King Tut

Album: Wild And Crazy Guy (1978)
Charted: 17


  • 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 got more than a little proficient as a banjo player, and McEuen produced his 2010 album, The Crow, which won the Grammy for Bluegrass Album of the Year.
  • Martin debuted the song on Saturday Night Live April 22, 1978. It picked up steam that summer and peaked at #17 on August 12. Eleven days later, it was certified Gold, having sold 500,000 copies in America.
  • 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" target="_blank">Walk Like An Egyptian," which had a similar theme and briefly resurrected the "Egyptian Style" dance.
  • This is the first hit song we know of that mentions a "honky" in reference to a white person (without a "tonk" or a "cat"), as King Tut is Martin's "favorite honky."

    The term later appeared in some rap songs, including "Back To The Hotel" by N2Deep ("a sick honky straight going donkey") and "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ("damn, that's a cold-ass honkey").

Comments: 23

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 22nd 1978 Steve Martin performed "King Tut" on the NBC-TV program 'Saturday Night Live'...
    One month later on May 21st it Entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, see next post below...
    In 2009 Mr. Martin released an album titled 'The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo', the album won the Grammy Award for 'Best Bluegrass Album'.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 4th 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter, in the Valley of Kings, discovered the lost tomb of 14th-century B.C. Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen...
    And fifty-six years later on May 21st, 1978 "King Tut" by Steven Martin entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #89; and eleven weeks later on August 6th, 1978 it peaked at #17 {for 2 weeks} and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100...
    He had two other Top 100 records; "Grandmother's Song" {peaked at #72 in 1977} and "Cruel Shoes" {reached #91 in 1979}...
    Stephen Glenn Martin celebrated his 69th birthday three months ago on August 14th {2014}.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyLorne Michaels said they spent a LOT of money for the set when Steve debuted this song on SNL. It even had a working waterfall!
  • Karen from Manchester, NhSteve 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!
  • Dodge from Casper, WyMentioned 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.
  • Sarah from Austin, TxThe 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.
  • Steve from Columbia Heights, MnVery 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.
  • Mike from Matawan, NjIronically, Stormy, you need to be high to find this song funny.
  • Stormy from Kokomo, InI 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.
  • Dan from Oxford, AlSteve 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
  • Madison from Norway, MeI never thought Steve Martin was funny. Come to think of it, I never thought SNL was funny, either...
  • Brian from Scranton, PaSteve 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.).
  • Fred from Laurel, MdA.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!"
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhSteve 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.
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnSteve 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.
  • A. B. from Miami, FlYes, 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.
  • Dennis from Chicagoland Burrows, IlSteve 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
  • R from Seattle, WaIn 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.
  • Joe from Ocala, Fl 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...
  • Alan from City, MiThe 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.
  • Ben from Winston-salem, NcHe was never a cast member. He just hosted a lot.
  • Ted from Poway, Cahe was too a cast member
  • Jack from Boston, MaSteve Martin was never a cast member of SNL, but rather a frequent host.
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