By Erin Kelley
Shannon Wynne loves to fish, so when the Big Mouth Billy Bass became popular in 2000, his closest friends and family bought him one.
“They all thought I wanted one,” he said. “But after I got six, it wasn’t funny anymore.”
Like a lot of the people Wynne knows, he stored away the rubber fish mounted on a plaque in the attic after the magic of a motion sensitive fake large mouth bass singing and turning its head wore off. Then five years ago when he opened Little Dix Flying Fish in the south, Wynne thought it would be wonderful to include the toys as part of the restaurants’ décor.
For those looking to ditch Billy, Wynne designated a wall to host the once popular bothersome bass that has lost its luster. When customers donate their toy, in return they receive a certificate of adoption and a free basket of catfish. Below the mounted fish is a plaque with the donators’ names.
The idea became popular and the big mouth bass plaques soon overtook the designated wall and have spread to other walls and ceilings. In the Dallas restaurant, the ceaseless singing fish have almost stretched all the way across the ceiling.
“Wives bring it in, not wanting it hanging on the wall or they found it in the attic,” Wynne said. “Kids decorate them and bring them in; people will buy them at garage sales for $1 and bring them in. You can get them off ebay for $2; people seek them out to bring them in to get free food and their name on the wall.”
The adoption happens in all five restaurants in Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee, have up to 400 toys covering the walls.
The rubber singing fish lost its appeal when people tired of hearing the one of two songs belted out by Billy:
“Take me to the River” or “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
“After a while you just wanted to shoot them because they sang the same song,” Wynne said as he hummed the first few lines of the tune.
One thing Wynne is sure to do before mounting the fish is to remove the batteries.
“Otherwise, they would drive us all crazy,” he said.