The uncredited, audio-only, blank-screen video debuted on YouTube in October 2007, but didn't start getting known until the middle of last year. Its popularity has grown steadily since: the original posting still hasn't topped even 10,000 views — and yet, it seems everybody's heard it by now. Soon, you might get to see it performed live.
A local underground hit, it is the funniest piece of recorded Mainer humor since Marshall Dodge and Bob Bryan released Bert & I more than 50 years ago. With bare-bones guitar and vocals, "Toddy" tells the story of the title character's disastrous attempt to avenge a scratch on his truck caused by the carelessness of a man named Pelletier. The thick Maine accent and the gleeful, near-constant use of profanity are dead-on, pitch-perfect imitations of the Downeast vernacular. The tale comes at the listener exactly how it might be told from a barstool in East Vassalboro, only funnier.
But nobody knew who wrote or was singing the song. Because the video was blank, several people reposted versions with their own digital slideshows, of Mainers four-wheelin', ice-fishin', and drinkin' beer. Jim White, of the local alt-country outfit Dark Hollow Bottling Company, passed the song along to friends, and had some theories about the author's identity, but none of them panned out. Josh Whaley, the owner of Ruski's Tavern, offered $50 in cash, plus food and drink, for the mystery singer to appear in his tavern and sing just the one song. "Toddy" was hot.
But, in the information age, it's harder for mysteries to endure. Bill Mayo, a New York City musician originally from Waterville, wrote the song in the summer of 2007. Mayo and Eddie Bureau, a friend and fellow Mainer, had been working construction on Cape Cod, and amusing themselves during shifts by telling stories in an exaggerated Maine dialect. From the seed of those conversations "Toddy" was born. When asked if he was surprised by the reaction to "Toddy," Mayo says, "Oh god, yeah. I recorded it and e-mailed it to one guy, my friend, Eddie. It just exploded from there." And Mayo had no idea, "Until my sister called and said, 'That song you wrote is on YouTube.'" (It's clear from that sentence that she didn't write the song; if she had, she would have told him, "That friggin' song you fuckin' wrote is on the friggin' YouTube.")
The character of Toddy, a redneck ne'er-do-well who would fit right in on the CBC's The Trailer Park Boys, is not based on any one person. "Toddy is definitely an amalgamation," Mayo said. "But I've got five or six friends who claim to be the inspiration." However, other parts of the song reflect real geography. The Chez, for instance, the bar where Toddy confronts Pelletier, is a well-known Waterville dive.
Since the song was so embraced by people, would there be a follow-up, the further adventures of Toddy?
"I struggled with that for like a year, because every time I played it people would piss their pants laughing," Mayo says. He wrote some raps and song ideas, but so far nothing has been as funny as the original, and that gives Mayo pause. "If I feel like I can top it, I will, but how many sequels haven't turned out as good as the original movie? That would ruin 'Toddy.' I'd almost rather have it be a cult song."
None of which stopped Mayo from making "Toddy" available. Now people can download the song for a dollar on the iTunes Store. Anyone interested should just search for the title and "Bill Mayo." The album name is I Don't Give A Faak (self-released). While you're there, check out Mayo's band Black Taxi, whose sound is somewhere between the Talking Heads and Cake. And maybe he'll perform "Toddy" in person this summer. When told of Whaley's standing offer to play the song at Ruski's, Mayo said, "Tell him it's a deal."