Wynona's Big Brown Beaver

Album: Tales From The Punchbowl (1995)
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  • Nice beaver.
    Thank you. I just had it stuffed.

    This exchange is from the 1988 movie The Naked Gun, where Leslie Nielsen is admiring Priscilla Presley's taxidermied beaver.

    Primus used a similar gag seven years later in this story about a woman and the adventures of her pet beaver. In a Songfacts interview with the band's frontman Les Claypool, he explained that the story was inspired by a fishing trip. "I was fly fishing with a friend of mine up in Lassen County (California), and the sun was going down and we were heading back to the car," he said. "He was off in one direction, and I went off in another direction. I come around this corner and I step into the creek. And just as I spied this thing, it spied me. It was this big, furry mass coming my way. It flipped and popped its tail and scared the s--t out of me, and I scared the s--t out of it.

    It was this giant beaver. I mean, it was huge.

    So it kind of got in my head. This big brown beaver, big brown beaver. Okay. Well, how can I make a song out of that? And then it became, 'Wynona's got herself a big brown beaver.' And from there it just built into this little mythological character that obviously had a little double entendre to it."
  • Primus has never had a Hot 100 hit, but this is one of their most popular songs, making #12 on the Alternative chart and #23 on the Mainstream Rock chart. The band had much more modest ambitions for the song when they conceived it, at first considering it one of the filler pieces the band sometimes puts between their proper songs for comic relief.

    "It just happened that I had this bass part with all these triplets in it and it kind of fit real well with those lyrics," Les Claypool told Songfacts. "So when we did Punchbowl, we put the two together and that became the 'Wynona's Big Brown Beaver' that everybody came to know."
  • The video was quite a production. Shot at a time when record companies were willing to shell out big bucks for videos (which MTV still played), this one featured the band in foam rubber suits dressed like cartoon cowboys. The film was shot 25% slower than normal (18 frames-per-second instead of 24) to create a sped-up, jerky look to match the cartoon theme when it was played back. This meant that the band had to mime to the song at a slower speed, so the song was played 25% slower so they could match their movements.

    The band had some trouble convincing MTV to play it - Claypool says he met with a woman at the network who asked him some questions about the song. MTV ended up nightparting it.
  • Claypool says this song was "the bane of my existence for a while" because it made those who weren't au fait with Primus assume they were a joke band. He eventually realized that those who didn't get it never will, and decided to pay them no mind.
  • There were rumors that this song is about the actress Winona Ryder. Les Claypool denied this in interviews, pointing out that his Wynona is spelled differently and insisting the song has nothing to do with her. Ryder's then-boyfriend, Soul Asylum singer Dave Pirner, didn't buy it. He took offense and renamed one of his songs "Les Claypool's A Big F--king Asshole" in concert. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Lucas - Los Angeles, California
  • Les Claypool's sideband Duo de Twang recorded this song on their 2014 debut album Four Foot Shack. This version was similar to the original vision of the song, which was more stripped-down.

Comments: 3

  • Lbhmiller from Pensacola, FlOysterhead who I’m going to see in. Atlanta! Can’t wait hope everybody is jealous!
  • Stukka63 from St.augustine,fla.Les Claypool n the Ox from The Who are the best bass players ever.
    Claypool is fast. But so is the Ox. Just completely different music styles.
  • Russell from London Ontario CanadaThe song is based on Claypool's experience walking through a trail from his boat to his vehicle and a big brown beaver came out from the bushes and scared the ba-jesus out of Les, and made up and wrote a story about it. True Story. It was in an interview. The song was only meant to be a very short song like Sathington Willaby. But they decided to take some riffs from a couple of other songs they were working on and added the pieces together then Vuaaalaaa low and behold the whole arrangement along with his fictional story based on a beaver that scarred the s--t out of him.
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