Mel Magazine is a little late to the Big Mouth Billy Bass 20th anniversary party. The Dallas-born animatronic singing fish that took Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” to new depths originally premiered on December 16, 1998, and Central Track rightfully celebrated the event in 2018. But what’s two years among friends? Mel published an oral history of the fish yesterday, apropos of pretty much nothing, but it is still an entertaining romp through the paneled dens and deer blinds of former Billy Bass owners, from George W. Bush to Tony Soprano.
As for the Southlake-based inventor, Joe Pellettieri, he told the article’s author that he doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea. Unlike his famous fish, he’s still relevant:
I guess I’m known for Big Mouth Billy Bass, but I always tell people that I’m not a one-hit wonder. I’ve had a lot of hits that you may or may not be familiar with over the years in toys, Halloween, Christmas and a lot of different categories. Do you remember the dancing hamsters, the ones that did “Kung Fu Fighting” and a bunch of different songs? That was me.
I work for a company called Occasions now, and they do a lot of holiday inflatables that I’ve worked on too. My start, though, was with the Dancing Flowers — those were my first hit with Gemmy, a novelty seasonal company where I was in product development. After the flowers, I did Big Mouth Billy Bass for them, so I started out with a bang, really — I guess I got lucky.