Red Ingle And The Natural Seven – Who Answer The Musical Question: “What Do You Get When You Cross Weird Al Yankovic with Hee-Haw?”

Most of the old music featured here is jazz (or at least jazz-adjacent). But I am going to drift into some new territory with today’s offering. You are probably familiar with Red Ingle, though you may not know it yet. In the late 1940’s he was the king of a really small genre that made for some records that were both fun and enjoyable listening back then and still hold up pretty well today.

Ernest Jansen “Red” Ingle was born November 7, 1906 in Toledo, Ohio. As a kid, Ingle was fortunate to be in a family that was friends with the great violinist Fritz Kreisler, who provided some help to young Ingle as he learned to play the instrument. At age 13 Red added the saxophone to his skillset and eventually won a scholarship to the Toledo American College of Music, where he developed his ability to play as a concert violinist. Ingle intended to make his living as a teacher of music but quit school to get married in 1926. Married men in 1926 were expected to support their wives, so Red chose to do that by becoming a working musician.

Bix Beiderbecke (l) and Red Ingle (r) in Cincinnati, Ohio, June, 1927

Ingle was a talented player and was soon touring with the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, one of the most innovative groups of its day. This was the band populated with musical legends like Bix Biederbecke, and a guy had to be pretty good to earn a seat with that group. In 1931 he was hired by Ted Weems. Weems had been leading a band since the early 1920’s, and was one of the few well-known bands to cross over from the bouncy styles of the 1920’s to the swing era of the 1930’s. Red Ingle played tenor saxophone for the band, and also acted as an arranger and singer. Here is a link to a 1933 Weems record (“Jugglin’ A Jigsaw”) that showed Ingle’s vocal talents starting at about the halfway mark.

The Ted Weems band, c. 1936. Weems holds the baton. Red Ingle on saxophone is in front (just to the right of the conductor’s stand) and singer Perry Como is on Ingle’s right.

The Ted Weems band is also notable for being the place where a young singer named Perry Como got his invitation to the big time in 1936. Ingle and Como were bandmates for about four years, until Ingle left in 1940 or 41. He tried to join the Air Corps as a pilot (he had flown for several years) but failed the eye test. Ingle went back into music, this time as a sideman with the new Spike Jones band. It was there that Ingle could merge his musical abilities with his sense of humor – some said that Ingle was the funniest guy in the band. Ingle stayed with Spike Jones and his City Slickers until he left in late 1946 following a pay dispute.

Life Magazine photo from 1947 of Red Ingle (r), his Natural 7, with Jo Stafford at the mic. Note steel guitar pioneer Noel Boggs seated in front.

Ingle spent the next several months doing a little of this and a little of that (which ranged from radio to movies to light opera) until he assembled some musicians for a novelty project. Perry Como had recorded the song “Temptation” and had a major hit with it a year or so earlier (Linked here). Ingle and some others took that sultry, steamy ballad and turned it into a countrified spoof (also known as “Tim-tayshun”). But there was a problem – the singer he had hired for the recording session at Capitol Records had failed to show up.

Tommy Dorsey at left with trombone. Jo Stafford and Frank Sinatra are on either side of the mic, c. 1941.

One of Capitol’s top-selling female singers at the time was Jo Stafford. Stafford had trained operatically, and then sang lead for a group called The Pied Pipers which worked with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra during the same time that Frank Sinatra was that band’s boy singer. Jo went solo around 1945 and told the story that she was at the studio when she walked by a doorway to hear someone say “I’ll bet Jo Stafford could do it.” She was curious to know what it was that someone thought she could do, so she went in to talk to the guys. The result was a performance under the name of “Cinderella G. Stump” who would sing this hillbilly spoof of the popular song.

Stafford nailed the performance, by a blend of her musical skill, her sense of humor and her Tennessee childhood. Tim-Tayshun became a huge hit for the day, hitting the number 1 rank for airplay and selling three million copies. Ingle’s merger of humor and music was much more subtle than was that of Spike Jones. Somehow, Ingle managed to keep enough of the tune for it to be recognizable, while making massive changes to it (like changing it from a minor to a major key and speeding up the recording a bit) so as to pass for a hillbilly song. He also kept the theme of the lyrics while making minor changes that turned the whole theme of the song upside down.

The success of his take on “Temptation” set Ingle up for a number of records he churned out in the late 1940’s and into the early 50’s. Ingle’s Natural Seven were all excellent musicians who had a feel for the twangy style of what was then called “hillbilly music”. They were able to combine their top-shelf skills with the irreverent cornball treatments of serious music made well-known by others. The Ingle treatment could even be applied to classical pieces, like this takeoff on Paganini’s Moto Perpetuo, a fast-paced classical piece for solo violin (It is a short piece, which can be heard here).

Ingle was good on the violin, but not that good, so he hired a concert violinist to play the part, being careful to not exactly make clear what that violinist was to play. The violinist is said to have refused to participate when he saw the arrangement for a tune called “Pagan Ninny’s Keep ‘Er Goin’ Stomp”, but Ingle waived the signed contract in the fellow’s face and promised that he could remain anonymous. This one plays pretty straight for the first half (to the extent that hillbilly Paganini can be considered straight music) and only starts to go for the laughs towards the end, but I find it to be tremendous fun all the way through.

I said at the beginning of this piece that you were probably familiar with Red Ingle, or at least his work. If you have ever listened to a country-ish cover band at a bowling alley lounge or a little seedy bar, you have probably heard them do a version of “Cigareets, Whuskey and Wild, Wild Women”. If you did it is only because Red Ingle was the first to make it a hit out of the song in 1948. A much more sedate version was first recorded by the western vocal group The Sons Of The Pioneers the year before. Ingle went for comedy, and his version (in the style of a Salvation Army band) made it the classic it has become. The record became a huge hit in spite of (or perhaps because of) it being banned from airplay by each of the three major radio networks.

Ingle did numerous send-ups of songs, too many to feature here. But I can link to them for those inclined to diving into rabbit holes. There was a version of “Out of Nowhere” called “Nowhere”, which was also a take-off of Phil Harris’ hit record “That’s What I Like About The South”. Or “For Seventy Mental Reasons” based on a Nat King Cole Trio hit “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons”. And a version of “Those Foolish Things” (here is a 1945 Bing Crosby rendition) which Red called “Them Durn Fool Things”, a record that featured June Foray (better known as the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel on the Bullwinkle show) on vocal duty. I think my favorite of this added batch is “Serutan Yob”, which was a countrified version of Nat King Cole’s unusual 1948 hit “Nature Boy”. Ingle’s time with Spike Jones came in handy for this one, which he recorded during a musician’s strike and thus needed to make use of instruments not covered by the union.

Many of Ingle’s irreverent treatments were based on Perry Como hits, like “A – You’re Adorable” in 1949 (with Ingle’s version called “‘A’ Yore A-Dopey-Gal”. And one of his later ones was “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes”, based on a 1952 Como #1 hit that Ingle turned into a western swing version about moonshiners. Perry Como was probably a big target because Ingle and Como were friends and Perry understood Red’s sense of humor.

I think we should close with one more, in which Jo Stafford reprised her role as Cinderella G. Stump on another Como #1 hit, “Prisoner of Love” from 1946. This is another mangling of a Perry Como’s dramatic ballad of sorrow and longing, which becomes an excuse for a hillbilly hootnanny with lots of jailhouse references. And who couldn’t love a song about being stuck in the hoosgow of love?

Jo Stafford and Red Ingle. Still photo captured from a 1960 televised performance of “Temptation”.

Ingle eased out recording and touring after the mid 1950’s, but would occasionally do reunion performances with Jo Stafford, Perry Como, Ted Weems and Spike Jones into the early 1960s. Red once said that he had been trying to retire from music since 1940, and he finally managed it (mostly) twenty-some years later. Ingle died in September, 1965, at just 58 years old.

