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SNL Season 1 Episode 20 [1976)

Good lord this is a bad episode…

It just goes to show that sometimes talent (detouring the proverb) is only skin-deep.

Flesh-deep.

Something of that sort.

Yes, of course Dyan Cannon was beautiful.

I loved her in Revenge of the Pink Panther.

But she’s really horrible at the semi-improvisational comedy which drives Saturday Night Live.

Fortunately, the musical guest is pretty fantastic.

Leon Russell and his wife Mary were both excellent.  They do a couple of duets during the show.

Ms. McCreary (Mary’s maiden name) had been a backing singer in Little Sister (the background vocalists for Sly & the Family Stone).

As great as McCreary is here (she’s superb!), Leon Russell is really a revelation.

There’s only one white singer I’ve ever seen get that crazy James Brown raspiness right on high notes and that’s Roky Erickson.

But Leon Russell gets it right here…in a big way!

There’s also a swagger to Russell’s presence (even though he is only ever shown seated at a piano) which seems like a throwback to the great Jerry Lee Lewis.

And so maybe that’s the lesson.

Leon Russell, with his yellow/grey teeth and his crusty beard, has aged better than Dyan Cannon.

It’s called talent.

Russell sounds a million years old in 1976 (and he’s still alive).

Cannon just wasn’t cut out to be on SNL.

We can’t have it all.

She might have looked like a Barbie doll (and gotten plenty of attention for it), but her contribution to SNL is sadly best forgotten.

That’s the way it goes.

Russell might have looked like he just climbed out of a trash dumpster, but his take on American music is timeless and indispensable.

 

-PD

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