This week’s column is sort of an addendum to my essay last week. More on the singers I’ve dubbed “The Terrytones”…
Now, back in the’Thirties, there were cartoons that used vocal groups as a sort of Greek Chorus, giving exposition to the viewer.At that time, it was more typical that the vocal group would be a twee-sounding trio of females. (As an example, the 1936 Warner Bros.short, The Cat Came Back.)
But this practice had pretty much been abandoned at most cartoon studios, whether on the East Coast or out in California. Not so at Terrytoons, however.
As it had been with sound. . . and with color. . . and as it would be with wide-screen processes. . . so Terrytoons would fall back on this trope, as late as 1957 releases. The practice finally ended with the rise of Gene Deitch and his avant-garde style of cartoons.
Not all Terrytoons use this device. Some have narration by Tommy Morrison, or by another announcer. Others just get going, without recourse to such an old-fashioned practice.
And not all of the ones that do use this practice use the vocal group identified by Chuckles Gardner and myself as being Helen Carroll and the Satisfiers (or whatever name they might have been using after the end of their gig on the “Chesterfield Supper Club”).
Some use a male quartet, which might well include both Roy Halee (singing voice of Mighty Mouse, and also heard on some “Heckle and Jeckle” cartoons where they did not use Dayton Allen), and Tommy Morrison. Others take this quartet and add the soprano who usually assayed the role of Pearl Pureheart in the “Mighty Mouse’ cartoons that involved her and Oil Can Harry.
However, more than a score of cartoons have been aurally identified, either by myself, by Chuckles, or by the both of us, as having Helen Carroll groups.
“Mother Goose Nightmare’ (May 4, 1945, Gandy Goose)
“Mighty Mouse In Krakatoa” (December 4, 1945)
“The Wolf’s Pardon” (December 5, 1947)
“Magic Slipper” (December, 1948, Mighty Mouse)
“The Dog Show” (August, 1950)
“Mother Goose’s Birthday Party” (December, 1950, Mighty Mouse)
“Flat Foot Fledgling” (April, 1952, Dinky Duck)
“Foolish Duckling” (August, 1952, Dinky Duck)
“Sink Or Swim” (November, 1952, Dinky Duck)
“Wise Quacks” (February, 1953, Dinky Duck)
“Featherweight Champ” (May, 1953, Dinky Duck)
“The Orphan Egg” (July, 1953, Dinky Duck)
“Sparky, The Firefly” (September, 1953, Aesop’s Fables)
“The Timid Scarecrow” (November, 1953, Dinky Duck)
“A Yokohama Yankee’ (January, 1955)
“The First Flying Fish” (February 1955, Aesop’s Fables)
“An Igloo For Two” (March, 1955, Willie the Walrus)
“Little Red Hen” (July, 1955)
“Hep Mother Hubbard” (March, 1956)
“Love Is Blind” (May, 1957)
We know that Helen Carroll continued to work with groups similar to (when not identical with) the Satisfiers after the gig for Chesterfield ended. In 1949, her group was called the Carolers, backing her up on a Mercury records’ cover of “Cruising Down the River”, which had a cup of coffee on the Bilboard magazine’s Top Thirty, but whose sales paled in comparison with other versions, such as that of Russ Morgan.
And in 1950, Helen and a group called the Swantones backed up Frank Sinatra on a cover of “Life Is So Peculiar”, a disc that did not make any of the charts. Eventually, she regained the rights to the name “The Satisfies”. The group cut an album for Columbia in or around 1957.
Most of the above cartoons are easily accessible. So, go ahead and listen for yourself–and hear a pretty good mixed vocal group, led by a woman with a talented and flexible voice.