ANIMATION SPIN
April 1, 2014 posted by Greg Ehrbar

The Actual TV Voices? “April Fool!”

It was the cruelest of “April Fool” tricks for cartoon-loving baby boomers: when you got a phonograph record featuring favorite characters, only to hear impostors doing the voices or singing the themes. Today we look back at a few.

HappyTimeTV600

TV & MOVIE FAVORITES FOR CHILDREN
Happy Time Records (Pickwick) HT- 1012 (12” Vinyl 33 rpm / Mono / 1959)

Producers: Ralph Stein. Musical Directors: Ralph Stein, Warren Vincent, Maury Laws. Running Time: 29 minutes.
Performers: Steve Clayton, Betty Wells, Bill Marine, Bobby Colt, Judy James, Jerry Bruno, Betty Shepard, Various Studio Vocalists.

Songs: “Huckleberry Hound (Theme),” “Yogi Bear (Theme)” “Nick Nack Paddy Whack,” “Wyatt Earp.”
Story/Songs: “Peter Pan,” “Snow White,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Pinocchio,” “Toyland.”

yogi-offThis was the very first record I ever returned to the store for a refund. In my six-year-old naiveté, I thought I had hit the mother lode: great cartoon themes, stories and songs, all on one record for only 99 cents? How could my mom resist the logic? I begged, I pleaded, and when I got it home, was horrified, mortified, shocked—and most of all, embarrassed because my older brother and my mom were right there when I played it and such fraudulence blared from my Cousin Joanie’s second-hand portable record player with the fuzzy turntable and the forty-pound tone arm.

I don’t recall any push back when I boldly asked the customer service person for the 99 cents plus tax back. “They’re not the real voices,” I said. Justice was served.

Over the years, I’ve been able to piece together the artists and repertoire of Pickwick children’s records. In the ‘50s, when it was Cricket Records, the music was directed (and often composed) by Maury Laws, who hit the big time with Rankin/Bass in the following decade (if you find this album, you’ll hear his unmistakable sound on “Pinocchio”). Along with Warren Vincent, Ralph Stein also produced and directed for Pickwick in the ‘50s and on into the ‘60s, when the label became Happy Time. The material was repurposed over and over again on subsequent albums and singles, and the last musical director/producer, when the label became Mr. Pickwick in the ‘70s, was “Bugs” Bower.

Everyone but Bower is represented on this album—and some of it is actually pretty good vintage kiddie fare if you can get past “Huckleberry Hound” and “Yogi Bear.” I couldn’t bear to play any more of this album when I was six, but I did find one years later and have not only made peace with it, but now I know more about why it sounds the way it does.

Nevertheless, I can still see the record playing, my face falling and hearing the comments from my mom and brother when I listen.

huck-offTV cartoons were so new in the ‘50s; perhaps no one realized just how injured some listeners would be when a record would be made without the “real voices.” After all, cover versions of popular songs were not only common, but also often well received by the public. As long as the performances and arrangements were good, so were the cover versions.

With few exceptions from the earlier decades, cartoons become verbose when they were made for TV. Limited animation usually meant more dialogue, with vivid voice characterizations that became indelible—at least to us kids. “Fake” voices seemed a rude effrontery. Who were they trying to fool?

The reality was that children’s records are most often the lowest-budgeted recordings on the rack and often a sideline to record labels. Disney, Golden, Peter Pan and even Hanna-Barbera specialized in children’s discs but also veered into pop and classical territory when they could in an effort to get close to the level of the majors.
Low budgets mean using the talent you can count on for the price you can afford, booking a very fast session in a convenient location and hopefully getting more than a few records done at once and packaging the records in ways to appeal to kids—but especially to parents who usually make the buying decisions.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
NOT “Huckleberry Hound” and NOT “Yogi Bear”

This was the recording that haunted me throughout childhood (I stopped the record at “Huckleberry” and never heard “Yogi” until years later—and it’s even stranger! It wasn’t just that it wasn’t the real thing; it didn’t even resemble the real thing (the Golden versions are better, at least musically). The soloist is Steve Clayton, who sang on dozens of Ralph Stein’s records for Golden, Pickwick, Tiger Tail, Panda and others—as well as for commercials, stage and industrial shows.


