Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts

I was saddened to hear recently of the passing of Doug Clark, leader of the group Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts. I feel a special relationship with this group since they were originally formed during the time I was in Chapel Hill, 1955-1958. The group was originally called The Tops and was assembled while the members were attending Lincoln High School in Chapel Hill. Their first performance was for Phi Delta Theta in '55 but gradually they became a hot group for fraternities and sororities at UNC and beyond.

The group known as The Tops disbanded in 1956 and a second group formed known as the Doug Clark Combo. In addition to playing college gigs, they also played in Durham on Sunday nights at the Square Club. The group used as its signature song. a ditty entitled "Hot Nuts" and soon thereafter the group was renamed Doug Clark And His Hot Nuts. This name was never used in the promotional material and for all practical purposes the group was known as Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts.

The song "Hot Nuts" was a traditional risqué blues type song that had its origins many years earlier and like many tunes of this sort, no one knows who the original composer was. It was recorded on Columbia records as early as March 4, 1936 by Lillian Johnson. Even though the renditions we have all heard contained countless verses, the Johnson recording contained 5.

Gradually the reputation of the Doug Clark group gained a regional and ultimately a semi-national reputation among fraternities and sororities, particularly on the East Coast. You weren't considered "hep" if you hadn't experienced at least one of their performances. They became so popular that they were sometimes booked for "censored" performances for mainstream audiences.

The group developed almost a cult following as they continued to perform and release what finally totaled 9 recordings. When we had our BBQ in Richmond to celebrate receiving our Virginia license plates, a lady said she was going to bring her Hot Nuts records for the occasion. I think she lost her nerve because she is no longer the young coed she used to be and she did have a couple of kids in tow. It does illustrate, however, the fondness with which the music is held by some and the symbol of an earlier time when life seemed much simpler.

Many have tried to describe the Hot Nuts and for those who have never experienced one of their performances, I will repeat what some so called music critics have had to say about them.

Henry Allen in the Washington Post said:

"Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts are the legendary proto/arch/stereotypical southern house party band. The original raunch and gross out boys, the mud wrestlers of music, a living legend."

David Perlmuth wrote in the Charlotte Observer:

"For four decades Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts have been the original gross-out guys, the prototype black frat house dance band, their lyrics mild compared to the gangsta rap and the raunch bands of today, but nonetheless risqué."

A stated previously, to date the group has released 9 records/cassettes/cds. The titles are:

1. Nuts To You

2. On Campus

3. Homecoming

4. Rush Week

5. Panty Raid

6. Summer Session

7. Hill Night

8. Freak Out

9. With A Hat On.

I know one gentleman who has all 9.

It's ironic that with the special chronological relationship between me and the Hot Nuts that I can only recall hearing them in person on one occasion. I don't know what that means but let's don't go there. The one occasion I remember was at a fraternity house in Charlottesville after a football game. In the late 60s, I used to see the bus parked at a service station in East Durham but I'm told Doug lived in Greensboro.

There is much more that can be said about Doug Clark but they would only be words. Those who had the Hot Nuts experience have their own special memories and I hope they are good. I'm told the group will continue to perform so, at least, current and future generations will be able to share what many before them experienced in a less complex time.

Someone suggested that the Marching Tar Heels do a tribute to Doug Clark at a football game and it would be fitting but I'm afraid the establishment would never go for that. It wouldn't surprise me, however, if some of the people in decision making positions at UNC know from first hand experience who Doug Clark was and the pleasure he brought to many Tar Heel students from years gone by.

RIP Doug Clark who was 66 at the time of his death.