Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Fowl Owl on the Prowl" - Travis and Boomer (1967)

This is one of my favorite Halloween songs. The film “In the Heat of the Night” actually takes place just before Halloween- look at the calendars on the wall of the diner and at the Police Station. That’s why the chief wears a jacket in some of the scenes; it’s late autumn.

This song still has lots of fans- I just received this comment the other day, showing that the song is still very much appreciated.

MandocrucianOctober 27, 2015 at 11:27 AM

“The scene was filmed to the music of "Little Red Riding Hood" by Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs. Somehow the movie couldn't get synchronization rights for the song (for some stupid reason, the song publisher would only OK using the melody, not the lyrics), so Quincy Jones whipped up a substitute with the same groove and lyric idea. Sounds like Sam The Sham meets Buck Owens & Don Rich.”

Here is the original post which I have re-posted several times over the past few years.

This is one of my favorite scenes in the movie “In the Heat of the Night” which was released in 1968 and starred Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger and Lee Grant along with a host of other character actors. The film won an Academy Award and has been a favorite of mine since its release. But this scene, and the accompanying song, “Foul Owl on the Prowl” has stuck with me since. It’s a satirical country song, with the music written by none other than Quincy Jones, and the lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, a husband and wife team who went on to pen some of the best theme songs on TV sitcoms.

In this scene, Ralph, the night cook at the diner in Sparta, Mississippi where the story takes place, pries open the jukebox to avoid paying a nickel to hear his favorite song. His almost comical role in this scene belies the true nature of the man, as the film bears out.

The song is almost inaudible in certain portions of the scene, and it would be about 20 years before I would hear the entire lyrics to the song, but it’s worth a listen. The lyrics concern a man, described as an owl, who is on the prowl for his next victim in the dark of night. Using various birds and rhymes, Mr. and Mrs. Bergman crafted a very clever lyric to go along with Mr. Jones’ music.

But the real surprise to me has always been that Quincy Jones, the contemporary genius of jazz, was able to write this melody, which is so far afield from his usual genre. It serves to underscore the sheer musical talent inherent in the man. You either have it, or you don’t. Clearly, Mr. Jones has it.

If you have never heard the full recorded version by Boomer and Travis, then here is your chance. Just hit the link below and listen to Boomer and Travis perform this quirky little number which has quite a cult following; including me. The lyrics are printed below the link.


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