‘M*A*S*H’ Featured a Popular Songwriter As a Singing Captain: Here’s Why

by Anna Dunn

M*A*S*H had a wonderful regular cast along with a lot of amazing guests. One person on the show was actually a popular songwriter. Loudon Wainwright III played Captain Spalding for three episodes, though many wish he had more time on the show. Spalding occasionally broke out into song.

Production actually hand-picked Loudon Wainwright III to play Spalding. While Alan Alda wasn’t necessarily a fan of the Folk music that made Wainwright famous, one key member of the production team was. M*A*S*H creator Larry Gelbert, who was a huge fan of Wainwright’s music.

“I wish we had done more episodes with him as Captain Spalding,” Gelbert said in TV’s M*A*S*H: The Ultimate Guidebook.

Unfortunately, M*A*S*H had infamously packed shooting schedules, and it made it very difficult to work with Wainwright for a longer period than three episodes. Wainwright performed and wrote his own original songs for his episodes on the third season.

He performed his songs North Korea Blues, Unrequited to the Nth Degree, I Wonder if They Miss Us, Five Gold Stars, and Big Mac Is Coming. Wainwright and his songs appeared in the episodes Rainbow Bridge, There Is Nothing Like a Nurse, and Big Mac.

‘M*A*S*H’ Also Had Korean War Vets in The Cast

M*A*S*H also cast some actual veterans in their main cast. For instance, Klinger actor Jamie Farr served in Korea. He wore his real-life dog tags on the show. The actor got drafted into the army right after starring in a film alongside Andy Griffith.

When he initially returned, he really struggled to find work. The name that he had established for himself essentially was lost. Thankfully, his mentor Red Skelton helped him find a bit of work, and then Farr found M*A*S*H. Farr was originally set to have a small role and make an appearance or two, but production found him so funny that they kept him on the show until its very end.

The lead of the show, Alan Alda, also served six months in Korea. Alda didn’t only act in the show. He also wrote and directed multiple episodes. Needless to say, some of the real-life experiences he had while serving definitely influenced the way he chose to tell the stories on the show.

“I served briefly in the Army Reserve, and was deployed for about six months,” he explained in a 2013 interview. “They had designs of making me into an officer but, uh … it didn’t go so well. I was in charge of a mess tent. Some of that made it into the show.”

M*A*S*H ended decades ago, but its legacy remains incredibly strong. While it may be over, it’s always there to binge-watch or catch on TV. All episodes are available on Hulu.