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September 8, 2015 posted by

Hanna-Barbera’s “Cattanooga Cats” & “The Impossibles”

Of these well-remembered pop-themed Saturday Morning H-B series, only one resulted in a commercially released soundtrack album. Which one, and why?

CattanoogaLPFront-600

CATTANOOGA CATS
Original Music from the Hanna-Barbera–ABC-TV Show
Forward Records ST-F-1018 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Stereo)

Released in 1969. TV Series Producer/Directors: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Music Producers/Songwriters: Mike Curb, Michael Lloyd. Musical Director: Mike Curb. Vocalists: Peggy Clinger, Michael Lloyd, Mike Curb, Peggy Larey. Running Time: 22 minutes.

Songs: (Click each title to hear) “Cattanooga Cats Theme”, “Mother May I”, “How Did I Ever Get So Lucky?”, “Wait a Minute for Country”, “My Group Has Too Many Cavities”, “Alle Alle Oxen Free”, “Country Carnival”, “Johnny Johnny Jump Up”, “My Girlfriend is a Witch”, “My Birthday Suit”, “Merry Go ‘Round”.

Cattanooga Cats was an interesting hybrid of Hanna-Barbera’s early “package” shows, in which three or more cartoons combined into one program, named for the “host” character in the first cartoon (Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla, Atom Ant); the hour format of the previous year’s The Banana Splits; and the unbridled success of Filmation’s The Archie Show, both as Saturday morning competition and the opportunity for hit records.

H-B never launched an animated band as successful or influential as The Archies, though their Josie and the Pussycats (itself an Archie comics franchise) is arguably the runner up. ABC also wanted a share of the Archie formula. Put it all together with some of the most interesting pop-art graphics to come from 3400 Cahuenga Blvd (plus a good dose of Laugh-In grooviness) and you have Cattanooga Cats.

The hour featured the band in cartoons, short segments and song sequences, plus three other cartoons: “Around the World in 79 Days”, “Motormouse and Autocat” and the most memorable one, “It’s the Wolf”—changing the Hanna-Barbera staple of cats and mice to a wolf and sheep, each delightfully voiced by Daws Butler and Paul Lynde, respectively.

Back cover of the LP - Click To Enlarge

Back cover of the LP – Click To Enlarge

Musically, H-B turned to influential music entrepreneur Mike Curb, who among other things, led a vocal group The Mike Curb Congregation that performed independently (“Burning Bridges”, “Sweet Gingerbread Man”) and as back up for singing stars like Sammy Davis, Jr. (“The Candy Man”) and presided over MGM Records, later going into politics and becoming Lieutenant Governor of California.

Curb brought in composer/producer/singer Michael Lloyd, whom he had made VP of Artists & Repertoire at MGM Records. Lloyd had a vast musical resume for film, TV and records before and after Cattanooga Cats, and was contributed to Saturday morning music through the Krofft series Far Out Space Nuts and The Lost Saucer.

There is a distinctive style to the Cattanooga Cats’ songs—a modest, simple quasi-garage band style (with the exception of “Merry Go-Round”, as mentioned below). Almost every song on the album starts with a swift drumbeat and continues in a pulsing rhythm (perhaps to assist in animation timing and production efficiency). There is a juvenile angle to the music and the lyrics overall, though there is one exception.

That would be My Birthday Suit, a spritely little dance tune about a happy naked lady. Even though Hanna-Barbera’s visualization of the song aimed the meaning at a literal birthday party, there are no two ways about it.

It’s a song Doctor Demento would have—or probably did—play on his radio show. As a matter of fact, the song did receive local novelty hit status in 1984, when rock station South Florida WSHE pretended it was a “secret” record by Vanessa Williams, who was at the center of controversy when nude photos of her resurfaced.

Hanna-Barbera solved the “Birthday Suit” connotations by depicting the Cattanooga Cats and small children. If toddler Shirley Temple could be seen doing the hula topless, why couldn’t Kitty Jo? Pressure groups were descending on Saturday morning in the late ’60s, yet there’s been no talk of a Cattanooga Cats Controversy.

H-B, Curb and Lloyd must have been counting on chart success for the music. This album offers only eleven songs, leaving a hefty handful for at least one more LP had the concept taken off. It did not, but what’s left is an entertaining piece of cartoon bubblegum with its own specific voice and far-out grooviness.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Merry Go-Round”
This song stands out among the others on the album for several reasons. The orchestration is richer, including strings, brass and woodwinds (and a slightly more Hanna-Barbera-ish sound). The vocals are unlike those on the other tracks. And most strikingly of all, this is a very touching, melancholy song about growing up and wistfully longing for the past. Despite it’s bouncy rhythm, the arrangement packs a dramatic punch, especially during the lyrics “Soon enough will come December/And then you shall remember”.

