Behind the Song: Mexican Rhapsody

PLAY: Mexican Rhapsody

Aedan and Jesse Peterson are Andrew’s shining sons, and they are hilarious, really great kids and I’ve known them since Jesse was in a baby carrier. They are both wildly gifted; at 13 Aedan is already a skillful illustrator and painter, and when Jesse was 11 he won first prize in a state wide building competition having created a lego Empire State Building complete with a menacing King Kong.  But from my perspective, the best thing about the Peterson boys is their kindness.  They are a good bit older than my 2 boys, and yet they always include them, always have grace for them, and relentlessly extend friendship when other older boys might want the smaller kids to leave them alone.  I will always love them for that.

And I will always love them for this: Legend has it, the Peterson family was on their way to Las Palmas in Hickory Hollow when, inspired by hunger and melody, Aedan began to sing… “Cheese dip, cheese dip, cheese dip, cheese dip.” and maybe there was something in the air conditioning of the Peterson’s old Subaru, but almost immediately Jesse joined in, “Chips and salsa….. chips and salsa!” And Mexican Rhapsody was born. To hear Andrew tell it, the car filled with laughter and joyful bewilderment at the spontaneous composition and they stretched it another line or two until it ascended into incoherent silliness.

AP and I were writing Silly Songs for VeggieTales at the time, and he brought me this mexican food song idea, which of course I loved.  Sitting at the Peterson’s old baby grand, we worked out the melody and lyrics to the first half of the song, and somehow stumbled on the idea of making separate sections a-la Bohemian Rhapsody. We parted that day intending to work on sections separately and then try to cobble them together and see what would happen.

Around that time my travels around the country had brought me to a restaurant called “Cock of the Walk”.  I had no idea what that meant. (Incidentally, it refers to a rooster and his dominion). Not long after that, SNL’s “more cowbell” sketch with Will Ferrell was sweeping the nation, and I noticed legendary producer “Bruce Dickenson” (played memorably by Christopher Walken) referring to himself as, “The cock of the walk, baby.”

Also around that time, I learned that “pico de gallo” meant “beak of the rooster” in Spanish.  We all want to make the most of the opportunities life brings, and this mexican food song provided the perfect opportunity to exploit this new and profound knowledge. Andrew and I sent ideas back and forth to finish the song, and then we scheduled a meeting with VeggieTales .

They liked it OK, but one of them pulled up a youtube clip of a low-budget commercial that had a mexican food song in it.  They didn’t want to be seen as potentially copying anything, so they sent us back to the drawing board (lucky for me).

Fast-forward to the studio this Fall, and the ingredients of this song came together like Ron Block’s mango guacamole.  First came piano, bass and drums, and then AP and I sang (which was, hilarious). Somewhere in there, Ken Lewis added flavor with castanets, but for me, the real magic of Mexican Rhapsody comes out of Stuart Duncan’s violin.  When his blistering cadenza opens the song, I just know something awesome is about to happen.   And in the middle “rooster” section, he’s playing the old fiddle tune “Chicken Reel” underneath our vocal tom-foolery. I say, I say, I say, if I’m not mistaken that was featured from time to time in the old Foghorn Leghorn cartoons.

If you want to hear some more stunning music from Stuart’s violin, check out his new CD with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile titled Goat Rodeo.  At the link below from NPR, forward to 3:50 – this piece is incredible.

Stuart digs in with the rhythm section and articulates with such skill and feeling, it makes the ridiculous song even funnier.  I am so proud to get to present such startlingly good musicianship to unsuspecting kids and parents as they wind through their lives in minivans across the country.

To purchase the music, visit the Slugs & Bugs Online Store

3 thoughts on “Behind the Song: Mexican Rhapsody

  1. So cool to find out that you guys did some Silly Song writing. Actually I discovered both of you after LOVING the closing song from Wizard of Ha’s. Great work on these songs! Our three young kids (and twins on the way) live with this music. Always brightens the household ambience 🙂 We are busy memorizing Mexican Rhapsody now…

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