ON THE RECORD: Jim Backus joined by wife in laughing song

ON THE RECORD: Jim Backus joined by wife in laughing song

Q: Back in the late ’50s, the actor Jim Backus recorded a single (which I still have today) called “Delicious,” featuring him and a woman drunkenly giggling over a bottle of champagne in a restaurant. Who was the woman on the record?

A: Many people of a certain age will know actor/comedian Jim Backus from his role as Thurston Howell, III, from the ’60s sitcom, “Gilligan’s Island,” or as the voice of the animated cartoon character, Mr. Magoo. However, before those roles he was a well-known screen actor.

In 1958, he recorded a novelty record called “Delicious (The Laughing Song).” The song is credited to “Jim Backus and Friend.” Actually, “song” and “friend” are slightly misleading because other than a dreamy jazz soundtrack playing underneath the dialogue, there is no singing on the track. Also, the lady friend on the track was Backus’ real wife, Henrietta “Henny” Backus, to whom he was married for 46 years until his death in 1989.

Q: I’m a big fan of the old British sitcom, “Fawlty Towers,” which starred former Monty Python member John Cleese. Can you tell me the name of the theme song and who composed it?

A: According to FawltySite.net, a fan site devoted to all things Fawlty, the theme music has no formal name. It was composed by Dennis Wilson, the veteran composer of many pieces of music for various British television shows from the ’60s to the ’80s. He is not to be confused with the other Dennis Wilson, the late drummer for the Beach Boys.

The British Dennis Wilson was born in 1920 and died in 1989. Interestingly, the character of Basil Fawlty, the owner of the hotel and so deliciously portrayed by John Cleese, was actually based on a real hotelier by the name of Donald Sinclair. Again according to FawltySite.net, the Pythons were filming an episode of their show in Torquay, a seaside town in the southwest of England. Mr. Sinclair owned the hotel where the Pythons were staying. By all accounts, he was extremely rude not only to the Pythons but to most of the other guests as well.

Q: Can you tell me the name of the artist that had a hit song called "When I'm With You" in the late ’80s? When I tried to download it, I found that there were several songs with that title.

A: The “When I’m With You” that you’re looking for is by the Canadian band Sheriff. It was released for the first time in 1983 but only got as high as No. 61 in the U.S. Discouraged by their lack of success and experiencing some internal tension, the band broke up in 1985.

A few years later, an American DJ started playing “When I’m With You” again and soon other stations started doing the same. By February 1989, it reached No. 1 in the U.S. Singer Freddy Curci and guitarist Steve DeMarchi tried to resurrect the band but to no avail.

Curci and DeMarchi then formed the band Alias and had a No. 2 hit with “More Than Words Can Say” in 1990. Along with being one of the many memorable power ballads of the late ’80s, the song is also remembered for Curci’s note at the end of the song. The Guinness Book of World Records lists it as the longest note held in a pop song.

What’s the name of that song? Where are they now? What does that lyric mean? Send your questions about songs, albums, and the musicians who make them to MusicOnTheRecord@gmail.com. Bradford Brady and John Maron are freelance music writers based in Raleigh, N.C.

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