T. Riis: Just before Jazz: Black Musical Theater in New York, 1890–1915 (Washington DC, 1989)
E. Southern: The Music of Black Americans: a History (New York, 1971, 3/1997)
E. Southern and J. Wright: ‘Sissieretta Jones’, BPiM, iv (1976), 191–201 [special issue]
JOSEPHINE R.B. WRIGHT
Jones, Spike [Lindley Armstrong]
(b Long Beach, CA, 14 Dec 1911; d Los Angeles, 1 May 1965). American musical satirist, bandleader and drummer. He played the drums from the age of 11, and by 1937 was a studio drummer in Hollywood. During the late 1930s and early 40s, while playing with radio bands, he began burlesquing songs by adding unusual percussion sounds such as tuned cowbells, washboards, tuned doorbells, automobile horns, pistols and anvils; there was soon a demand for his special sound effects in radio studios. In 1942 he formed his own band, Spike Jones and his City Slickers, and achieved prominence with a recording for Walt Disney’s satirical cartoon Der Fuehrer’s Face. Thereafter he wrote songs and arranged well-known tunes with his outrageous instruments, adding insecticide spray-guns in E, a live goat trained to bleat on cue in the key of C and a ‘latrinophone’ harp made of catgut and a lavatory seat. From 1947 he toured with his band for several years in his Musical Depreciation Revue. His most popular recordings date from the late 1940s and 1950s, and include Chloe, You always hurt the one you love, Cocktails for Two (with a chorus of hiccups), The Glow-Worm and All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth. The band performed frequently on television in the 1950s, appeared in several films, and in the 1960s made a number of dixieland jazz recordings.
Jones achieved international prominence as the ‘King of Corn’ for his sentimental tunes, his rollicking parodies of intimate lovesongs, and a style of musical humour based on unexpected and sometimes bizarre aural and visual effects. His greatest success came in a period when naiveté was cultivated in popular music and when extravagant elements, a legacy of vaudeville, still provided much material for the entertainment media.