If you grew up in the 90s, you probably know who Big Mouth Billy Bass is. This animatronic bass was an animatronic singing fish that played hits like “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” and yes, Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.” But did you know that this actually earned him more royalties?
In an interview, American singer and songwriter Al Green said that his song “Take Me to the River” had earned him more royalties from being featured in the animatronic fish than any other recorded versions of the song.
What is a Big Mouth Billy Bass?
If you are not familiar with the Big Mouth Billy Bass, here’s a preview of what it is. It is basically an animatronic singing fish mounted on a plaque. It was invented by Gemmy Industries back in 1998.
The company started selling the the novelty item in 1999 and it gained popularity by the early 2000s.
The fish was made with latex along with a plastic mechanical skeleton that allowed it to move. At first sight, you might think that it was some sort of mounted piece, until it starts turning its head towards you and singing the famed “Take Me to the River” song of Al Green.
Since then the concept was adapted for other head mounts like deer and bears. There was even a christmas edition where the fish had a sleighbell on his tail, and a Santa hat on his head. (Source: Bass Master)
Who is Al Green?
Albert Leornes Greene, best known as Al Green, is an American singer, songwriter, and producer best known for his hit singles like Take Me to the River, Tired of Being Alone, and I’m Still in Love with You. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by the year 1995 and was referred to be one of the most gifted purveyors of soul music. He even won a total of 11 Grammy Awards and including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
How Did Al Green Earn Royalties from the Billy Bass?
Gemmy Industries only used two songs in the first version of the Big Mouth Billy Bass – Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin and Take Me to the River by Al Green.
No matter how some people found the animatronic toy annoying, the Billy Bass was a success with big names like Tony Blair, the Queen of England, and the Sopranos. Al Green’s song was heard in the fanciest places, including in the Queen’s Balmoral Castle.
Gemmy Industries said they had earned an estimated $100 million in 2000 with Billy Basses singing Al Green’s song.
Green was a celebrated preacher and said that he made most of his money from the venture with Gemmy Industries. He still makes music today but is more focused on his career as a reverend. (Source: Financial Times)
Can You Still Buy A Classic Big Mouth Billy Bass?
While you can easily purchase the classic version of the novelty item online, the newer version of Billy Bass can be bought and paired with Amazon’s Alexa for only $40.
Yes, you can even ask Billy Bass to help you with your daily tasks!
“Billy, what’s the weather like?” “Billy, add bread to my shopping list.” “Billy, play Al Green’s Take Me to the River.” and more. (Source: Bass Master)