For the animated version of “Merry Go-Round”, Hanna-Barbera used some interesting designs. It can even be surmised that the visuals do indeed support the moody lyrics. Note that, while there’s an overall emphasis on the usual frolic, there are virtually no shots of the Cats during the darker lyrics. Instead, there are obscuring clouds, then a full moon, and a close up of a horse’s eye. Maybe that’s over analyzing. It’s not an Ingmar Bergman film. Still, any number of images could have been chosen over these. Specific discussions must have taken place about the visual treatment of these songs, as opposed to, say, “Alle Alle Oxen Free”, which consists of little more than graphics and color patterns.


charactersheet

Hanna-Barbera’s THE IMPOSSIBLES:
“Hey You (Hiddy Hiddy Hoo)” & “She Couldn’t Dance”
Hanna-Barbera Records BN-8/9
(Test Pressing / Mono / 1966 / Running Time: 3.5 minutes)

Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles came to TV just as Hanna-Barbera’s short-lived but long-cherished record label was winding down. The series combined the Johnny Socko-like adventures of a kid genius and his giant robot with the misadventures of a rock band that doubled as a super hero team.

The music for The Impossibles was cut from the same cloth as “The Hanna-Barbera Singers” heard on the HBR “Cartoon Series” records and The Way-Outs on The Flintstones, very likely recorded during the same time period with studio musician/vocalists that included Ron Hicklin, Al Capps and Stan Farber.

The Beatles had only become a worldwide phenomenon two years before, The Monkees were just starting to ascend and The Archies were two years away. Nobody knew what would hit big, so The Impossibles must have seemed to have as good a chance to top the TV ratings and music charts as any. But unlike Cattanooga Cats, The Impossibles did not have a music business mogul like Mike Curb championing it. While that never happened anywhere but in a parallel universe, this would be far from Hanna-Barbera’s last attempt.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Hey You (Hiddy Hiddy Hoo)” & “She Couldn’t Dance”

This ten-inch test pressing serves as evidence that the TV soundtrack album of The Impossibles was planned, especially since the disc has the HBR label. Whether or not the other songs were pressed, I cannot say, but perhaps this was also used to attract another label to release the songs. (click thumbnails to enlarge)

HeyYouInPS-750HeyYouVinyl-750SheCouldntDanceInPS-600SheCouldntDanceVinyl-600

28 Comments

  • I have to admit loving “The Impossibles” when I was about six or so, though at that age I do remember wondering just where Coil Man’s legs went when he transformed into a superhero.

    Didn’t the first season of “Scooby-Doo”, incidentally, have bubble-gum Archies-like pop songs playing in the background in the chase scenes? That must have been a holdover from the “Mysteries Five” concept, in which the kids were supposed to be part of a pop group.

    • Hi Rachel,

      The second season of “Scooby-Do, Where Are You” featured songs over the final chase sequences, just like “Josie and the Pussycats”. The songs were released on a CD called “Scooby Doo Snack Tracks”. It was always puzzling as to why there were pop tunes and yet there was no sign of a band. Maybe your theory about “Mysteries Five” addresses that puzzle–perhaps songs were written for the show before it changed formats and the leftover songs were just tossed in anyway.

      What instruments would Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby play? (“And I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for you rocking’ and rollin’ kids!”)

      We touched on this in a previous post:
      http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/casey-kasems-scooby-doo-records/

    • I like to see Scoob as the drummer personally.

  • Greg:
    Another interesting post! The singing’s good,and I”m pretty sure the Impossibles sountrack would have been a fairly solid seller. Oh well,we’ll never really know. The Cattanooga Cats lyrics did sound a tad melnancholy for bubblegum music,but it was still well done!

  • Were the “It’s the Wolf” and “Motormouse and Autocat” cartoons recycled on another series? I remember those two, but have no memory of “Around the World in 79 Days or “Cattanooga Cats.”

    • As a matter of fact, during the 1970-71 season, Cattanooga Cats would be split into two half-hours on Sunday mornings, with the masthead series including Around the World in 79 Days (itself a loose retelling of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days) and Motormouse and Autocat (including It’s The Wolf!).

      Hence, such would not be rebroadcast until the Boomerang package on Cartoon Network (later being hived off in its own right) came along, whence the full-hour version of Cattanooga Cats was presented.

