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King Tut

by

Steve Martin



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Steve Martin is a comedian who was a popular guest on Saturday Night Live, where he performed this song on TV for the first time wearing Egyptian garb. The song was later released as a single and became a hit, selling over a million copies.

"King Tut" is the nickname for the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, whose ornate tomb was discovered in 1922, leading to a Western fascination with Egyptian culture and symbols - a fascination that was renewed when The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibited King Tut's artifacts from 1976-1979. Martin jumped on the craze, creating this novelty song about the young king.
The "backup group" Martin used for this song was credited as The Toot Uncommons (Tutankhamen), but was really The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, whose multi-instrumentalist John McEuen is good friends with Steve Martin and taught him to play banjo. Martin was the opening act for the band for a few years in the mid-'70s, where he developed his act and refined his "Wild and Crazy Guy" persona, often to a hostile audience that was there to see music, not comedy.

According to McEuen, it was on tour when Martin put his song together. He told Country Music Pride: "When we did 'King Tut,' he came to the theatre we were playing in L.A. with this idea between the soundcheck and the show that he described to the band. 'Play this. Now have the bass go like this. Jeff, you guys go, 'Tut, Tut, King Tut.' Everybody worked on it for about an hour, we went on stage and did it, and we just blew the roof off the place. So that was fun. I would say that Steve has always been productive – making something. It’s not always good according to some sales figures. But the sales figures don’t always indicate what was good or not, and the critics often don’t know that some of it is so stellar that we’re really lucky to have him around."

Martin is an accomplished banjo player, and McEuen produced his 2010 album, The Crow, which won the Grammy for Bluegrass Album of the Year.
At first, "The King Tut" was a dance unto itself called "Egyptian Style." Dancers point their arms and head in different directions in an imitation of ancient Egyptian paintings. In 1986, the Bangles had a huge hit with "Walk Like An Egyptian," which had a similar theme and briefly resurrected the "Egyptian Style" dance.
Learn more about King Tut in Song Images.
Steve Martin
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Comments (20):

Steve Martin has still "got it". While now a critically acclaimed bluegrass artist (with Grammys to his name), his sense of humor can not be reigned in. Google his video "Jubilation Day" and listen to the lyrics. You won't forget it!
- Karen, Manchester, NH
Mentioned earlier, "studio musicians" backed up Martin for the single. But they weren't just ordinary unknown musicians - turns out Toots Uncommon is The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, whom were on the same label as Martin and were working on their own album in the same studio building. One of the NGDB band members saw Martin on a break, found out what Martin was doing, and as a big fan convinced the band to jump in on the session Martin was recording. Steve Martin and the Dirt Band are accomplished bluegrass players and both acts have bluegrass albums.
- Dodge, Casper, WY
The traveling Tut exhibit came to New Orleans: I was part of the jazz funeral they threw for Tut. They also painted a major thoroughfare blue (well, part of it anyway). It was tons of fun, and later when I got a job at the museum I found out what a huge pain the whole thing was for the staff.
Yes, it was overmerchandised. Also, moving delicate stuff like ancient gold plated wooden sculptures around the world is very bad for the art (different temperatures, pressures, not good. Not good at all) but it makes money so they do it.
We all loved the song though.
- Sarah, Austin, TX
Very funny bit by Guest Host, Steve Martin, on SNL. Check out the sax soloist who comes out of the sarcophagus - it is 'Blue Lou' Marini, soon to be a member of the Blues Brothers Band.
- Steve, Columbia Heights, MN
Ironically, Stormy, you need to be high to find this song funny.
- Mike, Matawan, NJ
I was invited down to Franklin College by my friend Danny Fawcett for a weekend concert in the late 60s to hear Rare Earth. The opening act was Steve Martin with the arrow gag thru his head and he was boood off the stage because the "stoners" wanted to hear Rare Earth instead of him.
- Stormy, Kokomo, IN
Steve Martin is brilliant and if he doesn't make
you laugh....It might be a good idea to check in
with your Physician because you may have already
bought the farm. I remember him on a "Very" special Christmas Show, "A Rocky Mountain Christmas" with John Denver. He was great!
He has only gotten better with age. And oh those
wonderful SNL's with Dan Ackroyd..."Two Wild and
Crazy Guys" indeed! How 'bout Steve for President?
This country really needs a good laugh!

