The other piece used in Melody Time that the Disney people did not “own” was “Bumble Boogie”. Americans–and not just lovers of “serious” music–already knew of the Rimsky-Korsakov composition “Flight of the Bumblebee”.
We knew it as a piece that tested the mettle of any violinist who had the most remote claim to being a virtuoso. And those who followed the weekly adventures of “The Green Hornet” also knew of the piece. This composition was the show’s opening theme.
And–as a classical-music theme that everybody would know–it would attract the attention of dance bands of the day. During the 1930’s and 1940’s, dance bands of all kinds enjoyed success in taking classical-music themes and setting them to a rhythm fit for dancing. One of the orchestras that made a name for this kind of thing was that of Freddy Martin.
Martin had been leading dance bands on radio and records since 1932, and had made quite a name for himself leading a “sweet” orchestra.Martin’s band played such tony venues as the Cocoanut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. There they dispensed sweet music set to a rhythm suitable for the dance, based largely upon the tenor saxophone of its leader, and a plethora of vocalists. And, from the early 1940’s onward, the band became known for dance arrangements of classical themes.
It began with an arrangement of the opening theme from Tschaikowsky’s Piano Concerto #1. Jack Fina was featured on piano, and the theme caught the ears of the public–so much so that a lyric was commissioned, and it became the popular song “Tonight We Love”.
This was followed soon afterward by another arrangement of the main theme form Grieg’s Piano Concerto That was another hit for Freddy Martin–and for his pianist, Jack Fina.
In late 1945, the Martin ensemble went to the well again, and dug up “Flight of the Bumblebee”. Jack Fina had the “chops” for it all right. But they decided to take it into a direction that was most unusual for Freddy Martin–boogie-woogie.
Late in 1945, or early in 1946, Martin’s ensemble went into the RCA Victor studio, and laid down “Bumble Boogie”. This was issued on 20-1829, coupled with a love ballad, “Now and Forever”. The record sold well, as it caught the ear of the American public.
It is likely that the Martin men-with Jack Fina there–cut the track for Disney not long after they cut it for commercial release. Jack Fina decided to leave the employ of Freddy Martin, and go off on his own. He signed with the new Mercury Records outfit, and among the first things he cut for the label was his own version of “Bumble Boogie” (again, coupled with “Now And Forever”, for some reason). This was issued on the first release of Mercury’s new “Celebrity Series”, (Mercury 5001). It is likely that this record sold steadily.
Fina’s career as a band leader was not nearly so spectacular–nor so long-lived–as that of his erstwhile boss, Freddy Martin. But “Bumble Boogie” lived on.
Early in 1961, a group of Hollywood session-musicians–which is believed to have included Ernie Freeman (piano) and Rene Hall (guitar), went into one of Hollywood’s many studios, and cut a rock-and-roll version of “Bumble Boogie”.
The disc was released by Leon Rene’s Rendezvous label, with the artist credit going to “B. Bumble And The Stingers”. The record was a hit in the early spring of 1961.
Which just goes to show you–you can’t keep a good bee down!