ANIMATION SPIN
July 25, 2017 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Disney Records Sold Only at Gulf Gas Stations

There was a time when you could fill up your car, pay one extra dollar and get a dozen Disney hits in a special collectors album available only at Gulf stations.

WALT DISNEYS HAPPIEST SONGS
Great Stars Singing the Best of Walt Disney!
Disneyland Records DQ-3509 (12 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)

Released in September, 1967. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Compilation Produced by Camarata at Sunset Sound, Hollywood. Running Time: 34 minutes.

Soundtrack Version Songs:
When You Wish Upon a Star from Pinocchio by Ned Washington, Leigh Harline Cliff Edwards
You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly! from Peter Pan by Sammy Fain, Sammy Cahn Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Tommy Luske, Paul Collins, Jud Conlon Singers
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, J. Pat OMalley & Pearlies
I Wonder from Sleeping Beauty by Winston Hibler, George Bruns, Ted Sears – Mary Costa
The Bare Necessities from The Jungle Book by Terry Gilkyson Phil Harris, Bruce Reitherman
Fortuosity from The Happiest Millionaire by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman Tommy Steele

Studio Version Songs:
Heigh-Ho from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Larry Morey, Frank Churchill Camarata Orchestra & Chorus
Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo from Cinderella by Mack David, Al Hoffmann, Jerry Livingston Mary Martin
Bella Notte from Lady and the Tramp by Peggy Lee, Sonny Burke Robie Lester
Winnie the Pooh from Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman Louis Prima
Alice in Wonderland from Alice in Wonderland by Sammy Fain, Bob Hilliard Camarata Chorus & Orchestra
I Bring You a Song from Bambi by Larry Morey, Eliot Daniel Camarata Chorus & Orchestra

Gulf was a prominent sponsor of NBCs The Wonderful World of Disney throughout the late 60s and early 70s, offering a wonderful world of low-cost premiums that made avoiding their gas stations a very difficult fate for parents who chose to ignore their plaintive youngsters. Among the goodies were a set of placemats and a series of magazines called World of Disney, which was largely repurposed material from previous issues of Mickey Mouse Club Magazine and Walt Disneys Magazine the editor of both was Jimmy Johnson, who was also President of Disneyland Records. He pioneered the slipcased hardcover Disney storybook collections sold only by mail order, which also contained stories and features from the magazines.

Walt Disneys Happiest Songs came along after almost two decades of compilation albums sponsored and sold by retailers like True-Value Hardware, Goodyear Tires and JC Penney, which would offer the records in their stores or by mail, or both. Major record labels like Columbia and RCA would assemble collections with their top artists, sometimes using exclusive recordings made especially for the discs, but most culled from either new or previously released titles.

The records were immensely successful, especially at Christmas when shoppers were looking for gifts and music anyway, but they also served as incentives for record clubs as bonuses based on the number of products ordered. The records would bring in customers, the artists and songs would draw attention to the labels catalogs and everyone would be happy.

Disney had not produced many such albums, Music Cavalcade and The Music of Walt Disney being the two most prominent (if not the only) ones released. When the Gulf opportunity came along, Gulf and Disney created TV commercials for each one that aired on the Sunday night show. Both Johnson and Producer/Musical Director Tutti Camarata assembled Happiest Songs in a very specific way, keeping in mind the success of the Columbia and RCA compilations, the potential listeners of these records and the promotional initiatives of Disneys movie, TV and record divisions.

Nothing on the album is there by accident. While there are several excellent Disney classics, there are also some choices that might raise questions. Why open the album with Camaratas Heigh-Ho instead of the Seven Dwarfs on the soundtrack? To sell Camaratas LP version? Perhaps, but theres more to it than just that. At the time, musical variety was still popular on TV and Camaratas Heigh-Ho sounds very much like a brassy opening song and dance number from the Red Skelton or Danny Kaye shows. Even though kids would be the primary listeners, Johnson and Camarata knew adults would listen to it. After all, they would be buying it along with their gasoline.

The presence of celebrity names on retail premium records also helped grab consumer attention, so such stars as Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Phil Harris from soundtracks were important, but so were Mary Martin and Louis Prima. Martins seductive rendition of Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo would fall under the genre of Bachelor Pad or Lounge Music today, not childrens fare, thus its inclusion was to appeal to all ages and sophistications. This would also explain the presence of the bossa nova version of I Bring You a Song, from an early Camarata Music of Bambi/Cinderella album produced before Disneyland Records became more exclusively a childrens label and Buena Vista was established as the general interest brand.

The selections certainly could assist in sales of currently available Disneyland and Vista records, but the choices very clearly reflect where the studio was positioned as a whole as well. In September of 1967, Mary Poppins was already one of the biggest movies of the decade (with a top-selling soundtrack album, audiences couldnt wait for The Jungle Book in October and hopes were high for The Happiest Millionaire in December. This album served as a preview.