Dan Garrett
Oxford, Al
- Dan, Oxford, AL
I never thought Steve Martin was funny. Come to think of it, I never thought SNL was funny, either...
- Madison, Norway, ME
Steve Martin was never an SNL cast member. Though he later became a member of the "Five-Timers Club" for celebs who've hosted the show five or more times, he actually only hosted the show three times in SNL's first five seasons(i.e. "The Glory Years" with Belushi, Aykroyd, Murray, Curtain, Chase, et al.).
- Brian, Scranton, PA
A.B., you may be thinking of Chevy Chase. Or any of several other one-time cast members who later returned as hosts. No, Steve Martin was never a N-R-f-P-T Player. Those seven names, plus the 2nd season replacement, are correctly listed by "Alan, City, Mich." Of course, the host always participates in skits during the show, so in a sense, he/she is a cast member for that one show. But Steve was never a 'regular' cast member. BTW, off-topic, but related, the first host was George Carlin (a terrific choice, IMHO), and the first season (when Jim Henson was still alive) featured The Muppets in more of an adult-oriented content than we were used to seeing from them, and it was a scream! -- "I am the Mighty Favaahg!"
- Fred, Laurel, MD
Steve Martin is something of a phenomenon: he has written books, starred in movies, done stand-up routines, played bluegrass banjo (cf the reverse side of the King Tut single) and been successful in everything he's tried. (And I hope he never tries a Broadway show, because that's sure suicide.) The song is a great deal funnier if you sat through all of the old spear-and-sandal movie epics of the '50's and '60's: "The Great Pyramid," all those Hercules movies, and 'Cleopatra,' the greatest of them all. The wailing of the background singers at one point in the song imitates the Egyptian Temple scene that every one of these movies had to have. And if you were around for the initial tour of King Tut's treasures (they've appeared more places than Elvis ever did) the song is even funnier.
- Mark, Lancaster, OH
Steve Martin frequently hosted Saturday Night Live, where he performed King Tut in one episode. The song came from the album A Wild and Crazy Guy, the type of character he played when he played Festrunk on SNL. It's a novelty classic that he performed with The Toot Uncommons.
- Howard, St. Louis Park, MN
Yes, Steve Martin was a member of The Not Ready For Prime Time Players. He became a host after he left the show. And no, it had nothing to do with the Bangles' later song or a type of dance. It was a skit based on the popularity of the Tut Exhibition and the mania it caused.
- A. B., Miami, FL
Steve Martin's alright, but I never understood why this song was funny. It was around the time when the King Tut exhibit was big in current events, so it was timely, but the lyrics just NEVER made me laugh
- Dennis, Chicagoland burrows, IL
In 1978-79 a traveling special exhibit of the treasures from King Tutankhamen's tomb was a huge hit at museums around the country, people stood in long lines to get in. This inspired the parody on Saturday Night Live.
- R, Seattle, WA
Hey Ted just by you saying"He was too a cast member " lets me know right now that you weren't even born when SNL first came out...
- Joe, Ocala, FL
The first season cast of SNL was Chevy Chase, Dan Ackroyd, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Laraine Newman, Jane Curtin, and Garrett Morris. After the 1st season, Chevy left and was replaced by Bill Murray. Steve Martin was a frequent guest host.
- Alan, City, MI
He was never a cast member. He just hosted a lot.
- Ben, Winston-Salem, NC
he was too a cast member
- Ted, Poway, CA
Steve Martin was never a cast member of SNL, but rather a frequent host.
- Jack, Boston, MA
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