William Tell Overture (Spike Jones song)

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Spike Jones and his City Slickers recorded a cover of Gioachino Rossini's William Tell Overture. This version reproduces the original with significant modification of style and replaces the conclusion with the imitated horse race calls of the famous announcer Clem McCarthy.

Jones released his version as a single in 1948 and it peaked at #6 on the charts.[1] The song was included on the album Spike Jones Is Murdering the Classics in 1971 and has frequently been included in various "greatest hits" compilations.

The recording begins with the "Storm" portion of the overture, played frenetically, with the band accompanied by barking dogs and clanging objects of various kinds. The progression is brought to a sudden end with the "Bang!" of one of the famous guns in Jones's unique percussion section.

The "Call to the Cows" begins with normal instruments and artificial bird chirps. The next part is played on pots and pans and bicycle horns, each one in perfect tune, followed by a crash. Finally, the melody is rendered by gargling, concluding with a "gulp."

The "Finale," a.k.a. the "Cavalry Charge," is played on the normal instruments of a big band, mostly as an underscore to the commentary of Doodles Weaver, who is describing a horserace. Weaver introduces the racehorses, some of them bearing a name similar to a real horse (Stu Chan for Stagehand, Dogbiscuit for Seabiscuit) and some of them with joke names ("Girdle" in the stretch).

Perennially trailing the field with distant 20-to-1 odds is the horse Feetlebaum (one of Weaver's radio-show characters was Professor Feetlebaum). The horse's name is always spoken in a deep, two-note "foghorn" cadence. During the race, Feetlebaum keeps falling farther and farther behind the field.

As the race nears its finish, the announcer goes on a tangent, impersonating broadcaster Clem McCarthy, who had called the famous Seabiscuit-War Admiral match race in 1938 and also the famous Joe Louis-Max Schmeling boxing rematch of the same year. In this case, Weaver's now gravelly-voiced track announcer begins describing a boxing match.

The song concludes with Weaver announcing the winner... Beetlebaum!

The City Slickers and Doodles Weaver recorded a sequel, describing the Indianapolis 500 and underscored by Dance of the Hours. Near the conclusion of the race, a horrific accident (or the sound effects thereof) demolishes all the cars, a horse's whinny is heard, and Weaver announces the winner... Beetlebaum!


  1. ^ "William Tell Overture" by Spike Jones peaks at #6 June 12 in History