CricketTV600

KIDDIE TV THEMES
Cricket Records (Pickwick) CR- 31 (12” Vinyl 33 rpm / Mono / 1959)

Producers: Ralph Stein. Musical Directors: Ralph Stein, Warren Vincent, Maury Laws. Running Time: 29 minutes.
Performers: Steve Clayton, Betty Wells, Bill Marine, Bobby Colt, Judy James, Jerry Bruno, Betty Shepard, Various Studio Vocalists.

Songs: “Huckleberry Hound (Theme),” “Popeye the Sailor (Theme), “Yogi Bear (Theme)” “Felix the Cat (Theme),” “Wyatt Earp,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Bat Masterson (Theme);” “Davy Crockett (River March);” “Sir Lancelot.” (“Oswald the Rabbit” is incorrectly listed on the front cover.)
Story/Song: “Alice in Wonderland.”

This album was the predecessor to TV and Movie Favorites for Children. All the songs on this album relate to TV, except the musical story of Alice in Wonderland. Some are “based” on their namesakes but not actually themes, like the “Davy Crockett River March.”

Some are even acceptable: “Felix the Cat” is, at least, performed by female singers so it suggests the TV version—and let’s face it, the Trans-Lux theme isn’t exactly symphonic. (The Cricket “Felix” theme was issued on CD by Rhino in their Toon Tunes series. And there are so few renditions of the Dennis the Menace theme song; it’s cool to get any version at all (since even Colpix didn’t include it on their soundtrack album).

Kiddie TV Themes was an early LP from the budget record mill, Pickwick Sales, that later became Pickwick International. Pickwick’s Cricket label, as mentioned above, released a substantial number of 78 and 45 rpm singles in colorful jackets, to compete with Golden, Peter Pan, Disney and the major label’s children’s divisions.
Cricket singles lasted until the mid-60’s but the Cricket LP line became Happy Time Records in the ‘60s and Mr. Pickwick in the ‘70s. Pickwick eventually became a huge corporation, owning music stores like Sam Goody’s and Musicland. But the Pickwick label was largely comprised of major label reissues and knock-offs.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Alice in Wonderland”

This was the very first record that I ever owned myself (meaning it wasn’t a hand-me-down or my brother’s or “belonged to the family”). I picked it out at Woolworth’s and have treasured it (subjectively) in one form or another in my life ever since. Credited to “The Cricketones,” it was most likely produced by Ralph Stein in the early to mid-50’s. Anyone else remember it?


SpinMagicTune600

SPIN A MAGIC TUNE
20 Fantastic New Songs About Your Favourite Cartoon Characters
Tempo Records (England) TMP- 9001 (12” Vinyl 33 rpm / Stereo / 1973)

Producers: Barry Ainsworth for Marathon Productions, Ltd. Music and Lyrics: Ken Martyne, Mike McNaught. Cover Art: Mick Wells. Running Time: 53 minutes.

Songs About British TV Characters: “I’m Rupert,” “Rupert,” “Noddy,” “My Name is Noddy.”
Songs About Hanna-Barbera Characters: “It’s the Wolf,” “The Hair Bear Bunch,” “Dastardly, Dastardly, My Name’s Dastardly,” “Good Ole Yankee Doodle Pigeon,” “Space Kidettes,” “Atom Ant,” Penelope Pitstop,” Scooby Doo,” Scooby Doobie Doo,” “Motormouse and Autocat.”
Songs About Warner Brothers Characters: “Sylvester, Sylvester,” “Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner,” “Speedy Gonzales,” “Porky Pig,” “Come Along Sylvester,” “I Love Bugs Bunny.”

This record would be a dream come true if it featured the “real voices,” not to mention the musical styles behind the cartoons and characters. It turns out to be a lengthy collection of Hanna-Barbera, Warner Brothers and British cartoon songs, all written and performed especially for this album.

Once you get past that, the album becomes a surreal experience. With musical arrangements that suggest either Dean Elliott’s DePatie-Freleng scores or Charles Fox’s Love, American Style background music, this is pure early ‘70s stuff, performed by a choral group that might be The Rita Williams Singers (they recorded a lot of material for Golden Records in the U.K. during the same period).

Between the songs, there is a flimsy continuity in which a young boy and his toy dog stay up past bedtime and spin a magical top that takes them to the settings of these cartoons. Compared to the equally odd HBR Cartoon Series songs by “The Hanna-Barbera Singers,” these tunes are equivalent in quality, though they are in stereo and have a slightly larger orchestra.

