We’re one day late for Mickey’s big day because we’ve been on the prairie getting you this Animation Spin about a classic country song collection and a legendary actor/songwriter.
Walt Disney Productions’
14 Great Cowboy Songs
Disneyland Records Premier Series #2512 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Stereo)
CD Reissue #60356 (1995); currently available on Apple Music & amazon
Released in 1980. Producer: Jymn Magon. Children’s Choral Direction: Betty Joyce. Running Time: 27 minutes.
Performers: Larry Groce, Will Ryan, Phil Baron, Pete Renoudet (Mickey Mouse); Clarence Nash (Donald Duck); Tony Pope (Goofy).
Original Songs: “Cowboy Mickey” by Will Ryan, Phil Baron; “Ride ‘Em Cowboy,” “Partners,” by Larry Groce; “The Song of the Screaming Cowboy” by Will Ryan, based on the comic book story by Carl Barks; “Donald Duck, The Wrangler” by Jymn Magon
Film. Radio & TV Songs: “Pecos Bill” (from Melody Time) by Eliot Daniel, Johnny Lange; “I’m An Old Cowhand” (from Rhythm on the Range) by Johnny Mercer; “A Cowboy Needs a Horse” from the Walt Disney animated short, A Cowboy Needs a Horse) by Paul Mason Howard, Billy Mills; “Don’t Fence Me In” by Cole Porter, Bob Fletcher; “Happy Trails” (from The Roy Rogers Show) by Dale Evans.
Pop Song: “Deep in the Heart of Texas” by June Hershey, Don Swander.
Traditional Songs: “Old Chisholm Trail;” “Home on the Range,” “Git Along, Little Dogies.”
When Mickey Mouse Disco burst upon the children’s record scene and proved that the Disney characters were more popular than ever—and that so-called “kiddie” records are repeatedly underestimated by the industry for the powerhouses they can be—the next step was to produce more music albums featuring the classic characters in both new and traditional ways.
Goin’ Quackers, which was celebrated in this Animation Spin — was first out of the gate, bringing Clarence Nash out of retirement at the behest of the album’s headliners, Willio and Phillio (Will Ryan and Phil Baron). There was a big marketing campaign for this album and a lot of well-deserved media attention for Disney Legend Nash.
On her first day at Disneyland Records, up-and-coming producer Bambi Moé was assigned to see Willio and Phillio perform in a live concert. They had already been recording but were being considered for additional Disney projects. They had recently relocated from Cleveland, where they were the toast of the local comedy and music club scene, even featured in two concerts with the Cleveland Orchestra (as well as ten concerts with the New Orleans Symphony). Both were also gifted songwriters and voice actors and immediately began Hollywood careers in both areas, together and separately.
Although Willio and Phillio do not appear as a performing duo on the Pardners LP, Baron and Ryan do a number of vocal effects and incidental voices, including Larry Groce’s yodels. Ryan’s read of the line, “Who is that mouse behind that shining star?” is a precursor of sorts to his later Pegleg Pete voice.
Pardners was an especially personal project to Will Ryan, as a lifelong student of popular music and western lore in particular. The same was true for producer Jymn Magon, so the song selections reflect a healthy knowledge of Disney and show business as related to the ol’ prairie and its legends. From the Disney songbook comes “Pecos Bill” and “A Cowboy Needs a Horse,” the latter being from an animated short and also a Jimmie Dodd track on Mickey Mouse Club Records.
The Cowboy Mickey character, as represented in Ryan and Baron’s song, enjoyed a bit of merchandising in Golden Books and even a Fisher-Price Read-Along Activity Book and Tape called Cowboy Mickey and the Secret Cave.
For years, Ryan wanted to create a real song around “The Screaming Cowboy,” which originated in a Carl Barks Donald Duck comic book (more about that below). At one point, he received advice from another music historian: Tiny Tim. The former Herbert Khoury became a national novelty sensation after appearing on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, playing a ukulele and singing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” which hit #17 on the charts in 1968 and married “Miss Vicki” on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Tiny Tim had an encyclopedic knowledge of vintage music and told Ryan which phrases worked best in relation to what had been done in the past.
This album is worthy of more attention as it celebrates the childhood innocence and of cowboy lore, as well as its connections to entertainment and animation. The album is perhaps the least appreciated among the Disneyland character song LPs of the era, but it is still available for download.
WILL RYAN AND THE CACTUS COUNTY COWBOYS
Wahoo Records (available at various retailers and downloads online)
To fans of the Pardners album, this series of musical albums filled with original Will Ryan songs could be seen as creative continuations. Ryan sings lead backed by some of Hollywood’s top musicians. The smooth harmonies of Saguaro Sisters also appear on several albums. The group has appeared all over the southwest in live concerts on their own and with Johnny Crawford’s big band. They’ve also been heard on the long-running children’s radio show, Adventures in Odyssey, on which Will has played the role of Eugene Meltsner for over 30 years. (Shona Kennedy, who plays Connie’s half-sister Jules on Odyssey, is also one of the Saguaro Sisters,)
WR-2701 RHYTHM RIDES THE RANGE
Songs: “Rhythm Rides the Range,” “Welcome to Cactus County,” “The Red River Valley Ain’t So Blue,” “The Only Star in My Blue Heaven Isn’t Shining Anymore,” “My Horse Likes Accordion Music,” “Welcome to Cactus County” (Klum & Rooby Version), “Sand,” “Rio Rojo Rhapsody,” “Rusty’s Rhythm Club,” “Rhythm Rides the Range” (Vocal Trio Reprise), “The Rose of Antelope Valley” by Will Ryan.
