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Behind the Unlikely Deal That’s Bringing ‘Goo Goo Muck’ Bucks to This Industry Veteran

Jim Shaw, who was given publishing rights to the rockabilly song by a friend, is enjoying an unexpected "bonanza" after its use in Netflix's mega-hit 'Wednesday.'

Over the years, Jim Shaw had loaned his friend Dave Bell, a longtime producer, publisher and label owner in Bakersfield, California, a couple of thousand dollars for various ventures — bits and pieces at a time. “He was one of the guys who kept rolling the dice,” Shaw recalls. “He’d make a million, then lose a million. Very interesting guy.”

By 2002, Bell was starting to feel guilty about how much money he owed to Shaw, a veteran member of Buck Owens‘ Buckaroos who now runs the late country legend’s foundation. Bell proposed a unique deal: In lieu of cash, he gave Shaw publishing rights to the rockabilly song “The Goo Goo Muck,” co-written and recorded by local country singer Ronnie Cook and his band, the Gaylads, in 1962. “At the time, it was like magic beans,” Shaw says. “[Bell] had a lot of gospel songs. He’d become very religious, and that song didn’t fit into what he wanted to do.”

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Shaw knew, of course, that The Cramps had released a classic new-wave psychobilly-punk version of “Goo Goo Muck” in 1981, but since then the band’s popularity had faded and he never expected it to amount to much of anything. In fall 2021, though, the producers for Netflix’s Wednesday series called to license the Cramps’ version for a synch, for an amount Shaw says was “an average payment for TV use.” When the Addams Family revival came out Nov. 23, the series saw record-breaking viewership and the track took off, much like Kate Bush‘s “Running Up That Hill” last spring in Stranger Things, shooting from 2,500 streams the day before the premiere to 134,000 five days later. “It’s a really amazing, fun little bonanza,” says Shaw, 76. “I wasn’t familiar with the show, but I was happy to make the deal, and caught by surprise on all this.”

Bell, who died in 2013, was a U.S. Navy veteran who evolved from directing a church choir to recording artists, including local symphonies and a pre-stardom Merle Haggard, for his Bakersfield-area studio and his Audan Records label. He also owned a couple of publishing companies, including Damosi, named after his wife and daughters. Not much is known about Cook, who wrote “Goo Goo Muck” with Ed James. “I really thought it was a fun little song — the Duane Eddy guitar and that sound,” Shaw says. “I don’t know what this leads to. I was thinking of Pulp Fiction. Remember some of the really cool songs that got dusted off?”

Shaw, who is on the board of directors for the Buck Owens Foundation and has written songs of his own for Garth Brooks and Tom Jones, among others, recalls the late Bell as a character who was both religious and “had a potty-mouth.” Says Shaw, with a laugh: “He said, ‘The problem in this world is that people don’t pay attention to the fucking Ten Commandments.’”

Although Bell had done “very well in his life” as a label and studio owner and song publisher, Shaw says, he hit a rough period in the early 2000s and his friend started loaning him $100 or $200 at a time. “It kind of accumulated, and he was telling me how badly he felt about it. He says, ‘I want you to have this song.’ I said, ‘OK, sure,'” Shaw recalls. “It’s really cool. That’s what every songwriter and publisher hopes will happen. It’s what everybody dreams.”