'Brady Bunch' brothers talk 'Time to Change' voice-crack, bonkers 'Variety Hour,' and Christopher Knight's 'traumatic' experience with singing: 'It's almost created some kind of psychosis'
Brady Bunch brothers Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, and Mike Lookinland (aka Greg, Peter, and Bobby Brady) made the world a whole lot brighter for Masked Singer viewers last week, when they amusingly performed as the Mummies. It was a TV experience that the actors tell Yahoo Entertainment was even more surreal than their garish Sid & Marty Krofft-produced ‘70s variety show — which was the last time that any of the Brady siblings had sung together in public.
But while Williams and Lookinland were totally on board when Fox invited them to be part of this Very Brady Episode of The Masked Singer, their onscreen middle brother was “the reluctant one.” In fact, Barry and Mike were reluctant to even bring it up: Lookinland laughingly reveals that ‘Who's going to call Chris?” is what he blurted out when he heard the news.
Knight — whose pubescent, un-Auto-Tuned voice-crack in “Time to Change” was a major plot point in The Brady Bunch’s “Dough Re Mi” episode, which turned 50 this year — insists he’s “not really a performer or a singer at all” and is “the one who really has no talent in the area.” But back in the Bradys’ 1970s heyday, that didn’t prevent him from “being dragged along with song and dance,” as the cast released four albums, starred in The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, and even played the Hollywood Bowl as part of a Krofft extravaganza.
“Music is not something that is all comfortable for me. As a matter of fact, as much as I've been forced into it, it's almost created, you know, some kind of psychosis. There's some scars there, left from music. There's some deep, dark issues surrounding the whole being forced to sing in front of people when you don't feel like that's where you should be,” admits Knight, who was convinced in his “young mind at the time” that the above-mentioned voice-crack storyline surrounding one of the Brady Six’s biggest hits, “Time to Change,” was “a way to get me from the microphone. Looking back, it was coincidental, but the way my brain processed it is everybody was pointing, making fun of me. … There were days I couldn't walk, and I think back on when I was 14 and 15, it was psychosomatic. It was traumatic.”
Despite all this, it was Knight – not Williams or Lookinland, the more willing and able male vocalists of the Brady brood – who was drafted by the powers-that-be to record a duets album with Maureen “Marcia Brady” McCormick in 1973. That audio curiosity is long out-of-print and not available on streaming services (although Lookinland jokes that he has a copy stored in his garage) — and that’s just the way Knight wants it.
“That [duets album] was the end of me just signing up, because I was just becoming old enough to stand my ground. I stood my ground after it was produced and before it was marketed. That's why you can't find 'em, and the only versions that are out there are the marketing versions with a cut-corner,” says Knight. “Firstly, I hated the photo. And I wasn't proud of anything that was on the album. I couldn’t care less about it selling. At that point I just said, ‘No, I ain't doing this anymore. Go have fun with it, but I'm not going to be part of the marketing of it.””
“And then… came the Variety Hour!” quips Williams — referring to the bonkers spinoff series that ran from 1976 to 1977, featured guests ranging from Vincent Price to Tina Turner, and probably was the perfect long-game training for the Brady brothers’ Masked Singer performance 45 years later. “I know our variety show gets criticized pretty heavily, but it’s a style of show from Sid & Marty Krofft. It was a circus — and I thought it was a great circus! I love it that it was kooky and crazy, and that the colors and the costumes were just so over-the-top. It's what Sid & Marty Krofft do. And I think in some ways they're even more popular now than they were. It's kind of ahead of its time.”
It appeared in the ‘70s that the Brady Bunch kids were being groomed to be the new Partridge Family, and pop-star success didn’t seem out of reach at the time. “Tony Orlando opened for us at the Minnesota State Fair,” Lookinland recalls with a chuckle. “The Fifth Dimension was there too, if I'm not mistaken. Tony Orlando came to me after the show, after seeing me perform ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ and he said to me, ‘Kid, you're gonna be a star.’”
However, while all of the Brady kids except for Susan "Cindy Brady" Olsen released solo singles, it seemed it was Williams (who co-wrote the original Brady Bunch song “Till I Met You” with Steven Schwartz in 1971) who was truly being groomed to be a Tiger Beat teen idol, a la The Partridge Family’s David Cassidy, David’s younger brother Shaun, or Variety Hour guest Donny Osmond – a real-life Johnny Bravo, if you will. “Well, I don't know about David or Shaun or Donny, but I don't think it's any secret that I wanted to live the Johnny Bravo dream,” Williams admits. In fact, at one time, those Brady Bunch albums were supposed to be Barry solo projects
“Here's how that went down,” Williams reveals. “I got a deal with Famous Music, which became Paramount Records, and I was midway through making that album. And then there was a corporate decision to make them ‘Brady’ albums instead of ‘Barry Williams’ albums. So, once that dynamic came into play, that would've been the opportunity to wrest [creative] control. I could've just said no, but I was concerned about losing the deal altogether. And once it was ‘Brady Bunch’ albums, there was no way to take control. That just wasn't going to happen.”
Williams did get to live his rock star dream eventually: He has performed around the country with his musical trio, and for six and a half years he played 140 gigs a year with his own variety-style revue in Branson, where he now resides. (He also still owns a replica of his famous Johnny Bravo suit, which he’s proud to say still fits.) Unsurprisingly, Williams was the Brady who was most excited about this year’s Masked Singeropportunity, and the one who ultimately convinced Knight to put on that mummy suit.
“The fact is, as I get older, [singing] is less traumatic. And the fact is, [Williams and Lookinland] are going to pull me through this,” Knight explains sweetly. “This came our way, and I've been there before. I've survived before. Frankly, I'm not as fragile as I was before. So, I should be able to handle this.”
“If I may say something, we play up this ‘Chris Knight versus music’ thing because it's very real, for one, and it's been an ongoing theme for decades. But spoiler alert, we did not get eliminated because of Chris Knight!” jokes Lookinland, referring to the fact that the Mummies were eliminated after only one performance. Williams admits he was disappointed by this result, but for Knight, who’s probably be happy wait another 45 years before singing onstage again, it was a relief.
“You know, it works out perfectly for me,” Knight laughs. “I had no expectations, and I don't have to actually be dragged along any further. And we had fun.”
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
Time to change: The 'Brady Bunch' bathroom finally gets a toilet after 50 years
Here's the story (and the tea): 'Brady Bunch' and 'Drag Race' alumni talk groovy, groundbreaking 'Dragging the Classics' crossover
Shaun Cassidy reflects on great lost new wave album ‘Wasp’ and why he walked away from music 40 years ago: ‘I didn't have any resentment’
The lost David Cassidy interview: 'Call me bad, call me lousy, but don't call me a former teen idol'
'Head' trip: How the Monkees and Jack Nicholson shattered the 4th wall and the Hollywood mold 50 years ago
Follow Lyndsey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak, edited by Luis Saenz