#268: Saturday Morning Confusion by Bobby Russell
Robert L. Russell was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1941. As he grew up Nashville was becoming a city known for country and pop music. In 1958, when he was 17-years-old, Bobby Russell recorded “The Raven”, backed with “She’s Gonna Be Sorry”. It was a rockabilly number backed with his group, The Impollos. It was not a hit. But his second release, “Dum Diddle”, another rockabilly number, made the Top 30 in Des Moines, Iowa, in the spring of 1959. In 1964 Russell recorded a cover of the 1956 R&B hit “Roll Over Beethoven” by Chuck Berry. However, it got little notice from DJs. Russell kept on releasing solo records and in 1966 his single, “Friends And Mirrors”, got airplay in several states across the USA and Australia. It also made the Top 40 in Edmonton (AB) and Montreal.
By the age of 18 Bobby Russell was writing songs that were being recorded in studios by teen singers hopeful of having a hit record. Over the following decade the recording artists who recorded Russell’s material include Kathy Young and The Innocents, Jan and Dean, Vic Dana, The Isley Brothers, Tom Jones, Freddy Cannon, The Fleetwoods, Billy Swan, Cilla Black, Bobby Vee, Johnny Mathis, The Crescendos, and others. In 1966 Russell penned Gary Lewis And The Playboys “Sure Gonna Miss Her”. That year he wrote “The Joker Went Wild” for Brian Hyland. As well, in ’66 Russell co-founded Elf Records.
By 1968 Bobby Russell was 28 years old and having huge success with “Honey”, a number one hit for Bobby Goldsboro in the spring of the year. Over the year another song Russell wrote called “Little Green Apples” was recored by Roger Miller, Patti Page and O.C. Smith. The latter version climbed to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, #2 in Windsor and in Fredericton, New Brunswick, #4 in Toronto and in Pointe Claire, Quebec, #5 in Lethbridge, Alberta and #9 in Winnipeg. But the song didn’t make the playlist on CKLG in Vancouver. “Little Green Apples” won two Grammy Awards in early 1969.
While “Little Green Apples” was making it’s way up the charts on most playlists across North America, Bobby Russell released another single. This one was titled “1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero“.
In early 1969 Bobby Russell had a country hit titled “Carlie”. He had a Top 20 hit in San Bernardino (CA) later that year titled “Better Homes And Gardens”. By 1971 Bobby Russell has released 16 singles, but never cracked the Top 30 on the national pop charts in the USA.
However, Bobby Russell finally had his biggest charting record on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Saturday Morning Confusion”.
“Saturday Morning Confusion” is a song about a husband and father who, at the end of work on a Friday, decided to “have a beer with the boys.” Now that it’s Saturday morning and he can hear “the pitter patter of little people on the living room rug.” The twins are watching Popeye and Batman and Bozo the Clown on TV. Popeye the Sailor was a cartoon strip that first appeared in 1929.
Originally, Popeye got “luck” from rubbing the head of the Whiffle Hen, But by 1932, he got “strength” to fight his foes from eating a can of spinach. He summarizes “I’m strong to da finich ‘cause I eats my spinach.” Popeye uses his tobacco pipe variously as a cutting torch, jet engine, propeller, periscope, musical instrument, and a whistle with which he produces his trademark toot. Popeye loves only one thing more than spinach, his flighty, flirty girlfriend Olive Oyl. Popeye has bulging biceps each time after he eats his spinach. In Italy his character was known as Iron Arm. In Denmark he was known as Terror of the Sea. Due to the popularity of Popeye spinach consumption increased by 33%. Popeye’s nemesis was Bluto (later named Brutus). Popeye also has an mooching acquaintance named Wimpy who often suggests “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today!” In one cartoon episode Popeye finds the “infink” Swee’Pea on his doorstep and decides to adopt him. As well, there is Poopdeck Pappy, Popeye’s 99-year-old long-lost father who is also a sailor.
Batman was a superhero who first appeared in Detective Comics in 1939. Batman’s secret identity is Bruce Wayne, a wealthy American industrialist. As a child, Bruce witnessed the murder of his parents, Dr, Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne, which ultimately led him to craft the Batman persona and seek justice against criminals. He resides on the outskirts of Gotham City in his personal residence, Wayne Manor. Wayne averts suspicion by acting the part of a superficial playboy idly living off his family’s fortune and the profits of Wayne Enterprises, his inherited corporation. Batman’s assistant is Robin, the ‘Boy Wonder’. Batman has arch enemies who include The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, The Cat Woman, Mr. Freeze and others. From January 1966 to March 1968, there were 120 episodes of Batman on ABC-TV. In 1966, Batman was the fifth ranked TV show in America. In the summer of 1966 the feature film Batman was released in theaters, with the Joker, Penguin, Riddler and the Cat Woman ganging up on Batman and Robin.
