Dan McLamb & His Three-Legged Dog Percy

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Dan McLamb & His Three-Legged Dog Percy could very well by the weirdest recording act of all time, that is if the judges of this event had not gone mad before rendering a decision. McLamb is even…
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Dan McLamb & His Three-Legged Dog Percy could very well by the weirdest recording act of all time, that is if the judges of this event had not gone mad before rendering a decision. McLamb is even bizarre by the standards of "hollerin'," a folk form of vocal music and a traditional means of communication that is indeed international in scope. There is hollerin' in Nigeria as well as in Sampson County, NC, where the annual Hollerin' Contest in Spivey's Corner has become an international media event, the participants sometimes progressing to national television, if going from a farm to NBC can be considered progress. The weird animal segments of David Letterman's late-night talk show were a natural showcase for McLamb, whose act involves collaborating on holler-influenced soundscapes with his dog, whose lack of a limb doesn't seem to have hampered the vocal chords, or whatever dogs use to bay, bark, howl, moan, whimper, and what have you.

McLamb never placed as a champion in the Spivey's Corner event; in fact, although he does demonstrate a "Holler" on the Rounder Hollerin' collection released in the '70s, McLamb is more typical of the kind of silly novelty acts that sometimes crowded the contest stage in between the serious traditional hollers. Until a revival of serious hollerin' in the '90s, many of the younger participants in the contest were accused of being obnoxious greenhorns simply interested in making big noises on-stage, at least by know-it-all locals. This is in contrast to traditional hollerin', in which each holler has a meaning, a practical purpose, and hopefully even a result. Involving an animal, let alone a crippled one, in the actual creation of a holler seems to be a slap in the face of the tradition, in which animals are certainly involved in hollers, but only in that they fulfill an important ritual role in doing what they are told, as in coming when they are called. With an animal actually involved in the music, McLamb's work becomes part of a strange, somewhat furry genre of performances actually involving animals, or pretending to.

Animal protection societies might take interest, because while many famous recordings with animal sounds -- the Beatles' "Good Morning, Good Morning," for example -- utilized canned tape recordings, McLamb's show actually uses a real dog. One of the members of Monty Python's Flying Circus performed a sort of vibraphone solo by smacking rows of mice with a hammer; this was faked, however, while McLamb's beloved Percy is actually coerced into making noise, although no physical torture is required. After hearing the man and dog perform, listeners will no doubt hear the natural attraction dogs might have to the sounds of a Sampson County howler, and may wonder why more dogs don't join in.