#1273: Brontosaurus Stomp by Piltdown Men
Peak Month: October 1960
6 weeks on Vancouver’s CKWX’s chart
Peak Position #10
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #75
YouTube.com link: “Brontosaurus Stomp”
Ed Cobb of the Four Preps co-founded the Piltdown Men with Lincoln Mayorga, who was an arranger with the Four Preps. Mayorga played on piano, Tommy Tedesco on six-string bass guitar, Bob Bain on guitar, Scott Gordon on saxophone, Alan Brenmanen on drums, and several other session musicians. Edward “Ed” Cobb was born in 1938. In the Fall of 1954 Hollywood High School held an audition for their annual talent show. Thirty-five girls auditioned, but no boys. The next day the school bulletin pleaded for “any guys out there who can do anything.” Four boys in the school choir formed a quartet overnight and stepped into the crinoline void as The Four Preps. They included bass singer Ed Cobb. The Four Preps won the talent show hands down, after singing covers of songs by The Crew Cuts and The Four Lads. Signed with Capitol Records in 1956, the Four Preps connected with the record buying public in 1958 with two Top Ten hits: “26 Miles (Santa Catalina)” and “Big Man”.
Lincoln Mayorga was born in Los Angeles in 1937. During high school he trained as a classical pianist. He began working as arranger and accompanist to his high-school friends in the Four Preps, contributing one of the two piano parts on their 1958 hit “Big Man” and being known as “the fifth Prep”. The group’s producer, Lou Busch, helped Mayorga get an album titled The Ragtime Kid issued in 1958, which was released under the pseudonym Brooke Pemberton.
The Piltdown Men was a name taken from an 1912 archeological fraud called the Piltdown Man. Amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson (not Charles Darwin) claimed to have been given fragments of a skull by a workman at the Piltdown gravel pit and that the skull was the “missing link” between ape and humans. The skull consisted of an altered human jawbone, teeth from an orangutan and the cranium from a small human being. The forgery wasn’t disproven until 1953. And so, seven years after the Piltdown Man was in the newspaper headlines, the Piltdown Men began releasing instrumental singles.
Their first release was “Brontosaurus Stomp”, which peaked at #10 in Vancouver (BC) in October 1960, and #75 on the Billboard Hot 100. That the single got this much attention was due to the popularity of the new prime time cartoon on ABC called The Flintstones.
The “Brontosaurus Stomp” contained lots of bass drum and saxophone. A Brontosaurus is a type of dinosaur whose name means thunder lizard. It weighed thirty thousand pounds (15 tonnes). It was up to 72 to 75 feet long and at the top of its back, 15 feet high. Its neck was 40 feet long. But if it extended it’s neck in an upright position, it could put too much stress on their heart — resulting in instantaneous death. Instead, the 40 foot long appendage could only be lifted a maximum of 15 to 17 feet off the ground. This was a far-cry from the popular myths in modern movies, and early paintings from the late 19th century. In fact, the Brontosaurus is now recognized by the scientific community as Apatosaurus. When the first Apatosaurus fossil was discovered in 1877, the name was given but forgotten because the archeologist who named this dinosaur became enraptured with another discovery. There was a second set of fossils that were called Brontosaurus and thought to be a different dinosaur altogether. When researchers discovered these two were one in the same, the name Brontosaurus was already more popular than the title Apatosaurus. Therefore, there’s understandably confusion when someone is talking about the Brontosaurus but using the Apatosaurus title.
In 1903 paleontologist Elmer Riggs reclassified Brontosaurus as Apatosaurus. But the general public didn’t take notice. In 1989 the United States Postal Service issued stamps of four types of dinosaurs, including brontosaurus on one of these stamps. On October 11, 1989, the New York Times reported “The Postal Service has taken heavy flak for mislabeling its new 25-cent dinosaur stamp, a drawing of a pair of dinosaurs captioned ”Brontosaurus.” Furious purists point out that the ”brontosaurus” is now properly called ”apatosaurus.” They accuse the stamp’s authors of fostering scientific illiteracy, and want the stamps recalled.”
