Thursday, May 22, 2008

You *still* doesn't has'ta call him Johnson...

Glad to see that Bill Saluga is still in the game. Saluga has fascinated me for years because his main bit of shtick is so specific that it requires someone else setting it up, it spins into a coil of words, and then it's done (usually in less than two-three minutes, if that). For those who have never heard of Bill and his "Raymond J. Johnson Jr." character, he began as a member of the comedy troupe the Ace Trucking Company. Their ranks included Fred Willard, Patti Deutsch from Laugh-In, and the late George Memmoli (the "mook" guy from Mean Streets). All of the troupe were very talented, as is evidenced by their sketches available on various DVD boxes (they also appeared on the Lennon-Ono-hosted week of The Mike Douglas Show), and in the underrated Sixties montage-pic Dynamite Chicken. Saluga established his Johnson character rather early on (if a recent This is Tom Jones DVD box is any indication), and yes, is still doing it to this day on YouTube!

The bit started as a sketch performed by the ATC on variety shows, then it graduated to simply Saluga doing it on variety shows, then he began doing it on TV commercials, and he even wound up cutting a disco single, "Dancin' Johnson" (which is sadly not represented on YouTube, but is available on a blogspot blog for download, huzzah!). The bit is: someone calls him Mr. Johnson, and he responds with a long list of things you can call him, but you "doesn't has'ta call me Johnson." The bit became so ubiquitous at one point in the late '70s that Bob Dylan referenced it during his Xtian period in "You Gotta Serve Somebody." His line "you can call me RJ/you can call me Ray" was a nod from On High to Saluga's bit, which is as good as any way to remain a pop icon for the rest of yer life.

The one thing that has always been the coup de grace of the bit is the character's out-of-date get-up (which veered into zoot-suit territory at various points in the past). Given the amount of vintage TV on YouTube, I'm amazed there's only one or two small bits of vintage "Johnson." But it does appear like old "Raymond J." has decided to join us in the digital age.



Bill also now has an an official website, which features the above vid-sliver.

1 comment:

Tor Hershman said...

Oh man, thanks for the link.

Moi had no idea what the dudes' name was [is] that did the bit but I do remember it well and always found it MOST amusing.

Bob Dylan, an Xian.
I guess that's why I did this parody
"Pretend you're a sweet Christian
pretend you're a hurt Jew/
Pretend You're a Buddhist or
Satanint, too/
at end you ain't nothin' but DNA goo"
"The Times They Ain't A Changin'"

Stay on groovin' safari,
Tor