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|Single by Mason Williams|
|from the album The Mason Williams Phonograph Record|
|B-side||"Long Time Blues"|
"Classical Gas" is an instrumental musical piece composed and originally performed by American guitarist Mason Williams with instrumental backing by members of the Wrecking Crew. Originally released in 1968 on the album The Mason Williams Phonograph Record, it has been rerecorded and rereleased numerous times since by Williams. One later version served as the title track of a 1987 album by Williams and the band Mannheim Steamroller.
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 10, 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 an episode of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The song peaked at number two for two weeks in August that year, behind "Hello, I Love You" by The Doors. On the US Easy Listening chart, it went to number one for three weeks.
"Classical Gas" is sometimes erroneously thought to have been performed, or even composed, by Eric Clapton, because Clapton was the musical director of, and played much of the guitar music for, the feature film The Story of Us in which Williams' own recording of it from his album Handmade appeared.
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, actor/comedian/musician Steve Martin.
The song was used in 1973 as the opening theme for WBAL's Action News in Baltimore, Maryland. Since then, it came to be used by other local news programs on various TV channels in the United States, throughout the 1970s.
Awards and honors
- In 1969, the piece won three Grammy Awards: Best Instrumental Composition, Best Contemporary-Pop Performance, Instrumental, and Best Instrumental Arrangement.
- In 1998, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) awarded Williams a special Citation of Achievement. The piece has logged over five million broadcast performances to become BMI's all-time number-one instrumental composition for radio air play.
Cover versions and later versions
- Midnight String Quartet covered the song on their 1968 album The Look of Love and Other Rhapsodies for Young Lovers. In Canada, this version was co-charted with the Mason Williams version and they reached #2 in the RPM magazine charts.
- In the 1960s, the Alan Copeland singers recorded a song that combined "Classical Gas" with "Scarborough Fair".
- The Ventures recorded a cover for the album More Golden Greats, released in 1969.
- Paul Mauriat and his Orchestra recorded a cover for the album Gone Is Love, released in 1970.
- Deep Feeling, UK prog-rock band, recorded the song on their 1971 album, Deep Feeling.
- A college marching band plays the song at a basketball game in the 1971 film Drive, He Said.
- Under the name Synergy, Larry Fast recorded an electronic version for the album Sequencer in 1976. This version has served as the theme song for the WUSB (FM) radio program, Destinies-The Voice of Science Fiction since 1983.
- The Shadows recorded a version for their 1979 album String Of Hits.
- Argentine virtuoso guitarist Cacho Tirao (member of the Astor Piazzolla quintet) recorded the song along with Jorge Padín and Manolo Juárez for their 1980 album Encuentro.
- Dutch violinist Judy Schomper and flautist Berdien Stenberg (then still performing under her real name of Steunenberg) recorded a version for their 1980 LP Secret Gardens, performed on violin and concert flute.
- Vanessa-Mae recorded the song for her 1994 album The Violin Player.
- Zlatko Manojlović, Serbian guitarist, included the song on his 1995 album Zlatko.
- Tommy Emmanuel recorded the song with the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra on his 1996 album of the same name.
- Steve Howe recorded the song for his 1999 live album Pulling Strings.
- Les Fradkin recorded the song for his 2009 Ztar album Baroque Rocks.
- Doyle Dykes recorded a version for his 2017 album Life Behind the Guitar, combining it with parts of "25 or 6 to 4" by Chicago.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic performed an accordion rendition of the song on his YouTube channel in March of 2020.
- Glen Campbell also recorded and performed the instrumental regularly at his concerts.
- "Classical Gas / Long Time Blues - Mason Williams". 45cat. Retrieved 2019-10-25.
- Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew. St. Martin’s Griffin. pp. 261–263. ISBN 978-1-250-03046-7.
- Williams, Mason. "Writing "Classical Gas"". ClassicalGas.com.
I envisioned it as simply repertoire or "fuel" for the classical guitar, so I called it Classical Gasoline.
- "Classical Gas Original Video". Classicalgas.com. 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
- Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 259.
- "Classical Gas FAQ". Classicalgas.com. 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
- Screenshot of credits from The Story of Us
- Bianculli, David (2010). Dangerously Funny. Simon & Schuster. pp. 193–194. ISBN 978-1-4391-0117-9.
- "Classical Gas". Southernmedia-nmsa.com. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
- "Go-Set Australian charts - 2 October 1968". Poparchives.com.au. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 1968-08-19. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Classical Gas". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
- "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
- "Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. 1968-09-03. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
- Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
- "Cash Box Top 100 Singles, August 10, 1968". Archived from the original on August 12, 2014. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
- "Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. 1995-11-18. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
- "Top 100 Hits of 1968/Top 100 Songs of 1968". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
- "Top 50 Adult Contemporary Hits of 1968 - 45cat". 45cat.com. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
- "Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 28, 1968". Archived from the original on October 9, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
- "The RPM 100" (PDF). Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
- "The Ventures – More Golden Greats". Discogs.com. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
- "Synergy (3) - Sequencer (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
- "Cacho tirao - Encuentro (Inédito)". YouTube. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
- "Zlatko - To One Woman (CD, Album)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
- "Weird Al Yankovic - Classical Gas". YouTube. Retrieved March 25, 2020.