Released by Warner Bros. Records in 1976; playing
|Junk Food Junkie
Was Groce’s only hit, making it as high as #9 on the Billboard Hot
(Another song with the same thing: Cheeseburger in Paradise by Jimmy Buffett)
You know I love that organic cooking
I always ask for more
And they call me Mr. Natural
On down to the health food store
I only eat good sea salt
White sugar don’t touch my lips
And my friends is always
Begging me to take them
On macrobiotic trips, Yes, they are
Oh, but at night I stake out my strongbox
That I keep under lock and key
And I take it off to my closet
Where nobody else can see
I open that door so slowly
Take a peek up north and south
Then I pull out a Hostess Twinkie
And I pop it in my mouth
Yeah, in the daytime I’m Mr. Natural
Just as healthy as I can be
But at night I’m a junk food junkie
Good lord have pity on me
Well, at lunchtime
You can always find me
At the Whole Earth Vitamin Bar, just sucking on my plain white yogurt
From my hand thrown pottery jar
And sippin’ a little hand pressed cider
With a carrot stick for dessert and wiping my face
In a natural way
On the sleeve of my peasant shirt, Oh yeah
Ah, but when that clock strikes midnight
And I’m all by myself
I work that combination
On my secret hideaway shelf
And I pull out some Fritos corn chips
Dr. Pepper and an Ole Moon Pie
Then I sit back in glorious expectation
Of a genuine junk food high Chorus
My friends down at the commune
They think I’m pretty neat
Oh, I don’t know nothing about arts and crafts
But I give ‘em all something to eat
I’m a friend to old Euell Gibbons
And I only eat homegrown spice
I got a John Keats autographed Grecian urn
Filled up with my brown rice, Yes, I do
Oh, but folks lately I have been spotted
With a Big Mac on my breath
Stumbling into a Colonel Sanders
With a face as white as death
I’m afraid someday they’ll find me
Just stretched out on my bed
With a handful of Pringles Potato Chips
And a Ding Dong by my head Chorus
From "The Wacky Top 40" by Bruce Nash and Allan
Zullo (Holbrook, Mass. Bob Adams Publishers, 1993)
This silly song about addiction to such goodies as corn chips, moon pies,
and Twinkies was written and performed by a self-confessed junk food junkie.
"That’s the way I always ate when I was a kid," admitted Larry Groce.
“No matter how hard my mother tried, I ended up eating a peanut butter sandwich
and Fritos and drinking Dr. Pepper. That was pretty much the staple.”
Groce, who sang folk songs at coffeehouses, was eating junk food on the road
when he conjured up the song in the mid 1970s. “I wrote it in my Volkswagen
bus as I drove from West Virginia to Boston to do a job,” he recalled. "I
knew I wanted to write a song about junk food. So I got the idea to use the
character of a junk food junkie who was kind of a Jekyll and Hyde. The words
came fairly quickly. I actually stopped on the side of the road, took out
the guitar, and made a tune for it so that by the time I got to Boston, it
was pretty well written."
Groce sang the song in his act on the coffeehouse circuit and received a
strong positive reaction. "I thought of ‘Junk Food Junkie’ more as a satire
than a novelty song. I performed it to poke fun at both the junk food culture
and the health food culture. Everybody identified with it."
His best reception came from the audience at a New York coffeehouse called
The Focus, where he played regularly. "It turned into a health food restaurant.
I saw the irony of going from the junk food culture of my childhood to the
hip New York health consciousness where brown rice was the staple.”
His manager, Randy Nauert, tried to secure a record deal. But when there
were no takers, Nauert decided to put it out himself on his own label, Peaceable
Records. He sent several hundred copies to radio stations around the country.
"The song sold itself," said Groce. "Disc jockeys had so much fun with it
that it took on a life of its own."
Dr. Demento featured it on his syndicated radio show, and in a weekly phone-in
contest on Denver’s KTLK, "Junk Food Junkie" soundly trounced all comers.
The song finally caught the attention of Warner Brothers, who cut a deal
with Groce and re-released it on their label. Only then did it become a national
o The song was recorded live at McCabe’s--a Los Angeles guitar shop
that still stages acoustic concerts right in the store.
o Groce didn’t even realize that his song was being recorded for a
single. “I wasn’t aware they were recording it because at the time I hadn’t
planned on releasing it as a single,” he said.
o The audience’s applause was sweetened for the record, “but not too
much,” Groce said.
o Groce’s was the first song in history with lyrics that mentioned
both 19th century poet John Keats and Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel
o Michael Jackson once sang "Junk Food Junkie" on the Jackson Five’s
network TV show.
Warner Borhters Records feared there would be costly backlash from the junk
food companies who were mentioned by name in the song.
"There was a fear," said Groce. "I was in the publicity department at Warner
Brothers and they were worried because they heard that local outlets of McDonald’s
and Kentucky Fried Chicken had put some heat on the local stations to drop
the song from their playlists.,
“Although there were a few local franchises who were upset with the song
and thought it was an insult, the home offices understood that every time
their name was mentioned good things happen."
After the song became a hit, Groce was a guest on a radio show along with
the creator of Twinkies, who believed any kind of publicity was good publicity.
"He said that every time Archie Bunker mentioned Twinkies on ‘All In The
Family’--whether he was making fun of them or not--sales went up," said Groce.
"We made a call to the P.R. office of Dr. Pepper and the guy there said they
were in the company of some other good brand names [mentioned in the song]
and they were happy about it."
Actually Groce was a little disappointed that more companies weren’t angry.
"I was hoping someone would give us grief because that would have created
a David and Goliath scenario that could have helped the sales of the record.
But I think most of the companies were smart enough to realize that poking
fun at their product was in good fun.
"The Anti-Junk Food Council thought it was great because the song pointed
out the dangers of junk food. I know a lot of people think junk food isn’t
nutritious--but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t agree that it tastes good."
FOLLOW UPS AND DOWNS
None of Groce’s follow-up songs made it on the charts. Among them were: "The
Bumper Sticker Song," "We Been Malled," and "Turn on the TV."
Larry Groce, who lives in a 120-yeard-old farmhouse in West Virginia, has
recorded seven albums of his own folk songs and ballads as well as hymns.
He’s also made nine albums of children’s songs for Walt Disney Records, five
of which have gone gold and three platinum.
In 1986 he began hosting "Mountain Stage," a national radio show which features
top recording artists from all styles of music. In 1991 Groce starred in
a low-budget made-for-video feature called Paradise Park. “It’s a humorous
story of a trailer park in West Virginia,” said Groce.
“I play a teacher who lives there and everyone is an oddball but me.”