WR-3737 THE OUTLAWS ARE COMING!
Songs: “Cow Town,” “Jazzy Pastoral,” “Golden Moonbeams on a Midnight Trail,” “Lunar Tune,” “Would I Be Over the Line?” “The Song I Can’t Recall,” “Mnemonic Phantasia,” “What’s a Cowboy to Do?” “The Outlaws Are Coming,” “The Ding Dong Daddy of Abu Dhabi,” “Camel Back Ditty” by Will Ryan.
WR-3738 A WHOLE BIG MESS OF LOVE
Songs: “Sudoku!” “A Whole Big Mess Of Love,” “You And That Horse You Rode In On,” “The Red River Valley Ain’t So Blue,” “Sudoku Variations,” “Just Another Lazy Day,” “What A Load Of Hogwash!,” “Don’t You Be Syncopatin’,” “Variations On You And That Horse,” “Rhythm Rides The Range
WR-3739 MYSTERY AT SHADOW ROCK RANCH (with the Saguaro Sisters)
Songs: “Tra La Lee,” “It’s Too Bad You’re So Good at Being Bad,” “No Never Mind,” “Cow Town,” “Dream Your Dreams with Me” (Instrumental), “Mystery at Shadow Rock Ranch,” “Tra La Lee” (Instrumental), “Son of the Squaw Man!” “The Songbird of Miracle Canyon,” “Dream Your Dreams with Me,” “They Call Him the Bronze Buckaroo” by Will Ryan.
WR-3740 RIDIN’ THE HOLLYWOOD TRAIL (with the Saguaro Sisters)
Songs: “Two-Gun Annie from Diablo,” “Ridin’ the Hollywood Trail,” “Mudbug Hotel,” “Potato Pan,” “Hollywood’s Gone Cactus County” (Instrumental), “My Humble Little Home in Holmby Hills,” “Mickey Rooney Macaroni,” “Ridin’ the Hollywood Trail” (Instrumental), It’s Raining in Hollywood,” “Hollywood’s Gone Cactus County” by Will Ryan.
WR-3739 ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS… IS CHRISTMAS! (with the Saguaro Sisters)
Songs: “There’s a Reindeer in Your Future,” “Merry Christmas Barn Dance,” “All I Want for Christmas is Christmas,” “Strollin’ with My Sugar Down Sugar Cane Lane,” “They Say It’s Christmas,” “Christmas on the Moon,” “There’s a Reindeer in Your Future (Instrumental),” Jolly Jingle Day,” “Pour Noel, J’ai Noel,” “The Day Before Boxing Day,” “No One Else But Mister Santa” by Will Ryan.
As a voice actor, Will Ryan was heard in The Little Mermaid (as the Herald Seahorse), Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore (as Rabbit), Ducktales (as Pete) and Mickey’s Christmas Carol (as Pete and Willie the Giant). He still plays Willie on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, making it the longest-running Disney character consistently voiced by the same actor—with the exception of beloved Disney Legend Kathryn Beaumont as Alice and Wendy. As a songwriter, he has created over 100 songs for the Walt Disney Company and other studios, for which he has also done countless voices. With Phil Baron as Teddy Ruxpin the Animatronic plush, Will was his pal Grubby the octopede, playing the role for the toys as well as the TV series.
Will created the cartoon character Elmo Aardvark, and with master animator Darrell Van Citters, brought forth a “forgotten classic star of long ago.” Elmo launched a line of merchandise and music, with some of his cartoons still available to enjoy:
The sun never sets on the Will Ryan house o’ fun. Teaming with award-winning musical star Nick Santa Maria (The Producers, Aladdin: The Musical Spectacular at Disney’s California Adventure), and writer/director Michael Schlesinger, another “forgotten classic” was uncovered, a comedy team known as Biffle and Shooster, who appear in several short subjects so authentic folks are sure they saw them ‘way back when. This is the promo for the DVD collection available from Kino Lorber video.
He’s been called a cartoonist, a composer, a guitarist, a floor wax, a dessert topping, a poet, a pawn and a king. More than anything, his music has been the constant force, and the Cactus County Cowboys have been playing to crowds throughout the southwest for decades.
If you’re going to be in the Southern California area soon, Will Ryan and the Cactus County Cowboys will be appearing on Sunday, December 1st from 7:00 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. at the Coffee Gallery Backstage, 2029 N. Lake Ave, Altadena, California 91001(just north of Pasadena).