One of the things that is often said about “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?” is that Americans took it to heart,as a gesture of defiance against the Depression that had sent the economy into such a tailspin.
Turns out it wasn’t just us Yanks!
When Three Little Pigs opened up in Great Britain, the British people went for it just as strongly as the Americans had done.
And Britain’s dance bands were right and ready to pick up on the Frank Churchill-Ann Ronell jingle.
In fact, it appears that none of the British record labels (of which there were plenty) simply imported the American masters to which they were heir. Instead, they had London-based orchestras and singers recording the number.
The bands ranged from well-established orchestras (Ambrose, Billy Cotton, Henry Hall, Jack Payne), solid middle-level attractions (The Barnstormers, Sidney Lipton), up-and-comers (Lew Stone, Ray Noble), and studio combinations (Harry Bidgood, Jay Wilbur, Nat Star).
And it didn’t seem to matter if the “vocal refrain” were taken by a studio vocalist such as Sam Browne, a music-hall//variety artists such as Charles Penrose, or one or more members of the orchestra–the song gave them a chance to horse around, try out falsetto voices and other noises, and, generally, give the impression that they were having a good time.
On the Continent, it was much the same.
Whether it was France, Germany, or wherever, Three Little Pigs played to appreciative audiences. Even though the Depression didn’t hut them as badly as it did Americans (only because Europe didn’t have as far to fall!), the simple message of the cartoon–and of the song–resonated.
The cartoon would often be dubbed into the local language, whatever it be. And the song would lave new lyrics set in the local language as well.
In France, the song wound up with two sets of lyrics, both from the same French lyricists. One, “Qui Craint Le Grand Mechant Loup”, was a more-or-less direct translation of Ann Ronell’s text. The other “Prenez-garde Au Grand Mechant Loup” is supposed to be a more “adult” lyric.
Between February and December, 1934, no fewer than twenty-seven different versions of the song were released by French record companies. Twenty-three of them featured “Qui Craint…”, while four used “Prenez-garde. .. . ”
There were vocal records by music-hall stars, and by the newfangled “crooners”. There were dance versions by large orchestras, such as one might see in a theater or hear o the radio. There were dance versions also by small “musette” combinations, built around the musette accordion.
Research has yet to show if anything came out of Spain, or Italy, or the Netherlands, or Poland–all countries with record-industries large enough for permanent studios.
Next week: Mickey!