This was written by the surfer/singer/songwriter Jack Johnson, who sings on it with G. Love (Garrett Dutton). At the time, Johnson had yet to release any music and had a small following among surfers, one of whom was a friend of Dutton's who made the introduction. Dutton, who was already an established artist with G. Love & Special Sauce, went surfing in Malibu, California with Johnson, who invited invited him back to his place to jam. This is where Johnson played him "Rodeo Clowns."
Dutton asked if he could record the song for his Philadelphonic album; Johnson suggested a collaboration, so they did it together, with G. Love introducing the unknown Johnson in the intro ("I got my man Jack Johnson in the studio today..."). The song was released as a single and got decent airplay on the West Coast, earning Johnson some new fans.
Rodeo clowns are there to protect the bull riders, distracting the animals so they don't go after the riders when they're thrown. They also serve as spectacle, as their outlandish costumes are designed to attract the eye.
This song takes place in a bar where once the night gets going, the guys puff out their chests and put on a show to attract the ladies. These are the rodeo clowns.
The song closes with the same verse that opens the song ("Sweepin' the floors, open up the doors...") indicating another night at the bar where the same events will play out all over again.
When this was released, G. Love & Special Sauce had already built a huge college-based following, but Johnson was a newcomer. He later gained a following of his own after being featured in ESPN The Magazine and various surfing publications. In 2001, Johnson released his debut album, Brushfire Fairytales, which sold over a million copies.
G. Love knew Johnson was going to make it big when they jammed together. "I felt like I was in the presence of greatness," he told Artist Waves
.?"He's playing me these songs and you could just tell they were hits. He was singing so effortlessly, the chord movements were unique, the vocals were good, the melodies were pure, and the lyrics were like poetry."
This song caught the ear of one of guitarist Ben Harper's sidemen, which led to an appearance from Harper on the track "Flake" from Johnson's debut album.
Johnson released a solo version of this song on his second album, On And On, in 2003.
A few years after this was released, G. Love became the first artist signed to Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records. His first release on the label was his solo album The Hustle
"Jack's just this wonderful guy," G. Love said in a Songfacts interview
. "He's made a lot of money and he's donated a lot of money to environmental causes around the world. A lot of people sing about saving the world but Jack actually does a lot of saving the world with the money he makes, and I've just been really proud to have been working with him."
Prior to this collaboration, G. Love & Special Sauce's music had been used in some surfing films made by Johnson, so Dutton actively sought him out.
The song was recorded while Johnson was working on a surfing documentary called Thicker Than Water
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