And Another Tale, About "Saloon"

As promised, more about “Saloon.” In the late 1960’s, Kams was a low-rent tavern on Daniel Street in Champaign which had been around for more than 30 years, serving beer to anyone tall enough to reach the bar with his quarter (yes, a glass of beer at Kams was 25 cents, and a pitcher could be had for $1.25). The Champaign-Urbana community was shocked -- shocked! -- one day in 1969 when authorities from the office of Illinois Secretary of State Paul Powell raided Kams, found several allegedly underage drinkers there, and pulled the joint’s liquor license. In a perhaps unrelated development (although many thought it poetic justice), Powell was later forced to resign amidst a scandal involving the discovery of large amounts of suspicious cash in a shoebox in his office. Truth is stranger than fiction. Anyway, Kams was closed! This traumatic event struck Johnson as the perfect subject for a rewrite of the song he had copied from the Whiffenpoof songbook during his semester-break visit to Yale, so he wrote almost all new lyrics to “Saloon” in honor of Kams, bemoaning the closing of this campus landmark.
The song was presented by The Other Guys at the Glee Club fall Dads Day concert in November 1971, and during the climax of the tune, “no more air that smells foul, no more raids by Paul Powell,” the O.G. arranged to have a shoebox stuffed full of fake dollar bills tossed out of the balcony of surrounding the stage of the Great Hall at Krannert. The prop landed perfectly, right at the feet of the O.G., and the roar of laughter from the audience was one of the loudest and most sustained responses the octet had ever gotten.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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