"Strunk, Not Stunk"

2009
May
18

The dead skunk in the middle of the road near Wendell Ranch has not yet been cleaned up… and it is still NOT stinking to high heaven. But it did remind me of a bit of long-forgotten mental free association.

Jud Strunk in the middle of the road.
Jud Strunk in the middle of the road.
Jud Strunk in the middle of the road.
Stinkin’ to high heaven.

Now, who, you may ask, is Jud Strunk? He was a briefly-almost-popular singer/comic in the 1970s, just a few years before the Dead Skunk song came out, and he did NOT stink to high heaven either. He just was spectacularly unspectacular.

After settling in Farmington, Maine in the ’60s, he wrote and sang mostly-humorous country-folk songs, but his biggest close-to-a-hit was atypical of his style (as so often happens), a diabetes-inducingly-sweetly-sentimental song called “A Daisy A Day” (linked webpage automatically plays Jud Strunk’s original recording – you have been warned).

Based partly on the success of that song (which, in a cassette taken aboard Apollo 17, was the first pop recording played on the moon), he was inexplicably recruited as a regular on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”, possibly as a response to the success of the Country Clone of Laugh-In, “Hee Haw”. (What do you prefer? Watching bad jokes told by Hillbilly stereotypes or Hippie stereotypes?) If he was supposed to replace Henry Gibson’s deadpan innocence, the producers got it wrong, and he was especially out of place as an unexcitable “Sports Reporter” on the Laugh-In News segment, previously done by Alan Seus in his most flamingly gay personna. As is often the case with new cast members added for the final season, some people blamed him for the demise of Laugh-In (which had already lost half of its most popular performers and had added 6 other regulars that season).

Still, he persevered, and his second most popular recording was the unsubtly double-entendre “The Biggest Parakeets in Town”, which was popular on the Dr. Demento Radio Show, and when I did my college radio station’s “Sunday Night Demento Clone” show (every college station had one in those days) I enjoyed playing “Dead Skunk” and Jud Strunk back to back.

He quit show business soon after (after hearing my segue? I hope not!) and returned to Maine to restore antique airplanes. But in 1981, at the age of only 45, he suffered a heart attack while flying one of his planes and crashed. A bad way to die for Jud, even worse for his passenger. And I really hope the plane didn’t crash in the middle of a road. That would stink to high heaven.

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