Rock ‘n’ Wrestling: Jimmy Hart

Originally published in PORK #22, Spring 2016


Listen up, wrestling fans! I have been meaning to write about Jimmy Hart for quite a while now because if it is anyone who has consistently embodied the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling spirit, it is indeed the Mouth of the South! We all fondly remember Jimmy as the WWF’s megaphone-wielding motormouth manager for devious heels like the Honky Tonk Man and the Hart Foundation, as well as his outrageous and often airbrushed outfits. How many of us were also aware that he had a past life as a bona fide rock ‘n’ roll musician too? That is correct! Hart was a vocalist in the Gentrys, who released the mop top garage classic “Keep on Dancing” 45 in 1965! They originally formed as a way to avoid their last hour study hall in high school, naming themselves after a condom machine labeled “Gentrys” found in a gas station bathroom! You do not get much more rock ‘n’ roll than that, folks!

Jimmy Hart was a big wrestling fan; a regular attendee of arena matches back when he was a kid growing up in Mississippi. He actually went to the same high school as Jerry Lawler, but they didn’t really know each other until years later. Mutual friends introduced them to one another when Hart played music for a living and Lawler had become “the King” of Memphis wrestling. Jimmy was invited to help Lawler cut a record (the King released several 45s and an LP between 1974 and 1983) and the two hit it off immediately. Not only were they fans of each other’s work, but Hart and Lawler also realized that they were the only people in the recording studio who did not drink, smoke, or do any drugs! Call them squares if you want to, but Jimmy Hart turned seventy-two this year and looks great! Perhaps the Mouth of the South knows something many of us do not know.

Hart made his Memphis wrestling debut in 1978 after Jerry “The King” Lawler lost a retirement match to the Boogie Woogie Man himself, Jimmy Valiant. Lawler announced on television that he was going to become a member of the Gentrys and would perform live with them at the Mid-South Coliseum, which was where Memphis wrestling held their weekly events. King was in mid-song with the Gentrys when Valiant burst onto the scene and attacked the entire band, breaking a guitar over Lawler’s head! Just like that, the Memphis promotion lifted the retirement stipulation so the King could get his revenge. Lawler kicked the Boogie Woogie Man’s ass convincingly and then proceeded to turn his back on the Memphis wrestling fans. He enlisted Jimmy Hart’s managerial services, in which they made quite a pernicious pair. However, that would change when the King broke his leg in a touch football game one weekend. With Lawler on the shelf, Hart decided to hold a tournament to crown a new King of Wrestling, which was quite the slap in the face to his charge! When announcer Lance Russell asked about Lawler on television, Hart laughingly replied, “What do you do when a horse breaks his leg? You SHOOT HIM!” Lawler had to go through future stars like a young Hulk Hogan (wrestling as Terry “The Hulk” Boulder) and King Kong Bundy to get his hands on the Mouth of the South upon his return. Jimmy Hart’s wrestling career was off to the races from there. He was even part of Lawler’s infamous rivalry with Andy Kaufman, in which Hart took the comedian under his wing in the hopes of finally ridding Memphis of the King’s presence. Before long, Jimmy joined up with the WWF juggernaut, vying for the top heel manager spot alongside Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Classy Freddie Blassie, and Luscious Johnny Valiant.

However, Jimmy Hart never stopped writing or playing music while he was in the True Sport of Kings! He wrote “Son of a Gypsy” for Jimmy Valiant while still in Memphis. Various WWF and WCW wrestlers also had their entrance themes penned by the Mouth of the South. Hart wrote many of the songs on Hulk Hogan’s album with the Wrestling Boot Band. Rumor has it that Jimmy was also the real musical genius behind the Hulkster’s iconic “Real American” entrance theme. He even assisted Terry Funk on a few songs for his Great Texan LP that saw a Japanese release back in 1984! I actually managed to find a download of Great Texan from some MP3 blog years ago and it is ridiculous and awesomely awful. Terry Funk was as bad of a singer as he was great in the ring, so it is hilarious to hear him singing songs like “We Like to Rock” and “Barbra Streisand’s Nose.” I’m sure fans of the Funker would bust a gut laughing at these songs, so please feel free to search around the internet and download it yourself! Just know that you will never get that time back.

Outrageous Conduct was the name of Jimmy Hart’s solo LP, which was originally released on the Rockin’ Rasslin’ label in 1985. Do you want to talk about an album that is right up the PORK alley, at least in spirit? This is it, ladies and gentlemen! Hart opens the record with the surgeon general’s warning to listen to this album at your own risk, but don’t let your mother hear it! Remember the advice that PORK always gives to the kids—DON’T TELL YOUR MOTHER! Let me tell you something, wrestling fans—Jimmy Hart can write a damn fine power pop tune when the mood strikes him! “Eat Your Heart Out, Rick Springfield” is probably the album’s most radio-friendly song (seriously, this should be on the same jukebox as “What I Like About You”), with “Juvenile Delinquents” and “Solid Gold Rock ‘n’ Roll” being similarly worthy examples of Hart’s songwriting capabilities. Outrageous Conduct is a good album and quite hard to find; even the cassette apparently fetches up to $200 on the eBay machine! That sounds like outrageous conduct to me! Somebody should get on a reissue immediately! Outrageous Conduct deserves a place in any wrestling fan’s music collection!

My favorite Jimmy Hart number is a rebellious little ditty titled “We Hate School.” There are several versions of this song—Terry Funk recorded one of them for Great Texan—but the best one was broadcast as a music video on Memphis wrestling television in 1982. Members of Hart’s First Family faction also took part in the proceedings to much hilarity. Look this up on YouTube! You will not regret it, folks! Sweet Brown Sugar (a young Koko B. Ware) ostensibly provides fretboard gymnastics while the Iranian Assassin holds it down with a steady beat and a blank facial expression. We have the fog machine going and wacky keyboard effects as Jimmy speaks to entire generations of juvenile delinquents when he proudly sings, “WE HATE SCHOOL, BUT WE LOVE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!” Lance Russell may have scoffed at it and the studio audience may have booed their disapproval, but this song was not for them! “We Hate School” is for the kids and it RULES! Wrestling is rock ‘n’ roll! Rock ‘n’ roll is wrestling! Jimmy Hart is too!

 

Written by Jake Kelly

Proud author of the Rock 'n' Wrestling column as seen in PORK, a free quarterly magazine from Portland. Wrestling fan since 1985. TSM lurker since 2003. Semi-functional human being since 1978.