Cube-E was not originally planned as a touring show. It grew out of various performance pieces which The Residents had been working on as early as 1987. The first part, Buckaroo Blues, was inspired by a collection of cowboy songs dating from between 1850 and 1950. The Residents had a commission from Tele 5, the German TV station, to create a piece for their Off Beat Night program, so the band decided to write their own versions of these songs and put them together into one long performance piece. The work was premiered at the 20th Anniversary Party for Boudisque (aka Torso, which was The Residents European record label at the time) in Amsterdam on November 18th, 1987. After the premier, the band took the show to Germany for the TV appearance. The half-hour show also included performances of The Residents' covers of Hank Williams's Jambalaya and Elvis's Burning Love.
After the Tele 5 broadcast, The Residents were invited to perform at Lincoln Center for the Serious Fun Festival. They started thinking about the possibility of a tour featuring music about American music and, to this end, they added a second song cycle called Black Barry to the show in order to fill it out to a full hour. Barry was a series of Residential versions of black music (gospel songs, blues, and jazz) just as Buckaroo Blues was covers of cowboy music. The two were premiered together at Alice Tully Hall on July 21st, 1989.
By this time The Residents were pretty sure that they wanted to take this new music on the road. They needed a third section and, after much debate, settled on covering Elvis. "The King" would represent Rock 'n' Roll, the synthesis of white cowboy music and the black gospel, blues, and jazz. This was similar to the way The Big Bubble featured music which was a synthesis of the music from the Mole and Chub cultures from The Tunes of Two Cities.
The Residents also chose Elvis because they feel that he represents the end of American popular music. Ever since the British Invasion occurred in 1963, most American music has been US bands imitating British bands, who themselves were imitating earlier American bands -- or, at least, so The Residents saw it.
Cube-E: The History of American Music in 3 E-Z Pieces On January 14th, towards the end of the run, the band appeared on David Sanborn's Night Music, where they performed Teddy Bear and From the Plains to Mexico. They finished the show by dancing the twist with Conway Twitty.
The show was such a success that it went on the road a second time in 1990. Unfortunately, this time around it did not do as well and problems started plaguing the performances. In Cleveland, they had to cancel when a promoter declared bankruptcy, and a speaker cabinet fell into the audience during the last show in New York City, starting a small fire. No-one was hurt but The Residents started to worry about a return of the Mole Show's curse and swore never to tour again.