On Nov. 19, 1992, Linda Ronstadt rolled out one of the most renowned collaborations of her long and storied career in music: the jingle she sang with Barney “The Plow King” Gumble on The Simpsons.
Although Simpsons fans will know most of this information like the back of their hand, it never hurts to revisit “Mr. Plow,” the fourth season episode of The Simpsons that introduced Ronstadt into the world of the series...and she wasn’t even the episode’s only guest star! That honor went to Adam West, who appeared – along with the Batmobile – at the auto show attended by the Simpson family in the first act. The location provided an opportunity for Homer to be suckered into buying a snowplow, a vehicle which he was assured would pay for itself with all of the plowing he’d get to do throughout Springfield during the winter.
Unfortunately, there was one thing that Homer failed to take into consideration: the possibility that he might have competition.
After believing himself to be alone in the snowplowing game, he awoke one morning to discover all of the area driveways already plowed, thanks to the snowplow business on the block: The Plow King, a.k.a. his best friend, Barney Gumble. Even worse, Barney’s got an ad airing on local TV that features a very special celebrity guest.
The ad kicks off with Barney unabashedly battering the hell out of a cardboard cutout of Homer, only for Barney to interrupted by a voice saying, “Hey, Plow King, save some for me!”
That’s right: it’s Linda Ronstadt.
“Eh, we’ve been looking for a project to do together for awhile,” Barney casually explains to Moe, after which Ronstadt launches into her now-famous jingle:
When the show starts a-fallin’
There’s a man you should be callin’
That’s KL-5 4796
Let it ring!
Mr. Plow is a loser
And I think he is a boozer
So you’d better make that call
To the Plow King!
Needless to say, Barney’s ad makes him the more popular Springfield snowplower by far, sending Homer spiraling into anger and causing him to embark on a quest for vengeance by falsely steering Barney to the most dangerous spot in the city for a plowing gig. It’s this call which provides Ronstadt with the opportunity to make her second and final appearance in the episode, since Barney gets the call while he’s sharing a hot tub with her.
“Barney, I’d like to put a Spanish version of your jingle on my next album,” says Ronstadt, then croons, “Senor Plow no es macho, es solamente el borracho,” a lyric which – just in case you’re not bilingual – translates as “Mr. Plow isn’t macho, he’s only a drunk.”
Barney’s dismissive reply: “Yeah, you do that.”
Despite that indifference to the pitch, Simpsons writer Jon Vitti, who traveled to San Francisco to record Ronstadt’s vocals for the episode, went on record in the audio commentary for the episode as saying that her performance of the Spanish Plow King jingle was “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.”
Having heard it ourselves, we’re hard pressed to disagree...and whether you’ve heard it before or not, we’ll just go ahead and accept your thanks for this task, because “Mr. Plow” was and remains one of the greatest Simpsons episodes of all time.
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