John Popper Remembers Recording _Roseanne_ Theme, “Stunt Bologna” on Set

March 28, 2018

Last Night Roseanne returned to the airways and received the highest ratings for a comedy telecast on any network in nearly four years. Back in 1995 Blues Traveler made a guest appearance on the show, and  in season 9 John Popper re-recorded the show’s theme song. In this portion of his memoir Suck and Blow (written with Relix editor Dean Budnick), Popper looks back on that experience:

Although I no longer believed that my every harmonica solo was the best solo ever, I will say that one of my best harmonica flurries ever is on the opening credits of the Roseanne show. It appeared during the last season—Chan did a little guitar thing and then I did a lovely little flurry like Charlie Parker. It’s just fun every now and then to turn on one of the cable channels and hear an example of a really nice burning harp solo that I did. Once you’ve done that and it’s on national television, I think it eases the constant need to go into sessions and demand that your work can’t be touched because you’ve just laid down the perfect solo.

We were obsessive Roseanne fans, and at the time she invited us on to her show in 1995, that was our favorite prime-time sitcom. So to get to go on the set and be in that kitchen with Roseanne and Dan Conner in Lanford, Illinois, was surreal. We played Dan’s former band—my name was Stingray Wilson—and he came on stage with us for “Sweet Home Chicago.” We watched that show religiously at a time when we were living hand to mouth. That show really spoke to us, and then we were in the TV.

Standing in their kitchen, which I’d seen on television so many times, was almost dreamlike. I knew consciously and rationally that I was talking to Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, but they were in costume. I had to open their refrigerator to see what was in that fridge, and sure enough, they had fake bologna. It was made of rubber and looked like real bologna. It was stunt bologna.

I started to look around after I closed the fridge, and I remember John Goodman’s expression was like He’s going to blow! I nearly had one of those sensory overloads that I hear people have when they’re in a foreign land and don’t quite understand what’s real anymore. For a second my brain told me that maybe I actually was in Lanford, Illinois. But, of course, I wasn’t. It was the stunt bologna that got me because, If the bologna isn’t real, then maybe none of this is real. But then a voice in my head said, Of course none of this is real. You’re in Los Angeles. The overload almost led to a conniption, but I held it together.

Roseanne was a sweetheart to me. We hit it off like lemurs and pie, and she later played an important role in helping me lose my weight, but she had a fight with John Goodman in between the scenes and yelled at somebody else on the set. She would be ashamed afterward, though. It reminded me of my actress sister, who’s known to have a temper.

Before the last season she came to me and said, “I’d like you to put words to my theme song.” I was so honored that during the very last scene of her entire series, when she was reminiscing like all of those episodes were part of a book, Phoebe Snow was singing my words a cappella.