However, the creators of this album must have had limited experience with most of these cartoons and whatever information they had was limited to merchandising style guides, because a few songs get the characters wrong, especially “Porky Pig,” whose song is about how much he loves to eat!

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Motormouse and Autocat / Space Kidettes / It’s the Wolf”

To my knowledge, these three Hanna-Barbera cartoons were never represented in any other recordings except these. You’ll hear a little of the “dog and boy” album continuity in this medley (most likely voiced by the same person).

30 Comments

  • I played a few seconds of “not” Huckleberry Hound and that was enough for me! I don’t ever want to hear the rest of this sordid ,fallacious output! I do feel sorry for the seemlingly hundreds of kids that were taken in by this atrocious claptrap! May God bless Daws Butler,Don Messick and the rest!Thank God they weren’t a part of this poor excuse for so-called “kiddie” entertainment!

  • Well, at least the “Not Huckleberry” singer didn’t try to imitate Huck, as Frank Milano did on Golden’s version! Milano did a halfway decent Yogi, but his Huck voice even makes Allan Melvin’s version of H. R. Pufnstuf sound good.

    • I had the album, and that was how I reconciled it — Huck didn’t sing his own theme song on the TV show, so it wasn’t a deal breaker that there was no Daws within miles of this song. But I was less charitable to the attempt in Yogi’s song to imitate his voice.

  • Wouldn’t the cover art be a tip-off that the original voices would not be on this record? I had this record–the top one– when I was younger, but I got it for curiosity value, not because I was expecting anything great. Look at the two bears dancing across the TV screen…are they really supposed to be Yogi and Boo Boo? And is that blue dog a stand-in for Huckleberry Hound?

    It’s such an odd mix, too…only two cartoon characters listed, along with Wyatt Earp, Peter Pan, Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, etc. Think about it–Wyatt, Earp, Peter Pan, and Huckleberry Hound on the same album? What on earth do any of those have in common? And what’s with “Nick Nack Paddy Whack”? Was there ever a cartoon or TV show with that name? Even as a very young kid, I was not fooled by that cover…clearly a cheap ripoff intended to try to please everyone by including as many disparate elements as possible, and with very poor artwork. I knew as a kid that even some records with the authentic, on-model depictions of the characters on the cover sometimes played fast and loose with the voices, but any HOPE of authenticity was abandoned at the sight of bizarre, off-model artwork like this on the cover.

    That said, the Huckleberry Hound theme is not too bad a rendition, but the Yogi Bear theme, with Yogi’s name growled every few seconds, is a travesty. (Any kid would have known that Yogi didn’t growl, nor did he have a gravelly voice like the one on this record.) The Peter Pan selection has got to take the prize for one of the most truly bizarre renderings of the story ever. The Babes in Toyland piece, as I recall, is fairly pleasant, even though the lyrics were drastically re-written for very young children (“back home to our mommies, to our beds so crisp and white” I recall as one of the lyric lines).

    A cover that featured excellent artwork authentically depicting the character might still not include the authentic voice actors, such as the Huckleberry Hound/Uncle Remus album, which has Paul Frees substituting (unsatisfactorily, although he turns in a decent performance) for Daws Butler. But it was a sure-fire guarantee that an album that DIDN’T show the characters authentically was sure as shootin’ not going to include the real voices.

    • Well, you, obviously were a child operating with a savoir faire that most of us seven-year-olds shopping for records didn’t possess.

    • “Well, you, obviously were a child operating with a savoir faire that most of us seven-year-olds shopping for records didn’t possess.”

      Lord knows maturity comes early for some.

  • Well, you outdid yourself this time, Greg! Not only does that Huckleberry Hound rendition wreak of lounge lizard cadence, but the Yogi theme is just downright scary. That would have frightened the sh** out of me if I heard that at 6 or 7 years old. You did the right thing in returning it…and you said you didn’t even get to Yogi! Curious though what the Dennis and Felix themes sound like. Perhaps the Dennis theme is the same one I used when Jay North, Jeannie Russell, and Gloria Henry were all reunited on my show a few years ago. It wasn’t Jay North, but another kid around his age at the time singing the words to the theme song (of which I was surprised to hear since the tune was taken from the Capitol Records Seeley-Loose production music package).

