The year was 1942–and the United States of America was at war with the nations that comprised the Axis. At first, this did not mean what it was going to mean for anybody–including the Walt Disney studio and its music department.
Dumbo was looking to be the first profitable feature for Disney since “Snow White”–although the songs were only getting mild coverage. Now, it was time to prepare for the next theatrical feature release — Bambi.
And therein lay a challenge for the Music Department’s song pluggers. For Bambi was something that had not been tried before–a feature-length, animated drama.
Oh, there was some comic relief–any good drama should have some. But there were not the slots into which bright and breezy songs could be inserted–not and spoil the entire effect of the picture.
The Music Department decided to plug only one song from the film–the ballad “Love Is A Song”.
And, when they shopped it around to the various record companies, they found that there was a considerable reluctance to really “ride” the song. In the end, neither the Victor, nor the Columbia labels decided to “cover” this song.
Bluebird–Victor’s cheap label–did push it, however–but not with a major-league band.
Teddy Powell had been known as a composer and arranger when he formed his orchestra in 1939. By 1942, they were recording regularly for Bluebird–but their sales were only ordinary, except for a novelty that wouldn’t–couldn’t!–be played on radio by those new-fangled disk jockeys. (“Sereneade To A Maid” sold well, even as its appeal depended upon repeated “raspberries” or “Bronx Cheers”.)
Decca also expressed an interest in this ballad. They gave it to one of their top orchestras–one who sent shivers up the spines of swing- and jazz-music fans..
The song was given to Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. Kenny Gardner–who is heard as the husband in Mr.Bug Goes To Town–takes the vocal.
There might have been more “covers” intended. After all, the record industry was trying to stockpile recordings to tide them over during a strike that the American Federation of Musicians had called against the record companies, effective at midnight on August 1, 1942.
But it didn’t work out that way. And Hollywood went to a war footing after all.
NEXT WEEK: An early Disney ‘compilation’ album