Celebs should have confined singing to shower

Published: Thursday, July 9 1998 12:00 a.m. MDT

Sing. Sing a song. Sing out loud. Sing out strong.

Wait. On second thought, don't sing at all. For pity's sake, just go away.Leonard Nimoy probably should have gone away. William Shatner definitely should have gone away. Sebastian Cabot, Buddy Ebsen, Joe Pesci and, heaven help us, Watergate's Sen. Sam Ervin and "Tic Tac Dough's" Wink Martindale really should have gone away, too.

But they didn't. Instead, they decided to augment their sometimes soaring, sometimes flagging careers by recording what in some realms might be considered music.

"Golden Throats," an occasional series of compact discs from the folks at Rhino Records, where chestnuts are their business, resurrects these stars' questionable decisions like so many rotting graveyard corpses. In four agonizing CDs, "Golden Throats" compiles the most outlandish examples of celebrities' tuneful dilettantery and offers them up in hunks hefty enough to choke on.

"They never imagined we'd be digging this stuff up," says Gary Peterson, a Rhino producer who came up with the "Golden Throats" concept a decade ago with his then-partner, Pat Sierchio.

"Can you imagine being in the recording studio, seeing this going on?" says Sierchio.

It hurts to listen to Shatner, with his staccato voice, emoting the late, lamented John Lennon's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" or belting out a "Mr. Tambourine Man" that suggests he ran out of laxatives the night before. It hurts to hear the voice of Andy Griffith - the voice that comforted Opie and gently upbraided Barney Fife - drawling through the folk-tune-cum-rock-ballad "House of the Rising Sun."

It hurts to hear Nimoy, in full Ronald Reagan twang, nasaling out a decidedly un-Spockian "I Walk the Line." It hurts even to contemplate Ebsen singing "Your Cheatin' Heart." And Martindale doing a John Wayne-ish "Peace in the Valley"? We'll put an "X" in the middle square to block, Pilgrim.

What were these guys thinking? And what's with poet Rod McKuen's frenetic version of "Mule Train"? Isn't there a federal statute that bars anyone but Boxcar Willie from doing that?

"With some of them, you really have people who thought they were doing something profound. Shatner is one of those. Others did it because the producer told them to," says Barry Hansen, the rock folklorist better known as novelty-record advocate Dr. Demento.

The vocal train wrecks get more reality-defying - like a playlist from Radio Free Hades:

- Jack Palance huffing "The Green, Green Grass of Home."

- Mae West wheezing through "Day Tripper."

- Phyllis Diller sassing out "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" with a few one-liners thrown in between verses.

"Clearly somebody said, `Oh, Phyllis, you should do some rock 'n' roll,"' Dr. Demento says.

Ervin, the just-folks North Carolina lawmaker whose Senate Watergate Committee helped bring Nixon down, was sent into the studio by Columbia Records to capitalize on his "profile as a feed-store philosopher." What emerged was "Senator Sam at Home," an unholy amalgam of harmonica music, monologues about patriotism and, yes, his spoken cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water":

"When yo' weary.

"Feelin' smawl.

"When teahs are in yo' eyes.

"I will dry 'dem awl."

Granted, some selections aren't awful. The erstwhile Cassius Clay does a palatable "Stand by Me." Telly Savalas' rendition of "I Walk the Line" isn't utterly unlistenable (if you forget it's Kojak singing).

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