The Kingsmen

Wand 172, 1965
Billboard: #4

Thought of as a one-hit wonder — and oh, what a hit "Louie, Louie" was — the Kingsmen (not to be confused with an earlier group spun off from Bill Haley's Comets, or a later gospel outfit) actually charted eleven songs in Billboard, three of which made Top 40. "The Jolly Green Giant," released the day after Christmas 1964, might have been the goofiest of the bunch. Set to the melody of the Olympics' "Big Boy Pete" — original singles credit only Kingsmen leader Lynn Easton as the writer, but Don "Sugarcane" Harris and Dewey Terry are now listed alongside him — it's a wacky tale of the largish vegetable mascot and his difficulties in finding True Love, interspersed by someone actually giving a shout-out to various vegetables. (If you're keeping score: potatoes, artichoke hearts, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli, corn, eggplant, celery stalks, carrots, and beans.) Reportedly, the actual Green Giant company was puzzled by the song: says a contributor to Songfacts, "the West Coast office sent the group boxes of vegetables to give away at concerts, the East Coast office sued the Kingsmen for 'defamation'." Okay, it did borrow the opening of the Green Giant jingle, mentioning "the valley of the jolly (ho, ho, ho)" — but hey, you didn't see Birds Eye getting this kind of publicity.

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Where can I get this on CD?
There are lots of re-recordings out there. However, after a long legal struggle with GML/Gusto, latter-day owners of Scepter/Wand, the Kingsmen got the rights to their original Wand masters; any CD you see mentioning "Kingsmen Int'l Licensing" as the copyright owner will be the original stuff. Collectables issued The Very Best of the Kingsmen (COL 5628) in 2000 from those masters; a The Best of the Kingsmen set in the iTunes Store is also legit. At this writing, it had been YouTubed here.

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Copyright © 2011 by Charles G. Hill
Chart information from
Billboard is copyrighted by Billboard Publications, Inc.

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