A nose by any other name: Hit-maker, body-breaker Terry Funk records a Jimmy Hart ‘classic’
The Gentrys formed in Memphis in 1963 as a seven-man band, including one skinny kid who would go on to become the Mouth of the South: the city’s own Jimmy Hart. While the Gentrys’ debut album, “Keep On Dancing,” barely made the Top 100, the title cut climbed to No. 4 on the Billboard charts.
The group originally featured Larry Raspberry as their lead singer, with early keyboardist Rick Allen later joining The Box Tops. Riding their small wave of fame, the Gentrys opened for such bands as the Beach Boys, The Shangri-Las and Sonny and Cher. (I’m unable to confirm if Sonny inspired Hart to grow a mustache.).
The Gentrys disbanded in 1966; however, Hart reformed the band in 1969. With Hart now on lead vocals, the Gentrys recorded an album for the legendary Memphis-based Sun label, which also released early recordings of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. The Sun album, a turn-of-the-decade, hard-rock record, generated another three Top-100 hits. (For more on Hart’s transformation to pop star to rasslin’ baddie, click here.)
Hart’s greatest lyrical work, however, might have been a 1983 tune that was a touching tribute to a an old flame who was perfect…except for one flaw (well, three, if you include Librace’s smile and Herschel Walker’s thighs): She had Lance Russell’s nose. Appearing on the album Outrageous Conduct, the singles “Lance Russell’s Nose” (an Al Yankovic-type parody of “Bette Davis Eyes”) and “We Hate School” actually received a lot of airplay on local Memphis stations FM 100 and Rock 103, as Memphis wrestling was one of the city’s hottest commodities at the time. (And yes, that is WWE Hall of Famer Koko B. Ware, “Nightmare” Danny Davis and Ali Hassan serving as Hart’s band–the original rock ‘n’ rasslin’ connection.)
In his excellent bio, Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore, the Funker wrote that he was he so over in Japan in 1983 that he was signed to record an album. He admits that because he didn’t want to pay for the rights to cover well-known songs, he simply called in a favor to Hart, who had managed the former NWA World champion in his Memphis appearances against Jerry Lawler.
In his book, Funk writes: The record I made in 1983…contains some of the most godawful singing you’ve ever heard. Jimmy Hart wrote the songs for me because I was too cheap. All the songs on the album had one thing in common–they all sucked. One of them was called “I Hate School.” Can you imagine? Who in the hell would think it would be a good idea to have a 35-year-old man singing, “I hate school!”
Because I was familiar with the original, I howled when I read that, trying to imagine Funk’s voice singing those goofy lyrics, which somehow Jimmy Hart got away with because he was pretty much playing an immature brat on Memphis TV. I often wondered if Funk had recorded a version of “Lance Russell’s Nose” and what the Japanese fans thought of it. Turns out that Funk did indeed record a version of the song..with the lyrics altered to feature a female celebrity singing sensation.
The audio from the album, Great Texan, recently popped up on YouTube, and all I can say is…it’s like having your ears wrapped in barbed wire and dynamite. Pretty damn funny hearing Funk confess his love in song to a woman with Librace’s smile and the thighs of the former Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Georgia. (Dime a dozen in West Hollywood, or so I have read.) Sadly, while “I Hate School” is also posted below, Funk’s off-the-cuff rendition of “Lucy’s Got a Pussy Like a Javelina Hog” has yet to resurface–sort of an ’80s-era “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”