Friday, February 19, 2010


One of the strangest musical acts of all time, "Rambling Syd Rumpo" sang folk songs filled with nonsensical pornography. Instead of dirty words, writers Marty Feldman (pre-acting fame) and Barry Took filled their songs with terms such as "grossets" and "cordwangle." Their singer, Mr. Rumpo, added his own bizarre spin to the proceedings, since he was portrayed by Kenneth Williams, a celibate homosexual (he claimed to have remained a virgin all his life) who made a leering career out of acting comically unhinged over chesty women.

It's taken a while for Illfolks to get around to Kenneth Williams, but here he is, in honor of his upcoming birthday (February 22, 1926) which he of course, will not celebrate, having committed suicide via a famous "what's the point" diary entry and some pills (April 15th, 1988 at the age of 62).

Williams, who was a beloved comic character actor via the "Carry On" movies that began in 1958, also thrived on radio where he co-starred on Kenneth Horne's "Beyond Our Ken" show and "Round the Horne," spanning 1958 to 1968. It was on the latter series that Williams sometimes dropped by in a parody of folk singers and the folk song boom. "Rambling Syd Rumpo" wasn't based on any particular artist (certainly not Rambling Jack Elliot) and was unlike anyone else on the radio airwaves.

With a warbling vibrato, a vividly eccentric flamboyance and an almost gruesomely enthusiastic delivery, Rumpo would come out, lecture for a moment or two in ridiculous quasi-informational style, and then deliver thoroughly inane one-joke madrigals. These were the days when Oscar Brand's "Bawdy Folk Song" series was in stores, as well as Ed McCurdy's "When Dalliance Was In Flower" albums. These guys (and a few others) were getting snickers for their "ribaldry." Williams, via Rumpo, simply upped the ante by lowering the panties and showing off the troth, or perhaps the moolies.

So here's Syd, "dipping into the old gander bag," in what turned out to be Kenneth Williams' last radio appearance, just a few weeks before his death. "

Kenneth Williams resurrects Rambling Syd Rumpo...and dies a few weeks later


Anonymous said...

Oh, thank you!

I haven't heard any RSR since my schooldays (I fear my orbs are now withered, etc!) and this made my day.

May your grussocks grow green and your cordwangle never droop!

Anonymous said...

Awake My Nadger

(to the tune of Awake My Soul by Mumford & Sons)

How fickle my moulies and how woozy my thrum.
I'd straddle my nadger but it is strangely numb,
And now my spong whirdles on things I don't know.

Groat me your splod and we'll nadger them all,
But grundle my parts and I'll just let you fall.
Lend me your grusset, I can change what you see.
But your looming great thrummer must be totally free.

Awake my nadger.

Awake my nadgers and grindle my nodes,
For you were made to grunt your futtocks.

Ill Folks said...

SAPRiSTI - it's comments like these that make my day. (What a great heaping splod I must be.)

Anonymous said...

My friend was telling me what work he'd done in his garden and finished up "I strimmed it down where the pansies are." I've almost convinced myself I can remember the tune of this long-lost title from Rambling Sid's repertoire!