The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo

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The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo
OriginLos Angeles, California, United States
Years active1972-1979
Associated actsOingo Boingo
Past membersRichard Elfman
Danny Elfman
Marie-Pascale Elfman
Steve Bartek
Leon Schneiderman
Dale Turner
Sam 'Sluggo' Phipps
Billy Superball
William Winant
Stan Ayeroff
Gene Cunningham
Jon Gold
Josh Gordon
Brad Kay
Miriam Cutler
Timm Boatman

The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo was an American surrealist street theatre troupe, formed by performer and director Richard Elfman in 1972. The group was subsequently led by Richard's brother Danny Elfman and evolved into an experimental musical theatre group, performing songs from the 1930s-40s and original material.[2]

In 1979, Danny Elfman wished to pursue a new direction as a dedicated rock band and the group reformed as Oingo Boingo. Several Mystic Knights band members continued with the new band, most notably guitarist Steve Bartek.


The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, formed in late 1972 by Richard Elfman, was a musical theater troupe in the tradition of Spike Jones and Frank Zappa, performing an eclectic repertoire ranging from Cab Calloway covers to instrumentals in the style of Balinese gamelan and Russian ballet music. The name was inspired by a fictional secret society on the Amos 'n' Andy TV series called The Mystic Knights of the Sea. Most of the members performed in whiteface and clown makeup, and a typical show contained music ranging from the 1890s to the 1950s, in addition to original material. This version of the band employed as many as 15 musicians at any given time, playing over 30 instruments, including some instruments built by band members. While this Richard Elfman-led incarnation of the group performed live, it did not issue any recordings.

As Richard Elfman's interest shifted to filmmaking, he passed leadership of the band to younger brother Danny, who had recently returned from spending time in Africa playing violin and studying percussion instruments. They gained a following in Los Angeles, and appeared as contestants on The Gong Show in 1976, winning the episode they appeared on with 24 points out of a possible 30.[3] The Gong Show presentation included an accordion, a purple dragon and a gaseous rocket-man.

Later in 1976, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo released "You Got Your Baby Back", a doo-wop style novelty single about kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst. Both this track and the B-side "Ballad of the Caveman" were written and sung by Danny Elfman. The band featured in the 1976 Martin Brest film Hot Tomorrows performing the songs St. James Infirmary and 42nd Street.[4] They appeared as extras in hallucinatory sequences in the 1977 movie I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.

When the group began to move away from its cabaret style towards a more pop/rock format, Richard Elfman made a film based on the band's stage performance. Forbidden Zone was released in 1980 and filmed in black and white with a cast mostly made up of band members and friends. In one scene, Danny, as Satan, sings a version of Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" with modified lyrics integrated into the plot of the film.[5] In another, Richard sings the 1920s novelty song "The Yiddishe Charleston". The movie attained cult status[6] and provided a springboard for the film and music careers of Richard and Danny.



  • You Got Your Baby Back (1976)


  • Mr. Sycamore (1975) (uncredited cameo)
  • The Gong Show (1976) (available on YouTube)
  • I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977)
  • Hot Tomorrows (1977)
  • Forbidden Zone (1980)


  1. ^ "Oingo Boingo – Biography, Albums, Streaming Links – AllMusic". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 2016-11-13.
  2. ^ Benson, Alex (May 15, 2018). "The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo: Danny Elfman's Circus Theater Origins". Medium. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  3. ^ "Oingo Boingo on the Gong Show". Archived from the original on 2011-11-05. Retrieved 2011-11-02 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (October 4, 1977). "'Hot Tomorrows' Is Grim Film". The New York Times. Retrieved October 9, 2019. At the club, an eerie-looking combo in heavymakeup is playing "St. James infirmary"... Paracise Ballroom sequence performed by the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo...
  5. ^ Puchalski, Steven. Slimetime: a guide to sleazy, mindless movies. Headpress 2002, p. 113, ISBN 978-1-900486-21-7
  6. ^ Beck, Jerry. The animated movie guide, Chicago Review Press, p. 273, ISBN 978-1-55652-591-9

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