Discussion:
The Number Ones: Larry Verne’s “Mr. Custer”
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Bob Roman
2018-12-05 20:40:14 UTC
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Tom Breihan's review of every song to hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100 continues through the cusp years:

Larry Verne – “Mr. Custer”
HIT #1: October 10, 1960
STAYED AT #1: 1 week

Who was this for? Who thought this was funny? “Mr. Custer” was a novelty song about the Battle Of Little Bighorn, sung from the perspective of a cowardly soldier who didn’t want to fight the Lakota forces assembled on that day in 1876: “There’s a redskin waitin’ out there, just fixin’ to take my hair / A coward I’ve been called cuz I don’t wanna wind up dead or bald.” He’s presented as a cartoon character, a paragon of yellow-bellied fearfulness. But if that narrator was a real person, history would’ve proven him a whole lot smarter than Custer himself.

If there is a central joke in “Mr. Custer” — and I’m using the word joke about as generously as I can — it’s Verne’s voice, a high-pitched Southern twang like that of Cletus from The Simpsons. The music, a martial Western stomp, is clearly supposed to echo the theme songs from the Westerns that were popular at the time. So maybe what’s supposed to be funny is the contrast between that stereotypically heroic music and the blubbering idiocy of its main character.

The problem — or one of the many problems, anyway — is that there was nothing heroic about Custer’s Last Stand. It was a quagmire and a staggering piece of military idiocy, with Custer leading himself, his family, and his men into death because he utterly and completely underestimated his enemy. So even if Custer weren’t an agent of genocide, a willing participant in the wholesale slaughter of America’s native people, he’s still be an absolute bumbling dipshit of a leader. With even the tiniest bit of perspective, the gibbering soldier who doesn’t want anything to do with the fight seems less like a coward and more like the only white man on the ground that day who had any sense.

On top of that, “Mr. Custer,” with its klaxonlike yelps of fear and its fake tribal war chants, is a near-unendurable piece of music; it blows my mind to imagine that anyone would’ve paid money to listen to it. It’s an offensive song, and it’s not even offensive in a coherent way; it insults white Southerners and Western hero myths just as much as it insults Native Americans. In fact, the only person who it doesn’t insult is Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, exactly the person who most deserved to be insulted.

So “Mr. Custer” is an offensive and morally wrongheaded song that also is pretty much unlistenable musically. Everything about it is terrible, and it might just be the worst song that’s ever hit #1. To know for sure, I’d have to listen to it back-to-back with Eminem’s “Crack A Bottle,” and I just can’t bring myself to do that.

GRADE: 1/10
Dennis C
2018-12-05 21:43:27 UTC
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You know what General Custer wore at Little Big Horn?

An Arrow shirt, baby!!!

I give it an 8/10.

One of the funniest novelty songs out there and it holds up today!!!
Dean F.
2018-12-05 21:56:40 UTC
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Post by Dennis C
One of the funniest novelty songs out there and it holds up today!!!
For once, Dennis, we're in agreement.
Dennis C
2018-12-05 22:07:04 UTC
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Hallelujah!!!

Dean and I are just like that now,baby!!!
Jim Colegrove
2018-12-05 22:52:02 UTC
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Post by Dennis C
Hallelujah!!!
Dean and I are just like that now,baby!!!
I'm with you guys. In 1960 my band was playing every Sunday afternoon
at the Avondale Club in Dayton, Ohio. It was a a record hop that was
run by Bob Holiday, a DJ at WING in Dayton. There were always artists
showing up to promote their singles and perform them live with us or a
lip-synch. Larry Verne was one of them. He came along with a guy named
Fred Darian. Fred was the guy that co-wrote and co-produced "Mr.
Custer." He shouted the "Forward Ho!" line and was one of the singers
that did the "oopa-ika' background on the record since it was his
vocal trio. They had rented the cavlary costume in L.A. that Larry did
his act in for a month, then headed out on promotion that had lasted
far longer than the costume was rented for. We had a lot of fun that
evening when we all went out to supper together. Larry passed away
about 5 years ago.
Dennis C
2018-12-05 23:27:04 UTC
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" Kemo sabe! Yeah, that's it! Hey! Kemo Sabe!!

Fffffttttt!!!

