March 25, 2018 posted by James Parten

Mr. Bug Goes To… Shellac

The tale of Max Fleischer’s second feature-length cartoon, Mr. Bug Goes To Town has been written up before on this website (one of the previous posts about the film is here).

Basically, the film got caught up in studio politics, with one group taking over the Paramount studio from another one–and that group wanting no longer to sub-contract out for the a animated cartoons that made up a part of the Paramount program.

And the new regime took a tack that would happen all too often in Hollywood. They tried to put the kibosh on those projects favored by the old, outgoing regime, rather than put the stuff out and hope for the good of the firm, that something would click.

However Famous Music–Paramount’s music-publishing arm–saw that there were songs to promote and–bless their mercenary little hearts–seems to have made a good-faith effort to promote the songs, even though the film from whence they came was getting a treatment from the “new guys”.

Of the various elements of the song score, two songs were singled out for “plugging”. They were the ballad “We’re The Couple In The Castle”, and the rhythm song “Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy”.

Victor concentrated its efforts on “Couple in the Castle”. The fifty-cent Victor records released a dance version and a “vocadance” version..

The fox-trot version was by “Swing And Sway With Sammy Kaye”, whom we have met before in these columns. The “vocadance” version was by Barry Wood (nee Louis Rapp), a busy radio singer then herd on “Your Hit Parade”.

As for Bluebird, again, all the attention was focused on “Couple In The Caste”, with Bluebird giving the song to America’s most prominent orchestra–that of Glenn Miller. Miller played it in his usual dreamy style, and Ray Eberle gets as much romance out of the lyric as the song will allow.

Bluebird also issued a “vocadance” of “Couple”, as sung by the Four King Sisters–whom we have also met in these pages.

Columbia does not appear to have given either song to any of the artists who recorded for their fifty-cent records.

But the thirty-five cent Okeh label covered both “Couple” and “Boy Oh Boy”. But they gave both of these songs to the band of Frankie Masters, a band which had its base of popularity in the Midwest. Masters’ group was mostly a sweet band, without undue gimmickry.

Likewise, Decca gave both the songs to one of its second-string bands. Johnny Long had gotten his start in the dance pavilions of the Virginia and Carolina coasts. His band had no particular stylistic traits. Long became best known for a unison-vocal arrangement of In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town.

Curiously, one other song from this score got recorded commercially–but not in the United States. George Formby was one of the most popular comedians in the United Kingdom. He appeared in almost every area of British show business, usually playing a clueless Lancashire lad. Of course, in his films, he gets the girl in he end–and gets plenty of chances to sing his breezy, sometimes slightly naughty, novelty songs, accompanying himself on a “banjulele”–a ukulele built on a banjo body. Usually, he recorded songs that were written especially for him. But at one 1942 session, he cut “Katy Did–Katy Didn’t”.

NOTE: The George Formey version of “Katy Did–Katy Didn’t” is not to be found on YT, nor on the Internet Archives. It is available on the JSP box set of “George Formby: The War and Post-War Years”.

How he came upon this number is anybody’s guess. But he did, and he makes it sound like something written especially for him. His wife Beryl, a notoriously jealous woman, assists him on the recording–allowing for the call-and-response hinted at in the arrangement used on the film sound track.

NEXT WEEK: The covers of Bambi.


  • Two more:

    Columbia 36477–“We’re the Couple in the Castle”–Claude Thornhill and His Orchestra; Dick Harding, vocal.

    Elite 5012–“We’re the Couple in the Castle”–Duke Daly and His Orchestra; Joe Marne, vocal.

  • “Katy Did Katy Didn’t” was also remembered in the late ’70s in the PBS series “Song By Song” (the cast of “Side By Side By Sondheim” honoring other composers in kind–in this case, of course, Frank Loesser) in the final medley.

    In his book “Enchanted Drawings,” Charles Solomon asserts “Mr. Bug” wouldn’t have been a box office success in the best circumstances. Sure it would have, if it had been sold with any effort on Paramount’s part, if only as the animated equivalent of a B (or in this case, bee) movie.

    • They certainly could’ve done more to ‘save’ this.

  • I’ve seen a Soundie of Darrell Calker (!) performing ““Couple In The Castle.”

  • Always wondered how it was that of all the songs from this and “Gulliver’s Travels”, only “It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day” found its way into Famous / Paramount shorts. Other songs from Famous Music were used. “Accentuate the Positive”, “Swing on a Star” and “Louise” were sung; “Beyond the Blue Horizon” turned up as background in a Popeye; and “Jingle Jangle Jingle” became the go-to cowboy theme.

  • It’s odd because the songs were composed by the one and only Frank Loesser. He wrote better scene change music than most B’way composers wrote songs.

  • Is Thunderbean working on a release of Mr. Bug?

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