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Interviews

Tuned In: Darryl Phinnessee on Writing the Frasier Theme Song, “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs” 

Tuned In: Darryl Phinnessee on Writing the Frasier Theme Song, “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs”

As the credits rolled on the first season of Paramount Plus’s Frasier reboot, a small orchestra of musical kids performed a classic made new again. With Kelsey Grammer’s iconic title character acting as the bumbling conductor, the group played the hit show’s popular theme song, “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs.”

Back during the days the Emmy-winning sitcom originally aired (from 1993 to 2004), Grammer sang the song that Bruce Miller composed. However, it was Darryl Phinnessee who created the lyrics for the catchy, quirky and jazzy tune that played over the end credits. The East St. Louis, Illinois native (a town just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri) remembers being given a few parameters that provided a welcome challenge.

“The creators of the show — they didn’t want anything on the money,” Phinnessee revealed. “So they didn’t want you to talk about psychiatry or mention Kelsey’s character [by name]. They didn’t want you to mention Seattle or his patients.

“I always have a notepad when I’m going to be writing,” Phinnessee continued. “The first two things I wrote were ‘tossed salads, scrambled eggs.’ The third thing I wrote was ‘mixed nuts.’ Apparently, mixed nuts was too on the money for a song about an on-air psychiatrist. He decided to work with the other metaphors. 

The Meaning of “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs”

“In this case, when I thought about the premise of the show and Kelsey’s character being kind of erudite and having gone to an Ivy League school, I just thought tossed salads and scrambled eggs sounds like something he would call his patients or just people in general.” So in this case, tossed salads and scrambled eggs “is a metaphor for mixed up brains.”

Even though there was initial confusion when faced with the “tossed” and “scrambled” of it all, he was confident any detractors would come around. And they did, even the Paramount executives who entertained his pitch.

“That’s exactly the kind of thing that I love,” he said. “Some of the guys in the room were like, ‘huh?’ And for me, I was like ‘yes.’ Because I love art that does that. On the surface, you see something that’s interesting to you, but you don’t know what it means. But when you find out what it means it’s all there. It’s the kind of art that I like the best. A great mystery that’s solved at the end.’

As for Grammer’s feedback, the first time Phinnessee heard the man who played Frasier Crane make a comment about the theme, he singled out one of the lyrics from the song. “I think Kelsey said he likes the line, ‘And maybe I seem a bit confused, yeah maybe, but I got you pegged,” laughed the singer-songwriter. “He liked that attitude about it. And if you think about it, this [line] sums up Frasier.” (click here to find out more about the song’s origin story from Grammer and Miller)

In the end, everybody loved the theme song — Rolling Stone Magazine even ranked it #58 on its list of the Top 100 TV Theme Songs of All Time. Ultimately, it became this entity that allowed him to connect with people all around the globe. And it continues to do the same thing now that the reboot has introduced the world of Frasier to a whole new group of people. 

“One of the things that has always amazed me,” he stated in awe. “Is if I say Frasier, I mean to anybody, even in foreign countries, whatever age, people will say some version of the words ‘scrambled eggs’ or ‘green eggs and snap.’ People always recognize it, and it’s the same now. People always say to me that they love that song.”

Phinnessee’s Origin Story

Phinnessee’s musical journey is just as eclectic and colorful as his sound and his personality. “I’ve worked on a lot of different things as a performer, I’m singing on so many albums and I’ve been on tour.” The Grammy winner earned an Emmy nod for the Frasier theme song. He’s an in-demand session singer and has recorded music with Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston and Ringo Starr. On the concert front, he’s gone on tour with legends like Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart and Lionel Richie. 

“Michael is kind of the biggest tour in history and I went on three tours with him,” he revealed. “It was just so surreal. Before you even get on stage, you’re coming on to deafening applause.”

But his love for many different genres of music all started in his hometown. “East St. Louis has a reputation of being a rough town. [But] it’s full of creativity. I mean, musically it’s very diverse,” Phinnessee explained. “I grew up in Catholic school so I grew up singing Gregorian chant, and was a choir boy singing in Latin. When I was a kid listening to the radio, one station would play pop, R&B and rock. The stations weren’t separated… they would be later. And so it was just a musically rich mix.”

The Present and the Christmas Discovery

Currently he’s working on a new solo album called The Dream. The project incorporates a trippy concept known as lucid dreaming, which involves waking up in your dream and controlling it. Consequently, it’s natural to expect a sound that defies labels. “Because my writing is eclectic. So it can be dance and have an R&B / hip-hop element to it.”

Interestingly, Phinnessee’s vocals can be found on one of the holiday season’s most iconic Christmas music compilations ever. On the first volume of A Very Special Christmas, he sings on Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s rendition of “Little Drummer Boy.” While Phinnessee didn’t realize the version he contributed to ended up on AVSC Vol. 1, he loved discovering the fact it was featured on an album alongside Bruce Springstreen, Whitney Houston, Stevie Nicks, Sting and more music greats.

“Sometimes when you work on something you don’t know it’s going to end up on,” he said. “I just knew that it was Bob and we were doing Little Drummer Boy.” 

He also explained that that’s how the business often works. “I sang on Whitney Houston’s first album, and I didn’t know that when I sang a song called “All at Once.” When we were recording it I just knew it was this gal named Whitney Houston. But I didn’t know who she was because she was new then. Wow!” Apparently, it’s the life of a session singer to just put your head down and do the work. “You’re just moving through and doing the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.”

Make sure to check out the reworked theme song while watching the first season of the Frasier reboot, which can be streamed on Paramount+. The OG hit-com and theme song are also available for streaming on both Paramount+ and Hulu.

Photo Credit (for Kelsey Grammer Photo): CBS Studios

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