Suppose that a big, sweet, and not altogether glowingly bright North Dakotan farmboy somehow got it into his head that he is destined to become the next Elvis Presley, but, falling short of convincing the world that mud spattered overalls are the next sequined jumpsuit, he became North Dakota’s answer to Weird Al Yankovic instead — a German Allan Sherman, if you will. This is Mylo Hatzenbuhler, “The Strasburg Superstar,” “a man of the soil transformed into a rock music icon” whose musical parodies about cows, chickens, and the eternal struggle twixt buffet and waistband have delighted hayseeds and city slickers alike throughout the country.
Mylo is portrayed by Bismarck native Clyde Bauman, who invented the character while attending Dickinson State College. He and one of the other lads in his dorm imagined a band comprised of North Dakota farmers, doofuses who naively thought themselves to be God’s gift to rock and roll. Their clever act won lavish praise from their peers, so much so that Clyde was sought out to reprise his character even after graduation had disbanded the duo.
“I gave my first solo performance as Mylo back in 1978, and was doing it full-time only a couple of years later,” Clyde recounted. “North Dakotans really resonate with Mylo, and even the ones who are apprehensive about someone poking fun at our state’s heritage see that it’s all in good fun shortly after I’ve started singing. Mylo’s just too ridiculous, too flamboyant, too over the top for anyone to think he’s in bad taste. I mean, when you see a big fella wearing neon green polka dot spandex shorts and star-shaped sunglasses, you quickly get the picture — what I’m making fun of the most is myself.
“The process for creating a parody is hard to describe,” Clyde continued. “I’m naturally in love with wordplay, so when I listen to a song enough times Mylo’s lyrics just kind of snap into place. Other times a song can take ages to work out. I had a work in progress for Under the Sea on my workbench for years, until one day my wife Janet proposed Under the Cow. Cows and chickens are always funny, so I had the song finished that day.”
No genre is off-limits for Mylo — show tunes, classic rock, country, they’re all ripe for parody. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious becomes “Super cattle growth hormone can make your beef delicious.” Seasons in the Sun gets the lyric “All day long, we had fun, we had hot dogs on a bun, but a bee bit my sister, and my big toe got a blister.” Mylo’s magnum opus Pickup to Lemmon (a spoof of Stairway to Heaven) from his album Out Standing in My Field shares the following insight:
Things sure are different
In Soudakota, than Nordakota
No, ya they’re not the same as at home
One thing that’s different
In Soudakota, than Nordakota
There’s lots of out of state license plates
Remarkably, his Mylo act isn’t the extent of Clyde’s oeuvre, as the adjunct instructor of music at Bismarck State College is an accomplished opera and gospel singer as well. Listen to Clyde’s beautiful, almost Marty Robbins-esque voice in his serious album Prairie Memories, and you’ll have difficulty believing it’s the same man who croons about tractors in a nasal falsetto. It’s like Gershwin playing Hot Cross Buns on the piano. “I often close a Mylo act with a couple of songs in my real singing voice,” Clyde explained. “Someone once told me after a show that I must have a lot of talent to be able to sing so badly. It’s one of the kindest compliments I’ve ever received.
“It’s been a really interesting way to have spent the past 30 years. I only did Mylo reluctantly at first, but looking back now, I couldn’t have asked for a better career.”
A Mylo Hatzenbuhler act is certain to be the pinnacle of any social occasion, whether it’s an annual festival, gathering of extended family, or corporate event (agricultural companies take note). To learn more about how you can engage the King of Plop, visit farmboymusic.com.
By David Scheller