Though in the popular mind many presumed that Dino the dinosaur in The Flintstones cartoon was a Brontosaurus, this was not the case. In fact, Dino was a Snorkasaurus. Dino first appeared in the fourth episode of the first season of The Flintstones in “No Help Wanted”. He was a feature in the opening and closing theme song. How Dino came to be apart of Fred and Wilma’s household was revealed on January 27, 1961, in the 18th episode from the first season titled “The Snorkasaurus Hunter”. In this episode, Fred convinces Wilma, Barney and Betty Rubble to spend their vacation time in the mountains, hunting for Snorkasaurus. This is a dinosaur just only slightly larger than a large adult human. Fred is successful in his hunt. However, Wilma tells Fred “don’t you dare harm this charming, intelligent creature.” Fred grouses to Barney, “next thing you know she’ll be wanting to take this charming, intelligent creature home as a pet.” When Fred and Barney get back to the car they see Dino in the car with Wilma and Betty. Fred says “what’s the big idea.” Wilma replies, “Fred, you said I could have a pet anytime I wanted one.” Fred objects “this monster?” Dino pipes in and pitches that he can cook, sew, iron and carry bowling balls. Back home Dino is now answering the phone for Wilma, doubling as both a pet and a maid. A recurring gag in the series is Fred coming home from work, and Dino gets excited and knocks him down and licks his face. But no matter how hard he tries to the contrary, Fred usually gives in to Dino’s ticklish and wet doglike kisses.
Although “Snorkasaurus Stomp” may have had some alliterative appeal, Cobb and Mayorga settled on “Brontosaurus Stomp”. The instrumental peaked at #10 in Vancouver (BC), La Crosse (WI) and Duluth (MN). It got reasonable chart action in California and a few other states in the USA. But got next to no spins in over 35 states. Consequently, the disc stalled at #75 on the Billboard Hot 100. The B-side was a rocking version of “Old Macdonald”, and given the title “MacDonald’s Cave”. The B-side climbed to #14 on the UK singles chart in September 1960.
The follow up single release was “Piltdown Rides Again”, which began charting in November 1960 in Vancouver (BC), and peaking at #13.
Next, the Piltdown Men released “Goodnight Mrs. Flintstone”. Hanna-Barbera had released a new cartoon on September 30, 1960, titled The Flintstones. Barbera and Hanna experimented with hillbillies (a hillbilly theme was later incorporated into two Flintstones episodes, “The Bedrock Hillbillies” and “The Hatrocks and the Gruesomes”), Romans (Hanna-Barbera eventually created The Roman Holidays), pilgrims, and American Indians as the settings for the two families before deciding on the Stone Age. According to Barbera, they settled on that because “you could take anything that was current, and convert it to stone-age”.
Under the working title The Flagstones, the family originally consisted of Fred, Wilma, and their son, Fred, Jr. A brief demonstration film was also created to sell the idea of a “modern stone-age family” to sponsors and the network. The show imitated and spoofed The Honeymooners, although the early voice characterization for Barney was that of Lou Costello. William Hanna conceded that “At that time, The Honeymooners was the most popular show on the air, and for my bill, it was the funniest show on the air. The characters, I thought, were terrific. Now, that influenced greatly what we did with The Flintstones … The Honeymooners was there, and we used that as a kind of basis for the concept.” Jackie Gleason, creator of The Honeymooners, considered suing Hanna-Barbera Productions, but decided that he did not want to be known as “the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air.”
The Flintstones aired on ABC in the 8:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. time slot, and ranked at #18 by Nielsen for TV programs in the 1960-61 season Although it was a cartoon, the dialogue was pitched as a comedy for adults to enjoy, as well as their children. However, the popularity of The Flintstones didn’t translate into any notable sales for “Goodnight Mrs. Flintstone” in North America. However, the Piltdown Men’s ode to Wilma in the prehistoric town of Bedrock caught on in the UK. The single climbed to #18 in March 1961.
In 1961 Mayorga and Cobb formed a five-man band named the Link Eddy Combo (the name taken from their names Lincoln and Ed). Their instrumental, “Big Mr. C”, was the first single released on Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label in 1961, and reached # 28 on the Billboard R&B charts.