      (As a matter of fact, there were only nine conventional episodes of the Cattanooga Cats produced, with emphasis in the later episodes shifting unto gag shorts and music videos.)

    • The way the series was set up, it kinda made me think of “Animaniacs” with a rather large group of characters that were in their own cartoon segments within the show, but of course that sort of thing has been around for a long time.

  • And, of course, was the last series with Ed Benedict’s classic character designs.

  • Yes, for the 1970-71 season Motormouse was spun-off into his own half-hour show, consisting of reruns of the “Motormouse and Autocat” and “It’s the Wolf” segments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sekD9vccn28

  • What’s particularly interesting about “My Birthday Suit” is that such was originally written for the low-budget, monochrome even, soft-porn comedy Jennie: Wife/Child (1968; later reissued as Albert Peckingpaw’s Revenge). How that tune would wind up on Saturday-morning kidvid (and with the same lyrics, besides) is anybody’s guess.

    Not to mention the Mike Curb musical stable also contributing three other selections to the Cattanooga Cats’ ur-repretoire:

    *“Cold Wisconsin Night (Sittin’ by the Fireside)”, originally recorded by The American Revolution; and
    *“I Wish I Was A Fire” and “My Girlfriend Is A Witch,” both from October Country.

    (BTW, “Cold Wisconsin Night” and “I Wish I Was A Fire” were essentially TV-only recordings. And know, the videos I’ve linked to were recorded off the TV, so it’s likely the audio quality may not be as good as expected.)

    And was it true that the British version of Boomerang, before going to full-time (24-hour) programming, aired Cattanooga Cats music segments (howbeir anonymously, as it were) just before closing down at midnight?

    • H-Besque: I had a feeling that there was more to the “Birthday Suit” story…thanks for the information. This is the song as seen in the movie (parental discretion is advised):
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n2GiLVmCWs

      Naughty, naughty, Hanna-Barbera.

      There is so much information to learn about all this stuff! It never ends.

    • Oh to be a 10 year old in those free-willing years and not get it at all!

    • There’s no mystery to “My Birthday Suit” showing up in CATTANOOGA CATS: Curb and Lloyd co-wrote the song for the movie so, I assume, Curb simply thought he could recycle it for the cartoon show, albeit with a much more innocent take on the lyrics.

  • Speaking of HB musicals, Warner Archive is offering the “Jack and the Beanstalk” TV special by its lonesome, while another disc has a motley of one-shots:
    — “Oliver and the Artful Dodger” (an unofficial sequel to the musical “Oliver”, with some songs. Think it was originally a two-part “Saturday Superstar Movie”)
    –“Robin Hoodnik” (Another “Saturday Superstar Movie”; a very loose comedy with a “Hong Kong Phooey” vibe)
    — “The Last of the Curlews” (a naturalistic Afterschool Special)
    — “The Three Musketeers” and “Cyrano” (straight versions, albeit sanitized and shortened. Part of a bigger series of literary adaptations?)

    Think Mr. Ehrbar previously reported that “What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This” is not likely to appear due to rights/price dispute over Sammy Davis Jr.’s voice. Anybody know if “Rock Odyssey” will ever be released?

    • Glad anything to released at all DBenson (and I wasn’t paying attention to Warner Archive’s releases but glad to see they released those).

    • Just pre-ordered both of them. Keeping my fingers crossed for Alice; you never know how these things work out. Maybe Cattanooga Cats will get an Archive release too; maybe there are music rights to address.

  • Wow, this column request is even better than I expected. You done good, Greg.

    THE CATTANOOGA CATS fit right in with the other new “hippie trippy” programs on the 1969-70 Saturday A.M. schedule – HERE COMES THE GRUMP, H.R. PUFNSTUF, THE HARDY BOYS, and THE PINK PANTHER SHOW. All emphasizing kiddie-friendly psychedelic imagery and lighthearted entertainment, while eschewing or downplaying the “violence” that had caused cartoons to come under fire from pressure groups previously.

    In addition to “My Birthday Suit”, one other song that could also be considered to have a more adult context is “Children Understand It” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yb4EEakyNGU which makes a case for not underestimating the perceptive abilities of youngsters. “Can’t do anything / ’cause they’ll find out / Before you know it / they’re up and about”.

    Come on, Warner Archives, let’s get this show out on DVD.

    • Thanks, Top Cat — happy to oblige. Thanks for the great idea..

    • 1969 seemed like such a pinnacle year for this sort of thing, at least wanting to try a few things before the 70’s came by to stop it.

