Martin Mull: From the Delta Region of Cleveland


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
July 19, 1973, Vol. XVIII, No. 29

by Frank Rose

“Martin Mull is wonderful!” someone in the audience kept screaming last Saturday night at Max’s upstairs. It was probably his dog, you know, but nobody would have noticed — they all appeared to be straining to watch his face twitch. But Martin Mull is funny, as anyone who has heard “Duelling Tubas” will attest.

The stirring tones of “2001 Polka” battered their way through the sound system as Mull sauntered up to the stage to join his backup suite, the Fabulous Furniture. Odd Noggin, a pleasant-sounding group made up of four “mellow dudes,” had just Crosby-Stills-and-Nashed their way through a charming set and the place was all Mull’s. He retaliated by thanking everyone profusely as he squirmed about in what even the most untrained eye could see was an uncommonly clever rattan chair.

It wasn’t long before the talented Mr. Mull picked up his ukelele and started singing the blues. He was from the Delta region of Cleveland, he explained, and he’d learned the blues from his grandfather, a successful real-estate salesman. (The whole rap is on Mull’s second album, “Martin Mull and His Fabulous Furniture in Your LIving Room!” on Capricorn.) “I woke up this afternoon,” he wailed, “and I saw both cars were gone/I felt so low down deep inside, I threw my drink across the lawn.”

The idea was that you don’t have to be poor to sing the blues. You don’t have to be Martin Mull to be funny either, but in his situation it helps. This guy is Kuh-raze! Did you ever wonder what would happen to Disneyland if everybody dropped acid? That’s what he’s like — that round little babyface, that sparkling blond hair, that maniacal gleam in the eyes. He’s so neat, so pert, so bananas.

“I’m goin ta Senior City, Senior City here I come,” he sang in a rock ‘n’ roll takeoff. “They got some nice condominiums there, and I’m gonna rent me one.” Mull is a musical satirist, a pervert perhaps, who takes familiar tunes and injects them with wholly incongruous elements. He was also a hit last weekend. It was sort of like he had the wall-to-wall audience eating peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise sandwiches right out of his hand.

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