ANIMATION SPIN
July 28, 2015 posted by

The Musical Stylings of Hanna-Barbera’s “The Banana Splits”

The Banana Splits was one of Saturday Morning’s most popular shows – but it was also a very mixed bag. The good news: it featured songs created by some of the best pop music talents in the industry. Let’s take a spin.

BananaSplitsEPTraLaLa

Kellogg’s Presents
THE BANANA SPLITS

Sing ‘n Play “The Tra-La-La Song”
HB Premium Division Records 34578 (7” 45 RPM Record)

Released in 1968. A Past, Present and Future Production for Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. Producer: David Mook. Arranger/Conductor: Jack Eskew. Running Time: 9 minutes.
Songs: “The Tra-La-La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)” by Mark Barkan, Richie Adams; “That’s the Pretty Part of You” by Carl Spencer, Bob Halley; “It’s a Good Day for a Parade” by Joe Levine; “The Very First Kid on My Block” by Neil Sheppard, Ray Fox.

BananaSplitsEPDoinSplit

Kellogg’s Presents
THE BANANA SPLITS

Sing ‘n Play “Doin’ The Banana Split”
HB Premium Division Records 34579 (7” 45 RPM Record)

Released in 1968. A Past, Present and Future Production for Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. Producer: David Mook. Arranger/Conductor: Jack Eskew. “Beautiful Calliopa” Arranged and Conducted by Hoyt Curtin. Running Time: 10 minutes.
Songs: “Doin’ the Banana Split” by Barry White; “I Enjoy Being a Boy (In Love with You)” by Joey Levine, Marc Bellack; “The Beautiful Calliopa” by Hoyt Curtin, N.B. Winkless, Jr.; “Let Me Remember You Smiling” by Al Kooper, Bob Brass, Irwin Levine.

The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1968) was a forerunner to The Krofft Supershow (1978), in that it featured various shows within the show with comedy skits and songs to bridge them. There were animated cartoons (Arabian Nights, The Three Musketeers, Micro Venture) and one live-action serial (Danger Island). Pre-Superman director Richard Donner helmed both Danger Island and the Banana Splits segments.

It always seemed odd that the Splits segments were zany (sometimes to the point of the four costumed characters just bumping into each other and falling down), while the segments were so dour and, for the most part, serious (at least to a kid). The song segments were filmed “romps” in the style of The Monkees, many filmed at King’s Island theme park, which featured a Hanna-Barbera Land.

TraLaLaSingleTwo stereo Banana Splits 45 RPM extended play records were offered by saving Kellogg’s box tops, filling out a little form and sending it all with a nominal sum (about 50 cents). The entire process was very exciting to carry out, even though your family may have required you to eat every flake of the cereal, whether it was “your brand” or not.

After an eternity, the two records appeared in the mailbox, tucked inside a manila envelope with red printed lettering and drawings. Life would be happier forevermore!

I cannot say if today’s kids can imagine the same rush from hearing the songs from TV shows or movies played right in their homes, sometimes in stereo. Back then, it was so monumental, I got permission to use Dad’s “big” Sears Silvertone stereo with the “hidden” speakers cleverly disguised as Shakespeare books.

Even as kids, we knew that the songs on these records sounded as if they were sung by very different groups of people—and certainly not even trying to suggest the speaking voices of the Splits themselves (Allan Melvin, Daws Butler and Paul Winchell). But unlike Saturday morning pop bands like, say, The Archies, in which Ron Dante was the consistent voice, The Banana Splits’ songs had no rhyme or reason as to which voice was supposed to represent which character, if any. Hanna-Barbera later went to great lengths to cast singing voices as well as speaking voices for Josie and the Pussycats (originally planning to have a live tour group), but such precision was not for the Splits.

LongLiveLoveProducer David Mook sought out several journeyman musicians and studio singers, many of them with substantial credits. Yes, that really is Barry White singing his composition, “Doin’ the Banana Split”, a tune frequently played on the show.

The four record sides follow a format in that the more hit-based, “novelty” number is first, and a “B” level song is next. The second song could be an uncharacteristic romantic ballad (“That’s the Pretty Part of You”), a song of despair (“Let Me Remember You Smiling”, “The Very First Kid on the Block”) or the set’s most memorable kiddie-psychedelic tune, “I Enjoy Being a Boy” (“I live in a purple plum mansion/In the mist of a strawberry stream/And mellifluous bells ring out softly/From a hill of vanilla fudge cream”). We kids wore these discs out.

