Whistling Jack Smith

Biography by

Once upon a time in 1967, British Decca/Deram producer Noel Walker made a two-and-a-half-minute record featuring his own whistling backed by a veritable team of whistlers, electric organ, guitar, bass…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

Once upon a time in 1967, British Decca/Deram producer Noel Walker made a two-and-a-half-minute record featuring his own whistling backed by a veritable team of whistlers, electric organ, guitar, bass guitar, and trap drums. As fodder for this pixelated experiment he chose "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" (initially entitled "Too Much Birdseed"), a cheerful but dangerously infectious air composed by ex-Kestrels Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook. For a pseudonym, Walker devised the name Whistling Jack Smith, a play on the name of vaudeville's famous Whispering Jack Smith.

Released in the U.K. as DM 112 (then in the U.S. as DM 85005), the peculiarly pleasant if somewhat shrill 45-rpm single shot to number 20 on the Billboard pop chart. Many who heard this whimsically invigorating march tempered with elements of the Twist broadcast over the radio never even caught the name of the tune. Indeed, the majority of comic strip-reading, television-dazed U.S. citizens would have been puzzled by the word "batman," capitalized in the song title but spelled with a lower-case "b" when used by the English to describe a military valet.

Although Whistling Jack Smith never actually existed (an enigma comparable to that of Italo Calvino's Nonexistent Knight), he had the singular honor of not existing twice. The name was first applied to Noel Walker's invisible whistling homunculus, and then for publicity and puckered lip-sync public performance purposes to vocalist Coby Wells, aka Billy Moeller, then serving as roadie for his brother Tommy Moeller's band, Unit 4+2. Although four additional singles and an LP would appear under the name of Whistling Jack Smith, nothing was ever achieved by Walker and company that could approach the apex of human achievement represented by "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman."