Sunday, June 24, 2007

The classic CHEERS "Hot Rod Lincoln" bit

One night in a sports bar in Syracuse, New York, I saw the greatest thing. Gary Cohen (now the TV voice of the NY Mets) and Dan Hoard (the voice of University of Cincinnati football and basketball) started reciting the lyrics of 70’s chart topper “Hot Rod Lincoln” real fast, in perfect unison (lyrics provided below). The entire song in less than a minute. When they finished the bar exploded in applause. I thought, this would be a great bit for Norm & Cliff on CHEERS. I laid it out for my partner, David who also thought it might be kind of novel.

So we pitched it the CHEERS producers a few months later when we were about to write a script. They looked at us like we were nuts. I said, “Trust me. This will work. This will become one of those classic CHEERS teasers.”

The producers shrugged, and I guess out of respect to our then-prestigious career said, okay, try it.

When they saw the finished draft they still had reservations. It seemed kind of stupid and pointless but so convinced was I that we had struck comedy gold that I made this offer: David and I would perform it at the table reading. We would show all these skeptics. Again, they said go for it.

Everyone assembled for the table reading. The cast, writing staff, some crew members, the studio, and the network. We took our cue and launched into “Hot Rod Lincoln”. And we were great. Having practiced diligently for a week we kicked some serious ass. Truly awesome! And when we were done….

Nothing. Nada. Dead silence. A vacuum. You could hear crickets from a field a mile away.

Just fifty faces staring at us with a mixture of bewilderment and sheer pity.

The embarrassment of that table reading was of course, just the beginning. Back in the writing room, David Lloyd got it started by saying, “So the ‘Hot Rod Lincoln bit – that worked.” Others said they were still not convinced, would we do it again for them? Next week could we perform “Stairway to Heaven”? These jokes continued…for four years. I’m hoping to out live them all because if not I just know they’ll reprise it at my funeral.

Note to young writers: NEVER guarantee a bit will be a classic. And second note to young writers: NEVER EVER make it worse by trying to prove it.

Here are the lyrics (written by Charlie Ryan). It was funny when Gary and Dan did it. REALLY.

My pappy said, 'Son, you're gonna drive me t' drinkin' ...
If you don't quit drivin' that - Hot ... Rod ... Lincoln!'

Well, you've heard the story of the hot rod race,
When the Ford and the Mercury were settin' the pace.
That story's true I'm here to say,
Cause I was a'drivin' that Model A.

It's got a Lincoln motor and it's really souped up;
That Model A body makes it look like a pup.
It's got 12 cylinders and uses them all;
And an overdrive that just won't stall.

It's got a 4-barrel carb and dual exhausts,
4:11 gears that really get lost -
Safety tubes and I'm not scared,
The brakes are good and the tires are fair.

We left San Pedro late one night;
The moon and the stars were shinin' bright.
We were drivin' up Grapevine Hill,
Passin' cars like they were standin' still.

Then, all of a sudden, in the wink of an eye,
a Cadillac sedan passed us by.
The remark was made, "That's the car for me."
But, by then, the taillights wuz all you could see.

Well, the fellers ribbed me for bein' behind,
So I started to make that Lincoln unwind.
Took my foot off the gas and, man alive,
I shoved it down into overdrive.

Well, I wound it up to 110;
Twisted the speedometer cable right off the end.
Had my foot glued right to the floor;
I said, "That's all there is - there ain't no more."

Now the fellas thought I'd lost all sense;
The telephone poles looked like a picket fence.
They said, "Slow down, I see spots."
The lines on the road just looked like dots.

Went around a corner and passed a truck;
I crossed my fingers just for luck -
The fenders clickin' the guard rail post;
The guy beside me was white as a ghost.

Smoke was rollin' outta the back
When I started to gain on that Cadillac
I knew I could catch him and hoped I could pass
But when I did I'd be short on gas.

There were flames comin' from out of the side;
You could feel the tension; man, what a ride.
I said, "Look out, boys, I've got a license to fly"
And the Cadillac pulled over and let me by.

All of a sudden a rod started knockin';
Down in the depths she started a rockin'.
I looked in the mirror and a red light was blinkin';
The cops was after my Hot Rod Lincoln.

Well they arrested me and put me in jail.
I called my pop to make my bail.
He said, "Son, you're gonna drive me t' drinkin',
If you don't quit drivin' that - Hot ... Rod ... Lincoln!"


22 comments:

Harley Davidson said...

I don't know if this was yours or not, but the best musical moment of "Cheers", in my mind, had to be "We Will Rock You". It just felt like one of those things that would come from nowhere at any great bar.

