a discotheque and suddenly gets the urge to dance like a duck.  He then inspires everyone else in the club to dance like a duck as well.  Before you know it, you have an entire flock of duck dancers flapping their arms in the air as if they were wings.

Now, before I go ahead with further discussion about this song, I should probably clear up one major misconception.

The duck voices that you hear during the chorus of "Disco Duck" were not performed by Dees himself.  They also weren't performed by Clarence Nash, who provided the voice of Donald Duck for Disney cartoons before his death in 1985.  And, the duck voices also weren't performed by current Donald Duck voice artist Tony Anselmo.  He was only sixteen when the song was released.

No, in all actuality, the duck voices came courtesy of Rick Dees' acquaintance Ken Pruitt.  During live performances of the song, the duck voices were then provided by Michael Chesney, another acquaintance of Dees.

And yes, I know what you're thinking.  They actually performed this live?

Now, "Disco Duck" wasn't without its share of controversy.  Did you know that this song actually got Dees fired from a job?  It's true.

While Dees recorded "Disco Duck", he was working as a disc jockey in Memphis, Tennessee, and while the song was topping the charts all over the nation, in the state of Tennessee, the song was largely ignored (especially in Memphis), and rarely received any airplay on radio stations in the Memphis area. 

Now, it wasn't because of the fact that Tennessee was one of those states that focused more on country music stations that caused "Disco Duck" to be left off of playlists at many major Memphis stations.  It was the fact that because Dees worked at a Memphis radio station, the station he worked at felt that it would be a conflict of interest if they played the song.  And rival stations wouldn't play the record either because if they did, they would essentially be promoting a disc jockey from a rival radio station.  It was a no-win situation for Dees.

And Dees found out the hard way that even so much as talking about "Disco Duck" on his radio program had hard consequences.  He mentioned the song title during his morning show, and because he did, his boss terminated him on the spot, citing conflict of interest!  Fortunately, Rick Dees found employment at another radio station, and all was right in the world.  I have to wonder if that radio station began to start playing "Disco Duck" in retaliation against the station that let Dees get away.

"Disco Duck" even made an appearance in the film "Saturday Night Fever", but because of Dees' manager at the time of the film's release denying the record company that put out the soundtrack for "Saturday Night Fever" to include the single on the soundtrack, it cost Dees in a big way.  You see, "Saturday Night Fever" became the second best-selling soundtrack of all time, selling approximately 40 million copies and counting.  Had "Disco Duck" been included on the soundtrack, Dees would still be raking in royalty payments today.

Though, given how successful Dees has gotten over the last thirty-eight years, I don't think he's crying too much about it.  After all, he's probably the only man in the world who could write a song about a disco dancer who thinks he's a duck and make it a chart-topper!

No comments:

Post a Comment