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Children's Favourites, Vol. 2: Original Recordings

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Original Recordings 1933-1952

In our second volume of vintage children'srecordings,we present more selections fromwhat can arguably be called the \golden age" forthis genre. Ever since the advent of phonographrecords, catering to the younger set has been abig moneymaker for record companies, and increating a "kiddie catalogue," the majors trottedout their most popular performers, whoperformed songs and stories while adding in adollop of their own personalities and trademarks.

It was almost a badge of honour for theseartists and in many cases, you can tell that theywere having the time of their lives at thesessions.

What might have been a tough session forthe average recording artist was the proverbialpiece of cake for Spike Jones and his CitySlickers, who were accustomed to synchronizedsound effects and assorted noises.The Slickers,with Del Porter leading the way, coast throughOld MacDonald Had a Farm.

Western film and recording star MauriceWoodward "Tex" Ritter (1905-1974) is nearlyupstaged by the vocal antics of fellow cowboyactor Max Terhune. Terhune (1891-1973), anaccomplished ventriloquist, provided the animalimpressions on Capitol's imaginative AnimalFair, with the help of Capitol's extensive soundeffects library.

Some of Warner Brothers' most enduring"Looney Tunes" cartoon shorts were lampoonsof classical music, most notably The Rabbit ofSeville and What's Opera, Doc? Daffy Duck'sRhapsody targets Liszt's Hungarian RhapsodyNo.2, in which the manic mallard complainsabout being a target himself of hunters.WarnerBrothers voice genius Mel Blanc is at the top ofhis game in this track, accompanied by Capitolstalwart Billy May's orchestra.

Danny Kaye (ne David Kaminsky) (1913-1987) spent a lifetime as a film star, entertainer,and recording artist, but it was his uncanny waywith children that endeared him to countlesskids of all ages. The Little Fiddle, first called"Symphony for Unstrung Tongue,"was featuredin the 1947 film The Secret Life of Walter Mittyand was easily adapted for a Decca children's 78later that year. No doubt some of the gags andmusical puns went straight over the heads ofmost children, but the result shows the faciletonguedKaye at his best, using his talent fordialects and voices.The song was written byKaye's wife and Svengali, Sylvia Fine, who wroteall of his zany material.

Although Jack Mercer became the mostfamous voice of Popeye, he wasn't the first tobreathe life into Max and Dave Fleischer'sspinach-addicted sailor.That credit belongs toBilly Costello (aka "Red Pepper Sam"), whoprovided the voice for Popeye for the first twoyears of its run (1933-35) in theatres. Costellowas, according to some accounts, a "head case,"and was fired from the role shortly afterrecording Sammy Lerner's identifying themesong, I'm Popeye the Sailor Man, written tosound like a traditional sea shanty.

The New York-born Mae Questel (1908-1998) provided the voice for two of earlycartoons' most celebrated females: Popeye's "goilfriend" Olive Oyl, and the '20s flapper icon,Betty Boop. On the Good Ship Lollipop wasfeatured in the Shirley Temple feature BrightEyes (1934), winning an honorary Oscar for itssix-year-old star.The song quickly became apopular bedtime song for parents to sing totheir children. Mae makes sure to add a perky"boop-boop-be-doop" to the tag.

Civil War songwriter Henry Clay Work (1832-1884) wrote My Grandfather's Clock in 1876,inspired by a story he had heard about twoelderly brothers who died within a short time ofeach other, their grandfather's clock running outsimultaneously.The stentorian oh-so-veddyproper reading by Australian Harold Williamscould only have been performed standing upwith his hands behind his back.

Little Man You've Had a Busy Day is awonderful lullaby performed most effectively byPaul Robeson (1898-1976), who in 1934 washugely popular in England from his stageperformance in Othello.The innocence of therecording, tastefully accompanied by RayNoble's orchestra,was in direct contrast to thestorm of controversy that would follow whenRobeson made his first fateful trip to the SovietUnion later that year.

