Dutch Falconi and His Twisted Orchestra was one of Sacramento’s most popular live acts during the 1990s. Taking the big band dynamic to its logical extreme with up to 32 members performing onstage or on the sidelines, these guys and dolls really knew how to put on a show! I happened to mention Dutch Falconi in passing while talking to former co-worker Dean Alleger during a lunch break, and he responded that he had not only played trumpet for the group but also co-produced its masterpiece Crime Boss Hootenanny (1997). I was absolutely awestruck to discover that someone I’d spent so much time shooting the breeze with had largely been responsible for piecing together a musical mosaic I had admired for so long.
On Crime Boss Hootenanny, Dutch Falconi drew inspiration from Cab Calloway, The Andrew Sisters, Tom Waits, and various other sources, but what really stands out besides the consummate musicianship is a satirical bent that recalls Firesign Theater at its wackiest. (Alleger was kind enough to give me a CD documenting a mock radio production that confirmed the Firesign influence wasn’t just a figment of my imagination.) There are the few expected showstoppers here like “Jerry the Junker” and guest vocalist Countess Kitten Fontina’s Bavarian mobster saga “Lepke Finger Gang,” but to truly appreciate this album, you really need to listen to it from beginning to end. In an attempt to fill the compact disc format with as much entertainment as the technology would allow, an 8-minute skit serving as an intermission was inserted at the appropriate interval. Alleger informed me that the basic tracks took only five days to lay down but that the album as a whole took two years to complete due to all of the nuttiness that was included in the final product.
Falconi’s out-of-print debut album The Shoes of Despair (1994) remained a holy grail for me until just recently when Dutch himself delivered it to my doorstep. I still think Crime Boss Hootenanny easily stands as their towering achievement, but The Shoes of Despair established the template for their theatrical approach to performing. Dutch’s introduction kicking off “Bandstand” makes it clear that he and his ensemble have a show to put on, and what a show it is! Unabashed tributes to cannibalism (“Potatoes, Carrots and You”), corruption of the innocent (“I’ll Show Them”), and exploitation cinema (“Rocket Bra Revenge”) abound, and the musicians gathered together for this first outing were in full swing right from the start. The liner notes alone are state of the art, covering each and every track as well as recalling DFO’s victorious court win against no less than The United Mass Marketing Agents of America.
As for Crime Boss Hootenanny, if you think you might be interested in checking out what I’ve often referred to as “The Sgt. Pepper of Swing,” you can find new copies for sale on Amazon for no more than a buck-and-a-half.
Bonus Fun Fact – The Dutch Falconi Orchestra incorporated a penis guillotine in its act for several shows, the gory details of which can be found here. Not for the faint of heart!
You can find Dutch Falconi’s Crime Boss Hootenanny for sale here.