The Musical Donkeys were a quartet of singing donkeys that plagued the charts in the 1950s.
Essentially a skiffle group, the donkeys channelled their inner George Formby and Lonnie Donegan to become the leading donkey-based act of their day. The band’s 1955 debut album, Donkey Music, was a smash hit.
Consisting of nothing but 10 tracks of manic, relentless braying, it truly was one of the defining moments of ’50s music.
The Rise and Fall of The Musical Donkeys
Like other acts of the day, such as crooner Gut-Rot McGee, The Musical Donkeys formed in unlikely circumstances.
Their farmer, Johnson Smithson, heard four of them braying melodiously out on a field one day. They were—Charlie, Charles, Johnnie, and John.
Farmer Smithson told the BBC in 1957 the following.
“It were music to my ears. The snorting, grunting, and braying were a delight. And I thought to myself how rubbish modern music were and how these donkeys would show that Elvis Presley a thing or two! So I started entering them at local gigs.”
The local gigs went down a storm, despite the donkeys often defecating everywhere in the venues. But many people were taken by the novelty act.
Farmer Smithson soon joined the four donkeys on stage with a washboard and homemade banjo. Together, with help from the donkeys’ braying, he wrote soon-to-be hit singles such as:
- The Morning Donkey
- Donkeys Make the World Go Round
- She Fell In Love (With a Donkey)
- Donkey, Donkey, Donkey
The Musical Donkeys would also perform a moving rendition of the Christmas carol Little Donkey, with Farmer Smithson getting teary-eyed as the donkeys brayed out maniacally over the top of his sweet crooning.
After being talent spotted, the group quickly put together its 1955 debut album: Donkey Music. It reached #13 in the charts.
The band appeared on numerous radio shows of the day, but became notorious for being more trouble then they were worth. Primarily due to the donkeys’ relentless defecating that would stink out many a studio.
However, Farmer Smithson enjoyed the attention his band received and even began plans for a national tour of the United Kingdom. However, that’s when disaster struck.
The End of the Musical Donkeys
The skiffle group came to an end when fateful day when performing in a children’s assembly.
Charlie, Charles, Johnnie, and John became hysterical when children began shrieking and clapping at their act.
Sadly, Johnnie defecated multiple times over whilst braying at tinnitus-inducing volume. The stench was so fierce it brought tears to many an eye.
Alas, the story was picked up in the local press and then sensationalised by the national media. With a damning headline including this legendary line.
“The Music Donkeys Drop Dung”
A shamefaced Farmer Smithson realised the game was up.
He disbanded The Musical Donkey and returned to his farm. Charlie, Charles, Johnnie, and John were released back onto their field to bray as they please. Free from the pressure and trappings of fame and fortune.
But fans still came to the farm to visit.
Farmer Smithson would sign autographs and let fans pet the donkeys. Some would even get autographs—a giant donkey defecation onto a piece of paper.
Many fans would then travel home and hang the reeking autograph proudly on their bedroom walls. All whilst filled with the mirth of donkey music.