The Dogg’s Honest Truth About Beatle Barkers
“It’s terrible, but it’s a good gimmick.”
By Thomas Fawcett,
11:00AM, Tue. Jul. 21, 2015
He lied like a dog. As part of the cover package in this week’s Chronicle, I wrote that Swamp Dogg was the soul shouter behind Beatle Barkers, a 1983 LP that features barnyard animal noises played in the tune of Fab Four classics. Turns out that’s not quite accurate.
Nor is the Virginian born Jerry Williams above telling a tall tale – or rather, a tall tail – in order to move stagnant merch. I caught up with the legendary soul weirdo, who conducted our 2013 interview wearing nothing but a Bluetooth, the night before the issue hit newsstands. Here’s the Dogg’s honest truth about one of the worst novelty records ever made.
Austin Chronicle: I’m calling to get the definitive story of the Beatle Barkers album.
Swamp Dogg: There’s no real story there. I had a friend in Australia who came up with the idea and created it. He owned Telmak, one of the largest telemarketing companies in Australia. He was a very rich person. He bought stuff in bulk, anything he could get cheap in a huge amount, and sell it on television.
He made the Beatle Barkers album and asked me how many I could move. I said maybe about 500, “It depends on the commercial.” They shot the commercial over there, and all I had to do was change the address and phone number, and the way they had the price written up. He would send me 500 copies, and once I sold those he’d send some more.
I had an 800 number especially for that, 1-800-SWAMP-DOGG I do believe, something that people could remember. That’s how I came about the record.
AC: So you didn’t actually play those songs?
AC: When you played here at the Continental Club in 2007 you sold me one of those CDs. You told me you programmed the animal noises into a keyboard yourself and played all the songs. That was a long time ago, I could be wrong, I guess.
SD: You could be right, too. That could’ve been my sales pitch.
AC: When you were selling these albums via your 1-800 number, was there an implication that you had played the songs?
SD: No. What you read on that sleeve is all there was. Everybody got their credit and my name isn’t on it. I had it in cassette form too and I sold the last 2,000 pieces to a pet shop in Spain. It took about three months to finish the deal, but he wanted them for his pet shop. I told him how many I had and he said, “I want them all.” I think I charged him about a dollar and a quarter apiece.
AC: Did you make much money off it?
SD: I did alright. I think I was only paying about 50 cents apiece for the cassettes. Then I started doing them here in the States, putting out CDs. He said he wasn’t going to order more and that I could manufacture them, so I did. That was that.
I wish I could put myself in the story, but I was nothing but a vendor. I might have told you different, or anybody that was in listening distance to that merch table, because they wanted something that Swamp Dogg had his hands on. So I put my hands on it, verbally.
AC: I’ve had it in my head all these years that you played those songs. I’ve got to tell you, the paper comes out tomorrow morning and I wrote that you’re the man responsible for the Beatle Barkers. I can run a correction online, but it’s too late to stop the presses.
SD: You ain’t got to run a correction! Let it hang out there. That just gives me more to talk about. Don’t worry about it. I don’t think nobody really cares that much! And the people who bought it, loved it. I had a lot of women buying it for their husbands, that’s the weird part.
AC: You told me that I should put it on when I was having a romantic evening with the lady – make a fire, light some candles, and put on Beatle Barkers.
SD: That sounds just like some shit I’d say.
AC: Now that I know you didn’t make the album I can state the obvious – that shit is terrible!
SD: Yeah, basically. It’s like waking up in the middle of the night and hearing dogs barking out back in somebody else’s yard. It’s terrible, but it’s a good gimmick. A damn good gimmick.