Also worth pointing out: this album also includes the title track from the greatest record ever made.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Bluebird / I Wonder Mary Costa

When Briar Rose sings I Wonder in the film version of Sleeping Beauty, it does not sound the same as it did on the 1959 soundtrack album, nor any other vinyl reissues up until Randy Thornton produced a CD soundtrack decades later. Several tracks on the vinyl soundtrack were actually like this one, special alternate takes created for the record. The opening Bluebird section, in which she sings a duet with a trilling birdie, is only hinted at in the actual film score. The Walt Disney Records Legacy Collection multi-CD set of Sleeping Beauty includes these special versions as well as the soundtrack ones.


WALT DISNEYS MERRIEST SONGS
Great Stars Singing the Best of Walt Disney!
Disneyland Records DQ-3510 (12 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)

Released in July, 1968. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Compilation Produced by Camarata at Sunset Sound, Hollywood. Editor: Larry Billman. Running Time: 33 minutes.

Soundtrack Version Songs:
Chim Chim Cheree from Mary Poppins by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Matthew Garber, Karen Dotrice
The Work Song from Cinderella by Mack David, Al Hoffmann, Jerry Livingston Jimmy Macdonald, Mouse Chorus
Give a Little Whistle from Pinocchio by Ned Washington, Leigh Harline Cliff Edwards, Dickie Moore

Studio Version Songs:
Whistle While You Work from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Larry Morey, Frank Churchill Mary Martin
Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly) from So Dear to My Heart by Eliot Daniel, Larry Morey Burl Ives
Siamese Cat Song from Lady and the Tramp by Peggy Lee, Sonny Burke Robie Lester
Whos Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? from Three Little Pigs by Frank Churchill, Ann Ronell Gloria Wood, Jimmy Macdonald
Ten Feet Off the Ground from The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman Louis Armstrong
Workshop Song from Babes in Toyland by Mel Leven, George Bruns, Based on Melody by Victor Herbert Ed Wynn, Childrens Chorus
The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers from Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman Sam Edwards
I Wanna Be Like You from The Jungle Book by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman Phil Harris, Louis Prima, Sebastian Cabot, Bruce Reitherman, Leo DeLyon
Im Late from Alice in Wonderland by Mack David, Al Hoffmann, Jerry Livingston Mary Martin

The success of Happiest Songs led to something even merrier and more star-studded. In order to accomplish this, there are actually fewer soundtrack songs on the playlist than before, as the record company had encouraged several big names to record and there were still some film soundtracks that were not yet licensed for use on phonograph records.

Louis Armstrong had recorded his now-classic Disney Songs the Satchmo Way album that year. Using his version of Ten Feet Off the Ground served to promote his great presence, his new album and the new musical, The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band – all at the same time.

Like the previous album, Gulf advertised it during the Wonderful World of Disney with a memorable spot in which a young boy plays the album, magically causing the film clips to appear on the TV screen. Clips like Chim Chim Cheree match the versions on the record, but at least one was incorrect: the clip from Three Little Pigs used the actual soundtrack, but since that was years from being available for records, the Camarata/Gloria Wood version was on the vinyl. After the final clip, I Wanna Be Like You, the boy lifts the tone arm and the announcer explains how to buy the record at participating Gulf stations.

Gulf continued its Disney relationship through the seventies, becoming one of the first Walt Disney World corporate sponsors and the first to present what used to be known as the Car Care Center near the World Drive Entrance, offering full automotive service. Today its a self serve BP fuel station, convenience store and National Car Rental. Gulf also sponsored the very first Magic Kingdom map booklets, just before the ones presented by GAF.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Siamese Cat Song Robie Lester

Even though she performed on more Disney records than any other artist past or present, there were occasions when Robie Lester, for one odd reason or another, was uncredited. This was one of those rare cases. For the Siamese Cat Song the artist was listed as Si and Am or not listed at all. She was credited at last with the release of the on-demand Wonderland Music Store CD of DQ-1231 in Disney Parks.

23 Comments

  • I thought placemats were strictly an RCA deal, but a little surfing reveals not only Gulf premiums but park souvenirs.

    Much more recently there were CDs in Kellogg’s cereals. The one I played seemed to be original if thrifty, with Mickey and the gang talk-singing over what I assume were stock recordings of public domain classics.

    Did Disney ever do those plastic-on-cardboard records? MAD Magazine did them with original songs; cereals did them with the Archies, Bobby Sherman, and Halloween ghost stories. They never worked for me — I didn’t hear “It’s a Gas!” until Dr. Demento.

