There are a handful of podcasts that I never miss. One of my favorites is the amazing Cocaine & Rhinestones from Tyler Mahan Coe.
The program has taken deep dives into stories about some of my favorite musicians from 20th century country music including Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Ernest Tubb, and my fellow Kentuckians, Loretta Lynn and Tom T. Hall. Some other country artists I didn’t especially appreciate previously, like the Judds, have also been featured, and their stories have been just as fantastic as the ones I looked forward to.
What most people notice first about Cocaine & Rhinestones is that Coe has an unusual presentation style. His way of talking about history has a unique tone and is quite different than how he sounds in conversation, for example, on his other show Your Favorite Band Sucks. His deliberate and enunciated delivery on Cocaine & Rhinestones quickly becomes addictive and captivating.
The next thing people notice about Cocaine & Rhinestones is Coe’s obsessive attention to detail. After each episode, he runs through an extensive discussion of the source materials he used as reference to assemble the story. He never does interviews on the show, so each episode is essentially him staging a meticulously researched historical account of a particular artist, song, time period or chapter in country music. Related videos, songs, books and other such materials are all linked from comprehensive per-episode posts on the show’s website.
It’s all relentlessly impressive and enjoyable and it’s a gold mine for people like me who love classic country music.
That brings us to today’s episode of Here’s the Tower. This episode takes elements of what I love about Cocaine & Rhinestones, mashes them up with my appreciation for absurd novelty music. This first episode of Kazoos & Sequins discusses the music of my favorite novelty organist Mambo Kurt.
I first saw Mambo Kurt unexpectedly back in 1999. My band, the Metroschifter, was on tour in Europe and we had a night off in Frankfurt, Germany. We have some great friends in Germany who we always stayed with while in Frankfurt. They suggested that we should go out to a club to see “this guy who plays pop songs on the organ.” We were all skeptical and hesitant, but when Mambo Kurt took the stage he blew us away. He was absolutely amazing, so hilarious and so German. I bought his CD (people used to do that at shows) and had him sign it.
I still have that disc. I have gotten a lot of joy from his music over the years, and I am pleased that he is still performing twenty years later.
(The artwork for this episode was ripped off and adapted from Cocaine & Rhinestones‘ original design by Rachel Urquhart from Pony Gold Studio. She does really great stuff and you’ve likely seen her iconic portrait of Chris Stapleton.)