As all Disney-fans know, another song was interpolated into the “Aquarela do Brasil” number in Saludos Amigos. That song was known in Brazil as “Tico-Tico No Fuba”.
The song had been written as an instrumental composition–a “choro”–as early a 1917. Portuguese lyrics were added in 1931. The same year, the earliest-known recording of the piece–still played as an instrumental choro–was made for the Columbia label by a group called Orquestra Colbaz.
It is quite obvious that Disney heard the piece. It is a matter for specualtion whether he took back with him a recording of the Colbaz version.
But it is interesting to note that, on the actual soundtrack of the cartoon, we don’t hear Charles Wolcottt’s more lush orchestration, which he would record for Decca two years later. Instead, we have a chart that follows the Colbaz arrangement, adding such Brazilian percussion instruments as the pandeiro (a tambourine) and the chocalho (maracas, more or less). Flute, accordion, and bandulim (a mandolin) follow each other in taking the melody, with visual gags built around the flute and accordion leads.
Disney may not have owned the copyright on “Tico-Tico” (as we North Americans called it)–even though Charles Wolcott (as mentioned above) featured it in Decca’s album of pieces from “Saludos Amigos”.
In early 1944, the song was a feature of Bathing Beauty, an M-G-M Technicolor romp that featured Esther Williams–who proved to be quite the draw at the box-office. Here, it was featured by Ethel Smith, a pert and fleet stylist on the Hammond electric organ.
From there, the song took off. An English-language lyric was written–every bit as much the tongue-twister as its Portuguese counterpart. And, whereas the Portuguese lyric was a warning that a small native swallow had gotten into the cornmeal again, the English lyric was a more simple love song.
Later in the Forties, Yiddish-flavored comedian/clarinetist Mickey Katz found the little bird a good subject for a parody. Accompanied by his Kosher-Jammers (a takeoff on Jerry Jerome’s Cats ‘n’ Jammers, which was itself a takeoff on a well-known comic strip about a couple of mischievous German-American children, Mickey recorded “Tickle-Tickle” for RCA Victor.
That disc was a hit wih the Jewish audiences at which it was aimed–and may have gotten some sales and/or airplay outside of the Yiddish-speaking community. It certainly didn’t hurt the career of Mickey Katz.
Of course, Carmen Miranda had to add the song to her repertoire. She also recorded it for the Decca.
And, as we shall see, Disney added some more Brazilian songs to his next project: The Three Caballeros.