Is Gibby of the Butthole Surfers really the son of a TV children’s-show host?
“He wore a red and white striped outfit, a straw hat and he had a cane, just like The Music Man,” remembered lead singer/provocateur Gibby Haynes when we had lunch. His father, Jerry Haynes, was the star of the syndicated “Mr. Peppermint” show, originating on Dallas’s WFAA station from 1961 to 1973, and “Peppermint Place” on KERA-TV from 1975 to 1996. The notion of Fred Rodgers spawning Damien is entertaining enough that a false rumor long circulated that Frank Zappa was the son of Mr. Greenjeans (from Captain Kangaroo). With Gibby, however, who sang scabrous classics such as “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave,” the legend is true: he’s actually a former “gumdrop” from Peppermint Place.
The show featured puppets such as Jingles the Dragon, Captain Candy, and Mr. Wiggly Worm (which was basically an overexcited yellow latex glove). As Mr. Peppermint, Jerry Haynes had his own theme song, written by Henry Mancini, and endorsed a line of children’s clothes and dog food. On air, he would do simple science experiments and lead imaginary expeditions to the North Pole. Gibby remembered his dad’s on-air cool: even on days when the scenery was literally collapsing all around him, he could give a smooth intro to the next cartoon. “It was a totally live show in the ’60s,” Haynes says. “One time he had a rattlesnake shit on his arm on live television. And he had monkeys developing diarrhea mid-cartwheel, like a rooster tail of shit.”
In the line of hosting duties, Mr. Peppermint was also attacked by a police dog and told by a young boy that he liked his morning buttermilk with a pinch of bourbon. In 1989, his thoroughly wholesome show was the subject of some unexpected controversy: it was pulled from a Florida station when religious groups complained that some footage of Japan included a picture of a Buddha statue (a graven image) and that the anti-littering extraterrestrial Kelli Green character would encourage mysticism. Jerry, now 77, has also spent time as a cooking-show assistant and on the sports desk, not to mention working as a character actor in movies including RoboCop, Hard Promises, and Boys Don’t Cry.
So how does dad feel about the Butthole Surfers’ music, which includes albums such as Rembrandt Pussyhorse and Locust Abortion Technician? “He’s a really cool guy,” Gibby reported. “He doesn’t like it, but he says he does.”
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)