NEEDLE DROP NOTES
June 4, 2019 posted by James Parten

A First Attempt at a Disney Music Compilation

By 1942, Walt Disney had compiled quite a catalog of songs–some of which had been enormous hits, selling lots of sheet music and lots of records. And, in that year, somebody at Decca Records thought it would be a good idea to release an “album” of Disney songs.

We may never know if Jack Kapp (the company’s President) or Victor Young had the idea–or if the bandleader that wound up doing the album had a brainstorm and took it to Decca Records. But we do know that the album came out—Decca set A-243, consisting of four ten-inch records, probably selling in stores for around three dollars.

Decca did not choose one of its name bands–not Glen Gray, nor Woody Herman, nor Jimmy Dorsey, nor Guy Lombardo. Nor did they chose any of their name vocalists–not the Andrews Sisters, nor Frances Langford, and especially not Bing Crosby.

Instead, Decca gave this assignment to a society band that had previously recorded an album of French popular songs for Decca — Nat Brandwynne and His Orchestra. Over the years, Brandwynne would lead orchestras in such tony venues as the Stork Club, and the Astor Hotel.

For a few years, Brandwynne had played second piano for Eddy Duchn–keeping the rhythm going when Eddy had to wave the baton and glad-hand with the cash customers. Brandwynne’s usual gigs involved his playing of medleys from shows and films, as well as other old standard favorites. This format was followed here.

On the eight sides, a total of twenty-one songs from the Disney library were played, usually in medleys of two or three tunes to a side. Art Gentry and Diane Courtney shared vocal responsibilities, although we do not know upon which songs they aired out their respective tonsils.

Quite a few of the songs were songs we have met in previous columns in this series–including such obscurities as “Who Killed Cock Robin?”, “Funny Little Bunnies”, and “The Golden Touch”.

On the other hand, there are songs of which I know naught as yet–“Playful Pluto”, for example, or “The Big Bad Wolf Is Back Again”. These are not widely known, If indeed, they have ever been heard to begin with.

Nat’s family has had some exposure to the general pubic. His uncle, Naftule Brandwein (1884-1963) was a highly-respected “klezmer” clarinetist, playing for weddings and other special occasions. And his daughter Marcia Brandwynne became known in California as a news-reader.

I cannot say how well the album sold–or didn’t sell. Several sides from the album recently turned up on YouTube and I was able to sample a few of the cuts – and they’re interesting. Take a listen from yourself:

So there you have it–the first “album” of records of “Disney Songs” not tied to a particular movie. I hope that it filled its proper niche in the Decca catalogs of the time.

(Thanks to Charles Gardner)

3 Comments

  • Thank you for this, I’ve really enjoyed listening to these tracks this morning. The songs from the early Disney shorts have kind of faded into obscurity, but they’re among my absolute favourites. I’d never heard the lyrics to ‘Playful Pluto’ before (of course the tune is heard in the short of the same name). It’s a shame a couple of the sides are missing – I’d love to hear the rest some day.

  • These are nice rareties. I don’t suppose that record-buyers at that time were looking for original soundtracks as they would, today, so I would imagine that Decca made out quite well, even if this band was not on the level of a Bing Crosby or the Dorsey bands. They were certainly capable enough to cover these tunes for toons!

  • These sides were recorded in two sessions, one week apart, in May 1942. Art Gentry sang “You’re Nothin’ But a Nothin’,” “Who Killed Cock Robin?”, “Slow But Sure,” “The World Owes Me a Living,” “The Wise Little Hen,” “Playful Pluto,” “Funny Little Bunnies,” “Dance of the Bogey Men,” and “Peculiar Penguins.” Diane Courtney sang “Lullaby Land,” “The Golden Touch,” and “The Night Before Christmas.” And the two dueted on the rest.

    “The Big Bad Wolf is Back Again” wasn’t actually from a Disney film; it was a promotional song published at the time “The Big Bad Wolf” — the first sequel to “Three Little Pigs” was released in 1934.

    It’s worth noting that, while the first six sides of this Decca set were made up of music from the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony shorts, the last two sides were medleys of songs from the recently-released “Dumbo.”

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