    • Hi Stu,

      The Dennis theme you played was Philip Fox on Golden Records. He did an album called “Dennis The Menace Songs” and this was the theme song with added lyrics. I know of no other vinyl record of that period with the “Dennis” theme except the Golden and Pickwick ones (Rosemary Clooney’s was a different song that predated the TV show).

      “Dennis the Menace Songs” was reissued by Drive Entertainment on CD and download on amazon. The songs are parodies of classic kid songs with new lyrics.

    • Lots of flute in the Dennis theme, and a little slide whistle, too, IIRC (and this is based on not hearing the thing for at least the last 46-47 years or so).

  • There’s some truly horrible magic going on in that Not Yogi Bear song. I’ll likely dream of that raspy voice, whispering “…Yogi Bear…” across some deep ethereal void tonight. Thanks a heap.

  • Despite Steve Clayton’s lounge-lizard delivery and oobie-doo backup group, his version of “Huckleberry” at least has the original lyrics, unlike Mitch Miller’s Little Golden version. The less said about his “Yogi Bear” the better, but maybe worth noting that all the records I’ve heard have been of the Yogi theme used on the individual cartoons, rather than the “Yogi Bear Show” theme (“Yogi Bear is smarter than the average bear,” etc.)

    I also have a Cricket 45 of Bobby Colt and Judy James singing “Pepito Chickeeto” from Lantz’s “The Bongo Punch.” Anyone know more about these performers? My searches for “Bobby Colt” inevitably turn up a pro wrestler by that name. Probably not the same guy…

    • Those two singers were associated with the Warren Vincent Cricket Records. Many of these folks were professional studio vocalists, singing for demos and commercials. I have also heard that the jazz artists and the children’s record producers got to know each other because they both had small audiences, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the singers and musicians sang in clubs and lounges.

  • “I don’t recall any push back when I boldly asked the customer service person for the 99 cents plus tax back. “They’re not the real voices,” I said. Justice was served.”

    God, if only I was that smart!

    “The reality was that children’s records are most often the lowest-budgeted recordings on the rack and often a sideline to record labels. Disney, Golden, Peter Pan and even Hanna-Barbera specialized in children’s discs but also veered into pop and classical territory when they could in an effort to get close to the level of the majors.”

    Lord knows that was a battle for bucks.

    “Low budgets mean using the talent you can count on for the price you can afford, booking a very fast session in a convenient location and hopefully getting more than a few records done at once and packaging the records in ways to appeal to kids—but especially to parents who usually make the buying decisions.

    Can’t blame my mom for that one.

    “(The Cricket “Felix” theme was issued on CD by Rhino in their Toon Tunes series. And there are so few renditions of the Dennis the Menace theme song; it’s cool to get any version at all (since even Colpix didn’t include it on their soundtrack album).”

    Lord knows they’d have to talk to Capitol for that one I’m sure.

    “Pickwick eventually became a huge corporation, owning music stores like Sam Goody’s and Musicland. But the Pickwick label was largely comprised of major label reissues and knock-offs.”

    Didn’t realize Pickwick was that big. They just seem like such a crappy label I keep finding in garage sales! Use to go to Musicland a lot, even Media Play, I’ll miss bix box mammoths that got too big for their britches.

    “Once you get past that, the album becomes a surreal experience. With musical arrangements that suggest either Dean Elliott’s DePatie-Freleng scores or Charles Fox’s Love, American Style background music, this is pure early ‘70s stuff, performed by a choral group that might be The Rita Williams Singers (they recorded a lot of material for Golden Records in the U.K. during the same period).”

    Just listening to it, it’s up my alley so I approve!

  • If I programmed for Muzak I would totally add that “Huckleberry Hound” cover to the playlist. Imagine hearing that in an elevator somewhere. The “Yogi” one I would slow down and play on Halloween. Eek!

  • “So get yourself all set to love your TV set . . . ”

    The openings of Casper, Beany & Cecil and Porky Pig all included visuals of kids — or themselves — in front of the television. The Flintstones visually equated their show with going to a movie.

