Daily Tedium

The Wesley Willis WinAmp Connection

Pondering Wesley Willis’ greatest mainstream contribution—the inspiration for an audio file in the 20th century’s greatest digital musical player, WinAmp.

By Ernie Smith

Wesley Willis was a prolific musician and wonderful artist. Beloved by most folks he ran across, it’s no surprise his legacy would live on in an unlikely place—your computer.

Some may recognize Mike the llama as the mascot of legendary music software WinAmp. But did you know, there is a somewhat tenuous, but quite obvious connection to Wesley built into the software?

Windows users in the mid-to-late 90s are probably used WinAmp or know of it in some capacity. In the early days of digital music, WinAmp served the same function as programs like iTunes and Google Music do today. At the time, MP3—everyone’s favorite lossy, compressed media file—was the star of the show. WinAmp provided a way for users to store, playback and organize their music—something we take for granted nowadays on our devices. Their slogan is loosely based on a Wesley Willis song.

“Whip the Llama’s Ass” (above, NSFW) sees Willis at one of his most hilarious and irreverent moments. Using a high-tempo keyboard preset, with a bit of a minor key feel to it, Willis sings about whipping a zebra’s ass, whipping a llama’s ass and whipping Saddam Hussein’s ass. To paraphrase outsider music expert Irwin Chusid, let’s just say “Wes kicks a lot of ass” in his songs.

The tagline found a new life in the world of computers thanks to voiceover artist and radio personality J.J. McKay, who created the “WinAmp: It really whips the llama’s ass” audio file for Nullsoft’s MP3 player. (Per his LinkedIn page, McKay has had radio gigs all over the country, including Denver, CO, several stations in Alaska and most recently, Dallas, TX.)

WinAmp’s website is still active, but is a shell of what it once was, with promises of eventual revival. (Ars Technica has a fairly in-depth piece on WinAmp’s corporate undoing at the hands of AOL, originally published in 2012 and updated earlier this year.)

The MP3, of course, has a long and storied history of its own, with some controversy along the way, and is still widely used today. Who buys CDs these days, anyway?

Ernie Smith

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Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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