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This song is a tribute to the lowly bass voice on so many vocal records of the '50s and '60s. It finds Johnny Cymbal singing the praises of the Bass Man, who on this track is Ronnie Bright of The Valentines. Cymbal takes some shots at the falsetto singers of the time, doing a fair Frankie Valli impression when he explains that the high voice does nothing for him - it's the bass sound he likes and would love to learn how to do.
"Mr. Bass Man was released in 1963 on KAPP Records with "Sacred Lovers Vow" as a B-side. It was arranged and produced by Alan Lorber, a top record producer in the early '60s who worked with such famous artists as Neil Sedaka, Gene Pitney, The Coasters, and Leslie Gore. The song peaked at #16 on the US Billboard Hot 100, but it became an international success. So much so, that it was translated into "Monsieur Boum Boum," performed by popular French cabaret singer, Henri Salvador.
Johnny Cymbal wrote "Mr. Bass Man" in 1962. The anthem is known as one of his best hits, though Cymbal had a career that spanned over four decades: from the time he was fifteen until his death in 1993. By 1966, Cymbal had quit his life on the road to settle down with his family and focus on his songwriting. He found success in this avenue in New York City, Los Angeles, and Nashville. During his long career, Cymbal penned under a number of different names: Derek, The Eye-Full Tower, American Machine, The Sideshow, Brother John, Simonshy, Dallas, Milk, and Taurus. Under this plethora of pseudonyms, he has writing credits on several songs recorded by The Partridge Family, and has written songs that were performed by such music greats as Elvis Presley, David Cassidy, Gene Pitney, and Glen Campbell.
Kapp Records signed Johnny Cymbal to its label in 1962. It was already a well established label at the time, and a hot label at that. Artists under the Kapp imprint included Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, and Eartha Kitt. Kapp started out life in 1954 as an independent record label founded by David Kapp in New York City. The label was sold to MCA in 1967, and the last record released under the name Kapp hit the shelves in 1972.
In 1976, "Mr. Bass Man" was included in episode #124 of The Muppet Show, which was the one with guest stars Mummenschanz, who were kind of a '70s version of the Blue Man Group. The song was sung by Muppet characters, Floyd Pepper and Scooter, and backed by the Muppet house band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Jerry Nelson, who voiced Floyd Pepper, used a deeper voice than normal to accentuate the vocal bass parts of the song. The track proved so popular that it appeared on a number of Muppet media releases. Four audio recordings of the song were issued: The Muppet Show (1977), "Mahna Mahna"/"Mr. Bass Man" single (1977), Favorite Songs from Jim Henson's Muppets (1986), and Muppet Hits (1993). Also, a recording of the original airing on The Muppet Show was re-issued in 1985 by Playhouse Video as part of Rock Music with the Muppets, a series of compilations of songs and skits from the show.
"Mr. Bass Man" has been covered occasionally throughout its long lifespan. The Who bass player John Entwistle recorded the song as the second track from his third solo album, Rigor Mortis Sets In, released in 1973. the group Sha Na Na, best known for their appearance as Johnny Casino & the Gamblers from the school dance scenes in Grease, released the song on their 1980 album Havin' an Oldies Party with Sha Na Na. American funk duo, The Holy Modal Rounders, released their version of "Mr. Bass Man" as "Mr. Spaceman," after band member Steve Weber changed the lyrics to suit their style.
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