    Despite that lyric reference, Huckleberry and his cohorts were seen careening around a circus ring. Matty Mattel’s Sunday Funnies framed Harveytoons with a circus intro as well. Bugs Bunny, Bullwinkle, Alvin, a few versions of Archie, and Mickey Mouse presided over stage shows or studio broadcasts. Tom & Jerry’s clip montage ended with Tom playing a piano onstage, and Jerry showing the show’s title to the audience on a typewriter.

    While many shows identified their characters as entertainers waiting to enact adventures, only Woody Woodpecker seemed to embrace the idea he was showing films. He’d be in a suburban living room, grappling with an uncooperative projector. The Mouseketeers would pull titles out of an old treasure mine, but so far as I recall never a reel.

    I felt compelled to relate all this. Don’t know why.

    • I thought it was enjoyable.

    • The openings of Casper, Beany & Cecil and Porky Pig all included visuals of kids — or themselves — in front of the television. The Flintstones visually equated their show with going to a movie.

      The first two seasons of The Flintstones(with the “Rise and Shine” theme song), featured an opening of Fred racing home to plop in front of the TV with a plate of sandwiches. Poor Wilma doesn’t get her screening of “The Monster” (and subsequent rib provoked auto mishap), until season three.

    • “While many shows identified their characters as entertainers waiting to enact adventures, only Woody Woodpecker seemed to embrace the idea he was showing films. He’d be in a suburban living room, grappling with an uncooperative projector.”

      Yeah Woody was quite different in that respect, trying to be the “every-man” sort of character and less the “big show star” others followed.

  • I’d love to see more fo the HBR records that often had “fake voices”…the Magilla, and Yogi, and then the Top Cat with half the original cast (though these were Leo DeLyon, Marvin Kaplan and Allen Jenkins who were unusual even in the cartoon show as they weren’t usually HB regulars-Arnold Stang isn’;t TC in the Robin Hood LP, Daws Butler is and some one else, I forgot but not Bilko regular (whaddya THINK Top Cat was based on? hee hee :D) Maurie GOsfield, who’d already died, wasn’t on there, so I was17 before (reading obscure TV hisotiran Judy Fireman;’s 1977 book “TV Book”) knowing the REAL TV voices of TC and Benny the Ball! There a lot of other HBR records, “Augie Doggie/Pinnochio”,”Yogi/.Jck and the Beanstalk”, plus many non HB records, like the Disneyland records that Greg and Tim Hollis became celebrities in their own right by writing, the excellent “Mouse Tracks” ten years ago. It’s actually fun (in a surreal and weird kinda way) reading about this, and I actually grew up in that time..:)

    • Please stay tuned to “Animation Spin” as I hope to cover all of those records, eventually reporting on the entire HBR Cartoon Series.

  • Chris S., the mister Kitty site seemed to have an original LP that had Don Messick himself—reading something like something out of an old Ruff and Reddy story!

    • Dave & Shain put a lot of care into that site, the only drawback is that it’s one of those “blink-and-you-miss-it” type of moments as it’s updated roughly once a week. You really do have to be on your toes to check out the latest records that are sampled (at least the Stupid Comics pages are maintained).

  • Greg, this is a great article. Just one small detail, though…..the “TV and Movie Favorites for Children” from Happy Time Records was released in 1962. Not that I was around at the time; the “62″ is etched on the dead wax.

    As for the “(Not) Yogi Bear (Theme)”, well….they just had to extend it somehow, as the original was less than a minute long.

    • You’re right, it was ’62. The other one is ’59.

  • Sourpuss’ horrified countenance is completely justified.

  • I checked the Mister Kitty site again..Chickenman on there is a 1960s radio comedy a la Batman (source: Wikipedia) and was one of the last radio shows of its type…and Dick Orkin (no relation to the pest controllers!) and Jane Roberts are the sole voices in this series.

  • I actually found them catchy a lot, and I am NOT April Fool’s joking…!

  • You know, this person singing the NOT HUCK theme sounds an awful lot like the guy who would eventually perform the FLUKEY LUKE theme for the MILTON THE MONSTER show; is that possible? He almost had this Frank Sinatra, Jr. quality. I dimly recall owning a platter that contained a HOKEY WOLF & DING-A-LING song that had nothing to do with the theme produced for the actual cartoons. The picture of the characters were pink and white on a yellow background; absolutely horrible!

  • Greg, how about a review of the Popeye song folio record album?

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