Walt and his people must have realized that they had a certifiable hit on their hands with Mickey Mouse.
The first four cartoons in this series had been released on a ‘state’s rights’ basis, and had done so well in that sphere that they managed to get an offer from one of the smaller “major” studios: Columbia Pictures. One can but wonder if Disney appreciated the irony that the same studio that was handling his productions was also handling those of Charles Mintz–whose wife, Margartet J. Winkler, had so unceremoniously pulled the rug out from under Disney just two short years previously.
By this time, the “Mickey Mouse” shorts had a theme song–a deliberately corny, purposefully rustic opus called “Minnie’s Yoo-Hoo”. The composers were Walt Disney and Carl Stalling and the song was introduced in Mickey’s Follies (1929).
The name of “Leo Zollo” is just as much a mystery to die-hard record collectors as it is to everybody else. Most heavyweight collectors saw the listing in Brian Rust’s “American Dance Band Discography” and wondered what kind of recording it was.
In this embed below you’ll hear “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo” (1930) by Leo Zollo & his Orchestra, plus “What! No Mickey Mouse?” (1932) by Ben Bernie & his Orchestra and “Mickey’s Son and Daughter” (1935) by Henry Hall & The BBC Dance Orchestra – the latter two I’ll be discussing in due course.
The Zollo Yoo-Hoo recording was made in June, 1930. But, instead of releasing it on their expensive Brunswick or Vocalion marques, priced at seventy-five cents), the firm–which had just been bought by Warner Bros.–held the recording back, and issued it in the second batch of releases on the new Melotone label in January, 1931.
Despite its thirty-five cent price tag, the record was not an especially good seller. It is seldom seen on the collectors’ markets today.
The orchestra was what was known, in the parlance of the day, as a “whispering orchestra”. Neither trumpets nor trombones were used. Just three saxophones, a violin, piano, guitar, string bass and xylophone–the latter included for novelty effects. There is what the label describes as a “vocal chorus” (without identifying the singer)–actually averse and a chorus, sung in a formal, starched-collar style.
Considering the limited instrumentation, the arrangement tries to get as much color as is possible. Xylophone is often played in unison with pizzicato (plucked) violin, providing a pleasant novelty effect.
It’s possible that even at this early date, Disney knew there was money to be made in having a hit song associated with one’s product. There exists a short (three-minute) film which was produced for “Mickey Mouse Club” presentations at local and neighborhood theaters. It’s a sing-along version of “Minnie’s Yoo-Hoo”, with the lyrics o screen so that each boy and girl in the audience could sing along–each in his or her own chosen key!
In later years, “Minnie’s Yoo-Hoo” would be used–in a corny, wack-a-doo version–as a theme for the syndicated series “The Mouse Factory”.
A few years later, it would come home to Disney just how much money could come with having a hit song associated with one of his cartoon shorts.
Boy, how it would come home to him!
Next Week: Even More Mickey Mouse.