Introducing – Lenny & the Squigtones! (and the Amazing Pre-Spinal Tap TV Debut of Nigel Tufnel!)  

Introducing – Lenny & the Squigtones! (and the Amazing Pre-Spinal Tap TV Debut of Nigel Tufnel!)  

Posted 24 Aug 2020
lenny and the squigtones
L-R Squigy (David Lander) & Lenny (Michael McKean). Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns.

Set at the end of the ‘50s in America’s beer capital, Milwaukee – the main characters worked for the fictitious Shotz Brewery – Laverne & Shirley was a spin-off from the hugely popular Happy Days. It first aired in 1976 and ran until 1983.                      

Happy Days, of course, had the ever-cool greaser bad boy, Arthur Fonzarelli – aka The FonzLaverne & Shirley had two never-cool greaser bad boys, Lenny Kosnowski and Andrew Squiggman – aka Lenny & Squiggy. Lenny was played by Michael McKean, and Squiggy by David L. Lander. The two actors had met at college in Pittsburgh and developed the Lenny & Squiggy characters for an apparently very smutty stand-up routine. They were performing in LA when spotted by Laverne & Shirley producer Garry Marshall, who offered them the chance to write their own lines if they brought the characters to the show.

A lot of people probably haven’t put two and two together, but Michael McKean – Lenny – is the same guy who came to greater infamy in rock circles some years later in a film directed by the real-life Laverne Penny Marshall’s by-then ex-husband Rob Reiner, This Is Spinal Tap. McKean played Tap’s blonde, poodle-haired singer, David St. Hubbins.

McKean later featured with his Spinal Tap bandmates Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer in the ‘60s folk scene parody in A Mighty Wind, and alongside Joan Jett and Michael J Fox in The Light Of DayHe is obviously a musical guy, and the Laverne & Shirley production team were smart to utilise that talent. They had Lenny & Squiggy form a two-piece doo-wop outfit called Lenny & The Squigtones for a talent competition in an episode in Season One.

Night After Night  

A few years later, having gathered a full band and progressed from street-corner doo-wop to Jan & Dean and early Beach Boys-style rock’n’roll, Lenny & Squiggy made an album. And I don’t mean in their early ‘60s TV world; I mean they really made an album! For Casablanca Records! In 1979! And to launch it, the boys were invited by another throwback from the era Dick Clark, to appear on American Bandstand.

American Bandstand  

As you can see, Lenny & The Squigtones’ wild and woolly performance on American Bandstand – encouraged by a group of fans seemingly also transported from the early ‘60s – was a lot of fun. There was more to it though.  Play close attention and you’ll see also the appearance of the band’s lead guitarist, as played by Christopher Guest. It’s Nigel Tufnel! Of Spinal Tap! We kid you not! He actually introduces himself as “My name is Nigel Tufnel, I come from Swindon, England, and I play guitar.” If you Spinal Tap fans don’t believe us, go back to the band introductions at 03:35, and pay your respects! Remember this was five years before This Is Spinal Tap was made!

Coming perhaps a couple of years too late to ride on the back of the ‘50s/early ‘60s revival that Happy Days had helped create in the ‘70s, Lenny & Squiggy Present Lenny & The Squigtones failed to really connect, but it’s a fun listen. The pair have a good feel for the music, even if it is strictly parody. The songs are a riot. These days the album is a collector’s item, thanks mainly to the Spinal Tap connections; yes “Nigel Tufnel” plays guitar on the album as well!

Fans of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley who loved the music of the era depicted in both shows were probably fans of Australia’s own Ol’55 too. After you’ve checked out Lenny & The Squigtones, enjoy Ol’55’s definitive Time to Rock’n’Roll: The Anthology for a somewhat more accomplished take on the music of the era. Featuring all their hits like “On The Prowl”, “Looking For An Echo”, “Stay (While The Night Is Young)” and “Two Faces Have I” and much more. Listen to Time to Rock’n’Roll: The Anthology on Spotify: 

Listen to Time to Rock’n’Roll: The Anthology on Apple Music:

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