December 30, 2018 posted by James Parten

Alice In Tin Pan Alleyland

The love that Walter Elias Disney had for Lewis Carroll’s works was long and deep-seated. Going back to his Alice Comedies shorts of the 1920’s, then the Mickey Mouse cartoon Through the Mirror (1936)–you could tell that the love was there.

Thus, it was inevitable that Disney would get around to doing a feature version of Alice In Wonderland. And it was inevitable that there would be songs.

Disney was now handling his own music publishing–no more collaborating with Irving Berlin, Incorporated, or with Santly-Joy. Now, it was “Walt Disney Publishing Corp.” on the sheet music.

Indeed, a plethora of songs were written. Eleven or so were dropped from the picture. Those who have the most recent DVD release of “Alice in Wonderland’ will have the extra disc, containing “demo” versions of some of these songs. If memory serves, some of them aren’t half bad.

That left a large number of songs that did get recorded by popular artists.
Indeed, there were so many of them that Tin Pan Alley and the various record companies did not concentrate on one song or another. Thus, none of hem became charted hit songs.

Even though the film wasn’t to premiere until July of 1951, the songs were already on the market months before. It started with a Decca release of “The Unbirthday Song”, as played by that exponent of the businessman’s bounce–Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. Lombardo’s disc (Decca 27462) was first advertisd in “Billboard” on March 3rd, 1951.

Guy gave the song the sort of treatment you would expect from “Lumbgo”–plenty of melody, with just enough square-cut rhythm for those who wanted to dance. But Lombardo was just coming off a novelty song–Terry Shand’s “The Chicken Song” And the public might not have been in the mood for another novelty from the master of the Grill Room of he Roosevelt Hotel, Manhattan, New York City.

Two weeks later, on March 17th, London Records announced the release of #983–a version of “‘Twas Brillig”, as sung by Helen Grayco. Miss Graco–a night-club “thrush”–was better known as Mrs. Spike Jones. She lent some degree of decorum to Jones’ wild stage shows and television appearances, with her smooth singing. But she never had the one hit that would have put her in the most rarefied stratum of female singes of the time.

That was just a trickle compared to the deluge that would be coming from the major record companies – as you’ll see next week.

1 Comment

  • the Alice score is one of the very best….wish there was a Legacy cd set ,,,,?

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