Tom Waits — Early TV Appearances

In the above clip, Tom Waits appears on Fernwood 2 Night, a parody talk show, hosted by Barth Gimble (Martin Mull) and sidekick/announcer Jerry Hubbard (Fred Willard), created by Norman Lear as a spin-off/summer replacement from Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. The show ran from July 4th, 1977 to September 8th, 1977. On it, Waits performs “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)” from his 1976 Elektra/Wea album, Small Change.


In the clip below, Tom Waits performs “Eggs And Sausage (In A Cadillac With Susan Michelson)” from his 1975 Asylum Records release, Nighthawks At The Diner, on the Mike Douglas show after which he’s pretty much interrogated by Mike’s panel of guests:

14 Responses to “Tom Waits — Early TV Appearances”

  1. Disciple of "Bob" says:

    Tom Waits’ music is some of the most overrated crap imaginable.

  2. Grafitti On The Wall says:

    A quote from Disciple of “Bob”:

    Tom Waits’ music is some of the most overrated crap imaginable.

    There is no need to listen to any critic view of Tom Waits for he is
    one of those unique musicians that either speaks to you or it does not.

    Fortunately I never had to worry about what the media rating quotient of Tom Waits was because in the first decade of listening to his music I never paid any mind whatsoever to the media view of what he was doing.

    My early contact with his music was over a friends house.
    Before you know it I was buying all his albums , going to his shows
    and his music grew on me like a pair of old shoes.

  3. tombo says:

    I first heard tom Waits on the Primus album “Sailing the seas of cheese”, track: “Tommy the cat.” Since I have this fetish of checking out collaborations and side-projects of bands I like, I discovered Waits’ music and worked my way down from “Mule Variations” to the beginnings and then back up to “Orphans”.

    Most overrated crap or not, I love the man.

  4. Hugh says:

    Thanks for digging up this little bit nostalgia, UrbanG. I remember watching these shows when they first ran. Norman Lear’s (creator of All In The Family) Mary Hartman was pretty fringe stuff back then. I remember they recieved tons of press for breaking barriers regarding topics no one else had the balls to tackle. Good for you, Norm! Fernwood Tonight (Mary, Mary’s spin-off) was pretty funny as I remember, but this clip is simply amazing for a few reasons. The premise of this show called for some acting skills from the guest musicians. And Tom shows fine abilities with nailing his lines and excellent comic timing. Perhaps a natural at it. It seems there was room for improv as well. No problem there for Tom. It’s excellent audition tape for his future in film acting.
    The song he sings, “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)” is great. My first time hearing it. But, what is interesting is the reaction from the studio audience. Some probably have heard of Tom, but I’m sure most were clueless. I get the impression that the studio audience thinks Waits’ act is a total gag. Even the host, Martin Mull plays this angle up with his reaction shots. Great Stuff.
    Even if Tom bit Beefheart. Waits had the business sense to diversify and endure. In my book Waits is underated. He’s a triple threat. Sings (okay more like croaks melodically), plays an instrument or two, and acts. Not an easy feat. Give it a try.

  5. John Carter of Mars says:

    Hilarious! Waits is a genius, and could’ve been a popular stand up comedian if he wanted!

  6. urbangraffito says:

    Tom Waits and Frank Zappa shared the same manager, Herb Cohen. Perhaps that is why their two careers were linked throughout the years until Frank and Herb parted ways…

    I first heard of Tom Waits through a 90 Minutes Live CBC interview (w. Flo and Eddie): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHP-yN5KGN4 (yet another Zappa connection).

  7. Sharleena says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    Tom Waits and Frank Zappa shared the same manager, Herb Cohen. Perhaps that is why their two careers were linked throughout the years until Frank and Herb parted ways…

    Here’s a quote that I think is pertinent, from the book “Wild Years, The Music and Myth Of Tom Waits” by Jay S. Jacobs (thanks Barry for the typing services!):

    “Wait’s real trial by fire came when he was recruited to open for the stars of Herb Cohen’s stable — brilliant, anarchistic joke-rocker Frank Zappa and his cohorts, The Mothers Of Invention. Wait’s Tin Pan Alley piano ballads about whiskey, love, and loss didn’t do it, to put it mildly, for audiences all pumped up to hear “Broken Hearts Are For Assholes”, “Weasels Ripped My Flesh”, and “Don’t it The Yellow Snow”. Zappa heads lit into the young Waits with wolflike ferocity. “Zappa — that was my first experience of rodeos and hockey arenas,” Waits told David Fricke. “The constant foot stomping and hand clapping: ‘We! Want! Frank!’ It was like Frankenstein, with the torches, the whole thing.”
    Many years later the memory still preyed on Waits. In 1999 he said to Barney Hoskyns, “I was always rather intimidated by Frank. There was so much mythology around him, and he had such confidence… When I toured with him, it was not well thought out. It was like your dad saying, ‘Why don’t you go to the shooting range with your brother Earl?’ I was like, I don’t really want to. I might get hurt. And I did get hurt. I went out and subjected myself to all this really intimidating criticism from an audience that was not my own. Frank was funny. He’d just say: ‘How were they out there?’ He was using me to take the temperature, sticking me up the butt of the cow and pulling me out. Kind of funny in retrospect. I fit in, in the sense that I was eccentric. Went out everynight, got my forty minutes. I still have nightmares about it. Frank shows up in my dreams, asking me how the crowd was. I have dreams where the piano is catching fire and the audience is coming at me with torches and dragging me away and beating me with sticks… so I think it was a good experience.”
    Bones Howe thinks that dealing with Zappa actually did help Waits as a touring artist. “I saw him open for The Mothers a few times, and he would get heckled. I know it was uncomfortable for him, but it was a good baptism. He learned to banter with the audience. There were always a few people in the audience that he would hook… and he’d end up talking with them. He would develop a rapport with the people in his audience who really liked him. Little by little, he built his following that way. But he was always much better at a small venue.”

  8. urbangraffito says:

    I always wondered about the dedication of his song, “Frank’s Wild Years” given the overall tone of the song itself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yJ7wy5cAvI

  9. Robert says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    [...]sticking me up the butt of the cow and pulling me out[...]

    Ouch.

  10. Robert says:

    A quote from Robert:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    [...]sticking me up the butt of the cow and pulling me out[...]

    Ouch.

    BTW, i was quoting Sharleena, not ug. Messed up the

    A quote from Robert:

    tags while editing the long text. Sorry.

  11. vince says:

    Hey….. why isn’t “Big Time” out on DVD yet?

  12. urbangraffito says:

    You’re giving me flashbacks of a Canadian prairie boyhood, Robert (you’ve just got to love the quote function!!)!!

  13. Robert says:

    A quote from urbangraffito:

    You’re giving me flashbacks of a Canadian prairie boyhood, Robert (you’ve just got to love the quote function!!)!!

    Yeah, love quoting indeed. Must be due to my lack of originality.

  14. bob says:

    ouch, indeed. and as for this clip, double ouch for both Mull and Waits. Having sat through Mull as an opening act during the musician phase of career, I was curious to find more on his background. This tidbit comes from WikiPedia paren (it’s gotta be true!) close paren, semi-colon:

    quote “Following a period of stand-up comedy performances and humorous song recordings including opening for Frank Zappa at Austin’s Armadillo World Headquarters in 1973, his first famous role was as twins Garth Gimble and Barth Gimble in the television nighttime absurdist soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976), which led to spin-off comedy talk shows Fernwood 2-Night (1977) and America 2-Night (1978), in which he played Barth Gimble as emcee, opposite Fred Willard as sidekick Jerry Hubbard.” unquote

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