Happy Birthday Roger Ruskin Spear ► Bonzo Dog Band

It wasn’t all that long ago that I celebrated the birth of Dennis Cowan, a founding member of The Bonzo Dog Dada Band. Today let’s all press our trousers for Roger Ruskin Spear, another founding Bonzo. Music/Not Music called Spear “The Forgotten Bonzo” just 12 days ago. Not for me. While Spear never achieved the later fame of Neil Innes, for me Roger Ruskin Spear was the one who put the Dada in The Bonzo Dog Dada Band, those off-the-wall tangents into clothing and other fashion accoutrements that’s clearly a Spear obsession. Ironically, while he played many instruments — tenor saxophone, trumpet, xylophone, bells, clarinet, guitar, oboe, accordion, glockenspiel, as well as sang — he is still best know for playing The Theremin Leg, most notably on the recording “Noises For The Leg.”

Here Roger Ruskin Spear plays the dress form to piano accompaniment on Strauss’ Blue Danube:

I was fortunate to see The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band live once at, of all things, The First Annual Detroit Rock and Roll Revival, in May of 1969, my last summer in ‘Merka. That’s where I first heard Bonzo Dog Band and was amazed at the performance they put on. Check out that line-up: Among the other band that performed that weekend
were MC5, Chuck Berry, Sun Ra, Dr. John, Johnny Winter, Stooges, Amboy
Dukes, SRC, The Frost, The Rationals, Teegarden & Van Winkle, Lyman
Woodard, Up, Wilson Mower Pursuit, Grand Funk Railroad, Third Power, New
York Rock & Roll Ensemble, David Peel & The Lower East Side,
Red White & Blues Band, Sky, The Train, Savage Grace, James Gang,
Caste, Gold Brothers, Dutch Elm, Plain Brown Wrapper, Brownsville

When I moved to Canada, I took with me my love of the Bonzos with me. However, I found that most of the people I tried to turn on to The Bonzos already knew who they were, from the British/Monty Python influence.

Bonzo Dog Band performing at the First Annual Detroit Roch and Roll Revival. Photo by Alan Gotkin.

Because people always get the various Bonzos confused, here’s a handy introduction:

Amazingly, I find that Roger Ruskin Spear still has a few dates on his calendar, even tho’ Neil Innes has him retired, with Three Bonzos and a Piano.

I will go on record again: Bonzo Dog Band is the most influential band no one knows. 

Let’s end with a Roger Ruskin Spear Jukebox:

As always CRANK IT UP!!!

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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