From the Stacks

From The Stacks: ‘Crazy Otto’s Back in Town’

It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these, so let’s do it.

Crazy Otto was the stage name of Fritz Shulz-Reichel, the son of a musician and something of a child prodigy. Rather than choosing the life of a stuffy concert pianist, though, Reichel opted for popular music that would’ve sounded right at home backing up a Benny Hill sketch. Thanks his own invention, the Tipsy Wire Box, Reichel could make any piano sound like an out of tune upright in the corner of a saloon, which is what gives his recordings their distinctive sound:


That track, the “Crazy Otto Medley,” was covered in the U.S. in 1955 by Johnny Maddox, whose version went to #2 on the charts. After that, Maddox also went by the name Crazy Otto. Confusing, eh?

One or both of those Crazy Ottos clearly made an impression on the kids of the era. When the late ’60s rolled around, Creedence Clearwater Revival often featured an instrumental blues jam in their set named “Crazy Otto,” and the Grateful Dead did a little name dropping in “Ramble On Rose:” “Just like Crazy Otto, just like Wolfman Jack / Sittin’ plush with a royal flush, aces back to back.”

But none of that matters, really, when there’s that cruddy album cover to consider. Or is it cruddy? Crazy Otto’s Back in Town’s sleeve has a certain Around the World in 80 Days or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang charm, I guess, and as a rule album covers that try to look cheesy rarely come off as true cheese classics.

So I need your help: Does Crazy Otto’s Back in Town belong in The Bad Album Cover Hall of Fame?

You can pick up Crazy Otto records in the dollar bin of your local charity shop, or you can find them online for up to twenty bucks. Happy hunting.


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