Some country music bands have gone down in the annals of history. But then there’s the story of the biggest rise and fall of them all—Tumbleweed Tuna.
Formed in Alabama, 1968, by legendary vocalist Stevenson McStevenson and his friends Ash McGunsmith and Bobson McHamishdoodle, no country band has ever had success and dismal failure like this before… or since.
And this, right here today, is the story of the (fake) band.
Tumbleweed Tuna’s Eponymous Debut Album (1969)
Launching in the summer of ’69, Tumbleweed Tuna’s eponymous debut wowed critics with its lackadaisical twangings and easy charm.
Described as “The Band on beer” by McHamishdoodle (Tumbleweed Tuna’s drummer and harpsichordist), it was an instant hit thanks to 10 toe tapping tracks:
- Grotesque Belly Button
- Achy Breaky Flip Chart
- Shut Your Face!
- I Said… Shut Your Face, Woman!!
- Oh Dang It, The Cops Are Here
- I’ve Been Bailed
- The Beer Song
- I Can’t Walk the Line (I’m Inebriated)
- Burp, Beer Belly! (burp)
- The Belching Instrumental
Closing with a landmark instrumental of the band belching their way through several minutes of beer-laden majesty, many critics were moved to tears.
Famed journalist Johnson Horseradish wrote in his rave review for The Trundling Pebbles Magazine:
“The instrumental showcases the band’s talent for instant compositional belching, arguably placing them at the level of genius not seen since Beethoven.
Jimi Hendrix?! That talentless hack is done for.
Tumbleweed Tuna’s peers will be quaking in their boots. The biggest band on the planet is here… and, boy, do they like beer!”
The album stormed to #1 in the album charts across the world. And Shut Your Face! was an instant sensation, topping the singles charts in the US for 37 weeks.
With its catchy lyrics and subtle hints of beer-swilling belligerence, few could resist crooning along:
Oh darlin’, when I ask you to shut your face,
I be expectin’ you to shut your face.
Oh darlin’, shut your face ain’t time to keep on talkin’,
Oh darlin’, don’t make me go fetch the gun!
Oh darlin’, you is lucky my obesity make me immobile,
Oh darlin’, now I is more concerned about my piles.
Tumbleweed Tuna became the biggest band in the world and headlined the Woodstock Festival. It was a meteoric rise to stardom!
However, then it all went terribly, terribly, terribly, terribly wrong.
Tumbleweed Tuna’s Difficult Second Album (1975)
Tumbleweed Tuna took six years off after the success of their eponymous debut.
McStevenson, McGunsmith, and McHamishdoodle returned to the music scene having gained an enormous amount of weight, having spent the entire six years drinking nothing but beer.
The band spent all their earnings on beer, so decided to write a concept album about beer. McHamishdoodle said later in a 1988 interview with the BBC:
“At the time, we were drinking quite a lot of beer and so the concept album about beer ensured we could distance ourselves from our reputation for being sissy pansies who didn’t drink enough beer.
It worked in the sense everyone then respected our beer intake. But the album was a disaster and the record label dropped us. We got pretty depressed about that and drank even more beer. *belch* Excuse me… I’ve had a few too many beers.”
Launching in the the harsh winter of ’75, The Beer Album was an ambitious 47 song, quintuple LP.
However, critics bemoaned its lack of variety.
Having been so excited by the country band in 1969, in his 1975 review Johnson Horseradish was deflated:
“Song after song about beer. And there’s so much belching! In the eponymous debut, it was a moment of genius… but now it is the sad, clichéd banality of a band out of ideas, out of pocket, but clearly not out of beer. One must surmise… Tumbleweed Tuna has sold out.”
The Beer Album cost $11 million to produce (two-thirds of the budget going on beer), but bombed in the charts and failed to reach the US top #40.
Its lead single, Buckets of Beer, reached #39 in the country music chart for one week, before plunging to #79 just seven days later.
The band drowned its sorrows in more beer before officially announcing its split. McHamishdoodle said in a 1999 interview with The Daily Disaster:
“We all knew the game was up. The album had bombed in the charts. McStevenson went AWOL and we found out in 1981 he’d drowned in a giant vat of beer. It was sad… but also kinda funny. Apt, even. It’s the way he woulda wanted to go!”
After the split, the surviving band members lived luxuriously off royalties from Shut Your Face!
McStevenson’s early death didn’t affect McHamishdoodle and McGunsmith, with the pair reportedly drinking $3 million worth of beer in the 1980s and 1990s.
2020 Reformation and Final Split
Reportedly due to a lucrative sponsorship deal from an unnamed beer company, McHamishdoodle and McGunsmith agreed to reform in the summer of 2020.
The duo performed dozens of lowkey sets in small venues, celebrating the music of the brilliant eponymous debut.
And now, as it approaches its 50th anniversary, The Beer Album is receiving more favourable retrospective reviews.
McHamishdoodle told CBN News at a gig in Cleveland, Ohio:
“Sure, we was pissed senseless on beer, but people need to go back and listen to the album again. It was ahead of its time. Sure, it’s over four hours long, and most of that is us belching and complaining about flatulence and heartburn, but there’s some great music on there. It’s about time it got some newfound respect.
McStevenson drank his heart and soul into that album and it ain’t not fair having people saying he was a talentless dipshit too drunk to formulate coherent sentences. It was a concept album! Of course he was slurring his words largely on purpose! Think, people!”
Unfortunately, McHamishdoodle was arrested in October 2020 for inciting several drunken barroom brawls.
It then emerged he had several thousand unpaid parking tickets amassed since 1969, for which he remains in prison indefinitely until he can pay the bail of $10 million.
McGunsmith has since confirmed Tumbleweed Tuna will not perform live again, in part due to his chronic IBS. He told MSNBC:
“No, it’s got nothing to do with the ten million bail. Why would that have anything to do with it?! You people are idiots! It’s just I have really bad irritable bowel syndrome and it makes sitting on a stool onstage pretty uncomfortable. Plus, I’m 81. I just want to retire and neck a few beers, you know? I’ve done my bit for the music biz.”
Sadly, this appears to bring to a close the final chapter of Tumbleweed Tuna.