This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2013)
R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders
|Labels||Blue Goose, Shanachie Records|
|Past members||Robert Crumb|
R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders are an American retro string band playing songs from, and in the style of, the 1920s: old-time music, ragtime, "evergreen" jazz standards, western swing, country blues, Hawaiian, hokum, vaudeville and medicine show tunes. Underground cartoonist Robert Crumb was the band's frontman and album cover artist. Other members of the band include fellow cartoonist Robert Armstrong and filmmaker Terry Zwigoff (who directed the 1995 documentary Crumb).
Crumb and Armstrong, who knew each other from the underground comics scene, realized that they both enjoyed listening to — and playing — music from the 1920s and '30s. Bringing in Armstrong's old friend Al Dodge, the trio began playing together for fun. On a subsequent trip through Milwaukee, the group met with underground publisher Denis Kitchen, who offered them the chance to cut a 78 rpm record under the name R. Crumb and his Keep on Trucking Orchestra (a reference to Crumb's famous Keep on Truckin' comic strip, which itself was a riff on the Blind Boy Fuller song "Truckin' My Blues Away").
The 78 caught the attention of Blue Goose Records, which offered to produce and release an LP of the band, which had changed its name to the Cheap Suit Serenaders after "hurriedly buying suits at the Salvation Army in order to meet the minimum dress code required of the band at a posh wedding." R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders released their first album in 1974.
Over time, the trio added Dan Wheetman (later of the band Marley's Ghost), Terry Zwigoff on cello, and Tom Marion on guitar and mandolin. In 1978, Tony Marcus replaced Marion. Also in 1978, guitarist Bob Brozman came in for the band's third album.
By the mid-1980s, the group played fewer live shows because Armstrong and Crumb had moved out of the Bay Area; by the mid-1990s Crumb had moved to France.
As of 2006 R. Crumb was no longer much involved with the group; the band at that time included Robert Armstrong (vocals, musical saw, guitar), Bob Brozman (vocals, various resonator instruments, guitar, ukulele), Al (Allan) Dodge (vocals, mandolin), Terry Zwigoff (saw, cello, Stroh violin, and mandolin), and Tony Marcus (vocals, guitar, and fiddle).
The band's 33⅓ rpm albums, all recorded in the 1970s on the Blue Goose Records label, were titled R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders (1974), R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders No. 2 (1976), and R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders No. 3 (1978); the latter two were reissued on the Shanachie Records label in 1993 as Chasin' Rainbows and Singing In the Bathtub respectively.
As a novelty, the band issued a number of 78 rpm 10-inch singles for Blue Goose, long after the format was obsolete. The most familiar is probably R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders' Party Record (1980), with the double-entendre "My Girl's Pussy" on the "A" side and X-rated "Christopher Columbus" on the "B" side.
The band's self-titled debut LP is currently out of print, though the tracks "Get a Load of This" and "Cheap Suit Special" were re-released on the R. Crumb Music Sampler CD, which was included with The R. Crumb Handbook (M Q Publications, 2005).
In popular culture
The Cheap Suit Serenaders songs "Chasin' Rainbows" and "Hula Medley" were both featured on the American Splendor (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), released by New Line Records in 2003. (American Splendor is based on the writings of Harvey Pekar, with whom R. Crumb collaborated many times.)
The Cheap Suit Serenaders' version of "My Girl's Pussy" is used as the opening theme song of the Australian television comedy series Laid, which premiered in 2011.
- Lynch, Megan. "The Cheap Suit Serenaders," AllMusic.com. Accessed Nov. 17, 2019.
- Gabbard, Krin (2004). Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture. Rutgers University Press. pp. 229–230. ISBN 0813533848.
- "Various – American Splendor (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)," Discogs. Accessed June 14, 2019.