Sucking to inspire

Thirty years later, Green Jellÿ still suxx

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Green Jellÿ has developed a cult following for its outrageous live performances; photo: Melina Dellamarggio

Most musicians don’t set out to suck. But most musicians aren’t Bill Manspeaker, founding member of comedy rock band Green Jellÿ (pronounced “Jello”; the band was originally named Green Jellö, but changed its name as the result of a legal battle with the Kraft food trademark of the same name) best known for the 1993 MTV one-hit wonder “Three Little Pigs.” His goal was to put together the worst band in the world.

While he was a senior in a Buffalo, New York high school in the early 1980s, he got the inspiration to form a band with his friends.

“My goal was to have the crappiest band in the world,” Manspeaker says. “We didn’t know how to play any instruments, so I came up with this brilliant plan that we would make up our own songs—that way no one would know if we messed them up, and we’d wear costumes and let people throw food at us and tell us we suck to distract them from how bad the music was.”

After playing around the Buffalo area for a few years (including an impromptu gig outside his high school cafeteria on the day they were serving—you guessed it—green Jell-O), Manspeaker got another grand idea: getting the group “gonged” on the nationally syndicated TV program The Gong Show to prove that it was the worst band in the world.

But his car blew up on the way to the audition, and Manspeaker found himself stranded on the West Coast. He took a job at Tower Records and began gigging around Hollywood. A few years later, a chance meeting with a former coworker who was now working for a record label got Manspeaker an appointment with the company’s president.

“All of a sudden I had the [Zoo Entertainment] president’s attention and I tell him ‘I’ve got this band called Green Jellö, I dress up like a cow, people throw food at us and tell us we suck!’” Manspeaker remembers. “The president then asks me, ‘How much funding do you need for your project?’ I randomly blurted out, ‘$60,000!’. We got a record contract without anyone at the record company ever seeing or hearing the band, solely based on my story.”

Manspeaker took the advance and bought video cameras, lights and props and began to work on what would become an hour-long video featuring costumes, animation and songs from his self-proclaimed World’s Worst Band. Despite failing to impress record company executives with the end result, the company printed a mere 100 copies to send out to radio stations. What happened next was uncanny.

“A blind DJ in Seattle put in the tape and the first song was ‘Three Little Pigs,’” Manspeaker remembers. “He said it was the worst song he’d ever heard and he played it on his show as a joke. But then he started getting requests for it. The record got picked up and sold 10,000 copies in one weekend.”

The radio success of “Three Little Pigs” led to the release of Green Jellö’s major label debut album, Cereal Killer, in 1993, which soon gave way to heavy rotation of the song’s video on MTV. The campy, primitive and cartoonesque “Three Little Pigs” video captured the imaginations of young viewers and the album would eventually go on to sell over two million copies. The band, armed with its costumes, props, puppets and gags were now a household name. But soon the demands of maintaining a touring band and pressures from record label executives would take a toll on Manspeaker.

“I was touring with 15 people and had a tour bus that cost $1,000 a day,” Manspeaker says. “I had an overhead of $20,000 just for the band. All of a sudden I had all kinds of drama stifling my creativity and everyone wanting a slice of the pie.”

Soon thereafter Manspeaker put an unofficial halt on the group to produce videos for the likes of Kiss, Marilyn Manson and Nickelodeon. In 2008, his then 13-year-old son suggested he resurrect the band and start touring again. Manspeaker set up a Facebook account and began amassing an army of musicians all over the country to perform as Green Jellÿ with him when he came to their towns. Seven years later, Manspeaker and his son fly out of Hollywood every weekend to perform for nostalgic and enthusiastic crowds all over the country.

“I have 630 band members,” Manspeaker says. “I have a Green Jellÿ band in every state across the U.S. as well as Canada and Mexico. My son and I hop on a plane to wherever it is we’re going and the band picks us up at the airport and we’ll play three shows that weekend with that local band of musicians, and on Sunday we fly back home. They get to wear the costumes and run around and have a great time.”

As far as Green Jellÿ’s upcoming live performance in Dayton, expect the band in full costumed regalia along pigs, puppets, messy food and general chaos.

“Expect a fun time—let the show take over and entertain you,” Manspeaker says. “It’s a punk rock puppet show. We’re all gonna sing the songs, bring people on the stage, mosh in a circle and have a story time while everyone sits on the beer soaked floor. And after their naps we’re gonna crank up the music and everyone’s gonna jump around and mosh some more!”

Green Jellÿ will perform Thursday, June 18 at Rockstar Pro Arena, 1106 E. Third Street in Dayton. Bearer of Bad News, Duderus and Abertooth Lincoln are also on the bill. Tickets for the all ages show are $10 in advance. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For more information, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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