    • They did a postcard at the Parks once which was a thin plastic record that was not bound to the cardboard but was like a page next to it. When you closed it, you could mail it. It was called The Walt Disney Character Parade. There were also some birthday message cards in the 60s.

  • How well I remember the Gulf commercials on Disney. One being Gulf “No Knocks” gasoline. I contained lead that supposed kept ones engine from knocking. I also remember Disney character Ludwig von Drake in a Gulf commercial.

    • I remember the Gulf commercials, too . . . and I had BOTH of these LPs, played them over and over.

    • “No Knocks” was a leaded gasoline. I’m very glad we don’t have any more of those.

  • I still have the Gulf “Wonderful World of Disney” magazines. There were five issues total, released over a period of about two years. The use of the title “Wonderful World of Disney” for the magazine predates its use on television, as the Sunday night program was still “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” when the first issue was printed, as evidenced by a “coming attractions” article inside.

    Several of my friends collected and read the magazines as well, so they were evidently very popular. Disney has never published anything quite like them before or since.

    One thing to note about the records is that nearly every track compiled on these albums was from a concurrently available album–so that anyone who like one song in particular could later purchase the entire album from which it was borrowed. It was the ultimate in cross-promotion.

    • Cathay Sherman in her memoir A Disney Childhood revealed her father George Sherman, head of the publications dept., was the main force behind the magazine and he enjoyed the opportunity it gave him to do fun things like interview astronauts.

  • I recognize all the characters on the cover of the “Happiest Songs” LP except for the turtle. Who he?

    • The only turtle of that era I can think of is one of the turtles that carry Mary Poppins and Bert across a stream in the Jolly Holiday sequence?

    • I’m not seeing a turtle, Doug .. unless you mean the green guy above Big Bad Wolf and next to Pinocchio … and I’m pretty sure that’s Jiminy Cricket.

    • Sorry, Doug. I had the LP’s mixed up!. There IS indeed a turtle on the HAPPIEST SONGS cover. I’m guessing since he’s “connected” to Dopey that he’s the turtle in SNOW WHITE (the one who was used as a washboard during “Whistle While You Work” and was always last when the other animals were running here and there). But he sure wasn’t a major character.

    • It’s the turtle from the “Whistle While You Work” sequence in Snow White. Poor guy got no respect from the other forest critters.

  • Gulf did tie it’s advertising on television tightly to NBC and its RCA parent in the late 1960s. Aside from Disney’s show, the company was also the main sponsor of NBC’s Gemini and Apollo progream launch coverage. The futuristic design concepts of Disney World in Orlando and the NASA lunar program would tie perfectly into what Gulf was trying to connect its ad campaign with at the time.

  • I haven’t listened to it in decades, but “Walt Disney’s Merriest Songs” is a real touchstone of my youth. Thank you.

  • I used to have all of those…:) and I second Harry McCracken;s thanks!

  • Suprised that I never of this piece of phonographic Disneyana before. Guess to my knowledge they’re weren’t any Gulf stations in Southern California in the late 1960s. I remember the Robie Lester version of The Siamese Cat Song that was released as a 45″ record at the same time Walt Disney’s Happiest Songs and Walt Disney’s Merriest Songs were released as promo records at the Gulf Oil stations.

    • Bigg, we had Gulf stations here in Southern California, where I’ve lived all my life, and we got ours here..strange you didn’t have any?

    • Actually, Gulf tried to get into the Southern California market in the middle 1960’s. I believe they bought a number of the Flying A stations from the Getty interests. But they couldn’t make it in this marketplace.

      Gulf was an advertiser on “The Wonderful World of Color”, and also advertised heavily on NBC radio–especially pushing their middle-grade gasoline, Gulf Half and Half.

  • “Walt Disney’s Merriest Songs” is undoubtedly still nestled with all the other old LPs at my parents’ house. Played the heck out of it when I was a kid! Even though I had never seen many of those films.

  • Yes – anything Gulf supplied and Disney related, we had growing up. And all for free, courtesy of my Gulf dealer, who was known to us as “Dad”.

  • I had both of these records and worshipped them! I have such fond memories of my grandpa taking me to the Gulf station to get them.

  • An alternate take of Mary Martin’s “I’m Late” was featured on the “Merriest Songs” album.

  • Gulf continued its Disney relationship through the seventies, becoming one of the first Walt Disney World corporate sponsors and the first to present what used to be known as the Car Care Center near the World Drive Entrance, offering full automotive service. Today its a self serve BP fuel station, convenience store and National Car Rental.

    Doesn’t surprise me. The very nature of a “service station” has lost its relevance these days with more and more gas stations merely serving as outlets for food marts and less skilled mechanics or technicians who understand your car in and out.

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