Vince Johnson, whose music first reached millions of households through the Netflix documentary Tiger King, put out a new ramshackle country-rock song on Friday. Johnson was mostly unknown before the show, but that has changed: The release of “Killer Carole” was accompanied by the announcement of his new publishing deal with BMG (which also handles songwriting for the likes of DJ Khaled and Juice WRLD) and his new distribution deal with Create Music Group (Tekashi 6ix9ine, Marshmello).
Back at the beginning of quarantine, which now seems like a decade ago, Tiger King — a multi-part true-crime documentary about a potentially murderous group of big-cat obsessives — captivated a sizable chunk of the population. The show racked up more than 34 million views in the first 10 days it was available for streaming, according to Bloomberg, putting it in the same sphere of popularity as the third season of the universally beloved Stranger Things. And Tiger King also included original songs, solemnly sung Americana-ish tunes with goofy lyrics like “I Saw a Tiger,” which has accumulated more than three million views on YouTube.
“Killer Carole” is more uptempo, full of meaty guitar, flitting banjo, and an arrangement that distantly echoes “Summertime Blues.” But it dwells on the unsolved disappearance of Don Lewis, husband of Carole Baskin, an animal-rights activist who was one of former zoo-owner Joe Exotic’s nemeses.
Baskin has denied any involvement with Lewis’ vanishing, but the new song is unafraid to float gruesome theories. “Was he chewed in little pieces in the belly of the beast?” Johnson asks. “…Was the weapon a meat-grinder, a bullet, or a bat/Would a woman kill a man and feed him to her cat?”
Johnson originally wrote the music for Tiger King along with Daniel Clinton after Joe Exotic put out an ad to find a theme song for his zoo. Clinton died last year, but when the show became a sensation, interest in the music skyrocketed. The country trio Midland covered “I Saw a Tiger;” the rock group the Offspring re-did “Here Kitty Kitty.”
The modern music industry moves quickly to capitalize on any sort of musical phenomenon — whether it’s tunes from Tiger King or from the royal wedding, it can be uploaded to the streaming services and beamed around the globe for a relatively low cost. It took longer than originally planned to find a release partner for Johnson, due to complications around Clinton’s estate. But the release of “Killer Carole” this week turned out to be timely, as two experts just claimed that Lewis’ will was a forgery, putting Baskin and Tiger King back in the news.
“Killer Carole” was not featured in Tiger King, but the music from the show will be officially released soon. “Vince’s music has been a part of one of the biggest television events of the year,” says Mary Plotas, an A&R for Create Music Group. “We are thrilled to be working with an artist who creates such powerful viral moments.”