Even though the song “Pecos Bill” did not make the charts either at “Billboard” or at “Cash Box”, it sees to have gotten “covered” more widely than any other song from Melody Time.
The country market–still being called “hillbilly” in some circles–was well-covered by Roy Rogers’ version of the song, on which he and the Sons of the Pioneers pull out almost all the stops in order to put the song over. Roy sings. . . he yodels . . . about the only thing he doesn’t do is indulge in some square-dance calling (another of his talents).
The “kiddie” market was also well-served by the story-teller set involving Rogers and the Sons. But that didn’t stop RCA Victor–and other firms–from putting out their own versions of the song.
RCA called Sammy Kaye into their studios (just before the strike stared, no doubt), and had the Swing-and-Sway band to record “Pecos Bill” for the popular market. The Kaye disc–coupled with “Little Toot” on 20-2786–did not chart.
M-G-M, which had, in the space of one short year, achieved major-label status alongside RCA Victor, Columbia, Decca, Capitol, and another upstart label, Mercury, covered “Pecos Bill” with the Kings Men–a quartet we’ve met before (back when we were discussing The Reluctant Dragon). Like the Kaye biscuit, it was coupled with “Little Toot” (on 10179). And, like the Kaye disc, it did not chart.
Capitol tought that they could go after the country crowd that might buy Roy Rogers’ platter. They gave “Pecos Bill” to an artist who had just as much country “cred” as Rogers–perhaps even more so. They gave the song to Mauice Woodward “Tex” Ritter. Despite a citified, sophisticated upbringing, Ritter sounded like the genuine article all right. And he was accompanied by some of the West Coast’s top studio musicians. But his version did not make much of a dent in the sales of Roy Rogers’ version.
Smaller Majestic Records was about to give up operations. Seems that the firm’s owner was having trouble with three little letters: I R S. Just before the firm stopped operating entirely, they called a Midwestern band that could double in novelties and polkas. The recording by Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers cannot have been on the market for very long.
All this did not really help the music department at the Walt Disney Studios, or the folks at Santly-Joy Music–the Tin Pan Alley publisher who was handling Disney’s publishing in the days before Disney’s folks set up Wonderland Music.
But something was bound to happen–and it did in late 1948, and into early 1949.