The Coolies

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The Coolies
GenresAlternative rock, post-punk, laffabilly
Years active1986–1989
LabelsDB, Casino
Past membersJeb Baldwin
Billy Burton
Rob Gal
Clay Harper
Frogg Jaguar Mellonball
Teddy Murray

The Coolies were an American alternative rock band from Atlanta, Georgia, active between 1986 and 1989. They derived the name from a dictionary definition of coolie which defines the word as "one who does heavy work for little pay".


The Coolies' first album, dig..? was released in 1986 by DB Records, and consisted of nine tongue-in-cheek covers of Simon & Garfunkel classics plus a version of Paul Anka's 1974 No. 1 hit, "(You're) Having My Baby". While Anka's version received criticism for perceived sexist undertones, Coolies lead singer Clay Harper added a brief spoken interlude at the end of the song in which he reveals that she is not the only woman in town having his baby. Thus, he must leave town. "Scarborough Fair" was released as a 7″ single.


dig..? was followed up in 1988 by the rock opera Doug. Doug contains thirteen original tracks, mostly written by guitarist Rob Gal, in the style of various previously existing bands. For example, "Cook Book" is reminiscent of the Who's Tommy, and "Pussy Cook" is more-or-less a reworking of the Beastie Boys' "Cooky Puss". Other bands paid homage to or spoofed include Led Zeppelin, John Lennon and The Replacements.[1]

Doug is the story of a skinhead, named Doug, who kills a drag queen short-order cook, steals his recipe book and becomes a "culinary giant" when the cookbook becomes a nationwide bestseller. Doug embraces the celebrity lifestyle of stretch limousines and partying. Soon, his guilt drives him to become paranoid, and he's certain that the entire food service industry knows of his crime and is out for revenge—so he decides he will stop eating, and subsist solely on crack cocaine and alcohol. Having squandered his fortune on luxuries and drugs, Doug ends up back on the streets in poverty. IGN rated Doug the fourteenth greatest rock opera of all time in 2006.[2] A comic book version of this tale, drawn by singer/songwriter Jack Logan was included with the LP record and could be acquired by sending a dollar to DB Recs.

Original drummer Billy Burton, who was essentially moon-lighting from his full-time gig with The Swimming Pool Q's when dig..? was recorded,[3] is replaced by Frogg Jaguar Mellonball on Doug. The album also features John Cerreta on keyboards throughout, though he is not credited with being a member of the band. Cerreta also played keyboards for "I Am A Rock" on dig..?

Take That You Bastards![edit]

The Coolies disbanded in 1989 while working on a third album. Three tracks recorded during sessions for this album were released in 1995 as Take That You Bastards! on Harper's Casino Records label.[4] Take That You Bastards! is a two disc set containing both Coolies albums in their entirety (with the exception of "Mrs. Robinson" from dig..?), the three previously unreleased tracks and an additional Simon & Garfunkel cover, "The Sounds of Silence", which was the B-side of "Scarborough Fair".[5]

Other musical ventures[edit]

Following the break up of the Coolies, Gal and Harper formed the short lived bands Lester Square, and later Ottoman Empire. After two albums also released on DB Recs, Ottoman Empire also disbanded. Gal joined 6X, while Harper embarked on a solo career with the ten track East of Easter. After this, he recorded a children's record, Not Dogs...Too Simple (A Tale of Two Kitties) with his brother, Mark (who was also a member of Ottoman Empire) in 1998.[6] The album featured guest appearances by Ian Dury (of "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" fame), Drivin N Cryin's Kevn Kinney, former Georgia Satellites guitarist Rick Richards, former Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker, Murray Attaway of Guadalcanal Diary, and the B-52's Cindy Wilson.[7]

The Harper Brothers recorded a second children's album, The Slippery Ballerina in 1999. A year later, Clay Harper wrote and produced the concept album Main Street: the Original Soundtrack to the Motion Picture (there is no such movie in spite of this name), but does not appear on it.[8] In 2013, Harper released his second solo album, Old Airport Road. He's also released several singles on Casino over the years.

Harper has gone on to become something of a culinary giant himself.[9] He is the owner of the Fellini's Pizza chain and La Fonda Latina Restaurants in Georgia.[10]

Gal has moved into audio engineering, with Sugarland's Gold and Green among his credits.[11] Teddy Murray joined Donkey shortly after the Coolies broke up. The band released a live album called Slick Night Out in 1993 on Atlanta independent label Steam Records,[12] followed by the studio album Ten Cent Freaks in 1994 on Amphion Records. Jeb Baldwin and Frogg Jaguar Mellonball went on to start The Mighty Fine Slabs as the house band at Fat Matt's Rib Shack from 1991 until 1999.


  • dig..? (1986), DB Records
  • Doug (1988), DB Records
  • Take That You Bastards! (1995), Casino Records – compilation album


  1. ^ "Doug - The Coolies - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  2. ^ "Top 14 Greatest Rock Operas/Concept Albums of All Time". May 9, 2006. Archived from the original on December 11, 2011.
  3. ^ "Billy Burton". Swimming Pool Q's Official Website.
  4. ^ "Casino Music Home".
  5. ^ Stewart Mason (July 4, 1995). "Take That You Bastards! Review". AllMusic.
  6. ^ Stewart Mason. "Ottoman Empire Biography". AllMusic.
  7. ^ Russell Hall (October 8, 2000). "A Tale of Two Brothers".
  8. ^ "Main Street: the Original Soundtrack to the Motion Picture".
  9. ^ Jamie Allen (September 16, 2000). "Main Street Man: Clay Harper's Prolific Muse Offers Up an Imaginary Soundtrack". Creative Loafing.
  10. ^ "Fellini's Pizza & La Fonda Latina".
  11. ^ "Rob Gal". Artist Direct.
  12. ^ Greg Baker (January 12, 1994). "Kiss My Ass: Donkey is Stubborn When It Comes to Sounding Like Anything Else". Miami New Times Music.