Let’s Go Crazy: 5 of the Weirdest Rock-`n-Roll Conspiracy Theories

Buddy Holly’s Plane Was Brought Down by His Own Gun

That’ll be the day.

Buddy Holly did carry a gun, and it was with him on the plane, although likely in its usual place in Holly’s shaving kit rather than on his person during the flight. Being from Texas, and being responsible for the Crickets’ cash, Holly carried the gun mostly for protection against robbery, although in at least one instance he did have to display it in order to convince a reluctant promoter to turn over the band’s earnings.

Holly’s gun was discovered in the field where the plane had gone down a couple of months after the crash and was rumored to have had one shot fired. That led to various conspiracy theories; there had been some sort of airborne struggle ending with the gun being fired, Buddy had flipped out because of the bad weather and demanded that the pilot land right now, the gun was accidentally discharged when Buddy and the Big Bopper tried to exchange seats. There was a bullet hole in the back of the pilot’s seat. No, there were actually two — or three — bullet holes in the plane’s fuselage.

In fact, the gun had been fired, once, by the farmer who discovered it to “see if it still worked.” There had been no signs of gunplay in the wreck. No bullet holes in the fuselage, no gunshot wounds to the bodies.

In 2007 the Bopper’s son, Jay Richardson, had his father’s body exhumed and examined by a forensic anthropologist, more due to the fact that the Bopper’s body had been found several yards away from the wreck and the other bodies than in a belief that there had been an aerial shootout. Maybe J.P. Richardson had survived the crash and had been trying to reach help before succumbing to his wounds? But it was found he had had been tossed from the plane and died on impact, with almost every bone in his body fractured. “There was no foul play,” the examiner reported.

Fun fact: While Bob Dylan saw Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens two nights before the music died, he didn’t see Link Wray on the Winter Dance Party tour, as he’s sometimes claimed.

Bob Dylan Was Assassinated by the CIA

True only if you wear a tin-foil hat.

As well as being rumored to have offed public figures ranging from JFK to Bob Marley, the story goes — or at least, went for awhile — that the CIA had first invented “Bob Dylan” in a dubious attempt to control the youth of America and then had killed the out-of-control young man with a rigged motorcycle, replacing him with a look-a-like, sound-a-like impostor who would better listen to his puppet-masters’ commands.

Proof, you say? All you had to do was look at and listen to Nashville Skyline, released in 1969 (the theorists apparently couldn’t figure out how to get John Wesley Harding into their equation), a collection of cheerful country tunes where the fake Dylan even has the effrontery to rhyme “moon” with “spoon.” Bob Dylan, man? No way! The smiling guy on the cover didn’t even look like Bob Dylan. And what about those liner notes from Johnny Cash, another obvious CIA asset?

“There are those who do not imitate, Who cannot imitate But then there are those who emulate At times, to expand further the light Of an original glow.”

Aha! Can’t imitate, but can emulate? There you are, man. It’s right in front of us.

That’s the base theory, with dozens of permutations. Sometimes the “original Bob Dylan” is a CIA asset, sometimes the CIA is frightened of the Big Bubba of Rebellion’s sway over his audience and decides to put him down. Sometimes it’s not the CIA at all but an international Jewish conspiracy that began with Bobby Zimmerman’s great-grandfather’s chain of movie theaters (mind control! See HBO’s Watchmen!). There’s a flavor for everyone. Take your choice.

Fun fact: Bob Dylan would himself claim in his memoir Chronicles and in a Rolling Stone interview that Bobby Zimmerman was indeed killed in that motorcycle accident, and replaced by him, Bob Dylan.

Charlie Manson Auditioned for The Monkees

Happily untrue.

On September 8th 1965, an advertisement appeared in Daily Variety seeking…

Folk and Rock Musicians-Singers
For Acting Roles in New TV Series
Running Parts for 4 Insane Boys Age 17–21
Want Spirited Ben Frank’s Types

Have Courage to Work
Must Come Down for Interview

Four hundred and thirty-seven spirited Ben Franks auditioned, some of them probably even wearing Franklin-type granny glasses. Among them was a candidate who ended up on the short list — Steve Stills — who was eventually passed over because he looked “too old.” Harry Nilsson and Paul Williams were also on hand.

Manson had been hanging around the fringes of the music scene in southern California in the ‘60s — auditioning for Byrds producer Terry Melcher, living at the home of Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson, even having one of his compositions — Cease to Exist — retitled and released as the B-side of a Beach Boys single. But, contrary to the legend, which was probably started by an LA DJ who doubled for Davy Jones, Charles Manson did not audition for The Monkees, unless he somehow conned his way out of prison for the day. Manson was in the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington in 1965, and wouldn’t be released until March 1967.

Fun fact: Jimi Hendrix opened for The Monkees during their 1967 tour, before supposedly being kicked out for being “too erotic.” Although Hendrix was “too erotic,” God knows, he grew tired of The Monkees barely-pubescent fan base chanting, “We want Davy.” while he performed. With “Purple Haze” on its way up the American charts, Hendrix decided to leave for better audiences than gum-snappin’ microboppers and blew the tour after a few gigs that must have been awesome to witness in their weirdness.

