April 1, 2018 posted by James Parten

Deer, Oh Dear! “Bambi” Gets Covered

The year was 1942–and the United States of America was at war with the nations that comprised the Axis. At first, this did not mean what it was going to mean for anybody–including the Walt Disney studio and its music department.

Dumbo was looking to be the first profitable feature for Disney since “Snow White”–although the songs were only getting mild coverage. Now, it was time to prepare for the next theatrical feature release — Bambi.

And therein lay a challenge for the Music Department’s song pluggers. For Bambi was something that had not been tried before–a feature-length, animated drama.

Oh, there was some comic relief–any good drama should have some. But there were not the slots into which bright and breezy songs could be inserted–not and spoil the entire effect of the picture.

The Music Department decided to plug only one song from the film–the ballad “Love Is A Song”.

And, when they shopped it around to the various record companies, they found that there was a considerable reluctance to really “ride” the song. In the end, neither the Victor, nor the Columbia labels decided to “cover” this song.

Bluebird–Victor’s cheap label–did push it, however–but not with a major-league band.

Teddy Powell had been known as a composer and arranger when he formed his orchestra in 1939. By 1942, they were recording regularly for Bluebird–but their sales were only ordinary, except for a novelty that wouldn’t–couldn’t!–be played on radio by those new-fangled disk jockeys. (“Sereneade To A Maid” sold well, even as its appeal depended upon repeated “raspberries” or “Bronx Cheers”.)

Decca also expressed an interest in this ballad. They gave it to one of their top orchestras–one who sent shivers up the spines of swing- and jazz-music fans..

The song was given to Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. Kenny Gardner–who is heard as the husband in Mr.Bug Goes To Town–takes the vocal.

There might have been more “covers” intended. After all, the record industry was trying to stockpile recordings to tide them over during a strike that the American Federation of Musicians had called against the record companies, effective at midnight on August 1, 1942.

But it didn’t work out that way. And Hollywood went to a war footing after all.

NEXT WEEK: An early Disney ‘compilation’ album


  • I don’t know why they didn’t also plug “Little April Showers”, hands down the most memorable song on the movie, and the closest it had to a “bright and breezy” song.

  • There was a little more interest in “Love Is a Song” in the United Kingdom, where it was recorded by these bands:

    Columbia FB 2879–“Love Is a Song”–Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans; Edna Kaye, vocal

    Decca F 8240–“Love Is a Song”–Oscar Rabin and His Strict Tempo Band

    Parlaphone F 1953–“Love Is a Song”–Geraldo and His Orchestra; Georgina, vocal

    Carroll Gibbons also included “Love Is a Song” on “Carroll Calls the Tunes (No. 22),” on Columbia FB 2877. “Carroll Calls the Tunes” was a series of discs Gibbons recorded presenting himself as solo pianist, performing medleys of currently popular songs.

  • Also worth noting is a record by Hal Derwin and His Orchestra, “No One but You,” issued by Capitol Records in 1948. The song is credited to Frank Churchill and Larry Morey, with label copy that reads, “Adaptation of ‘Looking for Romance’ from the Walt Disney Production BAMBI by Elliot Daniel.” Apparently, it was an attempt to refashion “Looking for Romance” into a pop song by outfitting Churchill and Morey’s music with a new title and lyric.

    Elliot Daniel’s most famous composition is the theme song to the television series I LOVE LUCY.

  • Having recently had the privilege of seeing ‘Bambi’ in a theater with an actual film print, it struck me whether this film could have been sold as a soundtrack album at the time of its debut. Take away the visuals, and the score stands on its own with some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.

  • Dumbo was the first profitable feature from Disney since Snow White? I always thought the relatively-inexpensive The Reluctant Dragon also showed a profit. No?

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