British child star Ann Stephens (1931-1959)was ten years old and on the verge of asuccessful career in film when she recorded thecharming Christopher Robin, a song based onA.A. Milne's poem,"Vespers".This poem, as wellas Buckingham Palace, first appeared inMilne's book, When We Were Very Young (1924),a collection of children's verses written forMilne's real life four-year-old son, ChristopherRobin Milne, who became the inspiration for theboy in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories beginningtwo years later.The real Christopher Robin diedin 1996 at the age of 76.

The King Who Couldn't Dance (TheWorry Song) was featured in the 1945 filmAnchors Aweigh, starring Gene Kelly and FrankSinatra.The sequence in the movie featured thefamous dance routine with Jerry the Mousematching Kelly step for step.

In 1946, Capitol Records decided to make anentrance into the children's market with a seriesof recordings by prominent music and film stars.

The head of the new children's division,AlanLivingston ("Rusty in Orchestraville"), came upwith an idea for a book that would have arecord included. This resulted in the first "readalong"book, which was narrated by a clownnamed Bozo, featuring the voice of Vance "Pinto"Colvig (1892-1967). Bozo became so popular,that the character made the transition totelevision in 1949 on KTTV, Channel 11 in LosAngeles. Colvig, who also provided the voice forWalt Disney's Goofy, became a televisioninstitution, thanks in part to the infectiousBozo's Laughing Song.

Suzy Snowflake is a seasonal song thatsomehow lost favour in the half-century since itwas recorded by Rosemary Clooney (1928-2002).Written by Tin Pan Alley stalwarts SidTepper and Roy Brodsky, the song had themisfortune of coming out when "Rudolph theRed-Nosed Reindeer" and "Frosty the Snowman"were also fresh entries into the secularChristmas derby.Thus, Suzy was relegated to thedustbin of forgotten holiday songs. Brodskychanged his name to Roy C. Bennett and hadbetter luck, becoming a writer of music materialin Elvis Presley's early films. He also wrote thehit "Red Roses for a Blue Lady."As lead trumpet player for Spike Jones' CitySlickers, George Rock (1919-1988) was betterknown for his falsetto gap-toothed vocals, mostfamously on All I Want for Christmas (Is MyTwo Front Teeth). Rock had been playingwith the pre-Jonesian music butcher FreddieFisher when he joined Jones in the mid-1940s.

One of the first children's shows to hittelevision was "The Howdy Doody Show," whichmade its TV debut on 27 December 1947.Thecreation of "Buffalo" Bob Smith, the idea wasgerminated from a Saturday morning radio quizshow for children, featuring a bumpkincharacter named Elmer.This soon evolved intoHowdy Doody (voiced by Smith), personified bya wooden marionette when the show made itstransition to television. The Popcorn Songwas co-written by Smith and the show'slongtime co-producer and songwriter EddieKean.

Along with "Rusty in Orchestraville," thestory of Tubby the Tuba was one of the bestprimers for youngsters on the makeup of thesymphony orchestra."Tubby"was acollaborative effort between Paul Tripp, aka "Mr.

I. Magination" (1911-2002), who wrote the story,and George Kleinsinger (1914-1982), whosupplied the music.Tripp thought up the storyof the lonely tuba who couldn't get a solo whileserving in the Army in China during World WarII.When it was released in 1945, it became animmediate hit, eventually selling over eightmillion copies. Critics gave the recording,narrated by actor Victor Jory (1902-1982),universal praise (despite Jory'smispronunciation of "xylophone"), evencomparing
Disc: 1
Puffin' Billy
1 Old MacDonald Had A Farm
2 Animal Fair
3 Daffy Duck's Rhapsody
4 The Little Fiddle
5 I'm Popeye The Sailor Man
6 On The Good Ship Lollipop
7 Grandfather's Clock
8 Little Man You've Had A Busy Day
9 Christopher Robin (Vespers)
10 Buckingham Palace
11 The King Who Couldn't Dance (The Worry Song)
12 Bozo's Laughing Song
13 Suzy Snowflake
14 (All I Want For Christmas Is) My Two Front Teeth
15 The Popcorn Song
16 Tubby The Tuba
17 Puffin' Billy
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