Spike Jones was the madcap musical anarchist who would have made Beethoven glad he was deaf.
The slender, sandy-haired bandleader made a fortune by turning the concert stage into a battle ground of sounds.
His 40-member band, the "City Slickers," started together and ended together. But in between it was every man for himself—or so it seemed to the audience.
The usual instruments weren't enough for the Jones boys. He supplemented them with cowbells, washboards, automobile horns, cannon shots, anvils, bird calls, dog barks—and anything else that would make noise.
During a number, a beautifully gowned woman would sit beside a harp knitting a scarf, oblivious to the mayhem about her. She was a zany "prop" who never touched the instrument.
Jones would lead his band dressed in wild and varied costumes. At one time he would dress as a Venetian courtier and at another as a circus barker or tophatted and debonair man-about-town.
The band's repertoire was inexhaustible—and no musical composition was sacred. Not even the classics were spared.
"Liebestraum" was turned into a nightmare; the "Blue Danube" became a whirlpool, and the "Dance of the Hours" became a war dance. Jones even finished Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony."
There were other compositions with titles as weird as their sounds—"Ugga, Ugga Boo," "A Serenade to a Jerk," "Il Barkio."
The public loved them. More than 20 million of Jones' records have been sold.
In later years, Jones generally substituted satire for sound. He would deliver mock serious musical lectures in the manner of conductor Leonard Bernstein.
One was entitled: "Why Is Mitch Miller Afraid to Sing Alone?"
Jones' popularity reached its peak during the war years and immediately after when he toured the nation with his "Musical Depreciation Review."
When rock 'n' roll began its ascent, Jones complained it was stealing his thunder.
"My business is lousing up music," he once said. "But how can you slaughter a tune that already is a mess?"