Part 1 – Part 2
In case you couldn’t tell by all the star-spangled bunting, sales on all things related to barbeques, and fireworks being prematurely launched (though that last one may just be in my neighborhood), July 4th, a day of celebration all across America, is nearly here. (And if you didn’t notice, it’s likely that you’re not in the United States. In which case, hi! Please stick around! I promise there’ll be lots of Muppet clips!) Every Independence Day, I have a tradition on my Facebook account: I post a patriotic Muppet clip and dedicate it to one of the original thirteen American colonies. Well, this year, I’ve decided to go much, much bigger: I’ve put together the ultimate Muppet playlist for the 4th of July, with a clip for each state, for everyone to enjoy. So let’s begin our Muppet trip across the USA!
Ah, Hawaii; the last state admitted to the union and the first state on our playlist. Hawaii’s known for its gorgeous beaches and its unique style of music. So naturally, my pick had to be The Muppet Show’s performance of “Hawaiian War Chant,” based on a song by Hawaii’s Prince Leleiohoku II.
We move from one of the warmest states to one of the coldest. Alaska, the only state that has land inside the Arctic Circle, also is home to the northernmost American town, Barrow, which has an average low of -19 degrees Fahrenheit in January. How does one survive in such freezing temperatures? Showtunes!
In this clip from a 1995 episode of Sesame Street, the Readers of the Open Range inform a band of townsfolk that they live in Bisbee, Arizona. Naturally, Arizona’s clip had to be from Sesame Street, as Arizona is also the birthplace of the show’s founding mother, Joan Ganz Cooney.
New Mexico has been used for shooting locations twice in Muppet movies: first for the desert scenes in The Muppet Movie, and then for the hot air balloon sequence in The Great Muppet Caper. On a more solemn note, the town of Taos, New Mexico, served as the final resting site for Jim Henson’s ashes, Jim having loved a range of foothills in the town. I think a contemplative and spiritual song deserves this state’s clip.
The song is called “Oklahoma.” The state is called Oklahoma. And it’s a great clip. What more do you need?
One of the most recognizable groups to come from Utah is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, who the Sesame Street gang performed with in their annual Christmas concert in 2014. So please enjoy Count von Count performing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with organist Richard Elliott. He complains about the abundance of birds. Fun fact about Utah and birds: It was at a puppetry contest in Salt Lake City where Jim Henson met Caroll Spinney and asked him to join the cast of Sesame Street. So the biggest bird to come out of Utah has to be Big Bird!
A significant portion of Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming. A fun fact: Yellowstone National Park was declared a national park before Wyoming was even a state! Another fun fact: Don Music doesn’t know how to get there.
Idaho is known for growing potatoes, but it also has a rapidly growing and well-regarded wine industry. Perhaps Kermit got a bargain for his 95 cents, but Steve Martin doesn’t seem to think so.
Washington’s largest city, Seattle, receives approximately 152 rainy days per year. It’s also the same number of days it takes Prairie Dawn to film a single musical number.
Robert Fletcher, a poet who wrote most of the lyrics for “Don’t Fence Me In,” lived most of his life in Montana. I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to Big Sky Country than Bob Hope (and Paul Revere… the horse, not the rider) sing the song featuring Fletcher’s words.
I call this one the limousine of connections… because it’s a stretch: On the 50 state quarters, North Dakota’s featured buffalo… Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show once starred Annie Oakley, whose time in the show was immortalized in the Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun, which features the song “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” And the Muppets sang a parody of the song as part of The Muppet Show Live in 2001, paying tribute to the guest stars that appeared on The Muppet Show. Try harder next time, North Dakota.
South Dakota’s most famous landmark is Mount Rushmore. Sadly, I couldn’t find the clip I wanted to use, the Mount Rushmore scenes from The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence, on YouTube, so please enjoy this ridiculously remixed clip of Statler and Waldorf, with Statler briefly replacing all four heads on the famed sculpture.
While he wasn’t born there, John Denver famously made Colorado his home and frequently sang of the state’s natural beauty (He also took his stage name after the state’s capital, which sounds better than John Coloradosprings). He was also know to spend his holidays with the Muppets, both of the Christmas and Rocky Mountain varieties. But before the specials, back on The Muppet Show, he and a bunch of Muppets all piled into “Grandma’s Feather Bed.”
