This afternoon – and again this evening – the Racine Dairy Statesmen Barbershop Chorus presented their spring concert. . . and this time around the show was planned as a tribute to Kathy’s dad. Titled “Bob Gall: 76/100ths of a Century in Music . . . Kinda,” the show featured the chorus as well as a line up of special guest performers, including Caritas (which is Kathy, me, and our dear friend Kate Potter Barrow) and a quartet of Polly’s high school singers (who I have blogged about before as her Fearsome Foursome.) They were great to have aboard because Bob has done some coaching with them and they’ve come to really admire and appreciate him.
But without a doubt, the headliners for today’s program were none other than the Merry Muggs, the comedy quartet which Kathy’s dad created back in the 1940’s, but which emerged as this specific foursome way back in 1962. For over forty years Bob, Kaye Jensen, Gary Muth and Bob Albrecht entertained audiences all over the Midwest until finally calling it quits four years ago in a memorable farewell performance at the Racine Theater Guild on New Year’s Eve. Even as we watched that performance, we knew deep down that one way or another they would find a way to do something again. . . even if it was a one-time reunion. . . and today’s program ended up being that red-letter occasion. And although they trotted out nothing but their tried-and-true routines which they have been doing for decades, the audience laughed as though they were hearing it and seeing it all for the very first time.
And I loved every minute of their performances today. Which is not to say that I find the Merry Muggs to be side- splittingly funny the way so many people do. Their humor is – to be blunt about it – just a little too corny for my taste, plus I’ve heard their stuff enough to have every word pretty much memorized. (And if I have every word memorized, my wife by now must have every comma memorized, since she’s been watching them in action for basically her entire life.) But it’s impossible not to admire the astounding skill with which they do what they do – the razor sharp timing, the perfectly executed deadpan expressions, the unbridled craziness. They are SO good at what they do. And it’s also amazing to think that they have been doing this since the days of John F. Kennedy. And who couldn’t help but be swept up in the enthusiasm and good feeling which they so effortlessly generate. . . to say nothing of all the uproarious laughter? And in this day and age, what could be better than helping so many people forget their troubles for a few minutes? (My favorite thing about today was watching certain elderly people in the audience – who had hobbled in on crutches or walkers – laughing their heads off as though they didn’t have a care in the world.)
I remember a few years back when Kathy’s dad was inducted into the Horlick High School Hall of Fame. . . one of the first ten alumni ever to be so honored. He was in extremely illustrious company, alongside wealthy CEO’s, award-winning artists, and champion athletes. . . and my father-in-law felt entirely undeserving of such an honor. But we all felt (in our entirely biased opinions) that he fully deserved the honor – and watching him in action yesterday only confirmed it even more convincingly. There may be other people in that hall of fame with much much larger bank accounts or who have made headlines for one accomplishment or another. But when it comes to making the world a better and brighter place, my money is on Bob Gall and his special brand of Sweet Corn-iness that so many people find irresistible, me included.
pictured above: the Merry Muggs in action. L to R: Bob Gall, Kaye Jensen, Gary Muth, and Bob Albrecht. They always don Mickey Mouse ears for the finale of their act. Why? Hard to say.