“Classical Gas” was a huge hit when I was a kid and it was a BIG DEAL because it was one of the rare instrumental hits of all time. It was one of the things that put a seed in my head: a classical instrument doesn’t have to be classical. And that seed has blossomed throughout my life.
So when I had the chance to meet “Classical Gas” composer/guitarist Mason Williams during a tour, I jumped at it and, as it turns out, we became friends and he and his wife Karen and I bonded over music, cats, sushi and humor.
Visiting them on my next trip West, I shyly hinted it might be cool to play “Classical Gas” together and the next thing I knew we were up ‘til all hours working out the arrangement. Mason played on my show as a special guest — and made my night, my week, my year.
Here we are, a little bleary-eyed after an evening playing. Note his lopsided haircut … there’s an explanation for that in the man’s own words at the end of this post (no comment on my own hair).
So, today I got an email from Mason with a very cool list of “Classical Gas” renditions and it was so fun to watch these that I wanted to share them.
If you like seeing the way different people do the same thing (like I do), check these out – it’s especially fun to watch them in order and see how each one kind of plays off the one before it.
Here’s what Mason wrote me:
There are several videos of “Classical Gas” that have come to my attention. There may well be some I don’t even know about but here a few to check out if you’re interested.
1) Tommy Emmanuel in China. The audience sang along. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jabnOm0WzIs
Classical Gas is at the end of the Beatles medley. George Harrison was really interested in Classical Gas. I spent a day with him at Apple Corps Headquarters. I was with Andy Williams and his wife Claudine, Derek Taylor was there as well. So, for me, being in a Beatles medley is not that far-fetched.
[DHC Note: I didn’t know who Tommy Emmanuel was – I was missing out!! Check out around 8:00 on this video – wow! Talk about playing a crowd!]
2) According to Tommy, Classical Gas is his most popular video and gets on average 5000 hits a day.
[DHC Note: Wow! Over 5 million hits on this one – that’s, like, almost a gazillion!]
3) Tommy’s version of Classical Gas was featured on “American Dad” with Roger the alien playing it with only three fingers! They did a remarkable job of copying Tommy’s moves on the guitar.
4) Jason Carter just played a great version of it and did a wonderful video as well. Check it out!
5) Gabriella Quevedo is also playing Tommy’s arrangement. Amazing for a 17 year old. I’ll never be that good, but then again I’ll never be a gifted seventeen year old girl.
6) Classical Gas on cello played as though it were a guitar.
7) Classical Gas on guitar and electric cello.
8) Classical Gas: Me and Deborah Henson-Conant (lever harp) Live Eugene March 7, 2012. I had my haircut asymmetrical in support of the Occupy Wall Street. The side you can’t see was the short side. I said, “This is for the people who can’t afford a whole haircut.”
[DHC Note: Cool, eh? Do you have a favorite version of Classical Gas? I’d love to hear it played on Ukulele!!!]
UPDATE! Gas on Uke!
But also… drumroll … A lesson on how to play it on Uke so you can do it yourself! https://vimeo.com/56578458