Monday, June 24, 2019

"The Muppet Movie" Turns 40

40 years ago movie audiences and Muppet fans were treated to "The Muppet Movie" and the world was introduced to Kermit's big-screen anthem, "Rainbow Connection."

I've sung this song a few times in my years as a puppeteer, Muppet fan and banjo player, although it wasn't this song that sent me down the banjo path. The song is tied to many personal memories; some sad and some sweet, which seems appropriate for a Paul Williams song.

I started playing the song at gigs with my band, Banjolicious. I played it for IBEX's first trial run of their popular "Muppet Movie Sing-A-Long." I played it at an Amphibious Alumni event flanked by 3 generations of Muppet performers. I played it to Jane Henson in her living room on the "Muppet Show" banjo, which is now on display at the American Banjo Musem. I played it to a room of puppeteers at the O'Neill Puppetry Conference when I proposed. I played it (recorded it) for the first dance at my wedding. I sang it as Mr. The Frog when I auditioned for the role. And I played it to a room full of banjo players (including Bela Fleck) when Jim Henson was inducted into the American Banjo Museum's Hall of Fame.

Much like the Frog in the film who left the Mississippi swamp with a bindle stick, a banjo and a dream, I left rural Alabama (by way of Atlanta) with 2 suitcases, a banjo and a little money in my bank account seeking that "rich and famous" contract. My story turned out more like Emmet Otter's than Kermit the Frog's, which is still better than selling snake oil. Both characters have Paul Williams songs in common, too, and you can't go wrong there.

I'm grateful for the man behind the Frog and the man behind the song and the all the dreams they inspired 40 years ago, including mine.

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