One day in 2001, while at the Second City, Paul Bates and Doug Morency were sitting around trying to figure out what kind of sketch they could come up with using a tuba and a ukulele. The answer was obivous: put on some hats, pretend to be really old, reminice about people and things that never existed, and call it Cajun.
Thus the Williamson Playboys were born. Doug plays Cecil Williamson, Jr., aged 141 years old. Paul plays his father, Rufus. Together they are the oldest living father-and-son Cajun music duo, and they've invented every genre of music known to man.
The Williamson Playboys
started as an 8-minute sketch in a Second City show. The current record
at Second City is 19 minutes, 30 seconds. Now
anything from 7 minute sets to 75 minute shows. The songs are written; everything else is improvised.
The Williamson Playboys began their career in a simpler, more innocent America: during the Civil War. Rufus was born in 1839, in rural Louisiana. His son, Cecil Jr., was born sometime thereafter, the product of a chance encounter between Rufus and a woman whose name we can only assume was Cecil. From humble beginnings, playing in county fairs, community halls and rest stops along the underground railway, it wasn’t long before they were touring with Indian medicine shows throughout the country. The farther they travelled the greater became their influence. Their songs seeped into the collective consciousness of the nation, although they rarely received credit for their work. For example, the fact that “Stairway to Heaven” was written by the Playboys in 1889, and was originally performed as a jig, is known to but a precious few musical historians.
Over the decades the Playboys have ambled back and forth between renown and dismal obscurity. They were household names during the influenza epidemic of 1918-19 with “Cough It Up” and yet were barely heard from during the Great Depression save for the widely popular and often imitated depression anthem “Brother Can You Spare Some Pants.” Again they were barely noticed during the Cold War even though they invented Psychedelic music and a new fashion style with “Cold War Hot Pants”. In 1955 they staged the biggest comeback of their long careers when they literally emerged from their graves after being mistaken for dead and buried alive.
Today, Rufus and Cecil Jr. are as vital today as their over-worked organs. It is truly a blessing that they are still among us, though perhaps not for them.
Born and raised in Toronto, Paul Bates studied theatre at York University and joined the Second City in 1998. There he wrote and performed in five main stage revues including the critically acclaimed Sordido Deluxo, Family Circus Maximus, and Psychedelicatessen.
Paul's recent film credits include The Tuxedo and Welcome to Mooseport. On stage, he most recently appeared in Overlords!, and in the hit Fringe show SARSical as Mayor Mel Lastman.
Paul has won six Canadian Comedy Awards, most recently for The Williamson Playboys, and also in the category of “Best Male Improvisor.” Paul is currently writing and performing in The Second City’s first revue in its new theatre on Mercer Street.
Doug is an alumnus of the Second
City main stage, where he co-wrote and performed in 7 productions including
Sordido Deluxo, Y2K: The Chip Hits the Fan, and Family
Circus Maximus. He has directed two Second City National Touring
Company revues, as well as the main stage revue Good’s Good,
credits include The Gavin Crawford Show on the Comedy Network,
CBC'S Sketch.com, Supertown Challenge for Smith and
Smith Productions, and The 11th Hour on CTV. Doug is a 5-time
Canadian Comedy Award winner, most recently winning for The Williamson
Playboys, and for outstanding male improviser.