Sixty years ago this Saturday, the original Mickey Mouse Club premiered on ABC-TV, so here’s a look at two different Mousekealbums featuring bounteous songs.
WALT DISNEY’S MICKEY MOUSE CLUB SONG HITS
With A Personal Mouseketeer Photo Album
Disneyland Records Storyteller Series STER-3816 (33 1/3 RPM 12” LP / Enhanced Mono)
Released in July, 1975. Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Musical Direction: Camarata, Buddy Baker, George Bruns. Running Time: 41 minutes.
Performers: Jimmie Dodd, Darlene Gillespie, Cubby O’Brien, Karen Pendleton, Annette Funicello, Tommy Cole, Bobby Burgess, Cheryl Holdridge, Sharon Baird, Doreen Tracey, Roy Williams, Buddy Ebsen, Cliff Edwards, The Mellomen, Florence Gill, Walt Disney.
Soundtrack Recordings: “Anything Can Happen Day”, “Today is Tuesday” by Jimmie Dodd; “Fun with Music” by Jimmie Dodd, Mack David, Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston: “Hi to You” by Jimmie Dodd, Victor Skaarup, Sven Gyldmark, “Talent Roundup” by Gil (Hazel) George, George Bruns.
From The Orphan’s Benefit: “Clara Cluck Sings Opera”.
Studio Recordings: “Mickey Mouse March”, “The Merry Mouseketeers”, “Here Comes the Circus”, “Hey, Cubby Boy” “I’m No Fool (in Water)”, “Mickey Mouse Alma Mater” by Jimmie Dodd; “The Leprechaun With The Flute”, “What the Well-Dressed Hobo Will Wear” by Tom Adair, Sid Miller; “The Little Cow” by Jimmie Dodd, Roy Williams; “A Rollin’ Stone” by Gil (Hazel) George, Franklyn Marks; “Animals and Clowns” by Imogen Carpenter and Larry Adelson; “Buckwheat Cakes” Gil (Hazel) George, Paul Smith; “Nineteen Twenty-Five” by Tom Adair, George Bruns; “We’re the Mouseketeers” by Tom Adair, Buddy Baker; “Alone at Coney Island”, “Safety First” by Gil (Hazel) George, Wanda (Sam) Sykes; “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” (from Cinderella) by Mack David, Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston, “Westward Ho the Wagons” by Tom Blackburn, George Bruns; “Wringle, Wrangle” by Stan Jones (from Westward Ho the Wagons!)
Long before there were cartoon channels, Disney home video and instant viewing, The Mickey Mouse Club brought Disney entertainment to televisions in 1955 for a whole hour–five days a week—and it was more than spectacular.
The Mickey Mouse Club was a very mixed bag of new musical numbers, guest stars, talent contests, circus acts, live-action serials and documentaries—and most of all, it brought Disney’s earliest sound cartoons to audiences, often for the first time. It is hard, in this day and age, to imagine the overwhelming impact.Music was part of the MMC’s heart and soul. Actor/musician Jimmie Dodd was hired as a songwriter before he was made the head Mouseketeer (look for his brief appearances in several Hollywood movies, including Easter Parade and Buck Privates Come Home, and as a Western sidekick in Republic’s Three Mesquiteers B-Westerns). Dodd wrote several hundred songs, many of them iconic, like “I’m No Fool” and the eternal “Mickey Mouse March (M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E)”.
But filling five hours a week required quantity in every direction. New animation was created for the series, directed by Bill Justice, with Walt himself coming back to the microphone as Mickey (he had long since bequeathed the voice to sound effects master Jimmy Macdonald). Film crews were dispatched to bring back multi-episode serials with the same quality as their contemporary prime-time shows and most important to the Disney organization, newsreels from Disneyland.
For the songs, talents from all over the studio were tapped to write music and/or lyrics for the show, including Musical Director Buddy Baker, Producer Bill Walsh, Director Sid Miller and Walt Disney’s nurse, Hazel George, who under the name of “Gil” wrote quite a few tunes for films and TV.
The Mickey Mouse Club records were released in 78, 45 and 33 1/3 LP formats, first by Am-Par Records, a division of ABC-TV (“Am-Par” always reminds me of “KranMar’s Delicious Mystery Appetizer” from The Honeymooners). Disneyland Records assumed production and distribution once they had their own label.
When the show was revived in 1975 for daily syndication, the first Disneyland album to be released was Mickey Mouse Club Mousekedances and Other Mouseketeer Favorites, even advertised during the show with Dick Tufeld handling the announcing. This album used songs from the very first MMC albums, most of which were not soundtrack material. Therefore, kids in the ‘70s might have been surprised when the Monday-Friday themes were not the soundtrack recordings. Disneyland actually pressed another run of this album with the soundtrack version of the “Mickey Mouse March”. There is nothing on the cover or the label to signify which album is which, but it was the first time the theme soundtrack was released on vinyl, though there may have been versions in other languages.
