The songs of Annie Award winner and Oscar nominee Bud Luckey and lyricist Don Hadley grace this ’70s vinyl classic spoofing radio countdown shows.
THE COUNT COUNTS
“The Count’s Countdown Show” from radio 1-2-3”
Sesame Street Records / Children’s Records of America CTW-22069 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Stereo / 1975)
Executive Producer for Children’s Television Workshop: Christopher Cerf. Executive Producer for Children’s Records of America: Arthur Shimkin. Associate Producer for CTW: Sharon Lerner. Writer: Joseph A. Bailey. Musical Direction and Arrangements: Sam Pottle. “Song of the Count” Arrangement: Joe Raposo. Music Coordinator: Danny Epstein. Assistant Musical Director: David Conner. Director of Recording: Jim Timmens. Engineers: Frank Laico, Arthur Kendy, R. Payne. Sound Effects: Bobbie Wood. Art Director: Robert Pierce. Cover Photograph: Charles Pike Rowan. Project Coordinator: Geri Van Rees. Running Time: 35 minutes.
Performers: Jerry Nelson (The Count, Dwayne Wayne, Martian Beauty, The Alligator King, Son Seth); Jim Henson (Guy Smiley, The Amazing Slim); Richard Hunt (Seventh Son, “Red” Sails); Marilyn Sokol (Tammy Whynot, Dolly Pardon); Northern Calloway (David, Anything Person); Christopher Cerf, Jeffrey Moss (Singers).
Songs Produced for the Album: “Ladybug’s Picnic,” “Counting is Wonderful” by Emily Perl Kingsley, Sam Pottle, David Axelrod; “It’s a Lovely Eleven Morning,” “Ten Turtles,” “Martian Beauty,” “Candy Man,” “The Alligator King,” “Country Six,” “Four Big Lions,” “The ‘3” Song” by Bud Luckey, Don Hadley; “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” by Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn; “1’2’3’4’5!” “Doll House” by Alan Robert Scott, Keith Vernon Textor; “Subtraction Blues” by Joseph A. Bailey, Sam Pottle; “Beep” by Emily Perl Kingsley, Sam Pottle. Radio Jingles by David Axelrod, Sam Pottle.
Songs from the TV Soundtrack: “Numerical Correspondence (Sing a Song of Numbers)” by David Axelrod, Sam Pottle, David Korr; “Count it Higher” by Christopher Cerf; “I Just Adore 4” by Joseph A. Bailey, Sam Pottle; “The Song of the Count” by Jeffrey Moss, Emily Perl Kingsley.
Dialogue Segments: Introduction, “The ‘15’ Commercial,” The Count’s Weather Report,” “Number in the News,” by Joseph A. Bailey.
Few record albums underplayed their spectacular glory more than The Count Counts. A quick glance at the cover might suggest that the record contains a lot of songs and sketches in which the count counts things—his schtick, as it were. Or it might have been a collection of Sesame Street songs and sketches featuring The Count — which was the case for the later release, The Best of The Count.
The Count Counts offers some of the Muppet character’s songs, but instead of taking the expected route, the LP is a full-blown simulation of a broadcast radio show, in the style of American Top 40 or the Cruisin’ albums.
The concept for Sesame Street was based on the fact that kids watched so much TV, it made sense to use the elements of the tube to teach. Sesame Street, especially in its original format, was a fast-paced series of sketches, songs and an overall story thread frequently interrupted by films and videos that “sold” numbers, letter and other elements of learning. The Count Counts LP does the same thing in a radio format—and it works so well, it makes one wonder why Sesame Street didn’t do more records like this.
To the millions who enjoyed these beloved animated short segments for decades, it’s also surprising how seldom they were given proper focus. Only once, on a PBS series called the “International Animation Festival” did host Jean Marsh and Kermit the Frog present what they called “animations” for the artistic delights that they are.
The very first — and Grammy and Gold Record winning — Sesame Street Record included just one song from an animated counting segment, in which a chorus of children sang about a number and Jim Henson appeared at the end as a chef who fell down and made a mess.
The Count Counts contained several songs from live-action Muppet and cast member segments. There was even a pop music standard — Cahn and Styne’s It’s Been a Long, Long Time, with the Count counting the kisses.
But what makes The Count Counts special above all other Sesame Street records is the presence of animation songs by Bud Luckey and Don Hadley. As you can see in the videos, they were the seeds from which grew Luckey’s Boundin’ short for Pixar.
This is an example of what makes a great children’s album: an eclectic mix of styles, high production values (this must have been a challenge to stitch together!) and a large amount of wit. (Click on Titles to hear each song via You Tube):
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Count Counts”
Since so many of the songs were re-recorded in stereo for the album, it’s interesting to compare the soundtrack versions in the videos with the vinyl renditions.
[A Special Spin salute to Mike Kazaleh, whose previous post about Sesame Street animation inspired this article.]