The Jefferson Airplane Bootlegged Themselves to Pay Off Their Drug Dealer

Maybe true or maybe it’s just the drugs

Like most popular acts of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Jefferson Airplane’s music was regularly bootlegged — usually recorded from live performances by enterprising fans. The material on UATWMF, a bootleg vinyl record from circa 1970, comes from two PBS music specials — A Night at the Family Dog and Go Ride The Music — broadcast in the Bay Area, and would be unremarkable except for persistent rumors that the Airplane issued the album themselves to bypass their record company and used the profits to pay off drug debts. Direct evidence is slight — the album is numbered “JA-9999” (a hint that it came from the Airplane itself), and uses most of Paul Kantner’s infamous “up against the wall, motherfucker” line from “We Can Be Together” as its title.

As might be expected, the band’s label, RCA, had raised objections to having the phrase included in the Airplane’s album, Volunteers, but after a long battle between the group and the suits the line was allowed to remain, perhaps with RCA lawyers being reminded that the term had already been used on the cast album of the rock musical Hair without public sensibilities becoming too outraged. However, the lyric sheet included with Volunteers used “Ma” for “motherfucker” and “fuck” was changed to “fred.” That’s why, according to the theory, the cover art of UATWMF reflects a forlorn hippie being dragged away by the Man before he can finish his wall graffito of the offending phrase.

As to, “the JA needed the bread to pay off their dealer(s),” among the druggie bands of the psychedelic scene, the Airplane was the druggie band, heavily into all manner of substance abuse, early adopters of cocaine, and often dead broke.

Fun fact: Grace Slick once unsuccessfully attempted to dose Richard Nixon with LSD.

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan Recorded Together as “The Masked Marauders”

Double-plus untrue.

Greil Marcus, Rolling Stone editor who would later go on to fame as critic and author, had been gassing with friends about the so-called “supergroup” and “supersession” albums that were all the rage in the dog days of the late Summer of rock-n’-roll that was 19 and 69. They got to speculating that if there were a real supersession, with the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Stones, what would it be like?

Marcus wrote a fake review of the supergroup’s jam session, naming them “The Masked Marauders,” and creating such overheated bon mots as “Paul showcases his favorite song, ‘Mammy.” Marcus turned the review over to Jann Wenner, who thought it a giggle and ran it straight-faced in October of 1969.

And things got weird. A lot of people thought the review was real. A lot of people wanted The Masked Marauders to be real, in-your-face jokes or not. Letters and phone calls began pouring into the Rolling Stone offices from fans and record stores wanting to know when the album would be released. Reportedly even the Beatles, the Stones, and Dylan’s managers all checked in plaintively asking Rolling Stone if they could spare them a copy of the LP.

Knowing a joke with legs when he saw one, Marcus recruited a band which recorded three of the songs cited in his fake review: the Nashville Skyline-inspired instrumental Cow Pie, a pseudo-Jagger doing his instant classic, I Can’t Get No Nookie, and a Bob Dylan imitator gamely voicing Dook-dook- of Earl. Marcus took the tapes to a San Francisco radio station, which aired them as real cuts from The Masked Marauders… and the switchboard lighted up.

Things got even weirder. Warner Bros. offered the sham supergroup a $15,000 advance for a full album, and released The Masked Marauders as an LP in November of 1969, just one short month after the Marauders were but a gleam in Greil Marcus’ eye. The album sold more than 100,000 copies and spent twelve weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at Number 114.

Most people eventually got the joke. The real album’s tracks only slightly matched the Rolling Stone review: no Paul McCartney singing Mammy (the mind boggles); the voices barely resembling Jagger’s and Dylan’s; the last track a rant about the album being “a rip-off.” Just to ensure that the purchaser was clued in — albeit after buying the record— Warner even included a reprint of a newspaper column detailing that it was all just a gag. The Masked Marauders were eventually revealed as members of The Cleanliness And Godliness Skiffle Band — a self-described “acid-influenced skiffle band” who had been around the Berkeley scene in various incarnations since the early ‘60s.

Unfun fact: The nonexistent “album cover” published with its review in Rolling Stone used a cropped photo of Sharon Tate, the original taken by Roman Polanski as part of a series to publicize his movie “The Fearless Vampire Killers,” and originally published in the March 1967 issue of Playboy.

Tate was murdered by members of Charles Manson’s “Family” in August of 1969, two months before Marcus’ fake review and three months before the The Masked Marauders’ album release. Maybe regretting the review’s exercise in bad taste, or maybe simply that Warner Bros. couldn’t secure the original photo’s rights, the actual Masked Marauders cover and publicity materials used a model resembling Tate recreating the pseudo-cover image.

Written by

Corporate Storyteller. Tech enthusiast. Mini Cooper fanboy. One-time chronicler of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour. Husband of Peggy. Human of Lily Rose.

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