The all-time looniest Looney Tunes record is a compilation of Little Golden Records voiced by Gil Mack plus 12 months of birthday songs performed by Mel Blanc himself.
BUGS BUNNY SONGFEST
Golden Records LP-71 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1961)
Executive Producer: Arthur Shimkin. Musical Director: Mitch Miller. Arrangements: Jimmy Carroll, Arthur Norman, Dennis Farnon. Running Time: 34 minutes.
Voices: Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, Tweety, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Henery Hawk, Foghorn Leghorn, Pepe LePew, Speedy Gonzalez, Hippity Hopper, Cicero Pig, Ollie Owl); Gilbert Mack (Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, Henery Hawk, Pepe LePew, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, Tweety, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam); Mike Stewart, Anne Lloyd (Soloists); Bob Miller, Dick Byron, Ralph Nyland, Mike Stewart (The Sandpipers).
Songs: “What’s Up Doc? (Parts 1 & 2),” “Merrily We Roll Along (Parts 1 & 2),” “I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat,” Daffy Duck,” “Sylvester the Cat,” “Elmer Fudd,” “Bugs Bunny Way Out West,” “Henery Hawk,” “Foghorn Leghorn,” “Porky Pig and Petunia,” “Bugs Bunny, Railroad Engineer,” “Sylvester: January,” “Tweety Bird: February,” “Daffy Duck: March,” “Ollie Owl: April,” “Porky Pig: May,” “Henery Hawk: June,” “Pepe LePew: July,” “Speedy Gonzalez: August,” “Bugs Bunny: September,” “Hippity Hopper: October,” “Foghorn Leghorn: November,” “Cicero Pig: December.”Putting together a track list for this album must have been a dilemma. Mel Blanc himself performs twelve of the songs. The other eleven songs feature actor Gilbert Mack impersonating Blanc’s characters with varied results.
Gilbert Mack was an “original cartoon voice,” as the cover suggests, but not a Warner Brothers cartoon voice. He did quite a few voices for Famous Studios (coincidentally they include Moe Hare), Astro Boy and Filmation’s The New Adventures of Superman. For Golden Records fans, he was a very prominent presence, as he was also to listeners of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater.
But should Mack’s Bugs Bunny songs go on side one or side two? Putting his songs on side one might disappoint listeners who had trusted the claim of “original cartoon voices” on the album cover and record label. In the case of Mel Blanc—indisputable the “original cartoon voices” fellow, his birthday songs are very repetitive and highly specific. Whatever the reason, it was decided to put all the Mack songs on side one and the Blanc ones on side two.
Mack’s Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies songs are very much like those created for Hanna-Barbera characters, like Ruff and Reddy, Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw on Golden Records. The uncredited songwriters could be Mary Rodgers, Alec Wilder and/or Marshall Barer, who wrote countless ditties for the label in its early years.
Mack’s opening song, “What’s Up Doc?” is not the familiar one heard in the classic 1950 Warner cartoon. It’s a problem/solution song about facing situations by saying Bugs’ famous phrase, much like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” or “I Whistle a Happy Tune.” The song is separated into two parts because it originally appeared on two sides of a 78-RPM record.
Also presented in two parts is Charlie Tobias, Murray Mencher, and Eddie Cantor’s Merrily We Roll Along. Like “What’s Up Doc?” this tune requires Mack to do a “roll call” of Warner cartoon characters. The results are mixed of course, but some are much better than others. The uncredited arrangement for this particular rendition may be, as an educated guess, that of Dennis Farnon, who had recorded the superb Rocky and His Friends LP for Golden the same year. It does not sound like any of the other music on Bugs Bunny Songfest but has some instrumentation reminiscent of the Rocky album.
The oddest song on side one is “Porky and Petunia Pig,” because it has nothing to do with the Looney Tunes canon. Rather, it’s about how Bugs and Daffy, totally out of character, make fun of Porky and his love for Petunia.
“Bugs Bunny, Engineer” is interesting because it’s one of a handful of Golden discs recorded with the Arthur Norman Chorus—which I suspect might be a pseudonym for Norman Luboff. The singing and instrumentation on this song, all the birthday songs on side two, and many Mickey Mouse Club Golden Records are very similar in tone.
Speaking of Mel Blanc’s birthday songs on side two, they all have a rigid format. Each starts with the chorus repeating “Happy Birthday” (not the familiar version), followed by Mel Blanc as the featured character. The lyrics assigned random aspects of personality to each month, like good grooming, luck, being studious and responsible, and so on. These songs are very much like Jimmie Dodd’s “Doddism” proverb tunes from the Mickey Mouse Club.
The songs may be the work of later-to-be-Oscared Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who wrote songs for the original lands at Disneyland that Golden released as singles and Mattel sold on giant fold-out, cut-them-yourself printed sheets. These recordings surely were not intended for mere relegation to side two of an album. There was a proliferation of paper sound sheet records sold as greeting cards in the early ‘60s, so these might have been planned—or maybe even used—for such products.
If the songs were never released anywhere outside this LP (which is unknown to me), it may have been because if you got just one of these for your birthday and it wasn’t your favorite character, cue the whining. While it’s cool that Ollie “I Love to Singa” Owl represents April, some might have wished they had Bugs for their month—but he’s tied, for no apparent reason, to September. And why did they deny Pepe LePew the month with Valentine’s Day? Sacre bleu!
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Bugs and Friends Happy Birthday Songs”
It’s the whole Blanc year, all wrapped together and tied up with a bow. Happy Tuesday!