The Piltdown Men released three more singles, including “Fosil Rock” and “Tequila Bossa Nova” before disbanding. The Piltdown Men as a musical project also suffered as Ed Cobb and Lincoln Mayorga had arranged and produced Ketty Lester’s (born Revoyda Frierson) hit record “Love Letters” in 1962. As Lester’s single climbed to #4 in the UK, #5 in the USA, #6 in New Zealand, #8 in Ireland and #10 in Australia, Cobb and Mayorga turned to other recording artists.
“Tequila Bossa Nova” was a cover of the number one instrumental, “Tequila”, by The Champs from 1958. The Champs had punctuated the instrumental with the word “tequila”. In the case of the Piltdown Men, they punctuated their cover with the phrase “tequila bossa nova.” Of note, the session musicians on “Tequila Bossa Nova” and the B-side “Night Surfin'” were Leon Russell and Champs guitarist and frontman Dave Burgess. The producer for the single was Nick Venet who had previously produced “When I Fall In Love” for the Lettermen, “You’re The Reason I’m Living” and “18 Yellow Roses” for Bobby Darin. He went on to produce “Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” for the Beach Boys.
After the Piltdown Men disbanded Lincoln Mayorga worked as a session musician. In 1964 he accompanied Gloria Jones on the original version of “Tainted Love”, later an international hit for Soft Cell in 1981-82. In 1966, he became the staff pianist for Walt Disney Studios, and contributed to the soundtracks of such movies as Chinatown, Pete’s Dragon, The Rose and Ragtime. He also worked on TV series including Bonanza, Dallas, Little House on the Prairie and Highway To Heaven.
As a session musician and arranger, Lincoln Mayorga worked with Frank Zappa, Sam Cooke, Dory Previn, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Mel Torme, Andy Williams, Mason Williams, Bernadette Peters, Bette Midler, Kenny Rogers and others. Mayorga worked as a session musician playing piano and keyboards on folk singer Phil Ochs’ albums between 1967 and 1975. These include Pleasures of the Harbor, Rehearsals for Retirement, Tape from California, Gunfight at Carnegie Hall and others. Mayorga toured with Ochs’ “gold lamé suit” tour, which concluded with two critically acclaimed concerts at Carnegie Hall. Mayorga has also performed in concert with Itzhak Perlman and other notable conductors of classical music.
Meanwhile, Ed Cobb wrote “Every Little Bit Hurts” for Brenda Holloway, a #13 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964. That same year, Ed Cobb composed “Tainted Love” which was recorded the following year by soul singer Gloria Jones, with little success. However, in 1981 synth-pop band Soft Cell covered the song and it became a number one hit in Vancouver (BC) and the #11 hit for the year 1982 on the Billboard Hot 100. Cobb also penned three songs for the Standells, “Dirty Water”, “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” and “Why Pick On Me“.
At the end of the 60s, Ed Cobb left the music business to become a champion horse breeder. Cobb died in 1999 at the age of 61 of leukemia.
December 28, 2019
Dick de Heer, “The Piltdown Men,” Black Cat Rockabilly.nl.
“Lincoln Mayorga bio,” Wikipedia.org.
“Ed Cobb Biography,” IMDb.com.
“Jackie Kelso bio,” Wikipedia.org.
“Tommy Tedesco bio,” Wikipedia.org.
Jonathan Webb, “Piltdown Review Points Decisive Finger at Forger Dawson,” BBC, August 10, 2016.
“The Snorkasaurus Hunter“, The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera, January 27, 1961.
“Topic of the Times; Leapin’ Lizards!,” New York Times, October 11, 1989.
Heidi Blake, “The Flintstones’ 50th anniversary: 15 things you don’t know,” Telegraph, September 30, 2010.
“List of Flintstones Episodes: Season One,” Wikipedia.org.
“The Fabulous Forty,” CKWX 1130 AM, Vancouver, BC, October 24, 1960.
For more song reviews visit the Countdown.