While watching TV the twins are eating corn flakes, and their hungover father is worried they’ll spill them. Corn Flakes were created by William Kellog in 1894. He worked as a superintendent at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. He served corn flakes to the ‘insane’ at his facility. And subsequently got the idea to add more sugar to the breakfast cereal in order to increase its appeal for marketing to the general public. A green rooster named Cornelius “Corny” Rooster became the mascot for the cereal in early Corn Flakes promotions by Kellog’s after 1907.
Meanwhile, in “Saturday Morning Confusion”, “Harry the dog” has had “puppies last week.” The Dad narrating the song explains “we didn’t know if it’s a he or a she, now we know.” Apparently, it didn’t occur to anyone in the family to figure out how to tell if a pet dog is a male or a female. These people are dumb as a stump.
Meanwhile, the Dad is struggling to get to the bathroom to take some Aspirin to remedy his headache from his hangover. As he makes his way, the twins are screaming at him (and each other) and the Dad tells them to “go ask your mother.”
Next door is Cousin Jack, who has variously borrowed a leaf rake and a BBQ grill. And the Dad doesn’t know how to insist on his cousin returning what belongs to him. After getting his Aspirin, his wife is “yelling ‘take ’em all to the show.” In this case “all” means “the whole neighborhood” – with various neighbors children, as well as the twins. And the Dad sarcastically thinks to himself “I’ll just walk out in back where the money tree grows. Grab me a handful and off to the show we’ll go.”
As the man of the house, the narrator lets it be known (to the twins, his wife, Harry the dog and the puppies) that “at Five the TV is going to be tuned to the Game of the Week.” At the end of the day the man sees “Sis on her date,” and “Mom at the door.” It seems, as the song nears its end, we have other people in the man’s family showing up on the porch. But the lyrics are ambiguous, as elsewhere they refer to both his “wife” and “your mother” in reference to “the twins.” So “Mom at the door” could mean either his mother or his wife. At the songs’ end it seems, “the kingdom is quiet.”
In 1628 the English lawyer and politician, Sir Edward Coke, wrote in The Institutes of the Laws of England, “For a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man’s home is his safest refuge].” Though laws establishing this view were in place as early as 1505. What was meant In England by ‘castle’ was defined in 1763 by William Pitt who said in the British Parliament: “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail – its roof may shake – the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter – the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter.”
The husband and dad in “Saturday Morning Confusion” is yelled at by his wife, has his belongings ‘borrowed’ by his Cousin Jack. These are never returned, as the man doesn’t know how to confront his cousin. He can’t tell the difference between a male and a female dog. And his twins are out of control. So much for this man’s house being his castle.
“Saturday Morning Confusion” peaked at #1 in Pittsburgh and Wichita (KS), #2 in Vancouver (BC), #3 in Spokane (WA) and Lewiston (ID), #4 in Seattle, Sioux Falls (SD), and San Francisco, #5 in Modesto (CA) and Pueblo (CO), #6 in Vancouver (WA), Cedar Rapids (IA) and Boston, #7 in Salt Lake City and San Bernardino (CA), #8 in St. Louis, Fresno (CA), and Portland (OR), and #9 in Santa Rosa (CA), Manchester (NH), and Salem (OR). The song stalled at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In the following years Bobby Russell had other songs he wrote covered by Ray Stevens, Elvis Presley and Nancy Sinatra. His biggest commercial success as a songwriter after “Honey” and “Little Green Apples”, was “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia”. The song was a story about corruption and murder in the Deep South. It went #1 in 1973 after it was recorded by his wife at the time, Vicki Lawrence. Initially, the song was pitched to Cher. But her husband, Sonny Bono, vetoed the offer as he surmised its lyrics would be off-putting to her southeastern US fan base.
As a solo artists, Bobby Russell had one other Top 40 hit in America called “Saturday Morning Confusion.” That single also charted into the Top Ten in Vancouver. In 1973 Bobby Russell gave up his ambitions as a solo recording artist. A year later he and Vicki Lawrence separated after two years of marriage. Some time afterward he remarried. He died in 1992 of coronary artery disease. There is little else about what Bobby Russell did between 1973 and 1992. Royalty cheques for “Honey”, “Little Green Apples” and “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” certainly would have helped keep the wolf from the door.
August 18, 2021
Inductees – Bobby Russell, Nashville Songwriters Foundation.com
“Bobby Russell, Writer Of Pop Hits, Dies at 52,” New York Times, November 22, 1992.
Pascal Treguer, “Origin of ‘An Englishman’s Home is His Castle’,” wordhistories.net.
Sir Edward Coke, The Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628.
Scott Neumyer, “A Visual Guide to All 37 Villains in the Batman TV Series,” mentalfloss.com, May 6, 2018.
“History of Popeye,” popeye.com.
“CKLG Boss Thirty,” CKLG 730 AM, Vancouver, BC, September 10, 1971.
For more song reviews visit the Countdown.