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"Classical Gas" is an instrumental musical piece composed and originally performed by Mason Williams with instrumental backing by members of the Wrecking Crew.[1] Originally released in 1968 on the album The Mason Williams Phonograph Record, it has been re-recorded and re-released numerous times since by Williams. One later version served as the title track of a 1987 album by Williams and the band Mannheim Steamroller.

"Classical Gas"
Classical Gas - Mason Williams.jpeg
Single by Mason Williams
from the album The Mason Williams Phonograph Record
B-side"Long Time Blues"
ReleasedJune 1968
Format7-inch single
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Mason Williams
Producer(s)Mike Post
Audio sample



Originally named "Classical Gasoline", the song was envisioned to be "fuel" for the classical guitar repertoire. The title was later shortened by a music copyist.[2]

Williams was the head writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour at the time of the piece's release and premiered the composition on the show. Williams performed it several times over several episodes.

After the piece had reached the Top Ten, Williams asked an experimental filmmaker named Dan McLaughlin to adjust a student video montage that he had created of classical art works using Beethoven's 5th Symphony and edit it in time to "Classical Gas", using the visual effect now known as kinestasis. The work, 3000 Years of Art, premiered in 1968 on an episode of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The song peaked at number 2 for two weeks in August that year[3], behind "Hello, I Love You" by The Doors. On the US Easy Listening chart, it went to number one for three weeks.[4]

It is sometimes erroneously thought that "Classical Gas" was performed, or even composed, by Eric Clapton. This may be due to the fact that Clapton was musical director of, and played much of the guitar music for, the feature film The Story of Us in which Williams' own solo-guitar re-recording of it, from his 1970 album Handmade, appeared. Clapton has actually never recorded the song.[5][6]

Williams re-recorded "Classical Gas" as a solo guitar piece on his 1970 album Handmade. This version was re-released by Sony in 2003, after being featured in the film Cheaper by the Dozen, which starred Williams's Smothers Brothers protégé,[7] actor/comedian/musician Steve Martin.

Awards and honorsEdit

Chart historyEdit

Cover versions and later versionsEdit

In popular cultureEdit

Lisa Simpson on the animated series The Simpsons did a brief run-through of "Classical Gas".[25] One of the showrunners, Al Jean, said he met composer Mason Williams, who told him how happy he was that they used it in the show.[26] The piece was also shown as a guitar duel in a coffee shop on the American Dad! Season 10 episode "Permanent Record Wrecker", with Roger strumming the instrumental versus the house guitarist, voiced by Robin Thicke.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew. St. Martin’s Griffin. pp. 261–263. ISBN 978-1-250-03046-7.
  2. ^ a b Williams, Mason. "Writing "Classical Gas"". I envisioned it as simply repertoire or "fuel" for the classical guitar, so I called it Classical Gasoline.
  3. ^ "Classical Gas Original Video". 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 259.
  5. ^ "Classical Gas FAQ". 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  6. ^ Screenshot of credits from The Story of Us
  7. ^ Bianculli, David (2010). Dangerously Funny. Simon & Schuster. pp. 193–194. ISBN 978-1-4391-0117-9.
  8. ^ Go-Set National Top 40, 2 October 1968
  9. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1968-08-19. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  10. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Classical Gas". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  11. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 18 October 1968
  12. ^ "Official Charts Company". 1968-09-03. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  13. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  14. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, August 10, 1968
  15. ^ "Official Charts Company". 1995-11-18. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  16. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada".
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 28, 1968
  20. ^ "The RPM 100" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  21. ^ "The Ventures – More Golden Greats". Discogs.
  22. ^ "Synergy (3) - Sequencer (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  23. ^ "Zlatko - To One Woman (CD, Album)". Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Turner, Chris (2004). Planet Simpson. London: Ebury. p. 75. ISBN 0091897564.
  26. ^ Welk, Brian. "'The Simpsons' Oral History of 'Last Exit to Springfield,' The Best Episode Ever". TheWrap. The Wrap News Inc. Retrieved 25 May 2018.

External linksEdit