T.C. Furlong, playing pedal steel with the Jump 'N The Saddle Band in 1984.
T.C. Furlong has been a well-known name in pro audio for 40 years, but few realize that he once had a Top-15 hit as a member of The Jump ‘N The Saddle Band. While his eponymous company has been a prominent pro audio retailer and events production vendor in the Chicago area for decades, in 1983, Furlong had a second career as the pedal steel player for the regional country pop act when it had a national hit with the novelty song, “The Curly Shuffle,” a goofy tribute to The Three Stooges that Furlong also co-produced. We asked him how the song came about, and the result was a quintessential tale of one-hit wonderdom.
The band’s name is Jump ‘N the Saddle and we were a regular fixture in the Chicago bar scene—we’d play probably 300 nights a year in the late 70s and early 80s. And then in 1983, the singer, Peter Quinn, said, “Hey, I’ve got this idea for song and I want to try it out.” We had a rehearsal and we played it on stage and everybody went crazy! We wanted to record it, so we went in the recording studio, and for $800 in studio fees, we recorded the whole thing and pressed it on a local label, Acme Records.
We started distributing it to radio stations and it went crazy. I don’t know if you remember the Morning Zoo shows that they had, but they loved that song. All over the country, immediately people were saying, “What’s that ‘Curly’ song? Where can I buy it?” We sent 45s to distributors and they were selling them as fast as we could get them pressed. Atlantic Records picked it up and started distributing it, and then we got a record contract, made an album for them and all that kind of stuff. It was truly a grassroots phenomenon, you know—a radio station call-in type of success. Disk jockeys—remember when they used to have those—loved playing that song because it was a fun party song for people.
I’ll give you another story about going to Atlantic Records—and this is actually in the stories in The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders. The Jump ‘N the Saddle band is officially a Billboard one-hit wonder…and we’re listed right between Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, who were also one-hit wonders! “Purple Haze” and “Me and Bobby McGee” were the only charting songs that either of those artists had.
We got flown out to NY to the record company to meet everybody. The head of A&R was a very nice gentleman—Ahmet Ertegun’s nephew, I believe—and he took us around. He introduced us to everybody at the record company as The Curly Shuffle Boys. He didn’t even say the name of the band, that’s how the record was.
They took us into the president of Atlantic Records’ office, Doug Morris, and Doug is a pretty famous guy in the record industry. So Doug sits us down and he says, “Okay, you guys are the creative geniuses; we don’t know how to do anything but press and sell records. What’s your next hit?” And we’re “Duh-uhh-uhh, I don’t know.” He says, “Okay, what have we got? Three Stooges…Three Stooges…okay, write one about the Marx Brothers.” Well, you kind of can’t say here’s their Marx Brothers song now, because “Shuffle” was an honest tribute to the Three Stooges and Curly especially.
He says, “No, I got a better song for you! I want you to cover that 1940’s song by Benny Bell, “Shaving Cream.” It was a wartime song—one of the verses was, “I once was France in the Army”—and it’s a waltz, right? The “funny line” is that instead of saying “shit,” you say “I stepped in a big pile of shaving cream.”
[Editorial Note: At this point of the interview, Furlong’s tone of voice implied that perhaps the band wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the song].
They wanted to hear a demo of what we were going to do, so we said okay, went back and we’re doing this stupid, you know—and it turned out great! It was really a swinging version, kind of similar to “The Curly Shuffle” and that party feel. Since we were a swing band, we did it big band-style in four, and Smart Me, I rewrote the last verse of the song so that the last verse went “We rewrote this song for Atlantic / They wanted us to deliver a hit / Instead we put this thing together / And sent them a big pile of shaving cream.”
The president of the company went berserk, we heard. Screaming and yelling, and we got tossed off the roster. No sense of humor at all. We just wrote the last line because hey, these guys are supposed to be funny and this was just a demo; we weren’t going to release it like that. But that was the end of our career—which was fine. Which was fine.
The singer, Peter, continues to play every week and still supports himself by playing music. He’s got a band called the Drunk Whisperers and he also has Skip Towne and the Greyhounds. He’s in like four different bands and he sings better than he did when he was in his late twenties when we did that song! So that’s what happened to the band who did "The Curly Shuffle."
Do you remember "The Curly Shuffle?" Have your own tale of near-stardom? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.