One of Nebraska’s native sons has left an indelible mark on the Muppets: songwriter, composer, actor, and Muppet Show guest star Paul Williams! Without him, the Muppets’ song catalog would be very different. One of my favorite moments of Williams and the Muppets has to be his performance of “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” so I think that’s a fair tribute to the great state of Nebraska.
There’s a city in Nevada that jam-packed with excitement. Its casinos and entertainment centers bring visitors from all over the world. I’m talking of course about Reno, where Fozzie Bear once played the Pechoolo Casino with those beloved entertainers, The Moopets. I wonder what happened to Fozzie once he left the Moopets. I hope he’s with another group by now, though it would be hard to top the one-and-only Moopets.
West Virginia’s capital city is Charleston. Clearly, Fletcher Bird was paying tribute to the state’s capital when he danced the Charleston to “Has Anybody Seen My Bird?” in the Liberace episode of The Muppet Show.
Perhaps Kansas’ most famous fictional resident is Dorothy Gale, who once was swept up in a twister and launched to the wonderful world of Oz (the place, not the Frank). So here’s a clip from The Muppets Go to the Movies where they pay tribute to the beloved film, The Wizard of Oz. (I could’ve used a clip from The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, but I’d prefer not getting death threats this week.)
According to the Muppet Morsels on The Muppet Show: Season One box set, the name for the planet Koozebane came about because Jim Henson liked the name of Coos Bay, a town in Oregon. So without The Beaver State, we might never have gotten the Galley-oh-hoop-hoop!
Most people know that Minnesota has a large Swedish-American population. But what Muppet fans should know is that it’s also the birthplace of Muppet writer Jerry Juhl, a man who prided himself on his silliness. So I think it’s fitting and proper that we honor both Sweden and Jerry Juhl with “Silent Strawberries” from The Muppets Go to the Movies, which Juhl co-wrote.
California is home to The Dream Factory, The Magic Store, hey, don’t you ever go to the movies? Did you really think that the California clip wouldn’t have to do with Hollywood? The Muppets have traveled to Hollywood, worked in Hollywood, lived in Hollywood, saved The Muppet Theater in Hollywood, and of course, The Muppets went Hollywood in The Muppets Go Hollywood. Hooray for Hollywood! (I hear the rest of California is nice, too.)
One of Wisconsin’s unofficial nicknames is “America’s Dairyland,” fittingly because it’s one of the nation’s highest dairy producers. So if you were a cow in Wisconsin, you’d be pretty proud too.
Iowa is the birthplace of many famed entertainers, including Johnny Carson, Tom Arnold, Kate Mulgrew, Glenn Miller, William Frawley, George Reeves, Brandon Routh (Two Supermen!), Ashton Kutcher, and Muppet Show guest stars Andy Williams and Cloris Leachman. Seeing that Leachman also had a very convincing allergy attack in The Muppet Movie, I think we should honor her and enjoy her singing “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life” with pig Mounties (who may or may not be Canadian, but that’s a question for another less American-centered article).
When I think of the songs connected with Texas, there are a few that come to mind: “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” “All My Exes Live in Texas.” But the first one that always pops into my head has to be “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Maybe it’s the hand clapping. So naturally, my pick for the Lone Star State went to the rendition that Dale Evans did with the Babies on The Muppet Show.
I know Florida is a very diverse state with areas including the Everglades, Cape Canaveral, the Florida Keys, Miami and its Sound Machine, but let’s be honest – when I think of Florida, the first thing I think of is Walt Disney World. And thankfully, Walt Disney World’s been home to Muppet stuff for decades, most notably Muppet*Vision 3D. But since it would be excessive to put the whole show here (besides, not everyone has 3D glasses at home), let’s enjoy the finale to The Muppets at Walt Disney World, “More, More, More,” shot around the entire resort.
Michigan is known as the hub of the American automobile industry. It’s also the birthplace of Motown Records. But Muppet fans may remember it best as where Gonzo starred in an Aquacade in The Muppets Take Manhattan. A fun fact: Tony Bennett is not a native of Michigan, but Stevie Wonder is. Another fun fact: the chickens sound as much like Stevie Wonder as they sound like Tony Bennett.
And we’ve officially made it halfway through the United States. Check back later this week as we tour the second half of America the best way we know how: through Muppet clips.
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by Matthew Soberman