I would be remiss if, in mentioning the Kroffts above, I did not note that Sid & Marty did the characters and costumes and sets for The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. This led directly to their creating H.R. Pufnstuf and becoming a Saturday morning rival for Hanna-Barbera, Filmation and other suppliers of animated and live-action TV programs.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Beautiful Calliopasaxaviatrumparimbaclaribassatrombophone”
This is the most traditional-sounding Hanna-Barbera song on the record set and was among the few that was exclusive to this Kellogg’s premium. Hoyt Curtin’s H-B house sound is in fine form here, along with what sounds like the same male vocal group that gave us “Magilla for Sale”. It’s a fun children’s song that deserves more exposure than it ever received. Like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, it’s an accomplishment to be able to say and sing it.

As seen on the show:

As heard on the record:


BananaSplitsLP

WE’RE THE BANANA SPLITS
Decca Records DL-75075 (Stereo / 12” 33 1/3 RPM)

Released in 1968. A Past, Present and Future Production for Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. Producer: David Mook. Arranger/Conductor: Jack Eskew. Running Time: 30 minutes
Songs: “The Tra-La-La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)”, “Wait Til Tomorrow” by Mark Barkan, Ritchie Adams; “I’m Gonna Find a Cave”, “Don’t Go Away—Go-Go Girl” by Buddy Scott, Jimmy Radcliffe; “We’re the Banana Splits” by Tony Powers, Ritchie Adams; “The Spot” by Jay Fishman, Don Lauren; “Soul” by Carl Spencer, Jimmy Radcliffe; “”You’re the Lovin’ End” by Al Kooper, Irwin Levine; “In New Orleans” by Billy Barberis, Bobby Ronga, Aaron Schroeder.
Instrumental: “Toy Piano Melody” by Roy Alfred.

This is a more “adult” pop record than the two above EP’s, in that the songs tend to lean toward harder pop and more driving R&B sounds. The most juvenile numbers are the title song (which was to be the theme), and “The Tra-La-La Song”, which became the theme. Frequent Archies songwriter Ritchie Adams co-wrote both songs, and with Mark Barkan, also wrote the original theme to Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? the following year.

Both the album and the EPs benefitted from quite a few music industry movers and shakers between these grooves. As Wikipedia notes (and I have verified):

“The Banana Splits’ bubblegum pop rock and roll was provided by studio professionals, including Joey Levine (“I Enjoy Being a Boy”, “It’s a Good Day for a Parade”); Al Kooper (“You’re the Lovin’ End”); Barry White (“Doin’ the Banana Split”); Gene Pitney (“Two Ton Tessie”) and Jimmy Radcliffe provided his songs (“I’m Gonna Find a Cave”, “Soul”, “Don’t Go Away Go-Go Girl”, “Adam Had ‘Em” and “The Show Must Go On”) but did not contribute vocals to Splits recordings. The music director was music publisher Aaron Schroeder, while production duties were mainly handled by David Mook. When a heavier R&B vocal was needed, the music producers usually turned to singer Ricky Lancelotti, who was billed in the show credits under his stage name Rick Lancelot. Lancelotti went on to record several songs with Frank Zappa.”

Among Al Kooper’s accomplishments was putting together the band, Blood, Sweat & Tears, as well as movie scores. Barry White, of course, became a big recording star with a signature sultry, romantic murmur over his music. Gene Pitney is now considered a legendary pop singer, with such hits as “Town Without Pity” and compositions like like “Hello, Mary Lou.” Hanna-Barbera didn’t commission the music carelessly; they brought in the best. Generating hit songs was a big priority for any potential hit entertainment property, much as it is now. Maybe things didn’t go the distance this case, but those involved gave it their best—if wildly eclectic—try.

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“We’re The Banana Splits”
Also released as a single, this must have been the front runner to becoming a novelty hit. Not only does it open the album, it was released as a single, and was often heard on the TV show in different videos.

One video “romp” of this song from the show:

Same song, different video “romp”:

As heard on the record:

29 Comments

  • The best song the Banana Splits ever did was “Wait ‘Til Tomorrow,” a song that might have actually been a hit had it had promotion (and a real band to sing it on tour)…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF-oQdybwN4

    • Reminded myself of The Wombles just now (another one of those novelty groups hat spurred over in the UK during the 70’s).

