Those Amazing Humans, Second Series, #17, Doug “Hot Nuts” Clark

Posted: July 24, 2013 in Uncategorized
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When I was a rowdy frat boy in Sewanee, Tennessee, at the University of the South, the most popular party band south of the Mason-Dixon line was Doug Clark and The Hot Nuts. They were what you might call a novelty band of the risque variety. A good portion of their repertoire was composed of ribald songs like the legendary “Hot Nuts” but they were good enough musicians and vocalists to keep you on the dance floor. They could certainly work a roomful of sloppy drunks into a lustful frenzy, I can tell you that much. After that I don’t remember much of anything.

Lots of folks have done the song, “Hot Nuts”, before Doug Clark, but he made it his own by adding an always changing (but somehow just the same) limerick structure that never failed to bring the house down.

Doug Clark, from a photo taken of him in the twilight years of his 50 year career, shortly before his death in 2002.

Doug Clark, from a photo taken of him in the twilight years of his 50 year career, shortly before his death in 2002.

The following info about Doug Clark is borrowed from a North Carolina ezine called Indy Week, published shortly after he passed away.
Doug Clark passed away last month. For 47 years, he led his infamous band, Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts. Like Bro. Dave Gardner, The Tams and Fireball Roberts, The Hot Nuts were true Southern icons–mention their name to anyone from East Lansing or Palo Alto, and you’ll get a blank stare. But talk to any middle-aged guy from Gastonia or Valdosta, and the chances are they have seen the Hot Nuts at least once, probably have one of their old records (or eight tracks) laying around somewhere, and with a few beers in them, can recite at least a couple of verses of “Two Old Maids.”
Although they have played all over the country, from Indiana, to New Hampshire to Colorado, it is here in the Carolinas, that they became legends. Back in 1954 a young drummer named Doug Clark realized there was money to be made on the fraternity circuit around his hometown of Chapel Hill. His group, The Tops, did well enough performing hits by the Dominoes, the Platters, and others, but their most requested song was “Hot Nuts,” an old Hokum blues number, the ultimate late-night drunken sing-along, with a chorus that went: “Nuts, hot nuts, get ’em from the peanut man.”

Barely R-rated by today’s standards, in the South in the ’50s it was musical hellbait, and real profitable. So profitable, in fact, that Doug recruited his brother, John, added more risqué material, and in 1955 changed the name of the group to Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts.
Over the next few years they would record a total of nine albums on Gross records, a division of an obscure label named Jubilee that went out of business in 1970. And they would play every college town south of the Mason-Dixon line. Their records were totally unfit for air play, so they relied on reputation and word of mouth.

Their reputation often far exceeded their reality; there were all kinds of rumors about what they did at their shows, the most famous one being that they appeared on stage wearing nothing but gold lamé jockstraps. Jockstraps or not, any band singing tunes like “Baby Let Me Bang Your Box,” was going to provoke the occasional bluenose crusade. Back in the early ’60s the city of Richmond, Va., banned them outright. No problem. The gig was “secretly” moved to the county fairground and sold out almost instantly. The same situations occurred even north of the Mason-Dixon line.

According to Jacque LeBlanc, a reviewer on Amazon, “I first heard these guys at SUNY Brockport in 1966. We booked them, but at the last minute, the uptight college administration said we couldn’t have them on campus. We hired out the old roller-rink, and packed in at least 700 people. The Hot Nuts arrived in a big old shocking pink tour bus, and literally rocked the joint …”
Once they had developed the act, it remained virtually unchanged for four and a half decades. At any Hot Nuts gig there was a warm-up set or two of beach music, disco and R&B standards. Then, after a short intermission, it was time for :the infamous “Hot Nuts Show.”

For the next hour, the crowd would be treated to such favorites as “Hot Nuts,” “Roly Poly,” “Two Old Maids,” and one-liners going back to an era that predated Richard Pryor by 20 years and Def Jam by an entire lifetime. At the end of the night, they would sell their albums, T-shirts, beanies, and other souvenirs, and then it was on to the next gig, to do it all over again in 24 hours, week after week, month after month, for 47 years.
And just in case you think I’m making this all up, here is a link to a youtube video with an original recording of Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts doing the “Hot Nuts” song, by golly.


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