Tommy Chong Guest DJ Project Tracklist:
1. Hank Ballard - "Sexy Ways"
2. Hank Snow - "Movin' On"
3. Elvis Presley - "Hound Dog"
4. The Temptations - "My Girl"
5. Marvin Gaye - "What's Goin On"
Mathieu Schreyer: Hi, I’m Mathieu Schreyer and I’m here with the one and only Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong. Before the duo joined forces to release many popular comedy albums and movies, Tommy found early fame as a musician. Today we’ll hear about some of the songs that have inspired him throughout his life as a part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Tommy, what did you bring for us today? What’ve you got?
Tommy Chong: “Sexy Ways” was the first one. See, I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and its 99% white. And not only white but oil white, you know, Texas white. And it took me … I think I was about 16-17 years old when I discovered there were black people in Calgary and the black people introduced me to a whole music thing that changed my life, basically.
So these songs were brought up from the states by the porters that worked on the trains and they were called ‘race records.’ And so they would bring up big 78s and the first one was Hank Ballard. It was the first group I heard where all their songs were about making love. They had all these double entendre kinds of sex songs.
MS: That was ‘Sexy Ways” by Hank Ballard. We are moving on to a second pick here from Tommy Chong’s Guest DJ Project. What’s your second track?
Song: Hank Ballard – “Sexy Ways”
TC: Well, it’s called “Moving On” by Hank Snow. Hank Snow recorded it when the recordings were done on a cylinder.
“Sexy Ways,” with the black culture they, was all about making love and satisfying your girl and your girl satisfying you, when cowboys were always crying about their women leaving them or taking them for a ride, you know? Dating them and get all their money, and that’s what Hank Snow was singing about, moving on.
MS: Do you think all those women left Hank Snow to go get their sexy ways on with Hank Ballard?
TC: Oh, they did, absolutely. (both laugh)
Song: Hank Snow – Moving On
MS: That was “Moving on” by Hank Snow. Now, that third one.
TC: “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley. You ain’t nothing but a hound dog.
Well, the reason I like that -- when I saw Elvis it changed my life. It changed everybody’s life.
At the time I was playing guitar, back up guitar, for a full blood Sarsi Native Indian from Calgary. His name was Dick Bird. We were both army cadets and he found out I could play back up guitar and he was a singer and he played guitar too.
Well, when Elvis Presley hit the scene, Dick combed his hair like Elvis, wore the jacket like Elvis, turned up his collar. I mean he’s a full blood native Sarsi Indian with a bad complexion. Did not matter. As soon as we hit that stage, the girls start screaming, just like it was the real Elvis. They all gather around the stage, they’re screaming and reaching for him, and it just changed my life, both of our lives.
Because before that, you know, he was an army cadet guy and I was an army cadet guy and we were kind of thinking, you know, there’s no way we are going to do this for a living. You know, until Elvis took the scene. When Elvis hit the scene then we said “Wow, this is what I wanna do.”
Then I got turned on to pot around the same time, and that was the end of high school for me.
Song: Elvis Presley – “Hound Dog”
MS: Well, that was “Hound Dog”, a great cover by the one and only Elvis Presley. Moving on to…wow this is a special one. This is your fourth track, this is Tommy Chong here. And what’s your next song?
TC: “My Girl” by The Temptations, written by Smokey Robinson.
I consider this the greatest song ever written. When “My Girl” came out I remember being on Vancouver Island and listening to it and just amazed at how simple and how beautiful and the lyrics.... It’s still being played.
MS: Is there anyone in particular you think about when you listen to “My Girl”?
TC: My wife, Shelby.
TC: She was my girlfriend at the time, I was married and she was just a friend. But when that song came on…ooh! Well, every love song like that I immediately identify with Shelby. She has been my love forever and she’s way younger me.
She wouldn’t marry me, you know. We remain real close because she said “I’m not gonna marry you. Are you kidding? Look how you treat your wife.” (laughs)
MS: So that’s “my girl”. This is “My Girl” by The Temptations.
Song: The Temptations – “My Girl”
MS: That was “My Girl” by The Temptations. The final track on your Guest DJ Project. What’s your last song?
TC: “What’s Going” Marvin Gaye. Another song that changed my world. Cheech and I had just gotten together.
MS: So, you met Cheech in Canada.
MS: And you came down to LA and that’s where you heard that song for the first time?
TC: Yep. Cheech was up in Canada getting under the daft. He wasn’t really a draft dodger. He was up in Calgary just in a case of Vietcong attack from Alaska. Was part of a secret army. There were a lot of Mexicans.
MS: So you were Canadian, but Cheech is American?
TC: Yeah, so Cheech is actually the first Mexican to sneak in to America from Canada. And he did it real easy. He used somebody else’s ID, a white guy’s ID, showed it to the guy at the border, “yeah, go on through.” No problem.
MS: How did you meet Cheech?
MS: Yeah, how did you meet him?
TC: Well, when I went back to Vancouver to start a band again, I started working, and we owned a strip club. I had been around, I’d seen Second City and all these improv groups. And that’s what I used to do, I used to go to a theater, I got involved in the theater, personally.
But I was looking for actors and we had the girls, we would do a lot of titties jokes, and I had to have a straight man.
We were looking for a straight man, cause I had a hippie partner named Dave, and so Cheech joined the group as a straight man. And then Cheech and I formed a band, actually. We put a band together and then we thought we’d do a little comedy first, but we never got around to playing a note. We did 45 minutes of comedy in front of rock n roll crowd and it went over incredibly. You know, everybody loved us. And so the next day we flew out to LA to make it.
MS: And then you heard “What’s Going On” and you just kinda shifted the consciousness and the whole, the final touch of Cheech and Chong.
TC: Yup, yeah.
MS: That was “What’s Going” by Marvin Gaye to roll out the Guest DJ Project with Tommy Chong here. Tommy, Thank you so much for joining us here on KCRW.com. It was an absolute pleasure to have you and I wish we could’ve had a lot more time.
TC: Yeah I got a lot more songs. A lot more stories.
MS: For a complete track list and to find these songs online go to Kcrw.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through itunes.