Some kinds of music are just hard to classify, and Red Ingle’s specialty is one of them. It is hard to decide if Ingle’s work was making fun of country music or was a tribute to it. I think there was some of both, and Red was embraced by both the jazz/pop world and by those on the Grand Ol’ Opry (where he performed multiple times). The biggest obstacle to getting the most out of these records is that the originals being spoofed are not so familiar as they once were – which is why I have linked to all of them.

Comedy take-offs on popular songs are often not the kind of thing you can listen to over and over, but I have found Red Ingle and The Natural Seven to be an exception. In fact, I’ll take Ingle’s versions over the originals about every time.

COAL Update: My time in the COAL mines at Curbside Classic is coming to a close, with the last car to be covered. My daughter and I had a great arrangement for this one – she got it for all of the good times and I got if when it was having problems. Oh well, isn’t that what Dads are for? A wrap-up epilog will go live at 4 am eastern time on Sunday, February 12th.


14 thoughts on “Red Ingle And The Natural Seven – Who Answer The Musical Question: “What Do You Get When You Cross Weird Al Yankovic with Hee-Haw?”

    • I subscribe to the 78Prof’s YouTube channel. I scan through a lot of dreck, but periodically find a winner. There was a batch of Jo Stafford singles he posted and then he followed them with Ingle’s Temptation.

      What amazes me is that I have spent decades soaking up all kinds of trivia and cultural stuff from that era but cannot remember ever hearing a reference to Ingle and a three million selling hit record.


  1. I only knew of Red Ingle for Cigareets and Whusky and Wild Women so this was a great introduction. I always enjoyed Spike Jones after I got introduced to what he did. “…the originals being spoofed are not so familiar as they once were…” Novelty/Parody songs do take on a life of their own. There have been many times when I would hear the original song to one Weird Al had parodied and would start singing his lyrics as I never knew the original existed. That’s true for me with Allan Sherman, as well.
    Great post (again).


  2. I was 0-4 on the Capitol Records recordings, J P, so Ingle and his gang were an interesting education for me. Given the other examples you shared here, I find it so random Ingle took a spin on the Paganini piece. The video performance of the original shows the ridiculous skill it takes to pull off a piece like that (and from memory!) Paganini strikes me as a bit of a mischief-maker. The accompanying piano sounds elementary by comparison – almost one-handed with simple, repetitive chords. I suppose that’s intentional to highlight the violin (as if it needs highlighting on such a difficult piece).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought you might like that piece. He did another one based on a classic, Rimsey Korsikov’s Song of India that Ingle called Song of Indians. The lyrics are funny, but then I am not bothered by old things that may not be as culturally sensitive as some would like.


  3. Thank you for the introduction to Red Ingle JP – someone new to me and though I’ve heard of Weird Al Yankovic, I’ve never seen a video of him or heard his music. Now “Hee Haw” I am familiar with. My father liked it, my mother not so much, but at the time we were a one-TV household and VCRs were not invented yet, (or we didn’t own one), so the whole family watched that show to hear Buck Owns and Roy Clark pickin’ and grinnin’ and hear those crazy crows cawing and what Grandpa was having for dinner.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I was around for some of Ray Stevens’ parodies through the years, including “The Streak” which was a big hit when I was on the college newspaper staff, so w staged a streaking event early on a Sunday morning.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. As to the COAL post, well, bleeding heart that I am, I would have tried to avoid an animal too, even a squirrel, a critter that looks both ways before crossing the street, changes its mind and mindlessly returns to where it started out, often resulting in the loss of its life. Here in Michigan, in the northern suburbs and northern Michigan, starting in November, deer mating season begins, so the Michigan State Police drum it into our heads “don’t veer for deer!” in many PSAs. As to owning 30 vehicles, I am in awe – at 66 years old, I am on vehicle #4.

    Liked by 1 person

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