1 The Muppet Mindset: Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: The Gingerbread Men

Mar 30, 2011

Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: The Gingerbread Men

Today's brilliant little article is written by Anthony Strand, a frequent contributor to ToughPigs and friend of The Muppet Mindset making his debut appearance here on the blog. As you'll soon see, Anthony shows off his huge fandom for one of the most fully-baked musical groups of any generation. The album covers come to us courtesy of Joe Hennes, who until this point had no connection to this blog whatsoever... darn it.


THE GINGERBREAD MEN

Performed by...
Frank Oz (Crumby)
Jim Henson (Ginger-Brad)
Richard Hunt (Frostington)
Jerry Nelson (Clive Cookiepants)
Dave Goelz (Ginger Spice)

First appearance...
The Jack Paar Show (1963)

Most recent appearance...
The Wayne Brady Show (2002)

Best known role...
Crumby: The cute one
Ginger-Brad: The sensitive cute one
Frostington: The goofball
Clive Cookiepants: The wise older brother
Ginger Spice: The dangerous one

Memorable quotes...
“Fresh out of the pan, sweet gingerbread man!”
“Uh-huh.”
“We’re bigger than Betty Crocker now.”

WHO ARE THE GINGERBREAD MEN?
The Gingerbread Men released their first album, Catch the Gingerbread Men!, in 1963. A massive success, it was followed by a dozen more albums over the next two decades, spawning such hit singles as “Cool Gingerk” (1964) and “All You Need is Crust” (1967). Often unfairly accused of coasting on their non-threatening good looks, the Gingerbread Men were actually one of the most innovative bands of the era.

Unlike many so-called “teeny-bopper” groups, the Men played their own instruments from the very beginning. Realizing that traditional instruments could not be played by their two-pronged, mitten-like hands, they developed special apparatuses which allowed them to perform. Mitten-handed musicians have been grateful ever since. Even more impressively, they recorded some of pop’s most delightful harmonies even though 4/5 of the band had mouths which did not open.

In the mid-60s, the Gingerbread Men took the world by storm. They released seven albums in as many years, and the public gobbled them all up. They appeared on dozens of TV shows, including Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, The Flintstones (as The Gingerbrock Men), and Batman (as henchmen under Louie the Lilac, played by their fellow Muppet Show guest star Milton Berle.)

However, as the 60s became the 70s, the band’s popularity declined. Their records were coming out less frequently, mostly as a result of increasing experimentation. While hardcore fans consider these albums to be some of their most savory, the general public preferred the original recipe. By the late 70s, it looked like they might be headed for the garbage can. That all changed when they got a call from Mr. Short, Green, and Handsome.

Muppet fans, of course, remember the Men for their appearance on The Muppet Show in 1977, performing “Sweet Gingerbread Man,” the first single from their tenth album. What most people don’t know, however, is that they had nearly turned down that appearance, wary of sharing guest star status with bug-eyed comedian Don Knotts. But their manager Burny convinced them that appearing on a show run by other non-humans could have only a positive effect on their career.

It did. For the next three years, the Men enjoyed a great rebirth. They gained new, younger fans and embarked on the Cinnamon And Sugar Tour, their first in nearly a decade. Still riding that wave of popularly, their next album was even more successful, containing their all-time biggest hit, “Rolling Pin.” An introspective sequel to “Mixing Bowl” from 1966, it looked at how that song’s title character had dealt with his time out of the kitchen.

Sadly, the resurgence was short-lived. After two straight disappointing albums and little-attended tours, The Gingerbread Men were finally spit out for good in 1984.

In the years after the Gingerbread Men’s break-up, only Crumby (and his working mouth) has had much success as a singer. In 1991 he released the smash-hit album Dough-ets, featuring songs with Martha Stewart, Graham Kerr, The Swedish Chef and other culinary legends. It won both the Yummy Award and the Taster’s Choice Award for Album of the Year.

The others mostly left music to focus on other interests. Frostington turned to acting, most notably a well-received dramatic role in Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm in 2005. Ginger-Brad returned to modeling, his first love. He can be seen in any number of books for both bakers and children. Ginger Spice devoted himself full-time to improving life for the mitten-handed with a variety of gadgets designed specifically for them. Finally, Clive Cookiepants hosted the long-running talk show Delicious! With Clive Cookiepants in his native England.

Despite those pursuits, the Men’s story wasn’t quite over. In 2002, Wayne Brady, a self-proclaimed “Sweet Tooth” (the name given to obsessive Gingerbread Men fans by the media) reunited the band on his talk show. To great applause, they performed a medley of their biggest hits. They were a little older, but they could hardly have been called stale. 40 years later they were, as ever, fresh out of the pan.

GINGERBREAD MEN DISCOGRAPHY
Catch the Gingerbread Men! (1963)
Surfin’ Gingerbread Men (1964)
Gingerbread Bread Men Turn Up the Heat (1965)
Mixing Bowl (1966)
Between the Sugar-Coated Buttons (1967)
Crumby’s Factory (1968)
Let It Bake (1969)
Pastry Road (1971)
Goats’ Head Gingerbread (1974)
Darkness on the Edge of the Pan (1977)
Bad Luck Streak in Baking School (1979)
Moving Ginger (1981)
Warm (1983)


WHY DO THE MUPPETS NEED THE GINGERBREAD MEN?
Pfft. The Muppets should consider themselves lucky that the Gingerbread Men lowered themselves to make an appearance on that silly little puppet show.






The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier

4 comments:

  1. Anthony, you're a bit early for an April Fools' gingerbread prank! :D

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  2. I really should commit to at least buying a Best Of compilation. As it stands I only know their biggest hit and it's now playing on repeat in my head. Uh-huh.

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  3. So often the Gingerbread Men's great artistic accomplishments are overlooked, but they really were one of the most influential groups in the business -- both the music business and the pastry business. I'm so glad their Muppet Show appearance is on DVD.

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