Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Five Flashback - The Muppet Show

I have been blessed to write contributions/reviews/interviews/opinion pieces for several country music and roots-oriented websites and publications over the years including Saving Country Music, Nashville Scene, Country California, Country Weekly, American Noise, The 9513 and Engine 145. As a regular contributor to the last two in that list, I did several hundred features/pieces. One of those was this fun Friday Five playlist that I will reprint here to give it a home in perpetuity. This piece was originally published in June 2010 in The 9513.

And now let's get things started  Why don't you get things started  It's time to get things started  On the most sensational inspirational celebrational Muppetational  This is what we call the Muppet Show!

Don’t deny it. You were singing along just now… 

Kermit taught us that it’s not easy being green. Or in Gonzo’s case, blue. For five years beginning in 1976 little felt characters brought us as much laughter and entertainment as anything else on television. For 120 episodes, Fozzie the Bear, Miss Piggy, Scooter, Rowlf, Beaker, Sam the Eagle, Animal and friends did everything they could do to make life hell for Statler and Waldorf. 

But along the way during this beloved show, a series of guest stars- most notably country music guest stars- sang alongside Jim Henson’s family doing originals and parodies of their biggest hits. It was a veritable whose who of big names in country music. Names like Linda Ronstadt, Kris Kristofferson, Crystal Gayle, Anne Murray, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans appeared in various episodes. Even Waylon Jennings did a duet with Big Bird in a non-Muppets Show movie “Follow That Bird.” John Denver appeared in two exclusive Muppets specials (John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together and John Denver & the Muppets: Rocky Mountain Holiday.)

Without further ado, here’s a Friday Five of great appearances by country music artists on The Muppet Show. 

5. Roy Clark (Season 3, Episode 51)- On this classic episode, Fozzie Bear hears Kermit say the show is "going country" with guest Roy Clark. The dimwitted bear then sends all the stagehands out to the country. Kermit ends up making Fozzie do all their work including scenery, curtains and backdrops. Fozzie catches the theater on fire in the process, but not before Roy Clark takes a break from hosting Hee Haw and hosts The Muppet Show instead.  Roy Clark gets to demonstrate his incredible musicianship on “Rocky Top” on this episode.

4. John Denver (Season 4, Episode 73)- The episode opens with Waldorf stopping by Denver’s dressing room and trying to talk him out of appearing on the episode. He’s aghast when he finds out Denver actually wants to be on the show. Denver sings on three songs on the episode, but this favorite called “The Garden Song” has him singing in a garden. It’s a garden that comes alive with singing Muppet plants. 

3. Loretta Lynn (Season 3, Episode 56)- In one of the funnier Muppet Show scenes ever, the Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn sings “Ones On The Way” with what seems like a dozen little realistic human baby Muppets that can’t stay out of the way. The kids whacking each other with baby toys is really darn funny. 

2. Kenny Rogers (Season 4, Episode 82)- In this episode, Scooter's uncle sells the mineral rights for Kenny's dressing room to Arabs, who start drilling for oil. Kenny performs two different tunes on the show, a his classic “The Gambler,” where he’s accompanied by three realistic-looking old men Muppets as well as a duet with several cast members on “Love Lifted Me.” More than love lifts Gonzo at the end of the episode when he shoots himself out of a catapult and into Statler and Waldorf’s box. 

1.  Johnny Cash (Season 5, Episode 117)- Miss Piggy is trying to cut into June Carter’s action here as Johnny duets with the lovely curly tailed one on “Jackson.” The best tune of the show, however, is the original “Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog” where he insults Rowlf the piano player as he sings. Johnny’s backing band on this episode has the world’s coolest band name: Lubbock Lou and his Jughuggers.  

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