Mudcat Café message #1290806 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #8910   Message #1290806
Posted By: GUEST,Ed Rush
06-Oct-04 - 09:21 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Cool Hand Luke / Plastic Jesus
Subject: RE: Cool Hand Luke / Plastic Jesus
Here is a note that I sent yesterday to the "who wrote and made popular 'Plastic Jesus'" string on this website. As you will see, it didn't start out as a folk song, but forty-some years later is evolving into one.So now I will solve the Plastic Jesus authorship question for this six year quest once and for all. As bored teenagers in Fresno, California in the late 50's my friends and I used to sit around on hot summer nights playing with a radio to find distant stations. A favorite was (as I dimly recall) a station with the call letters(maybe) XERB, from Del Rio, Texas. The transmitter was just over the Rio Grande, in Mexico, so that they could engage in some questionable transactions that the FCC might not have approved of. They peddled all sorts of tacky quaisi-religious stuff, including plastic statues of Jesus, Mary, etc. These were guaranteed to protect the buyer, especially if he sent cash. One of our favorite programs often featured rousing spiritual anthems, including one song that started, "I don't care if it rains or freezes, leaning on the arms of Jesus..." Being slightly irreverant teenagers, George and I came up with "I don't care if it rains or freezes, long as I've got my plastic Jesus..." etc,etc. I clearly recall rolling on the floor with laughter for about an hour. Several years later George and I attended the same college in Monterey and started singing songs that we made up satirizing all sorts of politcal and social conventions. We sang for contributions from the audience in a joint on Cannery Row called Kalisa's. After about a year of this we decided to try our luck a actually doing this professionally and ended up with a string of club and concert gigs that ground to a halt in November of 1963 when George was drafted into the army. Our last performance was in a club in Victoria BC on the night of November 23. That was the day of the Kennedy assasination and it was a bit wierd to say the least. Poor george had to report two days later. As the Gold Coast Singers we recorded an album for World Pacific/Pacific Jazz Records that included Plastic Jesus, recorded in concert at San Francico State sometime in early 1961. The recollections about the song in some of these messages probably have their origins in the wide airplay of our record in the early 60's. This is also probably where Ernie Marrs an Paul Newman first heard it. Although I don't remember selling records out of the trunk of George's VW, it sounds like something we would have done at the time. World Pacific couldn't deliver records to ditributors after the first 25,000 were released because they hadn't paid the record pressing plant for some time. In mid-1963 a Chicago disc jockey played Plastic Jesus several times a day and nearly got fired by his very Catholic boss. So that's the story from the horse's mouth. And yes, George's estate and I still get modest royalty checks every time Cool Hand Luke runs on cable. George died a few years ago, but I'm still around, so to speak.
Ed Rush