The challenge word this week on illustrationfriday.com is “primitive”.
My mom collected records, a hobby I picked up and, in turn, my son inherited from me. My mom and I shared the same unusual sense of humor, and it was reflected in our similar taste in music. I was introduced to Spike Jones by my mom. Spike Jones was essentially the “Weird Al” of the 1940s. Along with his band, the City Slickers, he performed goofy takes on popular songs of the time. He is most famous for “Cocktails for Two”, the raspberry-laden “Der Fuhrer’s Face” (which Hitler hated, much to Jones’ delight) and “The William Tell Overture” complete with a horserace announcer and his cries of “Feetlebaum!“.
With its “oop-oop” backing vocals, the song told of a caveman allegedly appearing in “the funny papers”. When I was a kid, I read the Sunday comics religiously. I never saw or heard of any character called “Alley Oop”. Much the way I currently obsess over useless trivia, I felt this situation called for some research.
Alley Oop was a syndicated comic strip, created in 1932 by cartoonist Vincent T. Hamlin. Alley Oop, the strip’s namesake and leading character, was a caveman living in the prehistoric kingdom of Moo who rode his pet dinosaur, Dinny, carried a stone war hammer, dressed in nothing but a pair of fur shorts, and obviously would rather fight dinosaurs in the jungle than deal with his fellow countrymen in Moo. In spite of these exotic settings, the stories were mostly satires of American suburban life. Alley Oop’s name derived from the French phrase allez, hop!, (meaning “let’s go!”) used as a cue by French gymnasts and trapeze artists. Hamlin wrote and drew Alley Oop through four decades. When Hamlin retired in 1971, his assistant Dave Graue took over. The last daily by Hamlin appeared December 31, 1972, and his last Sunday was April 1, 1973. Graue wrote and drew the strip through the 1970s and 1980s until Jack Bender took over as illustrator in 1991. Graue continued to write the strip until his August, 2001 retirement; on December 10, 2001, the 75-year-old Graue was killed in Flat Rock, North Carolina when a dump truck hit his car. The current Alley Oop Sunday and daily strips are drawn by Jack Bender and written by his wife Carol Bender.
Alley Oop has been referenced throughout pop culture. A thinly disguised Alley Oop was the central figure in Philip José Farmer’s The Alley Man, a 1959 novella about the last Neanderthal who has survived into the 20th Century. An educated Neanderthal known as Alley Oop is a character in Clifford D. Simak’s science fiction novel The Goblin Reservation (1968). In the 1970s, the song “Alley Oop” was used by the American choreographer Twyla Tharp in her ballet Deuce Coup. Alley Oop was a segment in Filmation’s 1970’s animated series Fabulous Funnies alongside Broom-Hilda, Nancy and Sluggo and The Captain and the Kids. It has even been said that Alley Oop was the inspiration for The Flintstones and Jurassic Park.
And that Hollywood Argyles’ song “Alley Oop” has been covered countless times by such bands as The Bonzo Dog Band, Ray Stevens, Buck Howdy, George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers and The Beach Boys.