Lenny & Squiggy

If it weren't for certain surprising and, in retrospect, wonderful connections to some of rock music's funniest moments, the team of Lenny & Squiggy might have been written off as mere late-'70s pop culture. As it was, the fame of the duo relied solely on the smash TV sitcom Laverne and Shirley, a nostalgia-laden look back at Milwaukee of the early '60s itself, spun off from the equally retrospective Happy Days. The two were nerdish greasers known for bursting into the main characters' apartment without knocking -- if nothing else pioneering the equally ephemeral fame of Kramer in Seinfeld two decades later. Whiny, ridiculous, and just plain dumb, the duo at its best hilariously twisted the rough cool of early Marlon Brando and James Dean into entertaining laughs, especially with its nutty band Lenny & the Squigtones. The secret of the characters' success, though, lay in the talented performers who played them: Michael McKean and David Lander, respectively. Both were veterans of the Credibility Gap, a Firesign Theatre-inspired L.A. comedy troupe that also involved accomplished satirist Harry Shearer. McKean also had some band work under his belt thanks to a stint in the Left Banke, a musical training that would come in handy with Lenny & Squiggy and beyond. So popular was the duo and its show that McKean and Lander found themselves able to sign a deal with Casablanca -- no fools, they decided they wanted to stage their own show as Lenny & the Squigtones, enabling their work to stand on its own. The end result, recorded live at Los Angeles' Roxy in 1979, was the slightly redundantly titled Lenny & the Squigtones, at once a wickedly funny take on late-'50s/early-'60s pop rock and a great extension of the cool-only-to-themselves characters. No more albums surfaced from the duo, which disappeared along with the show as the early '80s continued. However, its sole album proved prescient in more ways than one, when McKean hooked up with Shearer and one of the Squigtones' guitarists -- Christopher Guest -- and created the idea of an equally parodic romp through heavy metal with a band called Spinal Tap. And the rest, as they say, is history. ~ Ned Raggett

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