‘Tiger King’: We Know Joe Exotic Didn’t Produce His Songs, But Is He Musically Talented at All?

Netflix’s new true-crime documentary, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, is all the talk right now. You cannot go on social media without seeing a meme or potential Halloween costume of Joe Maldonado-Passage as “Joe Exotic.”

You also probably came across one of his many music videos. He likes to portray the videos as his own, but he did not write the music or produce the songs. Let’s take a look at whether or not he is a country music singer at all. 

Joe Exotic
Joe Exotic | Netflix

Who wrote and produced Joe Exotic’s music?

Vince Johnson and Danny Clinton of the Clinton Johnson Band produced Maldonado-Passage’s music, including the vocals. 

Without telling anyone on his staff, Maldonado-Passage convinced the duo to produce the songs for free to gain publicity. He told the singer and songwriter that he needed music for a reality show that was involved in a bidding war. 

Johnson wrote the songs with themes from Maldonado-Passage, while Clinton sang the vocals. The pair recorded three albums worth of songs for the “Tiger King” before Clinton died from a heart-related issue.

“I had no idea he was going to Milli Vanilli the songs,” Johnson told Vanity Fair. “It was a couple of months and two or three songs [into the collaboration] when I was on YouTube one night and just happened to look up Joe Exotic. And there he was, lip-syncing and acting like the ghost of Elvis. 

Is Joe Exotic a musician or country singer?

“He couldn’t even play the guitar,” producer Romeo Dupuy told Vanity Fair. “So we would pose him. When we shot him playing these songs, he would be behind grass to cover up his hands. Then he’d lip-sync.” 

Dupuy moved to Oklahoma to work with Maldonado-Passage after seeing his Craigslist posting. 

“I’m a musician myself, and I was just flabbergasted by the sheer fakeness of his presentation,” Dupuy continued. 

Other producers and staff said the same thing about Joe Exotic. He could not sing, let alone play the guitar. 

“One time, Joe got a little bit drunk and high, and we actually coaxed him into singing part of one of the songs,” producer Rick Kirkham said. “He couldn’t even hold a tune. It was just so ludicrous.

How did Joe Exotic produce his music videos if he cannot sing or play guitar?

The music videos were produced mostly at the G. W. Zoo that Maldonado-Passage owned. The producers didn’t know when or where he would want to shoot the videos. Instead, they said that Joe Exotic would wake up one day and say he dreamt of how he wanted it to look. 

“Sometimes I had two cameras pointed at him—we’d just record two different angles maybe 50 different times, then pick the take where his mouth lined up with the music actually,” said producer Mateusz Gugałka.

The production was very minimal, aside from the addition of a Carole Baskin look-a-like in one video and a group of children clapping in another. Mostly, the videos feature Maldonado-Passage lip-syncing in different locations and with different angles. 

You can stream the seven-episode docuseries of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness on Netflix right now.