ANIMATION SPIN
July 19, 2016 posted by

The Cartoons of “Sesame Street” on Records

The songs of Annie Award winner and Oscar nominee Bud Luckey and lyricist Don Hadley grace this ’70s vinyl classic spoofing radio countdown shows.

count-counts-600


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):

Candy Man

Candy Man

The Alligator King

The Alligator King

Ladybug Picnic

Ladybug Picnic

Martian Picnic

Martian Picnic

It’s a Lovely Eleven Morning

It’s a Lovely Eleven Morning

Ten Tiny Turtles

Ten Tiny Turtles

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

1-2-3-4-5

Four Big Lions

Four Big Lions

Country Six

Country Six

The “3” Song

The “3” Song


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.]

12 Comments

  • Great article. I should mention that the special with Jean Marsh was co-hosted by Grover, not Kermit.

    http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/The_Grover_Monster_-_Jean_Marsh_Cartoon_Special

    • And that special led up to become The International Animation Film Festival/International Festival of Animation for PBS created by San Francisco PBS station KQED hosted by Jean Marsh (even though some stated that Jean Simmons hosted the series) which included Many Moons from Alice in Paris,Munro, the animated films from Zagreb Studios.

  • I recognize Jim Henson’s voice in the animated counting segment, but I was never sure if that was him as the chef. In 1969 (or so) when it was filmed Henson had a full beard, and the chef is clean shaven with a false mustache.
    See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AC440k6iByA
    They look similar but I’d like to see a clearer shot of the head to be sure if it’s a voiceover or not.

    I watched Henson directing Steve Whitmire (as Rizzo the Rat) and Charles Grodin once and it was one of the neatest things I’ve ever seen. As his journals become available it’s obvious the man was a class act on par with Walt Disney.

    • It’s stuntman Alex Stevens taking the fall for Henson:

      http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Alex_Stevens

    • Alex Stevens was also the wolfman on Dark Shadows, taped in New York as was Sesame Street.

  • I was discussing these animated segments or the comedy segments of “SESAME STREET” in general. We both like the quick pace and surrealism of the animation in those early spots. The show certainly did what it was supposed to do, using elements of animation that often pleased kids of all ages and use them as teaching tools with similar wit.

  • Loved both the number and letter songs cartoons that aired on Sesame Street from the 1969 (the first season of Sesame Street) to the 1970’s.

    My personal favorites of these songs were,

    The O Song (sung in a folk song style which was popular in the 1960’s and 70’s)
    Toucan Two Step,
    Lower Case N (a beautiful ballad preformed with guitar and a male trio with soloist)
    I Love Being a Pig (which was shown both in animation and live action)
    Fairy Alphabet
    The King of 8 (featuring Jim Henson as The King of 8 and the Jester singing in a very early version of a jazzy Rap style)
    The Letter I Song (also sung by the same group who preformed Lower Case N)
    The Orange who sings Habanera from Carmen
    Mystic Twenty (my all time favorite Sesame Street song preformed in a Indian Folk Music style sung in English and Spanish which I use to calm down after a rough day)
    And the Philip Glass Geometry of Circles series..

  • I got a question regarding some specific animated segments from “Sesame Street”:
    During the first season of “Sesame Street”, among other things, Jim Henson (who did the “1-2-3-4-5” animation listed above) co-animated some clay animated segments and a show title/ number id cold opening with (according to the blog, “Jim Henson’s Red Book”) Marc Paul Chinoy who later directed the aforementioned feature film, “I Go Pogo” (1980). The segments had electronic background music done by none other than Raymond Scott with the occasional music cues from Joe Raposo. In additions to those segments below there are known to be an animated segment about feelings and one about the letter Z that haven’t surfaced online as of yet:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiJDzAK_E9s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcVAkn_9meM
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6r7Z3dglXrs
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnDCvy5BW18

    As you can see, they are a bit cruel looking and occasionally violent which might have scared a lot of kids. According to some notes in the CTW Archives housed in “The University of Maryland” (and scanned in the Muppet Wiki), the segments did not aired pass the first season and the animated cold opening were replaced by traditionally animated ones (most done by Cliff Roberts) that aired through season 6.
    Anyway, my question is who are the other voices in these segments besides Jim? They are defiantly not the other Muppet performers. I already asked Jerry this and he doesn’t know.
    I have a guess for the other male voice (and I warn you that I have perfectly awful Muppet type joke to go with it), but I’m not sure if I’m right.

    • Hi Nic,
      I listened to the clips but, aside from Henson, could not identify the actors. Henson made short films independently of the regular Muppet or Sesame Street crew, like “Time Piece”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDwCwMIRJlI
      and used what I would assume to be other New York actors and associates (his own kids — and doll house) were in the Sesame Street video of “Doll House”, which is on The Count Counts LP.

  • To this very day, if there was one SESAME STREET cartoon with an apropos song to accompany the animation that I will always remember (and love), it was “That’s About The Size Of It”. I think the animation was done by the same studio who did the “Four Big Lions” and “Country Six” shorts. Watch it, and see if you aren’t moved by it…

  • Christopher Cerf was the son of humorist (and Random House co-founder) Bennett Cerf, and he was a college friend of Jim Henson.

  • Count-“Que Pasa and what’s happening out there!” Not only using the occasional English/Spanish translation that showed up in Sesame Street, a little nod to Wolfman Jack back in the ’60s on XERB.

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