By 1942, Walt Disney had compiled quite a catalog of songs–some of which had been enormous hits, selling lots of sheet music and lots of records. And, in that year, somebody at Decca Records thought it would be a good idea to release an “album” of Disney songs.
We may never know if Jack Kapp (the company’s President) or Victor Young had the idea–or if the bandleader that wound up doing the album had a brainstorm and took it to Decca Records. But we do know that the album came out—Decca set A-243, consisting of four ten-inch records, probably selling in stores for around three dollars.
Decca did not choose one of its name bands–not Glen Gray, nor Woody Herman, nor Jimmy Dorsey, nor Guy Lombardo. Nor did they chose any of their name vocalists–not the Andrews Sisters, nor Frances Langford, and especially not Bing Crosby.
Instead, Decca gave this assignment to a society band that had previously recorded an album of French popular songs for Decca — Nat Brandwynne and His Orchestra. Over the years, Brandwynne would lead orchestras in such tony venues as the Stork Club, and the Astor Hotel.
For a few years, Brandwynne had played second piano for Eddy Duchn–keeping the rhythm going when Eddy had to wave the baton and glad-hand with the cash customers. Brandwynne’s usual gigs involved his playing of medleys from shows and films, as well as other old standard favorites. This format was followed here.
On the eight sides, a total of twenty-one songs from the Disney library were played, usually in medleys of two or three tunes to a side. Art Gentry and Diane Courtney shared vocal responsibilities, although we do not know upon which songs they aired out their respective tonsils.
Quite a few of the songs were songs we have met in previous columns in this series–including such obscurities as “Who Killed Cock Robin?”, “Funny Little Bunnies”, and “The Golden Touch”.
On the other hand, there are songs of which I know naught as yet–“Playful Pluto”, for example, or “The Big Bad Wolf Is Back Again”. These are not widely known, If indeed, they have ever been heard to begin with.
Nat’s family has had some exposure to the general pubic. His uncle, Naftule Brandwein (1884-1963) was a highly-respected “klezmer” clarinetist, playing for weddings and other special occasions. And his daughter Marcia Brandwynne became known in California as a news-reader.
I cannot say how well the album sold–or didn’t sell. Several sides from the album recently turned up on YouTube and I was able to sample a few of the cuts – and they’re interesting. Take a listen from yourself:
So there you have it–the first “album” of records of “Disney Songs” not tied to a particular movie. I hope that it filled its proper niche in the Decca catalogs of the time.
(Thanks to Charles Gardner)