Did I Really Want One of Those? 22. Big Mouth Billy Bass

‘In the morning, laughing happy fish heads…’

14 January 2014: Cooker went on the blink. Yours truly had to make a brief sortie to the Marple Fish Bar. Happy days; mine’s haddock, chips, peas and their hottest curry!

Then my youngest one asked a question: ‘why do you never see singing fish?’ She has yet to see Walt Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid. Nor some contraption I bought at The Gadget Shop.

They were good fun for about two minutes, but you couldn’t move for them in most walk-around shops up and down the country.

Big Mouth Billy Bass

For some time at the end of the 1990s and beginning of the noughties, we developed a fetish for singing fish. I honestly don’t know why, but 1998’s Furby, and the introduction of talking Christmas trees may have had a lot to answer for.

Big Mouth Billy Bass was invented by Joe Pellettieri of Bass Pro Shops in 1998. The toy itself is a latex rubber fish on a plastic mechanical frame. Original versions had a CdS sensor, which would be triggered by passersby.  Later versions would see the sensor replaced by a button. Billy Bass would sing two songs: the Reverend Al Green’s Take Me To The River or Bobby McFerran’s Don’t Worry Be Happy. The fish would turn its head 90˚ back and forth to the music.

As the craze took off by storm, there was other variants. Its creator devised a Christmas version. There was also a deceased Billy Bass which sang George Thorogood and the Destroyers’ Bad to the Bone (obviously falls foul of Ted Bovis’ First Rule of Comedy – gratuitous Hi-de-Hi! reference here) and a perpendicular Big Mouth Billy Bass. That, you may have guessed, was stood up with a microphone. Then there was singing reindeers and bear heads. It went daft till about 2003.

Though the hubbub of the fad has died off, they are still pretty much available online. In mint condition, some are attracting daft prices. There’s also a display model on eBay selling for £795.00 in Preston, Lancashire (checked 12 December 2013)!

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1998 price: £9.99.

2013 price: from £9.99 to £795.00 (honestly!).

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S.V., 22 December 2013.

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