Jim said...

A similar story from the 1930's courtesy of Self-Styled Siren last year:


At an executive meeting at MGM, Nicholas Schenck was fretting about [producer Mervyn] LeRoy's failure to stay within his budget on The Wizard of Oz, and [Louis B.] Mayer presented the young Joseph Mankiewicz as an experienced writer and director who could explain such things. When all the executives turned to Mankiewicz for an explanation, Mankiewicz felt some irresistible impulse to evoke Victor Hugo and blurted out, "I suppose LeRoy s'amuse." Schenck said, "What?" Mankiewicz repeated his inspired line. Somebody said, "That's French." Schenck said, "Why are you talking French?" "All I could think of," Mankiewicz said later, "was 'Why am I here?'"


http://selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com/2006/05/why-are-you-talking-french.html

The Crutnacker said...

YOu may have not won over the room, but your utter failure to do so sounds like something you could use.

I just read Philip Rosenthal's book on Everybody Loves Raymond. It was amazing to me how many episodes came straight from their lives. Especially the sculpture one.

Anonymous said...

Next time: The lyrics to "Wipeout."

Devin McCullen said...

So Gary Cohen's funnier than you? Heck, I knew that.

Anonymous said...

I think it would have been funny in the show. I liked Jim Varney's version at the end of the Beverly Hillbillies Movie.

Mary Stella said...

Harley Davidson said...
I don't know if this was yours or not, but the best musical moment of "Cheers", in my mind, had to be "We Will Rock You". It just felt like one of those things that would come from nowhere at any great bar.

I'm with Harley. I love the We Will Rock You bit. I know I've seen it broadcast on the jumbo screens at stadiums during games, too.

VP81955 said...

I believe "Hot Rod Lincoln" actually dates back to the late 1950s or 1960, and that Commander Cody's wonderful version was actually a remake.

tb said...

What's the other song, I always mix these two up, I think he takes off his hat and "all that hair fell out", it's like a country rap song almost, he has to leave in a hurry, big trouble, I know that's not much to go on, but another cool tune...

Rishabh said...

dude a great blog.......... u could also try out worldallservices.com

benson said...

tb, I think you're thinking of "Uneasy Rider" by Charlie Daniels (and Band)

Bouncing off the Bottom said...

good golly, Ms. Molly. What a great blog. Glad I wandered by.

Dhppy said...

I have to admit, I always fast forward through the "We Will Rock You" open. It doesn't really have anything to do with Cheers. I think a better example of an opening like that, is the one where one man leaves the bar singing "Sunny Side of the Street" and subsequent people sing the next line then, when it gets around to Coach, he sings an entirely different song. It's very Coach. It's funny and it immediately says "this is Cheers".

Speaking of Cheers, I always wondered, is Phoef pronounced "Fohf" "Feef" (like Phoebe), or "Fayf" (like Groening).

benson said...

May I pose a question to the assembled multitude here? I live in a medium TV market (mid-thirties). We have no local station running Cheers reruns, nor do TVLand/Nick@Nite. Why is that? Is the audience burnt out on the show? Is it availability of the show for purchase? Is it shortsighted programmers? Condidering some of the reruns that are running over and over again, I'm curious.

Anonymous said...

>>Everyone assembled for the table reading. The cast, writing staff, some crew members, the studio, and the network. We took our cue and launched into “Hot Rod Lincoln”. And we were great. Having practiced diligently for a week we kicked some serious ass. Truly awesome! And when we were done….

Nothing. Nada. Dead silence. A vacuum. You could hear crickets from a field a mile away.<<


I guess it's all in the delivery.

Alaskaray

Special Sam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Special Sam said...

You mean Rhea Perlman didn't even crack a smile?

Max Clarke said...

There was a nice moment when Liluth sang a lullaby to put Fredrick or another baby to sleep. I think Frasier then asked why Liluth didn't sing that for him, and she said something like, "Because your breath doesn't smell like cookies." Or puppies.

Carla said...

Perhaps Cliff and Norm could do it in a reunion show...it could happen

Anonymous said...

I always wondered, is Phoef pronounced "Fohf" "Feef" (like Phoebe), or "Fayf" (like Groening).


You're saying "Phoef" is pronounced "Groening"?

NYLouOC said...

The oddest thing - I was just finished reading this earlier today, when Hot Rod Lincoln came on the XM Radio channel I was listening to...odd...

David said...

I also liked Carla, alone in the bar, dancing around to the cheerfully upbeat, optimistic old Irving Berlin number "I Got the Sun in the Morning," and then quickly stopping the jukebox and becoming her usual sour self when Sam and Rebecca come in.