With a Little Bit of Nyuk, a Homage to the Three Stooges Shuffles Its Way Up the Charts
Chicago-based singer-songwriter Peter Quinn was between sets in a Windy City bar one night last summer doing what he likes to do best: demonstrating his backward-skipping impression of Curly of the Three Stooges ("Oh—wise guy!") and waiting for some musical inspiration to strike. Instead, after a beer-sodden Joe Sixpack asked him what he was doing, he called it "the Curly Shuffle"—and then in less than an hour wrote the song later recorded by his six-member band, Jump 'N the Saddle. A goofy paean to Hollywood's masters of bonk-on-the-head humor, The Curly Shuffle boasts an insistent rhythm and appropriate lyrics (Hey Moe Hey Moe/Hey Moe Hey Moe/Well a nyuk nyuk nyuk nyuk/nyuk nyuk nyuk nyuk), which made it an instant hit with Chicago radio audiences. Since Atlantic Records picked up the song in November, The Curly Shuffle has soared up the national charts—it was No. 16 last week and climbing, with more than 500,000 copies sold. (The sudden success of the tune has also brought Atlantic some unwanted attention: a letter from Columbia Pictures, which produced most of the Stooges' films, threatening legal action over "publicity rights.")
But The Curly Shuffle is only the latest development in a nationwide reStoogeance that has American mothers contemplating locking up their TV sets and a new generation of kiddies and collegians yukking it up to the trio's limited repertoire of screeches, grunts, brain-boppings, triple-slaps and general nihilistic mayhem. The 195 shorts and 24 features made by the Three Stooges in their 35-year film career may make the Little Rascals seem positively Bergmanesque by comparison, but TV stations covering 35 percent of the U.S. are showing their oeuvre.
The stations are concentrating on the 90-odd shorts from the Stooges' Golden Years (1934-46), featuring the original cast: Moe Howard, the Marquis de Sade of the moron set and perfector of the two-fingered eye-poke; frizzy-haired, fish-eyed Larry Fine; and nyuk-nyukking numbskull Curly Howard, who died in 1952 and passed on the torch to a succession of lesser nitwits. (Moe and Larry both died in 1975.) Over 50 Three Stooges film festivals were staged last year in cities including New York, Detroit and Los Angeles, while new books continue to explore Stoogeiana. As if this weren't enough, the official Three Stooges Fan Club has some 5,000 active members, who paid $5 each for certificates identifying them as "Distinguished Knuckleheads."
Lead singer Quinn might merit that appellation, though he denies being a fanatic. "If I'm on a date and the girl suggests we go back to her place," he says, "I'm not gonna say, 'No, I wanna watch the Three Stooges on TV " Still, he confesses, "I've been watching them ever since my mother said I couldn't. Mothers don't appreciate grown men dragging each other around by the nostrils. Me, I think it's the greatest thing I ever saw." With the band members' bank accounts growing daily and the requisite video and album on the way, even their mothers would have to admit it has turned into a healthy obsession. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.
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