Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Legend of "Jimbo and the Fluffernutters"

Author’s note: After parking my car on a city street in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I stepped on something that shattered as I got out of my vehicle.  It was a CD case with no disc inside. The liner notes were still tucked safely within the ridges of the container.  The following is a verbatim transcript of those notes.  Please contact me, in care of this blog, if you know of the existence of such a recording, or the whereabouts of Jimbo Gimbleflitz.
These are the only remaining recordings of “Jimbo and the Fluffernutters”.  This volume will be a cherished keepsake of the many fans they have abandoned and a worthwhile addition to the collections of music historians everywhere.

Jimbo was the adopted son of entrepreneur Trevor Gimbleflitz and his wife, Claire.  Jimbo resisted being groomed to succeed his father, turning his back on the family fortune.  “There’s big money in recycled elastic,” Mr. Gimbleflitz lamented years later.  “It’s like he was ashamed to be associated with the salvage of discarded underpants.”

Ashamed or not, Jimbo became restless and ran away from home at the age of twenty-nine.  Hitchhiking on the open road thrilled him, even when he realized that his poor sense of direction had caused him to cover the same thirty-mile stretch of road, back and forth, for an entire summer.

It was just before Christmas when Jimbo was picked up by Wendy Spankenstein, a divorced mother of eleven.  As the two shared their life stories, they  were immediately struck by their similarities.  Each had a sixth toe on their right foot and both had weathered indecent exposure convictions.  Wendy took a shine to Jimbo and brought him home with her to share the traditional holiday feast of ambrosia and pork & beans.

Jimbo and Wendy rang in the new year together, with Jimbo trying to learn all the children’s names, as well as how to count to eleven.  Love bloomed in the small trailer, and they were married in early January.

Bowing to a practicality born of their poverty, they exchanged snack cakes instead of rings in a civil ceremony.  The reception was held at a local blood drive, where Jimbo and Wendy repeatedly donated plasma under assumed names until all the children had received juice and a cookie.

Weeks later, while searching for supplies to make a duct tape hammock, Jimbo came across an old guitar in the tool shed.  Musically ignorant and possessing only a second-hand sense of rhythm he’d purchased in a thrift shop, he asked Wendy to teach him how to play his new-found treasure.  She was too proud to tell Jimbo she didn’t know how to play guitar.  However, that did not stop her from assisting him in developing a unique style, one that was necessary, as the instrument had a badly warped neck and only four strings.

Weeks became months and Jimbo and Wendy began haunting coffee shops and open-mike nights looking for an opportunity to play and sing Jimbo’s latest compositions.  Success of a sort came quickly, with the money from weekend bookings allowing Wendy to stop breast-feeding her six oldest children.

As the money trickled in, Jimbo added musicians to the band, as well as the last two strings to his guitar.  Their trademark sound began to take shape.  Wendy, always the reader of the group, picked the band name of “Fluffernutters” from the little-known Shakespeare sequel, “The Merchant of Venice on Gilligan’s Island”.  The exact dates are sketchy, but it is believed to be around this time that their first recording, “Oh, Lord!  Not The Livestock!” was released.

While their regional popularity kept them in groceries, national acclaim eluded them until, after a chance encounter in a rest stop, “Tiny” Timmy Barker agreed to sing one of Jimbo’s songs on his regular segment of the Grand Ole Opry.  One week later, Barker performed “My Train is at the Station (But My Ticket’s for the Bus)” before a sold-out crowd at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, as well as millions of listeners on the radio.

Interviewed years later about those first days of stardom, Jimbo reflected, “If there was ever a moment, that was one.”  Asked to elaborate, he continued, “If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have taken ‘no’ for an answer.  But to know what was then the unknowable...well, you know.”

After a national tour created a cult following of bikers, Celtic poets and (predictably) cross-dressing pipefitters, the band experienced their most productive period.  While several releases broke the Top 100, only the Christmas classic, “Santa Hates a Whiner” received wide play.

Financial solvency didn’t seem to bring happiness to Jimbo.  He complained to friends he felt like a sell-out artistically.  It was from this spiritual hunger that sprang the the concept album, “It’s Not My Fault Sheep Flirt”.  Unaccustomed to the unflinching honesty of songs like “Ears Aren’t Handles” and “Drink ‘Til I’m Handsome”, fans stayed away from Fluffernutter performances in droves.

Jimbo even tried releasing a gospel single under a pseudonym, but an angry mob of Mormons seized the acetates and all the copies, feeding them to a bonfire.  “Jesus Was A Righteous Dude” was never released.  Later that same year, the band was dropped by their label and ultimately disbanded.

In the wake of professional disaster, Jimbo and Wendy’s marriage crumbled as he battled an addiction to furniture polish.  “He tried to hide it,” explained Wendy, “but he’d come home reeking of lemons.”  They divorced after six years of marriage, with Wendy keeping custody of her eleven children as well as the three they’d produced together, Jumbo, Jimbolina and Super Jimbo.

In recent years, sightings of Jimbo are sporadic.  Rumors of a Fluffernutter reunion are rampant on the internet.  Like most fans, I’ll believe it when I see it.  Maybe it’s not possible for a boy with a dream and a four-string guitar to make it in music today.  For those of us that remember the magic, we have these songs and the legend to sustain us.

As Jimbo himself once said: “Music has always been my lady.  I’d be proud to be remembered as the angry red mark left by her bra strap.”

No comments:

Post a Comment