Official Doo Dah Parade Bandleader Succumbs to Cancer
Story and Photos
By Terry Miller
A Facebook post on Snotty Scotty and the Hankies’ page simply says:
“Snotty Scotty has left the building!
The Hankies regret to announce the passing of our beloved leader and brother John Snotty Scotty Finnell, band leader, Doo Dah originator, honorary mayor of Old Town. Snotty Scotty touched many lives in many ways. We welcome any stories, pictures, lies, tall tales of this legendary, larger than life performer. – Signed, the Hankies”
John Snotty Scotty Finnell was a true showman whose band became synonymous with the Doo Dah Parade and Queen tryouts.
John Scott Finnell , 65, [aka Snotty Scotty ] passed away Sunday after a brave battle with cancer.
Also known as ‘Goatlips’ according the Sierra Madre Sue, Scotty rocked Pasadena area with his Hankies for over 30 years.
As an aside, Vin Scully said ‘GOAT’ means Greatest Of All Time!
“I never even thought about a world without Snotty Scotty & the Hankies. It’s kind of surreal actually,” Sue Behrens said.
“Scott was the life of the party (of Doo Dah). He is sort of an inventor of Doo Dah in the sense of the spirit and longevity of it. He was probably playing in the background at Chromos Bar when the whole idea was concocted. He was in every single parade, leading it, singing it. I just was thinking about what I need to bring to queen tryouts… how will we decorate Scotty’s microphone this year? He loved oxymoron’s. My heart sunk again when I remembered he wouldn’t be there this time around. Or ever again. It’s a huge loss for all of us,” Patricia Hurley, Managing Director of Light Bringer… the minds behind Doo Dah.
Tom Coston, President of Light Bringer Project had this to say about Snotty Scotty:
“Snotty Scotty chose his own path in life and certainly marched to the beat of a different drummer…What could more be more aligned with Doo Dah where he was our heart and soul? He led the Hankies in each and every Doo Dah Parade. Snotty Scotty made us feel like we lived in a real town and not just another city. He and the Hankieswere the soundtrack of our Parade, if not the soundtrack to Pasadena for decades! And not to overuse a tried and true cliché, but…he did it his his way, didn’t he?”
In November, 2013 the band celebrated 25 years doing what they do best!
I’ve done a few interviews in my time, but nothing, truly zilch can reasonably prepare you for dialogue with the four lads who changed the course of Pasadena’s music scene in the 1970’s and still managed to continue that innovation well into the next century.
These well preserved – some say pickled – musicians are really wysiwyg. There is no bull here when it comes to Snotty Scotty and his Hankies. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons they’ve outlasted countless other bands in the galaxy.
Longtime drummer, Tom Berhens spoke with us on the phone Monday and was obviously deeply emotional about a man with whom he had played since the ’80s.
“I can’t imagine a world without Snotty Scotty …”
We scheduled that 2013 interview to take place in Steamboat Springs, Colorado – since this is where some of their biggest fans and especially groupies think they have seen them perform. The fact that the Hankies have never done a gig there didn’t really seem to matter, so we spared no expense and flew Scotty and his Hankies on our corporate jet to the great state of Colorado where we spent a couple of hours nattering about a life, liberty and the pursuit of rock and roll – plus we had a couple of beers.
While the film crew was setting up the elaborate iPhone camera(s )and getting the lighting just bad enough for a YouTube video, we took time out to get to know the four men who called themselves a lot of funny names.
Scotty … what can we say. His life is a fabled here in Pasadena and has done what he loves all his life – Making music with friends. Drinking beer and making music like “ Let’s get S@#$faced …” one of the band’s finest and most requested hymns if you will.
Snotty told us back in 2013 ( they were celebrating the 25th anniversary of their near platinum vinyl album) that the biggest influence on his music was Ledbelly (and his days as a Choirboy). Huddie William Ledbetter was an American folk and blues musician, and multi-instrumentalist, notable for his strong vocals which is what Snotty Scotty dearly followed.
As that interview progressed, one could see that the passion these fabulously funny and frivolous lads have for their fans, music and their live appearances.
“We never really practice …” Steve Bruen told Beacon Media. “ We just get on stage, play what we like. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes we screw up. But we always have fun,” the energetic guitarist said.
Long-time friend and music aficionado, Roger C. Mackenzie told Beacon Media “It was always a party when Snotty Scotty and the boys perform … there is really nothing quite like a Hankies concert … thank God. There will never be another Snotty … he was one in a million.”
“We play what we want … when we want, ” Scotty quipped. He’s not kidding. One thing’s for sure, the dance floor was always full when they played. Not many bands can say that.
One guy who knows the band well asked how the band could screw up so many cover songs so consistently. The Hankies love telling that story as they really do accomplish what they want on stage no matter what – have fun and always entertain.
The conversation turned to Doo Dah and how the classic perennial parody of parades started in Pasadena and what Snotty Scotty and the Hankies’ roll has been over the years.
Legend has it that it was conceived in in the 1970’s by several friends, including Peter Apanel, Ted Wright, Charles Finnell, among others, having a few beers in Chromo’s in Old Pasadena (It wasn’t trendy then), as an impudent change to the traditional strict formality of the Rose Parade. In 1978, January 1 fell on a Sunday, and the Rose Parade, which typically takes place on January 1, but they’ll never do it on a Sunday. So they decided it would be a blast to have an alternate parade on January 1 that year.
This was the beginning … Apanal bestowed the title of official Doo Dah Band for all time upon the Hankies (they even have an inscribed trophy Apanal gave them.) It sits proudly on Scotty’s coffee table which commands that the band is the “Official doo dah band for all time …”
One of the first parades Doo Dah held was at City Hall. “God bless Apanal,” Snotty Scotty told us in that interview three years ago … “Apanal was responsible for arranging and producing our record on Doo Dah Records” – the landmark album I asked the lads whatever happened to Apanal … Scotty said “There had been Apanal sightings up north but that might have been sasquatch …” The room filled with laughter, “ Yes, he is a hairy dude …” quipped Billy Booger.
Apanal is obviously near and dear to the Hankies’ collective heart as he helped they get where they are today. Where exactly that is remains to be seen.
In 2010 the parade was moved to May 1, and also moved from Old Pasadena to East Pasadena. Apanal gave rights to the parade to the Light Bringer Project where Tom Coston and Patty Hurley manage to pull off a brilliant and truly funny parade year after year.
What exactly will happen this year, now that Scotty is gone, is unclear.
For over 40 years, Snotty Scotty and The Hankies have entertained the world with their unpredictable musical styling. They originated in 1971.
While holding the dubious title of “The Definitive Cover Band” with literally hundreds of songs in their repertoire, Snotty Scotty and The Hankies also played a vast collection of original tunes, including ‘It’s a ‘Hi, Buddy’ World, I Want Tequila, and many more.
John Scott Finnell, 65
Jan. 13, 1951 – Oct. 16, 2016