    • Having been able to notice the ur-video of “Wait ‘Till Tomorrow” in YouTube, I could just imagine such being released as part of a digitally-remastered, remixed even, reissue on CD of We’re The Banana Splits as part of additional material, bonus tracks even … and such being the featured video, only reshot, say, in Beautiful Downtown Wisconsin Dells. Now can you just imagine the four in a right-to-left pan shot of them crossing Broadway at River Road/Superior St, with traffic waiting at the light?

      Just my imagination in overdrive.

    • All our imaginations are! Certainly many ways to retroactively exploit the Splits!

  • You’re right about the “eternity” part…delivery of the two little records was much longer than the normal six to eight weeks, and for a child it can be a heart-breakingly long time. I got both of the promotional records above as well as the LP which was available in stores. It’s interesting that they didn’t just re-release all of the songs from the little records onto the LP–instead there is material that is common to both and also material that is unique to each format. I agree that the LP is much more “adult” sounding in tone. Also worth noting is that the small covers show the Season One version of Snorky, while the album features the made-over Snorky from Season Two. (I personally liked the original Snorky best.)

    What struck me as odd is that while these songs were marketed toward little kids, they dealt with themes more appropriate for young teens–“I was the very first kid on my block with a broken heart,” “I enjoy being a boy in love with you,” “Don’t go away Go-Go Girl,” etc. Some of the lyrics were almost unbearably sad. It seemed strange to me at the time that the Banana Splits, who were all about slapstick and silliness, would sing songs dealing with love gone wrong and broken hearts. Needless to say, my favorites were the songs like “The Beautiful Calliopa…” and “We’re the Banana Splits” that seemed more consistent with the characters.

    It was also an apt observation that there was a huge contrast between the Banana Splits segments and the program content that they introduced. I recall that most of my friends preferred the “Danger Island” chapters to the rest of the show. My brother enjoyed “The Arabian Nights” and had memorized all of the powers of the different characters. My favorites were “The Three Musketeers” (although it was never explained why there were four musketeers instead of three) and “Micro-Ventures.” Still, I could have gone for a full hour of the Banana Splits shenanigans rather than have it broken up with the other stuff.

    There were frequent touches that showed it was a Hanna-Barbera production, such as the barbershop scenes where Fleegle would send away happy customers because an image of Fred Flintstone was pasted on his hand mirror.

    Anyone interested in viewing a complete show should check out Volume 2 of Saturday Morning Cartoons: The 70’s, which contains essentially the first episode reconstructed, including the introductory cartoon of “The Arabian Nights” and the first chapter of the live-action “Danger Island” serial. The inclusion of a Banana Splits show on a 70’s-themed DVD set is a bit of an anachronism, because the Banana Splits aired in the late 60’s and were essentially over by the time the 70’s got underway–yet thematically, I can see why they would be considered more 70’s than 60’s. If you select the episode at the beginning it will play all the way through with no stops and provides a good sampler of what the show was like.

    • My favorites were “The Three Musketeers” (although it was never explained why there were four musketeers instead of three),

      Well in the original story, it was three musketeers until the young D’Artagnan joined them, but I could see how this might be confusing to those unaware of the original source material.

  • My “Mouse Tracks” writing partner Tim Hollis writes:

    “There’s a VERY minor error in your Banana Splits article today, and I’m sure I won’t be the only person who catches it. While it’s true that Kings Island had a Hanna-Barbera Land, that park didn’t open until 1972, long after the Splits had split (although Kings was used for the “Hocus Pocus Park” Superstar Movie that year). The opening and music videos on the 1968 shows were filmed at Six Flags Over Texas, probably due to the connections the Kroffts had there. In fact, you can see the Six Flags name here and there in one of the videos you posted.”

    Thanks, Tim!

    • I was going to point this out as well.

      Fun fact: long before Six Flags Over Texas used the Looney Tunes characters as mascots (and even before they used Pac-Man characters in the 80s), H.R. Pufnstuf could be found capering around the park and performing in live shows. Related, the Kroffts would also film the opening to Lidsville (1971-73) at Six Flags Over Texas.

    • King’s Island was also used for the Brady Bunch episode “The Cincinnati Kids” where Mike took the family and Alice to King’s Island during a business trip and a tube that had a blueprint somehow got mixed up with a tube containing a Yogi Bear poster which Marcia bought at the gift shop. Also in the end Greg wore a Hair Bear costume from “Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch!” to impress and get a date with a girl who was working in a carnival skills game at the park.

    • Before Kings Island opened in 1971, Taft Broadcasting owned the legendary Coney Island park in Cincinnati (which, after being closed for a few years, would reopen in the late 1970’s as Old Coney).

