|Barris: Game show giant, CIA assassin, singer/songwriter|
Chuck Barris, ascended master of the TV game show would have been 91 today.
Happy birthday, Chuck.
If you recognize his name, it's probably because of his role as host of one of his craziest creations, The Gong Show -- a strange talent show that I loved a zillion times more than American Idol, America's Got Talent and Dancing With the Stars put together. Barris hosted the original version of the show from its debut in 1976 through 1980.
By the time that first gong struck, Barris, who was born in Philadelphia, already had several game shows under his belt, including The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game -- not to mention noble flops like The Family Game, The Game Game and How's Your Mother-in-Law none of which I've ever seen.)
He's also an author. In 1984 he published his own “unauthorized autobiography” titled Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, in which he claimed he'd worked secretly as a CIA contract assassin during the years he was making his game shows. (Nearly 20 years later it was made into a movie directed by George Clooney and starring Sam Rockwell.)
The agency flatly denied that Barris had ever worked for them in any capacity, calling the claim "ridiculous.". A game-show blog (!) called BuzzerBlog, in its 2017 obituary for Barris claims that the late host had confessed as much in a 1984 appearance on the Today Show. I couldn't find any clip of that, but I did find a 2010 interview with the Television Academy Foundation in which Barris is still acting coy about his supposed time with the CIA.
But for the purpose of this music blog, Chuck's music career is what we're celebrating today.
He had a band called The Chuck Barris Syndicate in the '60s. Here's a 1968 tune called "Donnie."
Here's a much snazzier number from 1980 called "Sometimes It Just Don't Pay To Get Up" credited to Chuck Barris & The Hollywood Cowboys Orchestra.
Barris, however, started out writing songs for others. Here's one from 1962 called "Summertime Guy" by Eddie Rambeau.
But by far the best-known Barris song was an ode to an amusement park that was a major hit for Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon. I like this version by The Ramones.
So let's strike the gong in memory of Chuck Barris.