Soundtracks are the main reason that the album Mickey Mouse Club Song Hits is being featured here. As much as was possible, the producers tried to make this the most authentic of all MMC albums. Even though, at this point, they could not include the soundtrack to “Mickey Mouse March” (the re-pressing of the other MMC album must have happened while this was in production), this LP does–for the first time in the 20 years since the show premiered–include four of the five “days” as they were heard on TV, with some edits, plus “Hi To You”.
The other thing that sets this LP package apart is a sense of humor. There is a generous supply of photos inside, and as if that weren’t enough, someone had the novel idea of making some of the captions a little more tongue-in-cheek than one might expect.
Here are some examples:
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Fun with Music”
Of all the daily themes tunes, the one that is the most different on records is “Fun With Music”, the song that opened every Monday show. It was likely the most elaborate of the daily themes because most of the songs were original and each production number required imaginative sets and fresh choreography.
This is the “Fun with Music” soundtrack as heard on the show (it was edited a little on the LP):
The earlier—and completely different–recording of “Fun with Music”:
HOLIDAYS WITH THE MOUSEKETEERS
Official Mickey Mouse Club Records MM-22 (June, 1958)
Disneyland Records DQ-1214 (June, 1960)
(12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)
Executive Producer: Jimmy Johnson. Musical Direction: Camarata, George Bruns. Running Time: 34 minutes.
Performers: Darlene Gillespie, Jimmie Dodd, Sharon Baird, Karen Pendleton, Cubby O’Brien, Bill Lee, Cliff Edwards, The Gloria Wood Singers.
Songs: “Holidays” by Gil (Hazel) George, Tutti Camarata; “Valentine Waltz” by Gil (Hazel) George), Frederick Stark; “St. Patrick’s Day” (Medley: “McNamara’s Band” by Shamus O’Connor, John J. Stamford; “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” by Chauncey Olcott, George Graff Jr., Ernest Ball; “My Wild Irish Rose” by Chauncey Olcott; “A Little Bit of Heaven” by J. Keirn Brennan, Ernest R. Ball); “April Fool”, “It’s Easter Time” by Meredith Willson; “Your Mother and Mine” (from Peter Pan) by Sammy Fain, Sammy Cahn; Happy Birthday (Traditional); “Liberty Tree” (from Johnny Tremain) by George Bruns, Tom Blackburn; “Trick or Treat” (from the Donald Duck cartoon) by Mack David, Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston; “How Lucky We Are” by Tom Adair, George Bruns; “Kris Kringle” by Martin Schwab, “Happy New Year” by Tutti Camarata.
Two Mickey Mouse Club record albums were original productions, using a few bits and pieces from earlier releases: A Walt Disney Songfest and this album, first released as Holidays with the Mouseketeers then reissued as the long-selling Happy Birthday and Songs for Every Holiday.
While several of the Mouseketeers are heard on “Happy Birthday”–a selection that got a lot of use on other Disneyland Records for obvious reasons—the album focuses on Darlene Gillespie, Jimmie Dodd, Karen Pendleton, Cubby O’Brien and Gloria Wood with her singing ensemble. Tying it all together musically are the distinctive yet versatile sounds of Tutti Camarata’s arrangements. One selection, “St. Patrick’s Day”, is actually an instrumental with some dialogue.
The most interesting story behind one of the songs concerns “It’s Easter Time” by the legendary Meredith Willson. It was a puzzler for many years, since the song does not come from his many Broadway scores, including The Music Man, The Unsinkable Molly Brown or Here’s Love (a musical version of “Miracle on 34th Street”). It turns out that “It’s Easter Time” was introduced on radio.
In the early ’50s, when radio was waning in the face of television, NBC made a costly attempt at bringing listeners back on Sundays with “The Big Show”, 90 minutes of music, comedy and drama with every star NBC could wrangle. Meredith Willson was The Big Show’s musical director (it’s always odd to hear how this giant of musical comedy had such a goofy persona on the shows upon which he appeared) and wrote songs and orchestral pieces especially for the show, including “It’s Easter Time”.
How surprising, after years of hearing Camarata’s Disneyland Records version, that it originated in this way—with a strange prologue about a Martian! Big Show host, “the glamorous, unpredictable” Tallulah Bankhead, recites the Martian section before the chorus and orchestra come in. This is the “It’s Easter Time” segment as it was first introduced on Sunday, April 25, 1951. If you’d like to hear the entire, star-studded 90-minute spectacular, it’s also available here. Perry Como also recorded the song. Here he is performing it on his popular variety show .
Holidays With The Mouseketeers is an outstanding album, produced at the tail end of the glory days of children’s records, before it usually became too expensive to create such a lavish blend of orchestra, chorus and soloist.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Trick or Treat”
This is the title song from the 1952 Donald Duck cartoon (that features Clarence Nash as Donald and June Foray as Witch Hazel), but for the Mouseketeer LP, an album-length rendition was recorded with Karen Pendleton and Cubby O’Brien. The lyric differs a little from the way it is heard in the film. Note how the normally wholesome duo, perhaps for the only time, is a little mischievous in this song (“Tip over your garbage, Madam?”).