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Onetime Member of Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band Talks About Elton, Dudgeon And Clapton

Written by Chief Editor.

"Legs" Larry Smith is the former drummer of the satirical rock group, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

He was originally invited to join by Vivian Stanshall as a tuba player and tap dancer. As the drummer, he was a core member of the band and played on their Top 5 hit I'm the Urban Spaceman, and performed on all subsequent recordings. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band appeared in the 1967 TV film Magical Mystery Tour, made by the Beatles, and also in the ground-breaking ITV television series Do Not Adjust Your Set, which featured future members of the Monty Python team. As a solo artist, Smith also toured with Eric Clapton and Elton. The 70-year-old recently spoke with EJW about some of his experiences.


EJW:  How did your Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band get the name, and how long were
you together?

 

LS:  A cartoon character called 'Bonzo The Dog' (a very naughty boy) – inspired the name. The 'Doo-Dah' part was inspired by the French art movement (Dada). We were together for six glorious, frustrating years.

 

EJW: Whose idea was it to have you tap-dance on Elton's I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself? Were you a dancer before this?

 

 LS:  I was already ‘dancin’ my ass off’ with the Bonzos, then Elton’s legendary producer Gus Dudgeon asked me to dance on the album track. Gus had previously produced a couple of Bonzo albums and we were already great friends. On hearing the finished track – I guess Elton then invited me to tour America with him. I hastily designed and got some stage costumed made – and off we went to Wonderland. It was a fabulous tour, a happy tour.

 

EJW:   Did you sing or dance when you toured with Elton? What was this
like, and what were some of the places you appeared at?

 

 LS:  Oh, boy – did we! Elton and I performed a show-stopping routine to the song: 'Singing in the Rain' – we wore long trench coat macs and fedoras. We looked like a couple of spies, but the crowd loved it. We did this all across America and Elton and I became the best of pals – sitting together on the plane and rushing off every night (after the show) to try and find an Indian restaurant.

 

EJW:  Did you perform similar duties when on the road with Eric Clapton?
Was this after you had toured with Elton?

 

 LS:  Pretty much. Although the style of my dancing was different. With Eric, my steps and movements were more ‘Rock n’ Roll’ – and during the song, I smashed up a toy (plastic) guitar. Anyway, I like to say that tap-dancing is only drumming with your feet.

Elton’s tour was 1972 – Eric’s tour was 1974. 

 

EJW: Were you aware that Gus Dudgeon was working on a Bonzo Dog tribute
album shortly before he died? What became of this?

 

 LS:  Actually, the concept was mine. I came up with an idea to ‘finally’ give the Bonzos a blob of recognition and introduce them to today’s ‘crowd.’ I was working on a film-script with a friend in Atlanta and we developed: ‘The Year of The Dog’ – a project which would include the tribute album, a drama-dogumentary and a pilot for a TV show – featuring ‘Bonzo’ and the Band.

I got Gus involved and he wanted to recreate: ‘I’m The Urban Spaceman’ – with dear Elton on vocals and piano – backed by Supergrass (who were mad keen to get involved). I was going to appear from time-to-time as the ‘spaceman’. It could’ve been quite something. . . .

While the aforementioned project didn't pan out, Larry has continued to be active in music. His summer activities have included appearing at BeatleFest in Liverpool, and participating in a Q&A session at the Who Convention in Sheperds Bush to mark 35 years since the passing of his friend, Keith Moon. In addition, the entertainer is currently putting the finishing touches on his autobiography.