" No...that ain't it"

Gets me every single time, baby!
Mark Dintenfass
2018-12-06 02:07:30 UTC
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Post by Jim Colegrove
Post by Dennis C
Hallelujah!!!
Dean and I are just like that now,baby!!!
I'm with you guys. In 1960 my band was playing every Sunday afternoon
at the Avondale Club in Dayton, Ohio. It was a a record hop that was
run by Bob Holiday, a DJ at WING in Dayton. There were always artists
showing up to promote their singles and perform them live with us or a
lip-synch. Larry Verne was one of them. He came along with a guy named
Fred Darian. Fred was the guy that co-wrote and co-produced "Mr.
Custer." He shouted the "Forward Ho!" line and was one of the singers
that did the "oopa-ika' background on the record since it was his
vocal trio. They had rented the cavlary costume in L.A. that Larry did
his act in for a month, then headed out on promotion that had lasted
far longer than the costume was rented for. We had a lot of fun that
evening when we all went out to supper together. Larry passed away
about 5 years ago.
Fun, of course is thing Breihan doesn't understand at all.
--
--md
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SavoyBG
2018-12-06 02:54:04 UTC
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Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Jim Colegrove
Post by Dennis C
Hallelujah!!!
Dean and I are just like that now,baby!!!
I'm with you guys. In 1960 my band was playing every Sunday afternoon
at the Avondale Club in Dayton, Ohio. It was a a record hop that was
run by Bob Holiday, a DJ at WING in Dayton. There were always artists
showing up to promote their singles and perform them live with us or a
lip-synch. Larry Verne was one of them. He came along with a guy named
Fred Darian. Fred was the guy that co-wrote and co-produced "Mr.
Custer." He shouted the "Forward Ho!" line and was one of the singers
that did the "oopa-ika' background on the record since it was his
vocal trio. They had rented the cavlary costume in L.A. that Larry did
his act in for a month, then headed out on promotion that had lasted
far longer than the costume was rented for. We had a lot of fun that
evening when we all went out to supper together. Larry passed away
about 5 years ago.
Fun, of course is thing Breihan doesn't understand at all.
Good job, Bob. You got us all to unite against a common enemy.
Bob Roman
2018-12-06 04:27:27 UTC
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Post by SavoyBG
Good job, Bob. You got us all to unite against a common enemy.
So it seems.

--
BR
t***@iwvisp.com
2018-12-05 22:43:48 UTC
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And a bow tie.

I used to use those two together on Ted Nugent when I played Cat Scratch Fever ... before he was bat shit crazy!

Ray
Mark Dintenfass
2018-12-06 02:04:16 UTC
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Post by Bob Roman
Tom Breihan's review of every song to hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100
Larry Verne ­ ³Mr. Custer²
HIT #1: October 10, 1960
STAYED AT #1: 1 week
Who was this for? Who thought this was funny? ³Mr. Custer² was a novelty song
about the Battle Of Little Bighorn, sung from the perspective of a cowardly
soldier who didn¹t want to fight the Lakota forces assembled on that day in
1876: ³There¹s a redskin waitin¹ out there, just fixin¹ to take my hair / A
coward I¹ve been called cuz I don¹t wanna wind up dead or bald.² He¹s
presented as a cartoon character, a paragon of yellow-bellied fearfulness.
But if that narrator was a real person, history would¹ve proven him a whole
lot smarter than Custer himself.
If there is a central joke in ³Mr. Custer² ‹ and I¹m using the word joke
about as generously as I can ‹ it¹s Verne¹s voice, a high-pitched Southern
twang like that of Cletus from The Simpsons. The music, a martial Western
stomp, is clearly supposed to echo the theme songs from the Westerns that
were popular at the time. So maybe what¹s supposed to be funny is the
contrast between that stereotypically heroic music and the blubbering idiocy
of its main character.
The problem ‹ or one of the many problems, anyway ‹ is that there was nothing
heroic about Custer¹s Last Stand. It was a quagmire and a staggering piece of
military idiocy, with Custer leading himself, his family, and his men into
death because he utterly and completely underestimated his enemy. So even if
Custer weren¹t an agent of genocide, a willing participant in the wholesale
slaughter of America¹s native people, he¹s still be an absolute bumbling
dipshit of a leader. With even the tiniest bit of perspective, the gibbering
soldier who doesn¹t want anything to do with the fight seems less like a
coward and more like the only white man on the ground that day who had any
sense.
On top of that, ³Mr. Custer,² with its klaxonlike yelps of fear and its fake
tribal war chants, is a near-unendurable piece of music; it blows my mind to
imagine that anyone would¹ve paid money to listen to it. It¹s an offensive
song, and it¹s not even offensive in a coherent way; it insults white
Southerners and Western hero myths just as much as it insults Native
Americans. In fact, the only person who it doesn¹t insult is Lt. Col. George
Armstrong Custer, exactly the person who most deserved to be insulted.
So ³Mr. Custer² is an offensive and morally wrongheaded song that also is
pretty much unlistenable musically. Everything about it is terrible, and it
might just be the worst song that¹s ever hit #1. To know for sure, I¹d have
to listen to it back-to-back with Eminem¹s ³Crack A Bottle,² and I just can¹t
bring myself to do that.
GRADE: 1/10
Truly pathetic. Breihan doesn't even consider the possibility that the
song expresses the meaning of Custer's folly in exactly the way he
would want it to, but does it with clever (and funny) irony rather than
preaching about it.
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Roger Ford
2018-12-06 06:22:39 UTC
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On Wed, 5 Dec 2018 12:40:14 -0800 (PST), Bob Roman
Larry Verne – “Mr. Custer”
HIT #1: October 10, 1960
STAYED AT #1: 1 week
I'm afraid I'm one of those people who didn't find the "Mr. Custer"
novelty number very funny. Perhaps you had to be American? Over here
we didn't even get to know the piece as by Larry Verne (I don't
remember the radio playing him at all). It was quite a while later
before I even heard the Verne original.And it didn't change much for
me

