In the mid 1970s, TV stardom often gave actors the chance to try their chops as singers. Some tried it straight as themselves, like John Travolta. Others had fun with it, like Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, who made a record called Laverne and Shirley Sing. When somebody gave Ted Knight his chance, he played it as goofy as humanly possible.
Wait wait wait . . . Ted Knight made a record?
Yup. As The Mary Tyler Moore Show entered its sixth season on CBS in the fall of 1975, Knight was at the height of his fame, only a couple of years after threatening to quit the show altogether. (He was tired of playing anchorman Ted Baxter as a moronic cartoon, so the show’s producers humanized the character for the remainder of the show’s run.) Hi Guys was released that fall on the Ranwood label. It contains 13 songs “sung” by Knight as Baxter.
A couple of music blogs have written briefly about the album in recent months, including 30 Days Out and Popdose—briefly, because there’s not a great deal of information available about the album. We do know that it was originally billed to Ted Knight and the Poops. It features Knight talk-singing his way through versions of “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose,” “Who Put the Bomp,” “Mr. Custer,” “Chick-a-Boom,” “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” and “Blueberry Hill,” which Knight does as if he were impersonating James Cagney. He also tackles “Cover of the Rolling Stone,” which is simply indescribable. “I’m in Love With Barbara Walters” is about what you’d expect, and the title track is typical mid-70s gay-stereotype humor. “A Man I Used to Be” sounds like it’s being done straight, but it’s hard to tell. The album seems to have gotten as much attention from everybody involved as it deserved: the musical arrangements are cheap and cheesy, and Knight frequently spars with his backup singers, sprinkling the whole thing with leaden wisecracks. Veteran Los Angeles DJ Charlie Tuna provides liner notes.
I don’t remember hearing of this record in 1975, or seeing it in stores anywhere, and it’s likely I’d have noticed, since I was a fan of the Moore show. I must not have been watching American Bandstand on October 4, 1975, either—for on that day, Knight performed “I’m in Love With Barbara Walters” on the show.
In retrospect, it’s miraculous that the planet didn’t explode from the convergence of bad 70s pop culture on that October weekend. David Geddes’ “Run Joey Run” was at its chart peak just behind “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Feelings” was climbing the charts behind them, and Dickie Goodman’s “Mr. Jaws” was one of the hottest records in the country. Pet rocks were all the rage. Now it’s true that Saturday Night Live premiered the next weekend, and that “They Just Can’t Stop It” by the Spinners, “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles, and Born to Run were all on the radio that week too. But damn, with Ted Knight singing on American Bandstand, even those heavyweights must have been hard-pressed to keep the Earth on its axis.
“Hi guys” was Ted Baxter’s catchphrase on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and it followed Ted Knight to the grave: His tombstone at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California, includes the words “bye guy.”