Several “before-they-became-famous” artists join Mickey, Donald and Goofy in this longtime favorite Disney collection of Fourth of July favorites from the late ’70s.
Walt Disney Productions’
YANKEE DOODLE MICKEY
Disneyland Records #2513 (12”33 1/3 RPM / Stereo / 1980)
CD Reissue: Walt Disney Records 60355-7 (All 12 songs, 1995); D-60664-7 (10 songs only, 2000), (10 songs only, 2009)
Available on iTunes
Producer: Jymn Magon. Children’s Choral Director: Betty Joyce. Running Time: 29 minutes.
Performers: Peter Renaday (Mickey Mouse); Clarence Nash (Donald Duck); Hal Smith (Goofy); Molly Ringwald, Bill Lee, Paul Worley, Disneyland Glee Club, Larry Groce, The Disneyland Children’s Sing-Along Chorus.
Songs: “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “This is My Country,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “America (My Country ’Tis of Thee),” “Liberty Tree” (from Disney’s Johnny Tremain), “God Bless America,” “Armed Forces Medley,” When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” Yankee Doodle,” This Land is Your Land,” “America the Beautiful,” “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Mickey Mouse Disco was the first children’s record to go double platinum, ushering a second “golden age” at Disneyland Records. The odd thing is that Mickey himself is not heard on the album. That was remedied in Disney’s next line of albums, all of which offered generous opportunities for Mickey, Donald and Goofy to talk and sing.
Everything on Yankee Doodle Mickey was new except for two tracks: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” from the Disney “Music Mural” album, America the Beautiful, and Bill Lee’s stirring studio performance of “Liberty Tree” from the Johnny Tremain LP (also heard on Holidays with the Mouseketeers and Happy Birthday and Songs from Every Holiday.
The Disneyland Sing-Along Children’s Chorus was actually a top flight group of singing kids led by Betty Joyce. Her late husband, Jimmy Joyce, led one of Hollywood’s most successful singing ensembles. The adult Jimmy Joyce Singers were regulars on The Red Skelton Show and the children’s chorus sang for the Von Trapps in Fox’s The Sound of Music as well as albums like The Chipmunks Sing with Children and Doris Day’s With a Smile and a Song. Betty’s son Bill carried on the family tradition and still can be heard on a number of Epcot attractions.
Most notably, Yankee Doodle Mickey is the first of two Disney records (the other was Merry Christmas Carols) featuring a young Molly Ringwald, just before she became a regular on TV’s The Facts of Life and shortly thereafter, a “Brat Pack” movie icon.
“I learned of Molly through Betty Joyce, I think,” Jymn Magon tells us. “When I called her house to book the session (her dad was her manager), we agreed on a price and a time. Then when I started to give him directions to the studio (MCA-Whitney, I think), Bob Ringwald said, ‘Wait a minute. I’m gonna give the phone to Molly.’ I was a bit baffled by this until I learned later that Bob was sight impaired! (He was a good banjo player, by the way.)
“Anyway, Molly showed up and did a great job with it. I stood next to her through the whole recording for some reason. She only about ten years old, and I thought my presence was going to be somehow comforting. Not sure it was, but she was a trooper. She would stand almost perfectly still and that huge voice would come pouring out of her.
“Years later I saw Molly twice more. Once, while she was unloading a musical instrument from a trunk at Burbank Airport. I wanted to go up and say “Hi,” but I figured she wouldn’t remember me. Later still I saw her starring in Sweet Charity at the Pantages theater.”
Another artist who appeared on this album at an early career point was Paul Worley, who sings “The Battle of New Orleans,” a version that is arguably as good as Johnny Horton’s original. “I enjoyed this novelty song when it first came out in 1959, so it was fun to put it on Yankee Doodle Mickey,” Jymn continues. “Paul was a singer/producer/guitar player in Nashville at the time, but he went on to become a major producer at Sony and a CEO at Warner Bros. Records. I recorded these tracks with lots of young professionals who went on to become big names in the recording business.”
Yankee Doodle Mickey has enjoyed a nice, long shelf life as a Disney recording staple. It was reissued in its entirety as a CD with the same cover art in 1995, but all subsequent reissues do not include “The Battle of New Orleans” and “Liberty Tree,” Not only did those songs, both from the latter half of the 20th century, probably command the highest royalties, it might have been felt that they’re not so much standard patriotic tunes as a pop song and a movie song—excellent as they both are.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“This is My Country”
Jymn Magon comments: “This was one of my favorite songs in grade school, so I wanted it on the Mickey album (it always gave me patriotic goosebumps). Molly had just done Annie onstage. She had one of those belt-that-tune-out kid voices–just perfect for “This Is My Country.”