September 24, 2017 posted by James Parten

Sing Me A Cartoon #11: More Mickey Melody

Ann Ronell was surely a busy woman in the summer of 1933.

She was just coming off the mild success of “Willow Weep For Me” which was widely covered by the surviving record companies. And she was also busy writing the full lyric (two verses to go along with the chorus) for “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf”.

Turns out that the Wolf was not her only connection with Disney.

“Mickey Mouse And Minnie’s In Town” rolls off the tongue a little clumsy–and it was not nearly the hit that “Who’s Afraid. . . ” would turn out to be.

Only two record labels covered this song. And they selected two orchestras whose leaders could hardly have been more different.

Victor gave it to the orchestra of Don Bestor, a self-effacing Midwesterner who had come East for good only the year before, after establishing himself in Chicago. Bestor’s records are not collected particularly widely, as the band had no particular style to it. They played the melody with enough rhythm for dancing–but without any sense of orchestral color.

Fortunately, for this performance, they depended on vocalists to take much of the three minutes or so allotted to this piece. Although the files indicate several vocalists, including trumpeter Charles “Ducky’ Yontz, most of the singing is taken up with Frank Sherry and the DeMarco Girls.

Sherry is an unknown quantity, but the DeMarcos had a long career in New York radio. At this time, they were a trio–but by the middle-to-late 1940’s, they’d become a quintet, and were appearing regularly on Fred Allen’s show for Tender Leaf Tea.

Six days before Bestor led his troops into a New York studio, Ben Bernie brought his twelve-piece orchestra, plus an extra vocalist, into a Chicago studio to cut “Mickey Mouse And Minnie’s In Town” for Columbia.

Bernie’s outgoing personality carries the record, as he takes the vocal refrain. He is abetted by one “Whistlin'” Pullem, who was a regular feature of his Tuesday night broadcasts for Blue Ribbon Malt Syrup–and would continue wen it became once again Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.

Again lyrics take up much of the space. It can be argued that All the Lads don’t have a lot to do.

In due course, I’m going to be writing more about Ben Bernie and the cartoons that took off on him.

As the years went on, while “Who’s Afraid. . . ?” became a Disney standard, “Mickey Mouse And Minnie’s In Town” was virtually forgotten.

At least, that was the case until 1966.

“Camp” was all the rage. The “Batman” TV series was pulling in ratings the like of which ABC had not seen previously. The “Doc Savage” pulp novels of the 1930’s were coming out in paperback on a monthly basis.

And, from old-time radio to old-time comics, popular culture of the past generations was becoming “hip”–at least, for the nonce~

Tower Records–a subsidiary of the mighty Capitol label–put out an album called “Supercamp” which consisted of nine songs of the 1920’s and 1930’s, plus one ringer that tried to sound as though it were written at the time. It was credited–when one could find the credits–to Goodwin “Goody” Goodload And The Frostonia Ballroom Orchestra”.

The record is engineered in a manner most strange: The orchestra is recorded with all “top” and “bottom” removed from the sound,, producing a mid–rangy sound that somebody must have thought typical of 1930’s recordings. The vocals–which are clearly dubbed over the orchestral “beds:–sound like modern high-fidelity or stereo, vintage 1966.

The orchestral arrangements and playing suggest the kind of orchestra that would play at a very small-town dance pavilion–the kind of gig whee only two bands came by to audition, and this was the winner.

The selections include one other toony melody–“I’m Popeye The Sailor Man”, with special lyrics. At least they are not the “schoolyard” lyrics that could get a kid’s mouth washed out with soap if a figure of authority ever heard hem!

Next: Some of the rarest children’s records known.


  • I have the Mickey Mouse song on my iPod, performed theater organist Rob Richards. The album title is showing as “Rob Richards at the El Capitan” and I know I’ve got the physical CD around somewhere, but I’m not finding it online.

  • The Bestor version was released on a 1991 CD titled “Tunes from the Tunes” released by ProArte Digital.

  • James, I just wanted to join the chorus of others in saying how great this current Mickey series of NeedleDrops continues to be. It’s true that “Mickey Mouse and Minnie’s in Town” is a rarity/oddity, at times an exercise in forced lyrics, but where else to hear the line: “Minnie’s Mickey is cute and freaky!” Thanks for leading us through these mousetracks.

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