by Mike Sacks

A number of years ago, just after my third divorce and before my fourth, I was cruising along the boardwalk in Virginia Beach on my recumbent bicycle at 1:00 AM on a Monday, as I tended to do, shopping, drinking, making new friends, consuming fresh fudge.

Off to the side, next to the Thrasher’s Crab-Flavored Fry shack, I noticed an older man selling used paperback books.

I approached and we made small talk. I told him specifically what I was looking for, which was:

Pornographic novels from the mid-1990s involving brunette librarians who like to do it with shy, bookish college-age virgins in the religion aisle.

He said that, sadly, he didn’t have much in the way of that genre, but he did have a book that I might enjoy just as much, if not more. It was a novelization (or “movie tie-in”) to a 1977 trucking and CB movie called Stinker Lets Loose.

I was stunned.

Stinker Lets Loose was the very first movie I had ever seen in a theater, back in the summer of 1977, down in Arapahoe, North Carolina, where I grew up. I was four. It played for a few weeks, mostly in the south, and then disappeared forever.

For many, many years, Stinker was one of those movies I could have sworn I had only dreamed or hallucinated. I mean, how could something so bizarre have ever possibly existed?

The movie had to do with a chimp in estrus and a dim-witted, cursing mountain boy who joined forces with an out-of-shape Georgia road adventurer and low-functioning alcoholic named Stinker so that they could all “fun truck” their way up to Washington, D.C.

Car chases, CB lingo, dangerous jumps over waterless rivers in a leased convertible Trans Am, a hot-air balloon floating a few feet above the ground for absolutely no reason, an elephant (don’t all great movies feature elephants?) wandering along Highway 61 for absolutely no reason, a fat, stereotypical sheriff and his midget, idiotic son chasing after Stinker, etc.

All of this was marinated within an incredibly lame subplot that had to do with (as far as I could tell as a four-year-old) Stinker delivering a six-pack of Schlitz to the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter.

So imagine my surprise and joy, all these years later, to finally discover evidence that this movie had very much taken place! I rode back to my halfway house on my recumbent bike and immediately began some internet digging.

The author of this novelization, as well as the script to the movie itself, was a man by the name of James Taylor Johnston. I don’t know much about him. Like the movie itself, there’s very little, if anything, that can be found about the guy online, and yet I did eventually learn that he was a writer who made a living creating at least fifteen drive-in and B-movies from the 1970s through the 1980s. He died in 2006.

Some of his movies include:

Ain’t No Dung Heap High Enough (1972)

Giants of Professional Tickling (1973)

Cooper Dooper the Ding-Dongiest of the Slap-Happiest of the Wild West Honkies (1974)

Dirty Donut Makers from Space (1975)

No Condom, No Yum Yum (released in 1976, this was rated G)

Smelly Mists of Glover (1977)

Disco Conspiracy II (1978)

When Mommy is Your Probation Officer (1979)

Wicked Lovin’ Back Kisses (1980)

ALIVE: The Amazing True Account of the EPCOT Centre Cannibalism Survivors (1981)

Alcoholic Rich Man Who Wears a Top Hat While Soaking in the Hot Tub (1982)

And my personal favorite:

Touch My Pink, I’m Begging You, Touch It (1984)

In May of 2018, a few years after I found that used copy on the Virginia Beach boardwalk, I re-published Stinker Lets Loose: The Novelization under my own press, Sunshine Beam Publications. You can find it at Amazon.

Not long thereafter I received an email from a Mark Rozzo, of Brooklyn, New York.

Mark is a noted musician and well-respected writer for books and national publications, including The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Although we ran in the same circles, we had never met or talked.

He started right off:

Did I know that his late uncle, C.J. McKnight, an itinerant ad man and musical jack-of-all-trades, had released the soundtrack to Stinker Lets Loose back in 1978? And that it was nearly impossible to find? One of the rarest LPs out there? Had I heard of it? Did I have a copy?

I hadn’t, no.

He went on to tell me that despite some radio airplay, the Stinker soundtrack turned out to be a dirt road to nowhere. The movie, itself, was a flop, as was the subsequent soundtrack. The sequel that came out in 1979, Stinker Strikes Back, was an even bigger flop. C.J.’s McKnight’s brief run as a country-music almost-star was over and out. He died alone in a one-bedroom rented apartment in downtown Nashville, forgotten.

Sad, right?

Not so fast.

Mark was happy to announce that C.J. McKnight’s outrageous 1977 Stinker Lets Loose! soundtrack was being resurrected and would once again become available, fully restored, remixed, and re-mastered from the great Burger Records, out of Fullerton, California. It came out this week and is available now.

This incredible re-release produced by Mark -- it certainly has to be right up there with the recent re-release of the Beatles White Album -- includes ultra-rare bonus tracks and authoritative liner notes, ready to be consumed again by movie and music-lovers of all stars and stripes.

There are three purchasing options: a CD, a direct download, and—and this would be my very favorite—a truck-stop cassette, similar in both look and feel to the exact type sold to our nation’s road warriors in cheap wire racks back in the late 1970s.

Exciting, right? But there’s more . . . so much more . . .

This February 5th, at Union Hall in Park Slope Brooklyn, at 7:30 PM, there will be one—AND ONLY ONE—live performance to commemorate this amazing, forgotten album. The show will feature original studio musicians who played on the 1977 release, as well as some of today’s best and most esteemed studio musicians in the world.

Also stopping will be the wonderful musician/comedian Dave Hill.

And . . . rumored to be making a surprise appearance . . . Doug Gillard from Guided by Voices.

This is a one-time only event! It will not happen again! Consider this concert the ABBA reunion of Southern-inflected, late 1970s, grizzled and sizzled, countrified rock and roll soundtracks to shitty, ham-fisted, trucksploitation flicks.

Tickets to his fabulous event, as that famous Shakespeare saying goes, are “selling faster than a roast chicken at a cock fight.”

Maybe it was Plato who said that.

And it might not have been a roast chicken.

Here’s what you need to know:

I’d love to see you there. I truly find something incredibly refreshing about Stinker and his rag-tag group of deep-fried Dixies. It reminds me of another time. A time when chimps could drive tractor trailers and when we, as Americans, thought we had it bad but really had no idea as to just how goddamn good we had it.

It’s sure to be an amazing night, filled with tasty slide-guitar licks, freshly popped cans of cheap suds, and the potential for an unnecessary bar fight with someone being thrown through a plate-glass window.

So, until this February 5th, keep the bugs off your glass and the trouble off your ass...

- Mike Sacks

Mike Sacks is the author of And Here's the Kicker, Poking a Dead Frog and original audible audio book Stinker Lets Loose! (narrated by Jon Hamm, Eric Martin, Andy Richter, Rhea Seehorn, Andy Daly, Paul F. Tompkins, James Urbaniak, John DiMaggio, and more).

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