Saturday, August 24, 2013

August 24: Guitarist, composer, comedy writer & poet, Mason Williams – “Classical Gas” “The Smothers Brothers Show” – is 75-years-old today.

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Mason Douglas Williams was born in Abilene, Texas on August 24, 1938. In 1968 Williams won two Grammy Awards for his guitar instrumental "Classical Gas.” Together with Nancy Ames he wrote "Cinderella Rockefella," a 1968 number one hit for Israeli singers Esther and Abi Ofarim in the United Kingdom.

Williams has recorded more than a dozen albums, five on the Warner Bros. label (The Mason Williams Phonograph Record, The Mason Williams Ear Show, Music, Handmade, and Sharepickers). “Classical Gas" was released as a single from The Mason Williams Phonograph Record in 1968.

"Classical Gas" won three Grammys that year for "Best Instrumental (theme) Composition,” "Best Instrumental (theme) Performance,” and "Best Instrumental Orchestra Arrangement,” Mike Post, arranger. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. For both Handmade and Sharepickers, Mason received two more Grammy nominations for "Best Album Cover Design.”

In 1970, Williams made a television appearance on a variety show, Just Friends, which reunited regulars of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

To create a visual element for his performance, he used a special playable classical plexiglass guitar built for him by Billy Cheatwood and a prop designer for ABC. For the performance, Williams filled the guitar with water and added a couple of goldfish. He then used the plexiglass guitar to finger-sync his hit version of "Classical Gas.”

Williams has written more than 175 hours of music and comedy for network television programming and was a prime creative force for CBS' controversial Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. His experience in folk music gave him the background for many of Tom and Dick Smothers' comedy routines and with co-writer Nancy Ames, also composed the show's musical theme.

It was on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour that he created and perpetuated the 1968 "Pat Paulsen for President" campaign, an elaborate political satire. Williams also helped launch the career of entertainer Steve Martin whom Williams initially paid out of his own pocket as a writer for the Smothers Brothers.

In 1968, he won an Emmy Award for his work as a comedy writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Other major television personalities he has written for include Andy Williams, Glen Campbell, Dinah Shore, Roger Miller, and Petula Clark. He also wrote songs for The Kingston Trio.

In 1980, Williams briefly served as head writer for NBC's Saturday Night Live, but left after clashing with producer Jean Doumanian. Williams himself was also a stand-up comedian. He set most of his comic ideas to music and sang or recited the jokes in lyric form with guitar accompaniment.

In 1964, Vee-Jay Records released Them Poems, a record album on which Williams entertains a live audience with "them poems about them people,” covering such varied topics as "Them Moose Goosers,” "Them Sand Pickers" and "Them Surf Serfs.”

In 2003, Williams released an EP, Music for the Epicurean Harkener, and was again nominated for a Grammy in 2004 for best instrumental album. In 2005, he collaborated with UK guitarist Zoe McCulloch on the album Electrical Gas.

For more about Mason, visit his Website at –

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