  • It’s fun thinking, despite sneaking the tune into the show, of the 11 songs that were picked for that fateful LP, “My Birthday Suit” made the (vinyl) cut! Yet, nobody batted an eye over that!


    • …Even though Hanna-Barbera’s visualization of the song aimed the meaning at a literal birthday party, there are no two ways about it.

      It’s a song Doctor Demento would have—or probably did—play on his radio show. As a matter of fact, the song did receive local novelty hit status in 1984, when rock station South Florida WSHE pretended it was a “secret” record by Vanessa Williams, who was at the center of controversy when nude photos of her resurfaced.

      Did WSHE play the Cattanooga Cats version, or the original such from the Jennie: Wife/Child soundtrack (itself recorded by Lydia Marcelle), as far as we know? (If it was the former, we could just imagine how 3400 Cahuenga reacted.)

      As for the Dr. Demento angle: Sadly, a check of the Dr. Demento Playlist Search shows that neither version of “My Birthday Suit” was ever played on the programme.

  • Having written the bulk of the King Features-produced Sat. morning The Beatles — at that time, the Number One cartoon show– I was summoned to H’wood to write the pilot (plus subsequent episodes) of The Impossibles, a series idea “created” by Joe Barbera. It was a not-too-well-thought-out mix of the Beatles as super-heroes.
    If I recall correctly, I also wrote the pilot for Frankenstein, Jr. — another Barbera creation.

  • These are good. They certainly were not “mailed-in” [perfromances].

  • @Chris Sobienak
    WSHE played the Cattanooga Cats version.

    • Thanks, Greg, for clearing up that issue.

      Now if there were aircheck recordings available of at least one instance of WSHE so playing, that would be rather impressive all the more.

      Meanwhile: Isn’t it interesting to know where Kitty Jo actually looks similar, in terms of dress and hair, to Daphne Blake on Scooby-Doo, as aired that same season (howbeit on CBS), right down to the same midnight-blue shade of blouse, the same chartreuse scarf and the same red hair?

  • Mr. Mendelsohn:
    It’s an honor to see you here..As formulaic as The Impossibles were, it was one of my favorites when I was about 9 or 10..Still enjoy it today for the great voice work..

  • I have long figured that the Impossibles’ songs had been pre-recorded in full for the series, but they never got around to releasing them, considering the songs have stopped in various stages of length in the show (I hope that makes sense, because I don’t know how else to explain it), and the two found here are just the proof. I’m guessing the other songs are either on a tape locked up in a vault somewhere, or lost to time, and I’m guessing, had the series lasted longer, an actual soundtrack album would have been released, but considering I wasn’t born yet when the series first aired, I have absolutely no idea, and these are just musings from probably an overly obsessed Impossibles fangirl.

  • Meanwhile, over on RateYourMusic.com, the album got a rating of 2.92 based on nine ratings thereof.

    As well, there were three reviews: “PROGROCKASAURUS” (three stars) offers these notes:


    … Roughly comparable to the Archies, it’s (..mostly) all bubblegum with a brief detour into a country-ish rock sound for a couple of tracks, and a slight, very occassional “Sgt Pepper” vibe every now and then. “Alle Alle Oxen Free” is the strongest track on this…a great, if forgotten, bubblegum classic. Some lyrical innuendo here is kind of risque for a kids series but consistent with a lot of other Bubblegummy material, which had catchy music for the kids, as well as “nudge nudge wink wink” lyrical content only adults would pick up on.

    A great deal more material exists, but has never been released legitimately. I’ve seen a listing for a 2006 Bootleg with many of those unreleased tracks…(“She’s Sure Got Soul” looks like one of the best of them).

    [***]

    ….one day someone will have to explain to me what use all this material is sitting in the vault, when the generation that grew up with it and would most enjoy it and appreciate it, is getting older by the day and will probably never again get to hear it again. You could easily attach the lot as a bonus music disc with a DVD reissue of the animated series without too much of a hassle…you’d think.

    As you might have guessed, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for this show and it’s music…it’s one of the earliest TV shows of any description I remember liking, and it be nice to have a collection of these tracks (..and the unreleased, TV only music material..) somewhere, in decent fidelity again.

    “EugenOhnland” gives this two stars, with these comments (original from German; translated via Google Translate, and I apologise for the quality thereof):


    Bubblegum Pop, brutal designed for the youngest, defenseless, innocent crowd between five and twelve years. So to be ever completely OK and very interesting. But then merciless three-chord Brass, quickly cobbled together the whole, something lalalala-Background and ready. So in order to bring it short and sweet (like the songs on this album) to the point: Mist retort, possibly interesting for people who have grown up with this [N4BSK] – or even the series with a special childhood memories connect. Otherwise forgettable and superfluous.

