NEEDLE DROP NOTES
December 2, 2018 posted by James Parten

Mel Doesn’t Shoot Blancs

Perhaps the best thing that ever happened to Mel Blanc was when, in lieu of a pay increase, he was given screen credit on the Warner Bros. cartoons.

He was already busy with cartoon work, was getting more radio work,and had even recorded with Spike Jones on “Clink Clink, Another Drink” (later reissued as “The Clink Clink Polka”).

With the name recognition came more radio work, ranging from hosting a quiz for AFRS (“Are You A Genius?”) to his own network situation comedy (“The Mel Blanc Show” in 1946-47).

And record work was not far behind, either.

Mel signed with Capitol in 1948, and, once the “second Petrillo ban” ended, Capitol got busy–and got Mel busy. Capitol was heavily engaged in the field of children’s records. When they signed a deal to do “kidiscs” (as the trade called them) based on the Warner Bros. cartoon characters, Capitol went to the source.

Cartoon writers wrote the stories and song lyrics. And Mel Blanc–along with Arthur Q. Bryan and others–provided the “voice characterizations” necessary. At the time, “Billboard” was keeping a chart of the top-selling childrens’ records.

Research is still to be done. But, from what I have seen of these charts, Capitol’s children’s discs–including those by Mel Blanc–were frequently at or near the top of these charts.

Let us concern ourselves with two releases in Capitol’s domestic popular series, rather than in their children’s series. (Greg Ehrbar did a wonderful overview of Blanc’s Capitol Woody Woodpecker children’s records here).

Capitol took out a full page of “Billboard” every week to tout their new releases, and to point to their records that were already hits.

The December 9th, 1950 issue includes such an ad–which touts a new release by Mel Blanc and he Starlighters–“The Woody Woodpecker Polka”. You can’t blame the people at the Walter Lantz studio for hoping that lightning would strike twice. But it didn’t happen with Capitol 1330.

Polka was as as big in popular music as it was going to get. Every year, there would be at least one polka that would grab the attention of the cash customers, whether it was “Too Far Polka” or “Hoop Dee Doo”.

Mel’s main contribution to the piece was his “Woody Woodpecker” laugh–and that could just as easily have been dubbed in from the earlier hit record. The fidelity of the laughs suggests that this was actually the case–is is much lower than the Starlighters’ vocal or the orchestral accompaniment.

Lantz co-operated, by putting out a cartoon entitled “The Woody Woodpecker Polka”, and by employing the Starlighters to sing the song over the opening titles. They even got credit on the title card of the cartoon, which was a nice touch.

But, as I said, the record was not a hit.

Next Week: The other single, “I Taut I Taw A Hit”

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