NEEDLE DROP NOTES
November 5, 2017 posted by James Parten

Sing Me A Cartoon #17: Turning the Paige

As 1933 turned into 1934, Walt Disney and his various people were enjoying the success of The Three Little Pigs. Even more, they were enjoying it when the royalty checks started rolling in.

Disney, and those around him realized one thing. While it was not a wise idea to “follow pigs with pigs”. . . one could follow songs with songs.

There were a few more “Silly Symphonies” that had jingles already written into their musical scores. All they needed was to be fleshed out into fully-fledged songs, as might be played on the radio and on phonograph records.

The efforts were not nearly as successful as the Lupine Lullaby had been. But it was not for want of effort. Ann Ronell seems to have decided to return to New York–assuming she’d ever left the Metropolis in the first place.

Fortunately, Disney found a capable lyricist in a young man who was just getting started. His name was Larry Morey. And Disney did not have to rely entirely on Frank Churchill for their melodies. The firm retained a young man who had been working in radio both in San Francisco and in Los Angeles. His name was Leigh Harline.

While these songs did not get as widely covered as the melody from “The Three Little Pigs”, one record company showed considerable interest in the numbers.

Frank Churchill and Larry Morey

Victor had a permanent studio in Hollywood, and did a goodly number of recordings there–Mexican songs, Hawaiian melodies, private records for various uses of the movie industry–and occasional commercial releases by dance bands or jazz orchestras.

So, Victor was interested when they were able to cover songs from the latest “Silly Symphonies”. If they were half so successful as “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?”, it would be worth Victor’s while.

To cut these sides, Victor turned to a bandleader whose orchestra may have been intimately familiar with these selections.

The bandleader was Raymond Paige.

Paige had signed with Victor, and, during 1934 and 1935 had a baker’s dozen sides issued on the still-prestigious “scroll” Victor black label. (One other side was made, but was never issued.) Of these sides, three were songs derived from “Silly Symphonies:” cartoons.

Raymond Paige

As I mentioned before, Raymond Paige signed with Victor Records in the spring of 1934. During that year and the next, he recorded fourteen selections for Victor, of which all but one were issued.

Most of them are songs from Hollywood’s musical features, arranged elaborately for a twenty-three piece orchestra.

Four of the selections were from Walt Disney’s “Silly Symphonies” cartoons.

According to the Victor files (as quoted at the American Discography of Historical Records, the labels announced that “Original Cartoon Voices”were used.

Thus, while the verses–the expository sections of the songs–were handled by a lightweight local vocal group called the Three Rhythm Kings, both “The Wise Little Hen” and “The Grasshopper And The Ants” benefit from the same personnel as are heard on the film soundtracks.

Thus, on “The Wise Little Hen”, we get Annette Mills clucking away, as she would wen she essayed the role of Clara Cluck. (In fact, her cluck is the first thing we hear on the record.) What’s more, Clarence Nash cements his position at the Disney studio, delivering both the grunts of Peter Pig and the quacks of Donald Duck–as he did on the cartoon’s soundtrack.

On “The Grasshopper And The Ants”, the voice of Pinto Colvig is heard, expectorations and all. The imperious voice of the Ant Queen is missed–as is her reassuring playfulness when she hands the Grasshopper back his fiddle.

The label on this side also has a credit to a “F. Mills” as arranger. That was unusual practice at the time–but Felix Mills proved to be up to the job.

Four months later, Paige brought another group of nearly two dozen cleffers from Local 47, American Federation of Musicians, to the Victor studio, to record three more good pop tunes of the day–and two more sides from “Silly Symphonies” cartoons.

Unfortunately, only one of the two–“You’re Nothing But A Nothing”, from The Flying Mouse –was issued.

The files do not indicate that there’s a credit to “original cartoon voices”–but it would appear that the voice of Brother Bat from the cartoon is head here.

Billy Sheets did the voice in the cartoon–and it is, more than likely, he that gets to do it here. In the original short, Brother Bat is joined in song by four of his fellow bats–with a male quartet (NOT the Three Rhythm Kings) joining in the derisive song.

On the record, Sheets gets to do almost all the heavy lifting here–and proves himself capable of the task. In fact, one gets the impression that, if the “Popeye” shorts had been made out here,and not in New York, that Sheets would have had a lock on the voice of the Sailor Man.

Mention should also be made of the arrangement, which is not credited on the label. It’s bright and perky, and has a wealth of orchestral color. Whoever did the “chart”–and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it turned out to be Felix Mills–even found a good use for the new-fangled electric steel guitar.

Another side, “Peculiar Penguins” was never issued. We have no way of knowing if a metal part exists in the Victor vaults. A “Ken Mules” is credited with the “vocal refrain” in the files.

Curiously there is a discrepancy between the Victor files and the Copyright listing for the song. The files list Frank Churchill as composer. The Copyright entry gives composer credit to Leigh Harline. At lest they both give the credit for the lyrics to Larry Morey.

Next Week: Trying, trying again!

(I want to give extra-special thanks to Brad Kay, who fixed the selections up so that they cold be included in this Post. He did his usual splendid job.)

1 Comment

  • “You’re Nothing But A Nothing” was also recorded by Victor Young on Decca #280- which is a hot dance band arrangement of the song with pop singer Paul Small singing the lyric.

    HS

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