    Out tip: “Wait a minute for Country”

    Buy recommendation: Only for bubblegum pop afficionados. Otherwise, definitely stay away!

    Finally, “RDTEN1” gives it a four-star review, with these comments:

    ,i>
    I’m not quite sure why I’m so attracted to Saturday morning television show albums like The Cattanooga Cats. I never saw the original series (my family was living overseas and the show was available locally), so I guess I’m suffering from a mid-life crises where I’m trying to recapture my youth, or it has something to do with my affection for the bubblegum pop genre …

    [***]

    As with The Banana Splits, Hanna-Barbera quickly began marketing tie-ins, including a 1969 album. Released by the Forward label, “Cattanooga Cats Original Music From the Hanna-Barbera ABC TV Show” was co-produced by Mike Curb (he also co-wrote all of the songs) and Michael Lloyd. Peggy Clinger (of Clinger Sisters fame) and Lloyd were also brought in to handle the vocals. Lloyd turned in some nice performances on his numbers, reflecting a pop side not heard on his earlier work, but the real surprise was Clinger who had one of those warm and instantly likeable voices that managed to salvage even the lamest material. Musically these eleven track were all pop oriented, though with some surprisingly adult-orientated lyrics (check out ‘Mother May I’, ‘Alle Alle Oxen Free’, and ‘My Birthday Suit’). I’ve seen a couple of reviews underscore the set’s supposed country-rock influences. Let me just say those comments are grossly exaggerated. True, tracks like ‘Wait a Minute for Country’ and ‘Country Carnival’ had a slight country tinge, but for the most part this was straight ahead bubblegum pop that was ever bit as good as material being churned out by bubblegum kings Jerry Kazentez and Jeff Katz.

    Whereupon follows a track-by-track analysis:


    – One of the album’s most radio-ready songs, ‘Mother May I’ was a classic slice of bubblegum pop. Bouncy and upbeat (loved the la-la-la-la backing vocals), with one of those sly lyrics, this one should have been a major hit. Easy to see why it was tapped as a single. Wonder why the single added a question mark to the title … rating: **** stars
    – Spotlighting Peggy Clinger’s likeable voice, ‘How Did I Ever Get so Lucky’ offered up a quirky blend of 1960s girls group and power pop moves. To my ears the song always sounded like it was recorded a tad too fast, but it had a great melody and I’ve always loved the hyperactive bass pattern that kicked it along. rating: **** stars
    – I’ve seen ‘Wait a Minute for Country’ described as an early-stab into country-rock … Not really. This one was a pretty conventional slice of top-40 pop. Actually almost a little MOR-ish, it was pleasant, but not one of the standout performances. rating: *** stars
    – The American Dental Association probably thought ‘My Group Has Too Many Cavities’ was hysterical. This one actually did sport a country-tinged melody.
    – While it wasn’t exactly in the running for a Pulitzer Prize, ‘Alle Alle Oxen Free’ did stand as a classic slice of bubblegum pop; easily as good as anything in the Katenetz-Katz catalog. My pick as the best song on side one and should have been tapped as a single since it would have given The Archies a major run for their money. rating: ***** stars
    – Serving as the show’s opening theme, ‘Cattanooga Cats Theme’ was criminally catchy. My only complaint was that clocking in at just over a minute the song was way too short. rating: **** stars
    – As you guess from the title, ‘Country Carnival’ was another country-tinged number, though the supporting guitar almost made up for the other shortcomings. rating: *** stars
    – Literally nothing more than a string of nursery rhyme-styled phrases strung together with a throwaway melody, ‘Johnny Johnny Jump-Up’ epitamised the worst aspects of bubblegum rock and was the album’s biggest disappointment. rating: ** stars
    – In spite of the ominous title, ‘My Girl Friend Is a Witch’ wasn’t particularly threatening, but it was easily the album’s oddest offering and found Lloyd and company pursuing a darker, more rock oriented sound. Surprisingly enjoyable, though I bet some parents were surprised to hear this one. rating: **** stars
    – Clearly tongue-in-cheek, ‘My Birthday Suit’ was a totally fun song. And you thought it was smutty … rating: **** stars
    – Musically there wasn’t much to ‘Merry Go ‘Round’ but even though she didn’t sound entirely comfortable in the upper register, Clinger again managed to give the song considerable energy. rating: *** stars

    Conclusion (which is probablt the verdict of many of us):


    One of my favorite ‘cartoon’ albums, though this one is surprisingly hard to locate.

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