They are all songs we know: “Dream” by the Everly Brothers, “Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes, and “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” by Neil Sedaka.
But a few certified registered nurse anesthetists have breathed new life, and laughter, into the old tunes. Oakdale resident Doug Meuwissen, Gary Cozine, Rich Leyh and Keith Larson make up The Laryngospasms—a band comprised of a group of guys who get their kicks singing medical parodies to anyone who will listen.
They got permission to use a surgical room at Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury as their backdrop to one of their first YouTube music videos. More than nine million views later, the response is overwhelming.
Instead of signing “Breaking Up is Hard To Do,” the group harmonizes “Waking Up Is Hard To Do.” Instead of “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” it’s “Givin’ the Anesthesia.”
As working nurses without a serious bone in their body, after a long day in the operating room, the guys come together, crack open a few beers, reinvent old songs and laugh at themselves.
It all started in 1990 when Cozine, then a student at Minneapolis’s School of Anesthesia, sang a karaoke version of “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” After the song, a student joked that Cozine should change the lyrics to “Waking Up Is Hard To Do.” The rest is history. While band members have come and gone, the core remains the same more than 20 years later.
But what is a laryngospasm? Medically, it’s an involuntary throat contraction that usually occurs when an anesthesia tube enters a patient’s throat. The group’s band name choice was no accident.
In 2008, The Laryngospams—also known as “The Spasms” by fans—came up with an idea that made them famous (among nurses, anyway).
For the Spasms, what started as a silly way to spend free time quickly turned into something bigger.
While the group performs for medical conventions all over the United States, they got another big break when they auditioned for NBC’s America’s Got Talent in the fall of 2010. Unsure how they’d do in the beginning rounds, they were shocked when they were called back to perform to a live audience, judges and all, in Chicago.
“Out of 70,000 acts, 400 made it to that round,” Meuwissen recalled. “I think that’s a pretty big accomplishment.”
Today, The Spasms just finished recording their third CD filled with new songs. The group is even writing a few songs that aren’t parodies at all. A medical rendition to Disney’s “It’s A Small World” will help children feel at ease before surgery, though the song is still in the works.
"I’m always amazed at the reaction we get from people,” Meuwissen said, adding that people often ask for his autograph after a show. “I guess if you give someone a microphone, that person can become a rock star."