Before they broke up a decade ago, bizarro Bay Area folk duo Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits were getting regular national airplay on Dr. Demento’s show by shocking people with funny and politically incorrect lyrics. But it wasn’t their scene; they really just wanted to hang out with the punks.
“We realized that if we wanted to continue on the novelty circuit, we’d be playing for fat male virgins in Hawaiian shirts and kazoos. We were young. We liked girls,” says singer Corbett Redford.
But the legendary punk venue Gilman, for instance, said they weren’t punk enough, telling them they were “Beavis and Butthead playing silly folk music.” With songs like “All My Friends Are Drug Fiends” and “The Dog Ate My Baby” (the two that got the most airplay), it was easy to mistake them for some kind of unhinged comedy act.
“We never considered ourselves a ‘joke’ band and found we were kind of occasionally too surly, artful or political for the wacky folks,” says Redford.
The duo got their first chance to play Gilman in 1998 when Eggplant, a local East Bay scenester, vouched for them. They started to draw fans from different scenes.
“Ten or so U.S. tours and tons of regional trips have brought us punks, rockers, indie, theater, comedy and other weird fans,” Redford says.
But it seemed that the more people started actually taking them seriously, the more pressure they felt. Eventually, in 2000, it got to the point where it put a strain on their friendship and they broke up.
They got together unexpectedly nine years later. Initially, they were collaborating on what was supposed to be a pilot for an animated show called A Sausage Named Clarence. It was based off of an old rock opera they wrote. As they worked on it, they composed a few new songs, which inspired them to play a few shows. By 2010, they were going full throttle again. The new Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits were a bit more restrained, not as overtly offensive and more obviously satirical.
“I think the suburbs made us crazy, and age made us a little less so,” Redford says.