Cheech and Chong: 5 surprising facts
Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong may be most famous for their weed-a-riffic movies, but there's a lot about the stoner duo that you probably don't know. To help celebrate their arrival at the State Theater next week, we're letting you in on a few lesser-known Cheech and Chong tidbits.
You Called Your Band What, Tommy Chong?
Before he paired up with Cheech, Tommy Chong was a musician, playing guitar in the the early 1960s in a Calgary-based soul band called the Shades. The band renamed itself Little Daddy and the Bachelors before alienating its fan-base entirely by inexplicably switching to Four Niggers and a Chink (Chong's father is Chinese-Canadian).
Another name switch, to 4 N's and a C, followed before Chong and bandmate Bobby Taylor switched up to Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers.Their "Does Your Mama know about Me" was a top 30 hit single in the 1960s, and they were briefly signed to Berry Gordy's Motown label.
Jimmy Hendrix played with the Vancouvers for about a year, but was fired because his solos were too loud and long.
The Beatles Connection
Cheech and Chong rose to fame in the early '70s with a series of hit comedy LPs, including 1973's Los Cochinos, which spawned a Top 20 hit with the R&B-meets-NBA goof "Basketball Jones featuring Tyrone Shoelaces". And in an era where all-star supergroups were running rampant across the face of the earth, this one-off turned out to be one of the most star-studded, with George Harrison himself playing lead guitar and a couple notable Beatles associates -- bassist Klaus Voorman (artist for the Revolver sleeve) and organist Billy Preston ("Get Back") -- sitting in as well. That means there's only one degree of separation between the most popular rock band of all time and the dudes who drove a van made of weed in their feature film debut.
The Family Fuzz
Cheech Marin grew up in South Central Los Angeles, and played in bands too, although none that got as far as Tommy Chong's. His father, Oscar Marin, was a 30-year veteran of the LAPD, which must've made family reunions a bit awkward, in a day when user-sized bags of weed would get you sent to lockup for years.
Draft Dodging Doobies
Cheech and Chong may be the only good thing to come out of the Vietnam War. The comedians first met in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Marin had fled in 1967 to avoid getting drafted. Good thing in 1977 President Carter pardoned all draft dodgers, or we might have missed out on "Up In Smoke."
Cheech Marin: Art Connoisseur
In the 1980s, Marin developed a penchant for collecting Chicano art. Apparently his silly movies and comedy records have made Cheech a bucket of cash, because he managed to buy enough pieces to form one of the largest such collections in the country.
The paintings differ wildly in style, but all comment on the Mexican-American experience, and most offer bold color choices influenced by the American Southwest.
His national exhibition, Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge, made a stop at the University of Minnesota Weisman Art Museum in 2005.
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