Classical Gas

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For other uses, see Classical Gas (disambiguation).
"Classical Gas"
Single by Mason Williams
from the album The Mason Williams Phonograph Record
B-side "Long Time Blues"
Released 1968
Format 7"
Genre Easy listening, classical, Baroque pop
Length 3:00
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Mason Williams
Producer(s) Mike Post
Music sample
Classical Gas
Studio album by Mannheim Steamroller with Mason Williams
Released August 15, 1987
Recorded 1987
Genre Easy listening, classical
Mannheim Steamroller with Mason Williams chronology
Saving the Wildlife
Classical Gas
A Fresh Aire Christmas

"Classical Gas" is an instrumental musical piece composed and originally performed by Mason Williams with instrumental backing by members of The Wrecking Crew.[1] Originally released in 1968 on the album The Mason Williams Phonograph Record, it has been re-recorded and re-released numerous times since by Williams. One later version served as the title track of a 1987 album by Williams and the band Mannheim Steamroller.

Originally named "Classical Gasoline", the song was envisioned to be "fuel" for the classical guitar repertoire. The title was later shortened by a music copyist.[2]

Williams was the head writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour at the time of the piece's release and premiered the composition on the show. Williams performed it several times over several episodes. After the piece had reached the Top Ten, Williams asked an experimental filmmaker named Dan McLaughlin to adjust a student video montage that he had created of classical art works using Beethoven's 5th Symphony and edit it in time to "Classical Gas", using the visual effect now known as kinestasis. The work, 3000 Years of Art, premiered in 1968 on the Smothers Brothers.

The song peaked at number 2 for two weeks in August that year.[3] On the US Easy Listening chart it went to number one for three weeks.[4]

Williams re-recorded "Classical Gas" as a solo guitar piece on his 1970 album Handmade. This version was re-released by Sony in 2003, after being featured in the film Cheaper by the Dozen (which starred Williams's Smothers Brothers protégé,[citation needed] Steve Martin).

During the 1970s and early 1980s, many television stations (such as KIRO-TV in Seattle, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, WMGC now WIVT in Binghamton, WKYC in Cleveland, WBAL-TV in Baltimore, KNTV in San Jose, WXII-TV in Winston-Salem, WECT in Wilmington (NC), WIS-TV in Columbia, WFTV in Orlando, and WNEP-TV in Wilkes-Barre) used the composition—or a version of it re-recorded by Telesound—as their news theme.[citation needed]

There is a common misconception that "Classical Gas" was composed and originally performed by Eric Clapton.[5] Clapton has never recorded a cover of the song. This misconception may possibly be attributed to the fact that Clapton was musical director of, and played much of the guitar music for, the feature film The Story of Us. The version of the song on the film's soundtrack is actually Williams' own solo-guitar re-recording of it, from his 1970 album Handmade.[6][7]



  • Ronnie Aldrich played the instrumental version for two pianos with The London Festival Orchestra on his 1969 album Destination Love.
  • Area Code 615 covered "Classical Gas" on their 1970 album Trip in the Country, played by Bobby Thompson on banjo, parts of which were sampled and featured in a 2010 Guinness TV commercial.
  • Shocking Blue covered it on concerts. One of the records can be heard on band's album Live in Japan (1972)
  • The Scottish progressive rock band Beggars Opera recorded a version of the song on their 1973 album Get Your Dog Off Me.
  • Larry Fast recorded an electronic version for his Synergy sequence album Sequencer in 1976.[8]
  • The Shadows's 1979 album String of Hits contains a cover.
  • Mannheim Steamroller performed the song with Mason Williams on their 1987 collaboration album Classical Gas.
  • Cozy Powell performed a version of the song on his 1992 solo album The Drums Are Back.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Last Exit to Springfield", Lisa performed this song during an union strike.
  • Australian musician Tommy Emmanuel performed a version of the song on his 1995 album Classical Gas, backed by the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • Zlatko Manojlović, Serbian guitarist, covered the song on his 1995 album Zlatko.[9]
  • Vanessa-Mae, British violinist, covered "Classical Gas" in November 1995, at the Royal Albert Hall.
  • Instrumental band California Guitar Trio covered "Classical Gas" on their 1998 album, Pathways.
  • Les Fradkin's 2009 album Baroque Rocks! contains a cover performed entirely on the Star Labs Ztar Midi Guitar.
  • Chet Atkins played an instrumental version on his Street Dreams album.
  • A live rendition by Glen Campbell is included on 20 Greatest Hits and on the 3-CD set Classic Campbell.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Permanent Record Wrecker", Roger performs this song while in competition with a coffee-shop musician.
  • Midnight String Quartet covered the song on their 1968 album The Look of Love and Other Rhapsodies for Young Lovers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew. St. Martin’s Griffin. pp. 261–263. ISBN 978-1-250-03046-7. 
  2. ^ a b Williams, Mason. "Writing "Classical Gas"". I envisioned it as simply repertoire or "fuel" for the classical guitar, so I called it Classical Gasoline. 
  3. ^ The Original Classical Gas Video: "3000 Years of Art"
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 259. 
  5. ^ Classical Gas FAQ
  6. ^ Classical Gas FAQ on Williams's website
  7. ^ Screenshot of credits from The Story of Us
  8. ^ Sequencer at Discogs
  9. ^ Zlatko at Discogs

External links[edit]