Today, a journey through the grooves of Saturday Morning rock and roll comedy. From Total TeleVision, makers of Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo and Go-Go Gophers comes one of the most obscure musical cartoons ever broadcast: The Beagles (1966).
HERE COME THE BEAGLES
From the Popular Television Series
Harmony (Columbia) Records HS-14561 (Stereo) HL-9561 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / 1966)
Producer/Arranger/Conductor: Charles Fox. Running Time: 22 minutes.
Songs: “Looking for the Beagles (Theme),” “Sharing Wishes,” “Indian Love Dance,” “What More Can I Do,” “I’d Join the Foreign Legion,” “Be the Captain,” “Humpty Dumpty,” “Thanks to the Man in the Moon,” “I Wanna Capture You,” “You Satisfy” by Watts “Buck” Biggers, Tread Covington, Joe Harris and Chet Stover.
The Fab Four’s many “tributes” included a largely forgotten cartoon series by the foursome who founded Total Television in New York. Ad agency creative Buck” Biggers and Chet Stover, who with account executive Tread Covington and character designer/storyboard artist Joe Harris, brought King Leonardo and Underdog to TV, made their last stab at a hit series on CBS, September 10, 1966.
It was during the same time slot as King Features’ animated version of The Beatles on ABC. No matter how good the show or the music might have been, there was no contest. After a season on CBS and reruns on ABC, the show disappeared. This was the first and only TTV series that was not among General Mills’ aggressively marketed cartoons (which also included the Jay Ward shows). Biggers, Stover, Harris and Covington owned The Beagles, wrote the songs, and proudly added their names to the credits and owned the show themselves (along with the previously uncredited principals at Gamma Productions, which animated the show in Mexico.)
Before he became a Grammy-winning and Oscar nominated composer, Charles Fox handled the musical direction of The Beagles. Columbia, which was owned by CBS, released all the songs from the series on their Harmony budget label. The music was recorded in Mexico but Fox himself may have done the vocals in L A., perhaps. The harmonies are reminiscent of Chad and Jeremy (“A Summer Song”) and the overall quality is not unlike music heard on AM radio of the mid-sixties. Judging from the clips, portions of the songs were sung at least twice in each adventure.
According to Mark Arnold’s indispensable book, Created and Produced by Total TeleVision (from which spring nearly all the facts in this post), Harris has the films but thinks very little of the show. But having seen the few available examples (see below), the cartoons are actually quite entertaining, very much in the classic TTV style and likely to bring back some boomer memories. The Beagles aren’t Underdog or Tennessee Tuxedo — or even Tooter the Turtle — but they sure give Klondike Kat and Commander McBragg a run for their money. Surely Shout! Factory must have considered issuing the series on DVD.
The Beagles show is so rare I can’t resist posting the only two examples known to exist online:
Part One of “Foreign Legion Flops” (Black and white with show open and end credits)
Parts One and Two of “I Feel Like Humpty Dumpty” (Color without open and close)
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Lookin’ for The Beagles” & “Be the Captain”
Charles Fox had not yet developed his distinctive style in The Beagles’ songs, but rather strove to give them legitimacy alongside mainstream pop. Each song is catchy and some are even memorable. “Be the Captain” from “The Captain of the Ship” episode is one that stuck in the heads of many viewers long after the show had gone away.
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Album
Of a Sid and Marty Krofft Production
Capitol SW-542 (Stereo / 12” LP / 30 minutes / 1970 / Album Producer: Charles Fox.
CD Reissue: EL/Cherry Red Records ACMEM65CD (2006)
Performers: Jack Wild (Jimmy); Billie Hayes (Miss Witchiepoo); Martha Raye (Boss Witch); Mama Cass Eliot (Witch Hazel); The Charlie Fox Singers.
Songs: “If I Could,” “Living Island,” “A Friend in You,” “Pufnstuf,” “Different,” “Zap the World” by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel.
Instrumentals: “Fire in the Castle,” Witchiepoo’s Lament,” “Angel Raid,” “Charge!” “Leaving Living Island,” “Rescue Racer to the Rescue” by Charles Fox. “How Lucky I Am” by Les Szarvas.
Charles Fox was on the rise when Sid & Marty Krofft produced their first feature film based on their first TV series. At a glance, the film looks like a more elaborate, lengthened episode of their seminal Saturday Morning fantasy, H.R. Pufnstuf (NBC, 1969). But in reality, despite the low budget and slapdash feel, the movie Pufnstuf (released in 1970 by Universal) has the effusive nature of a maiden voyage into the big screen world—which while not as lavish as a multi-million dollar musical, is nonetheless more ambitious than the series.
More than anything else, it has energetic, powerful music. Pufnstuf was released just before ABC premiered its anthology comedy Love, American Style and initiated the kind of Charles Fox/Norman Gimbel theme song that would dominate the top ten lists of TV shows in the ‘70s. After working with the Kroffts on NBC’s The Bugaloos, Fox (and usually lyricist Gimbel) racked up a staggering number of iconic themes, several of which were recorded as singles and enjoyed successful radio play.
The Pufnstuf soundtrack album is a marvelous blueprint of the songs and themes awaiting Fox in the ensuing decade. One after another, the melodies, vocals, forms and structures of other Fox compositions spin out from the soundtrack album grooves. Hints of The Love Boat theme in “A Friend in You,” the bold brass blasts of Wonder Woman are evident in “Zap the World,” and the essences of “Ready to Take a Chance Again” and “Killing Me Softly With His Song” are woven through “If I Could,” which has an up-tempo bridge that suggests the theme to Laverne and Shirley.
The musical production, vocal arrangements and overall spectacle of the Pufnstuf soundtrack make it one of this writer’s “desert island discs.”
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
This joyous musical set piece builds on every verse, playing around with a variety of tonal expressions until the big “bring it home!” finish. Delightfully as it was staged in the film, this song sounds as if it belongs to something much grander. You hear Charles Fox’s musical tricks all in one big, boisterous bag.
As heard in full stereo:
As seen in the movie (gotta love those heh-vee ‘70s zooms and jump cuts!):