The Adventures of Ichabod And Mr. Toad was the last of Disney’s “package” features. After this, the animated features from Disney would go back to being complete stories, derived from fairy tales, literary classics, or contemporary children’s literature.
Of course, you would expect there to be songs attached to both elements of this package. And you’d not be disappointed.
Again, Tin Pan Alley virtually ignored one of the segments of this film, while concentrating on the other.
From Mr. Toad, the only song that got any action–at least from popular artists–as “Merrily On Our Way’, usually referred to as “The Merrily Song”.
It appears that the only artist who tackled “The Merrily Song’ with its galloping six-eight rhythm, was the big band of Tex Beneke. RCA Victor issued his version on 20-3528. Unfortunately, the record–and the song–went nowhere. I can’t even post it for you – its that rare.
But I can share this excerpt from radio’s Doris Day Show (1952) with Day and Donald O’Connor covering it splendidly:
Tin Pan Alley concentrated its interest on songs from the “Ichabod Crane” segment. And thereby hangs a bit of a tale.
A lot of planning had already gone into both projects. And the songs from ‘Ichabod Crane” were already in place before 1947 was ended–nearly two years before the film was released.
Bing Crosby recorded “Katrina” on Christmas Eve day, at Decca’s studio in Hollywood. Six days later, he cut the other two notable songs from “Ichabod Crane”–“Ichabod” and “The Headless Horseman”.
The three sides were held in the can until the summer of 1949. “Katrina” and “The Headless Horseman” were issued on 24702, while “Ichabod’ appeared at the same time on 24703, coupled with a song not from the Disney flick. Here’s Bing singing “Katrina” from his radio show:
Despite Bing’s giving these songs his all–and demonstrating that he still liked to show off some swinging jazz chops on “Horseman”–the records were relatively unsuccessful.
Other recording firms were also taking notice. Columbia gave both “Katrina” and “The Headless Horseman” to Kay Kyser’s orchestra. In fact, Kyser got these sides in under the wire, recording the on December 31st–at the same session at which he cut “Woody Woodpecker”!
Kyser’s version swung quite well, and was also graced (!) by a novelty vocal by one Freddie Froghammer. His Popeye-styled vocalizing has yet to be attributed to any particular member of the band.
Capitol didn’t really bother with these–except that they gave “The Headless Horseman” to Kay Starr, a rising star at the firm. Kay was one of the few who could give Bing a run for his money on this song.
Mercury gave both “Katrina” and “Ichabod” to a popular band whose base of popularity was shifting from the Midwest to the West Coast. Lawrence Welk bubbled way with his Champagne Music on Mercury 5317.
RCA Victor had Tex Beneke busy in the studio with sons from this picture. “The Headless Horseman” was coupled with the aforementioned “Merrily Song” on 20-3528. And “Ichabod” and “Katrina” were issued on 20-3527, right at the same time.
With the release of the film imminent, Bing Crosby performed “The Headless Horseman” on his radio show of October 26, 1949. This version is a little looser–and happier–than the commercial recording of the clippety-cloppity piece. Bing also inserts a reference to Tex Beneke in this new version–and a reference to Hollywood’s aces of make-up, the Westmores.
Of course, Disney would remember the “Horseman” opus. Around 1963, Thurl Ravenscroft was brought into the studio, given a semi-rock-and-roll backing, and did a version of the tune. The details of this recording are covered by my colleague Greg Ehrbar here.
Of course, while all this was gong on, Disney, and the Santly-Joy interests, were gearing up for a project that promised to be big. And-as it happened–it was! Tune in next week for that! In the meantime, Happy Halloween!