Continued from last week:
Robert Crumb and I began early in 1985 to develop a musical accompaniment for the first stage production of R. Crumb Comix at Fort Worth, Texas’ Hip Pocket Theatre. We consulted by telephone between my digs in Fort Worth and his home near Winters, California, and Robert prepared numerous reference dubs from his collection of 78-R.P.M. phonograph records. These, I augmented with musical sources from my own library, plus scattered original compositions. I recruited an orchestra from within guitarist Slim Richey’s and my jazz trio, Diddy Wah Diddy, and from our affiliated string band, the Salt Lick Foundation, with which I had recently completed a string of record albums for Slim’s Ridge Runner/Tex Grass labels.
Band rehearsals commenced in May of 1985, with all concerned forewarned to buck up for a three-hour show scored with what Crumb wanted to be “constant music – just like in those ol’ Hal Roach comedy films.” Yes, and never mind that the Roach pictures (including the Depression years’ Laurel & Hardy and Our Gang series) ran to just 20 or 30 minutes apiece in length. Well, at least there would be an intermission.
So Robert reached Texas on schedule, got settled in, and found the progress agreeable. He warmed especially to the women (consistent with Crumb’s vision) whom director Johnny Simons had cast. Robert took issue with some of the music as sounding “too modernistic – that ’forties swing stuff” (no accounting for taste) but found the score workable overall, enjoying the sound well enough to commandeer a plectrum banjo from Salt Lick’s Lee Thomas and perform as a member of the orchestra on the opening weekend that June. Crumb’s banjo-playing fit right in, evoking memories of Eddie Peabody and the Light Crust Doughboys’ Marvin “Smokey” Montgomery. I had composed one of the show’s tunes, “Save Me a Slice of That,” as a Doughboys pastiche.