Q: I've watched the reruns of "M*A*S*H" about a million times, and the episode that always sticks out to me is the one with the guy singing between scenes -- I think the song is called "Oh Tokyo," but that might just be one of the lines. Who was that? Wha

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

He actually appeared (and sang) in three episodes, but Loudon Wainwright III's first appearance, in the Season 3 episode "Rainbow Bridge," is definitely the most peculiar.

The episode just cuts to Wainwright periodically, alone on the chopper pad, singing "North Korean Blues" (a song whose common refrain is, indeed, "Oh Tokyo").

It was an original song that the celebrated American folk singer wrote specifically for "M*A*S*H." (Side note: He may have been American, but he married into Canadian folk royalty with his wedding to Kate McGarrigle -- a union that produced a literal new generation of folk musicians: Martha and Rufus Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche.)

Loudon Wainwright was incorporated a little more holistically into his two subsequent episodes, which also came in the show's third season. He got a name -- Capt. Calvin Spalding -- and even got a few spoken lines in between performing more songs he wrote for the show.

As for what this rather strange foray into musical comedy was about, it was about series creator Larry Gelbart being a fan -- simple as that.

In the book "TV's M*A*S*H: The Ultimate Guide Book," Gelbart says he "loved Loudon Wainwright's songs, so we gave him a shot."

Fortunately, Wainwright himself expanded a little.

"Larry Gelbart happened to see me performing … at the Troubadour in Los Angeles," he told Observer.com. "He liked what I was doing with my funny songs, so he got in touch with my then-manager and pitched this idea of me being the singing surgeon. … At the time it was a big deal since it was the most popular show on television."

That last line says a lot. Only the kind of success "M*A*S*H" was having by its third season would permit a producer to create such a strange role just to bring on a singer he liked.


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