      So, seeing as where The Banana Splits aired in the late 1960’s, some of the scenes in the opening titles were filmed at Coney Island in the Queen City as well as at Six Flags Over Texas, both of which were given due credit in the closing titles.

      Kings Island, know, figured in the live-action segments of the otherwise-animated 1972 Saturday Superstar Movie presentation The Banana Splits in Hocus Pocus Park. Now you know.

      (The which I have duly corrected in a post at my Hanna-Barbera tribute Tumblog linking to this post, with some further commentary.)

    • Ah, Six Flags Over Texas it is. There seemed to be a Saturday morning tie-in to theme parks during the 1960s and 1970s. I can recall Sid & Marty Kroft also tied in with the Omni in Atlanta with a Kroft World theme park for a few years.

  • Nice one, Greg. Yeah, I was actually wondering about those original songs that would play during these interstitial segments and how well they sounded.

  • I didn’t knew that the composer of Doing’ The Banana Split was the same Barry White who was known for his song “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe” and a three time Grammy Winner? WOWSERS!!

    And the brass styling on Doing the Banana Split sounded like the same stylings of Blood, Sweat and Tear and later “Big Bad Brass” groups like Chicago, Tower of Power and The Ides of March. And I love that song!

    Also some of the musical segments were filmed at Six Flags over Texas amusement park in Arlington Texas and the King’s Island segments were later used in the Saturday Superstar Movie “The Banana Splits at Hocus Pocus Park“.

  • A caution to collectors – Lousy-quality counterfeit copies of all these records are very common. Be very cautious if anyone offers to sell you a “new unplayed” copy.

    All genuine copies of the LP have a Decca logo on the lower right corner of the front cover. The ones with no cover logo (plus a white “promo” label on the record itself) are fakes. I got burned by this one. The sound quality of the fake is noticeably inferior, and the speed is off (too fast).

    The bogus 45s have no company logos or credits on the labels.

    Genuine copies of the 45s are common and can be had for cheap. The LP? Notsomuch.

    • I’m surprised pirated copies exists at all to this.

      Genuine copies of the 45s are common and can be had for cheap. The LP? Notsomuch.

      I found my copies of the Kellogg’s pressings at a garage sale some 20 years back, though not very good copies as they were quite scratchy.

      Looking back, it’s a shame Rhino didn’t try to release the songs on a legit CD when nostalgia for that show hit at some point. There was a CD that came out, but it was another pirated effort.

  • As a card-carrying “charter member” of The Banana Splits club, I really enjoyed this post. (I later became a member of the Dastardly & Muttley club, too.)

  • Later on The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was split into a half hour syndicated series called The Banana Splits and Friends consisting of three different shows, one with the Banana Splits with Either The Three Musketeers/Arabian Knights/Micro-Adventures animated segments and the live action Danger Island. Two, featuring Atom Ant and Friends And Three, featuring Secret Squirrel and Friends.

    • “The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was also part of “The Banana Splits and Friends”.

    • Also I forgot to mention that The New Adventures of Gulliver was also part of The Banana Splits and Friends show.

    • Wasn’t Lancelot link part of the lineup and George of the jungle. I friend to you and me…..watch out for that tree!!!!!!

  • It’s interesting to see that Joey Levine was involved with the Banana Splits. He is a very talented singer, songwriter, jingle writer and producer. But nobody knows him because he sang for various studio groups and didn’t sing using his own name. That’s him singing “Yummy yummy yummy” with the Ohio Express.

  • After almost two years, the Cattanooga Cats still aren’t “doin’ their thing” on Animation Spin. For shame, doc.

  • Irwin Levine (1938-1997) had already co-written (with Al Kooper) Gary Lewis and the Playboys’ “This Diamond Ring” prior to working on the Banana Splits. With songwriting partners Russell Brown and/or Toni Wine, he went on to write all the Tony Orlando and Dawn hits (Tie A Yellow Ribbon, My Sweet Gypsy Rose, Candida, Knock Three Times, etc.) as well as the Partridge Family’s “I Woke Up In Love This Morning.”

    • Jeff, you’ve got your Levines mixed up. Joey is still with us.

    • My bad – I’m the one who mixed up the Levines. We’ve got two working on the Banana Splits – and Al Kooper too!

  • With Six Flags and Hanna-Barbera Productions now under the same Time-Warner umbrella the Splits should be there again..

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