Everything to Know About Joe Exotic's Country Music Career — Including Who Was Really Singing
The imprisoned zookeeper claimed to sing and write his own songs, after commissioning two musicians to do it for free
Netflix’s new docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness takes viewers through the unbelievable history of Joe Exotic and the many other figureheads of America’s big cat community.
While the series is filled with perplexing details (like Joe’s current 22-year sentence for a murder for hire plot )and unsolved mysteries (cue Carole Baskin’s ex-husband), fans also couldn’t help but question Joe’s proclaimed country music career — just one of his many endeavors.
The show highlights some of his songs and the rather bizarre, accompanying music videos he would film for them. However, according to a Vanity Fair report, the imprisoned zookeeper is not the real artist — or voice — behind his music.
According to Joe’s former producer Rick Kirkham, Joe can’t sing
Kirkham, who was hired by Joe to produce his prospective reality series Joe Exotic, Tiger King, recently told Vanity Fair that Joe can’t “even hold a tune.”
“It was absolutely ridiculous,” the journalist told Vanity Fair of the Tiger King’s music ruse.
“One time, Joe got a little bit drunk and high, and we actually coaxed him into singing part of one of the songs,” Kirkham recalled. “He couldn’t even hold a tune. It was just so ludicrous. It was a big joke within the crew and staff that it wasn’t him [singing in the videos] — but he was damned insistent to anyone and everyone, including us and my studio crew, that that was him.”
The real musicians behind Joe’s music
Musicians Vince Johnson and Danny Clinton — who are both listed in the credits of the series — are actually responsible for some of Joe’s country music songs, including “I Saw a Tiger” and “Here Kitty Kitty.”
In an email to Vanity Fair, Johnson explained that Joe and contacted the artists and convinced them to produce the cat-themed songs for free, on the premise that the songs would be featured on a reality show that would air on either Animal Planet, Discovery and National Geographic.
“I had no idea he was going to Milli Vanilli the songs,” Johnson wrote to the outlet. “It was a couple of months and two or three songs [into the collaboration] when I was on YouTube one night and just happened to look up Joe Exotic. And there he was, lip-syncing and acting like the ghost of Elvis [in these music videos]. I called him up, I was hot… And he bamboozled me about his reality show — that it was coming soon and he would make everything right as rain. I just wanted the proper credit.”
Clinton’s son, Preston Clint, who currently resides in Brush Prairie, Washington, also came forward to claim that his father was really behind the vocals in the songs.
“Every time Dad’s voice would come on it was pretty mind-boggling,” he told KATU News of his experience watching the show.
His father had died this past October before the series was released.
“He would have been blown away. This is everything he worked for,” Preston added. “This would have seen a big deal for him. We want to speak out for dad and say he wasn’t just a puppet, he wasn’t just singing songs for whoever told him to, he was writing as well.”
Joe’s music video producers say he “couldn’t even play the guitar”
“I’m a musician myself, and I was just flabbergasted by the sheer fakeness of his presentation,” Romeo Dupuy, a producer who moved to Oklahoma to work with Joe after he saw a Craigslist ad told Vanity Fair. “He couldn’t even play the guitar. So we would pose him. When we shot him playing these songs, he would be behind grass to cover up his hands. Then he’d lip-sync.”
Another producer, Mateusz Gugałka, told the outlet they had to shoot several takes of Joe in order to find clips they could use for the videos.
“Sometimes I had two cameras pointed at him — we’d just record two different angles maybe 50 different times, then pick the take where his mouth lined up with the music actually,” Gugałka said.
Tiger King creators Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin say Joe believed he could be a musician without really singing
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin revealed that they “struggled” to find out the truth about Joe and his music, but ultimately came to the conclusion that he did sing on some of the tracks.
“We were really struggling with what the truth of it was. We went back and forth on it,” Chaiklin said. “With certain songs, it became super confusing. And then our fact-checker told us we were wrong — he was actually singing on certain songs. It was tricky to determine which he was on.”
According to Goode, they even got Joe on camera admitting that he believed not every musician actually sang their own songs.
“We cut a really good scene about that. Joe even said, ‘Of course not every singer sings all his songs, that’s just how it’s done,'” Goode told the Times. “His take on it was funny — that you could be a musician and a singer and not sing.”
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness is available for streaming on Netflix.