Take a look at two “studio cast” LP’s from the late 1950’s featuring Walter Lantz Car-Tune songs that filled out their track lists with previously released recordings.
WOODY WOODPECKER PRESENTS
Star-Bright Records (Hollywood Recording Guild HLP-101 (12” 33 1/3 RPM)
Released in 1957. Running Time: 25 minutes.
Performers: Hal Smith (Woody & Friends Songs); Gil Mack, Bobby Hookey, Frann Wiegle.
Woody & Friends Songs: “Woody Woodpecker Song,” “Oswald the Rabbit Hop,” “Woody Woodpecker Waltz,” “Woody Woodpecker March,” “Chilly Willy the Penguin,” “Andy Panda Polka,” “Pepeeto Chickeeto.”
Other Song: “Zebby the Zebra.”
Stories: “Who’s in the Zoo,” “Western Pony,” “The Littlest Reindeer,” “Whopper Whale”
Serious archiving of such a nebulous art form as mid-20th century kid’s records is a wondrous challenge because so many releases offer so little printed information as to credits, dates of origin, etc. The labels, often company subsidiaries and/or family-owned businesses that passed through generations of ownership, have not always left clear paths to the artists, producers, composers, and the like.
Songs and stories were mixed and matched over endless compilations, each listing fewer credits than the last. Fortunately, there have been a handful of sites and books that offered as much info as possible at the time, usually with lots of blank spaces.
Star-Bright Records produced children’s 78’s and 45’s in the early to mid-fifties (there was also a short-lived ’60s rock and roll label with the same name). The catalog number for Woody Woodpecker Presents being 1001, it’s a good guess that it was the first—and perhaps only—LP the label released. There are no credits except for those who wrote the songs about Woody and friends, as these were probably the only costly (and residual-paid) tracks. Here’s a Star-Bright 78 disc of the “Siamese Cat Song”.
By ear alone, the vocalist on the Lantz songs is a pre-Andy Griffith and Hanna-Barbera Hal Smith. Smith voiced Pepe in Lantz’s 1958 short, The Bongo Punch, the only cartoon featuring Pepeeto Chickeeto. The fact that the “Pepeeto” appears on the Decca, Star-Bright and Cricket albums in the late’50s when he was a new character, and does not on Golden’s 1962 LP, is indicative of the character’s short shelf life.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Woody Woodpecker Presents”
Three of the four stories on the LP are told by Chicago disc jockey Frann Weigle. The other story, “Who’s Who in the Zoo,” is curious because it pairs up Golden Records regular Gil Mack and Peter Pan Records’ go-to kid voice, Bobby Hookey—or could it be a very young Gilbert Gottfried?
WOODY WOODPECKER AND HIS FRIENDS
Cricketone Chorus & Orchestra and Playhour Players
Cricket Records (Pickwick) CR-17 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)
Released in 1959. Producer: Ralph Stein. Musical Directors: Warren Vincent, Ralph Stein, Maury Laws. Cover Design: Studio East. Running Time: 28 minutes.
“Woody & Friends” Song Performers: Marge Cameron, Judy James, Bobby Colt.
Other Song Performers: Toby Deane, Paul De Witt, Betty Wells, Bill Marine.
Woody & Friends Songs: “Woody Woodpecker Waltz,” “Andy Panda Polka,” “Oswald the Rabbit Hop,” “Woody Woodpecker March,” Chilly Willy the Penguin,” “Pepeeto Chickeeto.”
Other Songs: “Bumpy and the Bingtown Brass Band,” “Miguel the Mighty Matador,” “Punchy the Clown,” “Peter Rabbit and the Hunt for Flopsy’s Tail.”
Like the Star-Bright record above, this album combines the same Lantz character songs (minus “The Woody Woodpecker Song”) with previously released songs and stories. In this instance, it’s from Cricket Records, Pickwick’s line for kids.
Cricket was the foundation upon which the Pickwick empire was built. Most of the Cricket singles list a 1953 copyright because that’s the year they were launched, mostly with recordings from the Voco label of the late ’40s/early ’50s. Like Golden and Peter Pan Records, Pickwick began producing LP’s in the late ’50s, changing the name to Happy Time in the ’60s. Pickwick expanded their catalog to include pop music and show tune sound-alikes and reissues from the major labels, then moved into record departments at retail stores like JC Penney, as well as operating chains like Sam Goody and Musicland (one of my favorite stores in the ’70s). It was all started by a Cricket.
Each of the Cricket eras have a specific sound, often overlapping as producers and arrangers came and went. Each preferred certain singers and instrumentation. The most influential ones were arranged and conducted by Maury Laws, who was responsible for the Rankin/Bass house sound and most of the songs in their specials, movies and series.
As covered in an earlier Spin, “Peter Rabbit and the Hunt for Flopsy’s Tail” contains many of Laws’s signature flourishes. This selection, along with Warren Vincent’s “Bumpy and the Bingtown Brass Band” and “Punchy the Clown,” were repurposed many times on subsequent Happy Time and Mr. Pickwick records until the late ’70s.
The album design, credited to “Studio East,” is woefully off-model, as compared to the art on the Woody Woodpecker Presents LP described above. On the one hand, it makes one hesitant to even listen, as its inaccuracy suggests that the record will be equally lacking in quality; on the other, since the songs do not feature the original voices and neither does the art, they complement each other in a strange way.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Woody Woodpecker and His Friends”
Note that, like the Star-Bright album, this Cricket album also begins Lantz songs with a snippet of genuine Lantz material–Woody’s soundtrack laugh–regardless of the authenticity of the song that follows. The “studio versions” of cartoon recordings rarely blended the two elements.