The Road to Vaudeville 

Gags meet jazz in the stage-shows of Weaver and Dandy

Doesn’t it just drive you bonkers when you’re talking to some perfectly nice person, perhaps enjoying a little anecdote they’ve chosen to share, and then they hand you the punchline? Turns out they’ve been leading you down the primrose path, exploiting your sympathetic bent for hearing out mildly interesting anecdotes, and finally ambushing you with some dumb gag line they’ve probably sprung on a dozen other people. It makes you feel like a customer. You follow? Here’s a good example, a story that Paul Dandy presumably told in earnest (for a while) to a journalist in late 1999:

Dandy and his friend, fellow musician Ben Weaver, weren’t feeling very well, so they went to the Mayo Clinic, apparently not very far from Weaver’s house. The doctor recommended they bathe in milk, so they went back to Weaver’s house and filled up both tubs. Still feeling kind of crappy, they went back to the clinic to see what was what.

“Well,” asked the doctor, “Was it pasteurized?”

“No,” the two replied. “It was only past our knees.”

What a little brat! This kind of humor is usually the specialty of sidewalk leprechauns, rural New England grocery store proprietors and assorted folks who think the humorous bits of The Old Farmer’s Almanac are killingly funny. Don’t you just like Paul Dandy already?

It doesn’t take much of a stretch to believe that Paul Dandy never cared for high school. The 20-year-old musician dropped out of high school in the Twin Cities during his sophomore year and traveled around for nine months, working odd jobs, hustling pool, driving trucks and finally meeting his pal Weaver in a New York coffee shop. Dandy currently calls the Nashville area home—such as it is between endless rounds of touring the United States, Europe and Asia. Dandy and Weaver also started their own label, Unit Three Records, which last year released Dandy’s debut album, Wizard Oil.

Wizard Oil showcases a young songwriter with an uncanny knack for writing what sounds just like vintage hot jazz, Dixieland and ragtime, souped up with a lot of soul but not precisely updated. “In a Little Hula Heaven” and “The Gypsy” are beautiful specimens of anachronistic songwriting, the former for its campy aloha feel (complete with crashing surf and twittering birds), the latter for the gags that provide the lyrics, which are straight out of vaudeville. All of the songs display an acrobatic wit: Dandy’s vocals sometimes take on a kind of soloing trombone sound or even stranger things; certain of the songs occasionally suggest Peter Lorre, Marlon Brando or a drunk Dennis Price sitting in with a gutted Squirrel Nut Zippers. Really bold, undeniably original stuff.

As for his performances—well, mostly just for the sake of being able to say we did so, let’s defer to late crooner Tiny Tim (yes, that Tiny Tim). The ukulele-strumming tulip-tiptoer once called Dandy “the greatest entertainer I have ever seen.” Now if that isn’t one hell of a compliment…

Ben Weaver plays the Old Post this Thursday, June 8 at 10 PM. Admission is FREE. Paul Dandy plays Jay’s Upstairs next Thursday, June 15 at 10 PM. Cover TBA.

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