Former zookeeper Joe Exotic has taken the entertainment world by storm thanks to the Netflix docuseries, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. For those who have not yet seen the doc, it centers around Exotic, a zoo owner and aspiring country singer who is now serving 22 years in prison on a murder for hire charge.
The documentary details Exotic and the various characters – drug kingpins, conmen, animal activists and cult leaders, oh my! – in the big cat community. With Exotic and his private zoo appearing as the series’ main subjects, the documentary does a deep dive into his life, highlighting his attempt at music career with two songs called “I Saw A Tiger” and “Here Kitty Kitty.” Exotic also has music videos for each song that show him singing the songs and playing guitar. However, as Exotic’s former producer Rick Kirkham told Vanity Fair, Exotic allegedly didn’t write or sing any of his own songs.
“It was absolutely ridiculous,” says Kirkham. “One time, Joe got a little bit drunk and high, and we actually coaxed him into singing part of one of the songs. 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 artists behind the songs featured on the documentary are actually Vince Johnson and Danny Clinton, who produced the tunes for free with the understanding that they would be featured in an upcoming reality show.
“I had no idea he was going to Milli Vanilli the songs,” said Johnson. “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.”
Danny Clinton was the artist who can be heard singing on the Joe Exotic tunes. He passed away in October before the documentary was released, but his son Preston Clinton commented about the show.
“He would have been blown away. This is everything he worked for,” he told KATU News. “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.”