NEEDLE DROP NOTES
May 20, 2018 posted by James Parten

Covering the Tunes of Disney’s “Make Mine Music”

World War II was over–at last!

When everybody stopped whooping it up in celebration, they began to plan for the “return of normal times”. Of course, these new “normal times” would be different from the period before our participation in the Second World War.

While Disney may have had Cinderella in early stages of gestation, the studio was getting ready to release Make Mine Music, a cobbling of eight separate and disparate cartoon subjects, some of which would be split off in later years and released on their own, as stand-alone shorts.

Disney’s music people also found that the music industry was once again attracted to songs that bore the Walt Disney shingle. What’s more, there were a good deal more record companies with which they could deal in quest to have these songs “covered”.

And prices were more universal. Cheaply-priced marques such as Bluebird and OKeh were no longer on the market. Even Decca, which had made low-priced records respectable in 1934, was mostly pushing records at a price of seventy-five cents, plus tax.

On top of that, labels were springing up all over the place. No longer would the field be dominated by studios in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles–records could come from nearly anywhere. And some labels specialized–in popular sounds, in country-and-western music, in “race” records (which would soon be called rhythm-and-blues), in ethnic and foreign-language records of various types, and in “children’s records”.

So it was with Make Mine Music. But some of the sequences were less successful than others in geneating pop covers.

“Blue Bayou” does not appear to have stimulated any pop versions of the tune.

And, being an “evergreen” or “standard”, “After You’ve Gone” did not need the impetus of a Disney theatrical cartoon to get it played and recorded.

The ballad “Without You” was already a success for Andy Russell, and would be covered by Tony Martin and others in the wake of the film’s release.

But there were songs in the flick that would get fairly wide coverage. In fact, the various segments of Make Mine Music would inspire “pop” covers of these songs–if they were not already out on records to begin with.

Such was the case with “Without You”, an English text to the Mexican song “Tres Palabras”. A romantic, minor-key bolero, this song had already been recorded by Andy Russell, one of the younger “crooners” of the day. Russell had been brought up with the music of the Mexican-Americans that lived in his neighborhood, and could sing in quite fluent Spanish. He had already scored successes with such Mexican melodies as “Amor” and “Besame Mucho”–so “Without You” would be right in his wheelhouse. After the film had come out, there were other covers of “Without You”.

Mercury records–a newcomer out of Chicago–actually had two covers of the song, with Jaynn Walton having one version, and Tony Martin (a more established singer) also covering the song. There was also a dance-band version by pianist-bandleader Frankie Carle on Columbia.

Even a little later–well into 1947–RCA Victor put out a version by bandleader Desi Arnaz. The Victor was trying to get Arnaz to cut all of the Latino “standards” for then, so they would have a good catalogue of such. Arnaz was, apparently, not happy with this arrangement, but he went along with it.

Other numbers in the film were recorded unopposed by the artists that had featured them in the film. Thus, the Andrews Sisters had “Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet” all to themselves, backed up by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians.

And nobody covered Jerry Colonna’s Capitol recording of “Casey”, his adaptation of Theyer’s famous poem “Casey At The Bat”. (As if anybody was going to try to imitate Jerry Colonna, whose radio appearances has brought him great fame.)

And nobody tried stepping on Nelson Eddy’s toes with a cover of “The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met”. Columbia issued a “Masterworks” set of three discs that encompassed this story. On these records, as on he film, Nelson Eddy over-dubbed his voice, singing many of the parts himself. That was still much harder to do on record than on film, as tape recording had not yet become standard.

Dinah Shore also seems to have had an exclusive on “Two Silhouettes”, which she cut for Columbia in late 1946 (after the movie came out).

The song that got the most coverage, however, was “All The Cats Join In”. If the standard discographies are to be believed, Benny Goodman cut both “All The Cats. . .” and “After You’ve Gone” at a New York studio in the summer of 1944–both as instrumentals.

A prominent West Coast vocal group dubbed their contribution over Goodman’s performance of “All The Cats” early in 1946. Goodman himself cut the song in February, 1946, for Columbia. Liza Morrow took most of the singing, with Benny getting a few lines in,and the band chiming in. Over the next few months, Benny would feature the song on various radio broadcasts, some of which exist as “air checks”. He also featured it on a network radio show that he’d managed to land beginning in the summer of 1946.

Other records of the song began to emerge from the increasingly-crowded woodwork. Roy Eldridge–a trumpeter referred to as “Little Jazz” within the jazz fraternity–but a version with a big band for Decca. And Opie Cates–a bandleader known for work on various radio shows–cut the piece for the smaller, regional 4-Star label, out of Pasadena, California.

Next: the odd duck of Make Mine Music — a piece not seen in years,due to concerns about “political correctness”.

3 Comments

  • Besides Dinah Shore, Peggy Lee also made a recording of “Two Silhouettes.”

    “Make Mine Music” is an early example of Disney’s use of “celebrity voices” for animation.

  • Both “Without You” and “Two Silhouettes” were covered by Lou Bring and His Orchestra, with vocal by Chu Chu Martinez, on ARA 5006.

    There is a set of three promo discs — three 10-inch 78 rpm records — of songs from MAKE MINE MUSIC, distributed by Disney to radio stations in 1946 to promote the film. The six songs on the set are:

    “Without You” (Charles Wolcott and His Orchestra; Anita Boyer, vocal)

    “Two Silhouettes” (Charles Wolcott and His Orchestra; Peggy Lee, vocal)

    “Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet” (Charles Wolcott and His Orchestra; Peggy Lee, vocal)

    “All the Cats Join In” (Charles Wolcott and His Orchestra)

    “Blue Bayou” (Charles Wolcott and His Orchestra; Hal Derwin, vocal)

    “Make Mine Music” (Charles Wolcott and His Orchestra; Hal Derwin, vocal)

    Not released to the public, the records are quite rare. They are believed to have been recorded for Disney by Capitol Records in late 1945 and early 1946, and distributed in early 1946. The records are discussed in an article in the February 16, 1946 issue of “Billboard Magazine.”

  • As a late-boomer kid, I remember seeing most of the package film numbers laced into Disneyland / World of Color hours. I suspect more postwar kids met them on TV than as theatrical shorts.

    I was in my teens before I found out those numbers were carved out of feature films. I finally saw “Melody Time” and “Make Mine Music” at UCSC in the 70s, and “Fun and Fancy Free” on home video.

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