Here Come the Judges

If you’re lawyer’s sleeping
Better give him a nudge
Order in the courtroom
Here come the judge
Here come the judge

In the early summer of 1968, “here come the judge” was the hot catch-phrase of the moment, thanks to Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, which had premiered in January and swiftly become the hippest trip on TV. The phrase was also all over the radio. This week in 1968, four different songs incorporating “here come the judge” were on the Billboard Hot 100, and others would attempt to score with the phrase.

The biggest was by Detroit soul singer Shorty Long, whose “Here Comes the Judge” would rise to #8 on the Hot 100 in July. Joel Whitburn lists it as a novelty record in his Top Pop Singles books, but it doesn’t sound like one—it’s a gritty R&B number that works in the phrase a few times along the way. It was released on the Motown subsidiary label Soul, which explains the unique feel of its rhythm section—and the cut-in writing credit to Motown executive Suzanne de Passe, who was an assistant to Berry Gordy at the time.

The originator of the phrase “here come the judge” was comedian Pigmeat Markham, who claimed to have written a comedy routine by that title in 1928, and who first performed it for Ed Sullivan on the radio in 1947. Markham was quite surprised when he saw Sammy Davis Jr. getting big laughs with his bit on Laugh-In, although Davis freely acknowledged where he’d gotten it. (Markham had known Davis’ mother in vaudeville days, and said he once held two-month-old Sammy backstage while his mother performed.) Markham eventually appeared on Laugh-In and cut his own song based on the phrase. It peaked at #19 in Billboard.

A third song is “Here Come the Judge” by the Magistrates. This “group” was two members of the Dovells. The story goes that the guys whipped it up in the car while on the New Jersey Turnpike, and that it was on WABC less than a week later. It features a female vocal by Jean Hillary that’s probably intended to put people in mind of Laugh-In star Judy Carne, and just in case people didn’t get it, the song includes her catch-phrase, “sock it to me.” This one rose to #54 on the Hot 100 (and was #1 in Philadelphia, home of the Dovells).

Another entirely different “Here Come da Judge” was recorded by the Buena Vistas. Who they were, precisely, is unclear. Best guess is that they were a group of studio musicians assembled in a hurried attempt to cash in on the phrase craze. Their song, an instrumental, starts with the phrase, and throws in a “verrrry interestink” for additional Laugh-In flavor. It was released on the Marquee label from Detroit and was a Top-10 hit in the Motor City, as well as in Erie, Pennsylvania, and Buffalo. On the Hot 100, it reached #88.

“Here Come the Judge (Parts 1 and 2)” by Finky Fuzz is highly reminiscent of the music used on Laugh-In for long runs of blackout-style skits. The genesis of the thing is unclear, although the guys providing the voices have the smooth pipes of moonlighting disc jockeys. This record—which is pretty much unlistenable—shows up at a few ARSA surveys from WMCA in New York City, but that’s it. It failed to make the Hot 100.

The final “judge” is the most obscure, and it tagged along late. “Mommy Here Comes the Judge” by Judy Lynn appears in the song listings at ARSA but is not on any surveys there, although it gets a few mentions in Billboard. In October 1968, Lynn appeared in an ad for Gibson guitars that called “Mommy Here Comes the Judge” “very funny,” which it could be. It’s probably not an answer song, because “answer” doesn’t mean much when there are four different songs to respond to. But I dunno.

For the week of June 15, 1968, Shorty Long’s “Here Comes the Judge” blasted from 50 to 19 on the Hot 100; the Magistrates’ song moved to #62 from #65, and the Buena Vistas ticked up to #93 from #94. Each was in its third week on the chart. Pigmeat Markham’s was new at #82. All four would stay on the chart the next week, too, making late June 1968 a season of judge-ment.

Note to self: take out that last joke before putting up this post.

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4 responses

  1. Wow, talk about karma. Caramel, actually: I’d just put a batch of homemade Here Comes The Fudge ice cream in the freezer before reading this post. HCTF was Baskin-Robbins’ answer to the HCTJudge craze: Caramel fudge ice cream, studded with fudge brownie chunks and laced with a chocolate fudge ribbon.

    (Disclaimer: Not responsible for drool-damaged keyboards.)

  2. Doesn’t use the phrase, but definitely inspired by it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Vrc2b5qtLk Paul Revere and the Raiders – Pontiac Judge song/commercial.

    (I’m all atwitter over a chance to hang out with Mark Lindsay next month).

  3. Great post! Gee, such a high-charting record; when was the last time you heard it on an “oldies” channel?

    Our favorite aunt got me and my sisters Laugh-In tee-shirts back then; they got Here Comes the Judge ones and mine said “Sock it To Me” about fifty times in smaller and smaller print.

    Never heard “Funky Judge” by Bull and the Matadors but it squeaked into the top 40 in ’68 so I assume it’s related to the Judge craze.

    Pontiac had a GTO Judge (strange name for a car); could it have been related to all of this? Paul Revere and the Raiders cut a commercial for said car.

    1. If YouTube is to be believed, there were a couple separate “Funky Judge” songs as well.

      Bull and the Matadors’ “Funky Judge” was later covered by the J. Geils Band on the “Nightmares and Other Tales…” album, with a guest vocal appearance by George Jessel. (One of my favorite songs from that album.)
      I don’t believe it uses the “here comes the judge” phrase but maybe it’s tangentially tied to the craze.

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