Web Dreamtime
SiteSearch Google

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Morgus the Magnificent

Our Host: Mac Rebennack is a New Orleans native. He's probably better known as "Dr. John." And on this record from the late Fifties he pays tribute to the local horror movie host that he used to watch, Morgus the Magnificent. He was a quintessential Mad Scientist. He was assisted by his executioner sidekick, Chopsley, and performed well-intentioned experiments that would often go wrong and blow up in his face.

[organ music]

Morgus: Who are these idiots to criticize and can't see my genius to recognize? It was I, Morgus, who performed the first organ transplant! But, being the appendix, they turned down my grant. Hah-hah!

[organ music swells]

Our Host: Here's "Morgus the Magnificent," by Dr. John, the ghoul who steals the show on TV.

~ Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour, "Halloween" on "Morgus the Magnificent"

A post over at io9 on the many "Creature Feature" hosts that dominated the UHF channels from roughly the late `50s to around the early `80s got me thinking about one of the most infamous of the crew - at least in the New Orleans market - "Morgus the Magnificent," created and portrayed by New Orleans actor Sid Noel.

Under a variety of names, "Creature Features" were blocks of horror movie -- usually B or even lower-quality - programming shown on local television stations. Around the mid-1950, Hollywood realized that they were sitting on a treasure trove of retired films from the `30s and `40s that were doing nothing except turning to mush in their vaults. So they licensed the broadcast rights to local TV markets who needed something to fill late-night slots, and, in stroke of genius, only sold the films as a package. Want Frankenstein? Then you were going to get Curse of the Zombie Woman too, buddy.

Vampira essentially started the horror host genre in 1954 in Los Angeles, creating the model that ghouls from Zacherley, through Morgus, to Mistress of the Dark, Elvira would copy. Spooky garb, cheesy sets, bad jokes... even worse movies.

Outside of his other accomplishments, Morgus is noteworthy for being the first horror host to get his own film, 19 and 62's The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus, beating out Elvira by some 25-odd years, as well as being the first to be saluted by a rock-'n-roll number. 19 and 59's "Morgus the Magnificent" on the Vin label was credited to Morgus and the Three Ghouls, the "Three Ghouls" not only including Mac Rebennack (a.k.a. "Dr. John"), but also Frankie Ford and Jerry Bryne, backed by The Huey Smith Band. While he did mention the Mac Rebennack connection, Our Host missed the opportunity to note that of the other two ghouls Ford - "The New Orleans Dynamo" - would later have a mega-hit with "Sea Cruise," covering Huey Smith's original, and Jerry Bryne, Mac Rebennack's cousin, already had a hit under his belt with the 1958 rocker, "Light's Out." While Morgus is named as the leader and lead singer of the Three Ghouls, Sid Noel had nothing to do with the single outside of lending his name. "Morgus" on the recording is actually the voice of Frankie Ford.

The real "Morgus the Magnificent," Sid Noel, did go into the recording studio once, in 19 and 56, when he covered a popular novelty number, "The Flying Saucer." "Flying Saucer" was the first of a short-lived AM Radio record craze of the `50s, the so-called "break-in" record, which featured an interviewer asking questions with the responses being clips from popular songs of the day from performers such as Fats Domino, Elvis Presley and Little Richard.

"What did you think when you first saw the flying saucer?"

"Good golly, Miss Molly!"

As one might guess, the attraction of break-ins quickly waned, as many of the musicians' labels sued about the unauthorized use of their music. Sid Noel got around that problem by hiring a local band, The Hawks, who did their own version of the original numbers. In their interest of completeness, here's Dickie Goodman's and Bill Buchanan's original "The Flying Saucer" Parts 1 and 2.

No comments: