Grandpa Had a Long One: Benny Bell

ABOUT Ben Ohmart

Ben Ohmart
Author of many voice actor biographies, including Alan Reed, (the coming) Mel Blanc, Paul Frees, Daws Butler, Walter Tetley and Don Ameche.



"I ain't got no money but I got a lot of fun."

So sang the incomparable songwriter Benny Bell,

and a new book about his wacky life & career

explores the truth behind the sentiment.

The up-and-down-and-up-and-down career of the man behind "Shaving Cream" and other novelty classics was full of humor and drama, merriment and pain.

 If Benny Bell were still alive during today's economic crisis, chances are he'd do his part for American sanity by writing some insanely uplifting songs about the joys of being poor. After all, that's what he did throughout his career, with such records as "One Dollar Blues," "I Had But Fifty Cents" and "Misfortune, What Do You Want?"

A new book about Bell, one of the funniest, quirkiest and hardest working entertainers ever to come out of the vaudeville and Borscht Belt eras, has just been published by BearManor Media called "Grandpa Had a Long One: Personal Notes on the Life, Career & Legacy of Benny Bell." Although never very famous, and never rich, Bell is revealed in the book, written by his grandson, journalist Joel Samberg, to have had quite a notable career and a life that was immensely rich in humor, drama, and unceasing optimism.

The reasons behind Bell's up-and-down career are explored, along with intriguing stories that illustrate why author Samberg was both amazed and confounded by his remarkable and unpredictable grandfather.

Part showbiz bio and part author memoir, "Grandpa Had a Long One" is a fascinating look into the world of an extremely funny man who believed in his own hype far more than he believed in the integrity and honesty of the entertainment industry. A genuine entrepreneur, Ben wrote, arranged, sung, recorded, packaged and promoted most of his records himself-more than 120 of them, including such novelty and double-entendre song classics as "Shaving Cream," "Everybody Wants My Fanny" "Pincus the Peddler," "Take a Ship for Yourself," "Grandpa Had a Long One," "Yum Yum Yum (I Ain't Got No Money but I Got a Lot of Fun)" and many others.

At times, Benny Bell came so close to broad popularity that he was able to sense what stardom must be like. But he was always so far away from it that he could never depend on his celebrity for the next rent check. Why was that? And what must it have been like to be so close and yet so far? Samberg explores those topics, and others, in "Grandpa Had a Long One," while also recreating his grandfather's career with all its erratic changes, early successes, meetings with industry pros, 67-year love affair with his wife Molly, disastrous partnerships with record companies, get-rich schemes, misguided plans, TV and stage appearances and much more.

Ben's greatest popularity was in the 1940s and early 50s, though in the mid-1970s "Shaving Cream" was re-released and became a Top-40 hit. In New York City, "Shaving Cream" was so popular that the program director of WNBC radio wrote an article for Billboard describing the incredible and sudden marketing madness it created.

"Grandpa Had a Long One" also includes lyrics to more than 25 classic Benny Bell songs and over 40 photographs from the entertainer's long life and career. Bell died in 1999 at the age of 93. Just two years earlier he was performing on MTV, singing "Ikey & Mikey" and discussing his early days as a ‘professional amateur' on vaudeville stages.