No,instead all we heard on radio here was the hit UK cover from
Charlie Drake,the pint sized British comedian who American cousins
will probably recall had a minor US hit a year or so later with the
"My Boomerang Won't Come Back" novelty (and I didn't like that either)


Drake scored a #10 UK hit with his version



There was another truly dreadful UK cover from one Ted Lune,star of a
hit Brit TV sitcom.



(BTW the flip of the Lune record was a cover of Dante & The
Evergreens' "Time Machine")

Here's how the Verne record fared in the 1960 Singles Battle

R1
9 Larry Verne - Mr. Custer - Era 3024
18 Ray Charles - Ruby - ABC-Paramount 10164
Finally I think complete unity will rapidly be restored with the next
entry in this #1 hit series..............:)


ROGER FORD
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Bob Roman
2018-12-06 18:33:20 UTC
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Post by Roger Ford
No,instead all we heard on radio here was the hit UK cover from
Charlie Drake,the pint sized British comedian who American cousins
will probably recall had a minor US hit a year or so later with the
"My Boomerang Won't Come Back" novelty (and I didn't like that either)
Drake scored a #10 UK hit with his version
http://youtu.be/dl1RltqVK4I
It's like watching the British version of a TV sitcom when we only know the American version. Very similar, but feels entirely different.

--
BR
Mark Dintenfass
2018-12-06 20:27:42 UTC
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Post by Bob Roman
Post by Roger Ford
No,instead all we heard on radio here was the hit UK cover from
Charlie Drake,the pint sized British comedian who American cousins
will probably recall had a minor US hit a year or so later with the
"My Boomerang Won't Come Back" novelty (and I didn't like that either)
Drake scored a #10 UK hit with his version
http://youtu.be/dl1RltqVK4I
It's like watching the British version of a TV sitcom when we only know the
American version. Very similar, but feels entirely different.
Nice thought. I recently watched the whole season of an HBO comedy
called "Camping." I thought it was quite good, but somehow off. It just
wasn't the way I thought people like this bunch would behave with each
other. Then I discovered the show was a remake of a British series and
it all made sense. The whole cultural dynamic was British rather than
American. It was also exactly how I had felt a few years ago watching
an HBO series called"Getting On," which also was a remake of a British
series. Someone could write a pretty good essay on the small but really
obvious differences in the way people generally behave to each other in
the two places.
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xpenenyx
2018-12-12 13:37:03 UTC
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Post by Roger Ford
I'm afraid I'm one of those people who didn't find the "Mr. Custer"
novelty number very funny.
Count me in too. It's beyond my imagination that anyone would have
spent 79 cents to buy MC.

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