Throwback Thursday: Mason Williams and Harpist Deborah Henson-Conant Perform “Classical Gas”


OK, classical-guitar fans, this is no time to be snobby. Maybe you think that Mason Williams‘ mega-popular instrumental hit song from 1968, “Classical Gas” (#3 on the U.S. pop charts!) is cheesy or somehow undignified. All those trombones! The middle-of-the-road strings! But the fact is, the tune was extremely catchy and it put classical-guitar in the spotlight in a way that few compositions ever had. At the time, Williams was head writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (a very hip show on American TV in the late ’60s), and the piece premiered on that program before an audience of millions. It became a true phenomenon, earned three Grammy Awards, and made Williams a star. Strip away the perhaps over-ripe orchestrations, and you’re left with a lovely and quite original piece, as shown by this version from 2012 performed by Williams and harpist Deborah Henson-Conant.