The Earl Butz Memorial Trio

by Jeff Costello, November 20, 2014

As a guy who made a life (more or less) of playing guitar in various contexts including working bands, I still tend to spontaneously think of names for musical groups on a regular basis. Some, I'm keeping for myself although starting and naming a new band is unlikely at this point. My prize name but one I'll never use, is The Earl Butz Memorial Trio. Think Crosby, Stills and Nash, but rather, Loose Shoes, Tight Pussy, and a Warm Place to Shit.

My propensity to come up with band names is course old style, since I come from the days when groups were called The Continentals, the Famous Flames, the Crickets, the Beatles. Plural words to indicate a group. Heard a band called the Skunks in the mid 60's and they really did stink. But in those days the “weird” names, all singular, came into fashion. When a band came out of San Francisco called It's a Beautiful Day, I threw my hands up in the air. Now there are such names as Toad the Wet Sprocket, which makes utterly no sense and gives no hint of a musical group. A person's name if he/she is known, is the best bet any time. Charlie Musselwhite for instance, is popular in Anderson Valley, and those who know the name know exactly what they're getting. Some names are just dishonest, like the Black Crowes or the Black Keys, all white people.

Earl Butz was Secretary of Agriculture under Nixon and Ford, and was the first national political figure to be heard — and reported — saying something so stupidly offensive, he was forced to resign in shame. Butz's utterance was in the form of a joke heard by three people: Pat Boone, Sonny Bono, and John Dean (of Watergate fame). Boone, according to the report, asked Butz how black people could be persuaded to vote republican. Seemingly earnest but clueless republicans are still asking this, with Hispanics added to the mix. Ain't gonna happen of course, unless the non-whites are rich enough, like Herman Cain, to run for president — or are sold out to such interests. The Secretary's response: “I'll tell you what the niggers want — loose shoes, tight pussy and a warm pace to shit.” This tidy bit of good ole boy humor managed to be objectionable on three different levels: racist, scatological and sexist.

Butz's legacy as Agriculture secretary is not so funny. His promotion of Big Ag to the detriment of small farmers resulted in overproduction of corn, to the point where inclusion of corn in packaged foods became a legislated necessity. Hence, high fructose corn syrup replaced cane sugar in all the popular soda brands. Only now are a few beverage makers are going back to real sugar, and they have to advertise it. If you don't see “real sugar” on the label, you're getting corn syrup.

As far as the Earl Butz Memorial Trio goes... first, no one under 60 would get it, and not all those old-timers either. The other problem is, which of three musicians would be willing to take on, as his group identity, “A Warm Place to Shit?”

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