In the early sound era it was apparently easier to use, on occasion, “Needle Drop” music from commercial records to score a cartoon. Ye Cartoon Research editor, Jerry Beck, knowing of my keen interest in identifying these recordings, asked me (with additional research from my colleague Charles Gardner) to compile a list of such cartoons containing established records. Readers are asked to submit any additions I may have overlooked – or any corrections.
The Fleischer studio used ‘needle-drops’ between 1930 and 1936, providing soundtrack music for some of his cartoons. Why he felt this necessary is anybody’s guess, as Manny Baer had a peppy little band that provided not only incidental music for the shorts, but employment for such musicians as Mike Mosiello (trumpet) and Andy Sannella (alto sax).
These are the Fleischer shorts we’ve noted with needle-drops on the soundtracks.
HOT DOG (Eddie Peabody: “St. Louis Blues’)
WISE FLIES (Eddie Peabody: “Some of these Days”)
THE DANCING FOOL (Don Carlos and his Rumba Band: “Mama Inez”)
BETTY BOOP M. D. (Red Pepper Sam: “Nobody’s Sweetheart”)
BETTY BOOP’S UPS AND DOWNS (Gene’s Merrymakers: “Goofus”, and Billy Banks’ Rhythmakers: “Bugle Call Rag”, the latter sped up.
RED HOT MAMA (Gene’s Merrymakers: “Hell’s Bells”)
THE KIDS IN THE SHOE (Smiley Burnette: “Mama Don’t Allow It”)
BETTY BOOP AND GRAMPY ( Maple City Four: “Tiger Rag”)
A SONG A DAY (Hoosier Hot Shots: “Ha-Cha-Nan (The Daughter of San)”, sped up.)
Now, all these recordings were made for the American Record Company’s “dime-store” labels. They appeared on Perfect, Banner, Romeo and Oriole, and could well have appeared on Conqueror. Some of the later ones also appeared on Melotone.
If memory serves, Fleischer’s studio was situated mid-town Manhattan. I seem to remember reading in Cabarga that some Fleischer employee had to take the subway up to Harlem, in order to buy one of the records needed–only to have it broken in halves on the way back on the subway.
It has also been claimed that Ace of Spades uses a needle-drop of a blackface comedy recording. Unfortunately, this cartoon has not shown up in a complete form. What little has shown up suggests that the usual Fleischer voice talent may be there, putting burnt cork on their vocal cords, in order to “play” in blackface.
Herewith: a list of the Ub Iwerks cartoons we’ve found with needle-drops:
SODA SQUIRT (Flip) (Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra: “By Heck”, and Havana Novelty Orchestra: “Mama Inez”)
THE AIR RACE (Willie Whopper) (Victor Symphony Orchestra: “Zampa” Overture by Herold)
GOOD SCOUT (Willie Whopper) (Boyd Senter: “Smiles” and McKinney’s Cotton Pickers: “Milenberg Joys”)
THE CAVE MAN (Willie Whopper) (Bennie Moten: “Somebody Stole My Gal” and “Lafayette”)
BALLOON LAND (ComiColor) (Victor Concert Orchestra: “Buffoon”, and International Novelty Orchestra: “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”, the latter sped up.
There is also Summertime, another Comicolor short. But all of is music is from classical records and neither of us has encyclopedic knowledge of the field.
Most of the records referred to above are avilable on YouTube. Notable exceptions are the Gene’s Merrymakers (Gene Kardos) tems. To find them online, Google “Gene Kardos145” and you will get to something over at archive.com, which has 145 Kados recordings, running from 1931 to 1938.
My colleague, Charles Gardner, found another Ub Iwerks cartoon whose soundtrack seems mostly made up of needle-drops. However, we cannot identify the material used, although I’ve a theory about their source. It’s the Comicolor cartoon The Three Bears, and most of the soundtrack is needle-drops. However, these are not from commercial Victor records.
We suspect that the sources for this cartoon are in Victor’s large library of “Pict-Ur Music” records, made for use by silent theaters as mood music to accompany a film – or for playing during intermission. Many of these were recorded for this express purpose, with only a small number of the series taken from commercial discs of the day. Most of the are by a large house orchestra, and are pretty generic-sounding. It would be interesting to speculate as to how these records came into the hands of the Fleischer and Iwerks studios.
In the case of Fleischer, all of the records found to have been used were on “dime-store” labels. We do know that Banner records were sold at S. S. Kresge stores, among others. Oriole records were sold at McCrory’s stores, while Romeo was sold at S. H. Kress stores. We also know that a later (1933-34) incarnation of Domino was sold at John Gabel stores -but we don’t know if the earlier (1924-30) one was, too. We don’t know just how Melotone, Perfect, or Regal records were marketed.
I don’t think that records like these would be found at midtown venues such as Liberty Music Shops. Those places catered to a very tony clientele, and the records that are often seen with either their stickers, or on their own label, tend to be material aimed at a high-class trade — not Smiley Burnette caterwauling defiance at his mamma.
Iwerks, on the other hand, may have had a direct connection to Victor. If the snippets heard in The Three Bears were, in fact, from the Victor Pict-Ur Music library, then he wouldn’t have had the need of dealing with an established Victor dealer.
There are two other, later cartoons that use needle drops to good effect. The Mr. Magoo short Spellbound Hound makes good use of Frank Crumit’s 1927 recording of “Frankie and Johnnie”. And then there’s Walter Lantz’s SH-H-H-H!, which uses the old OKeh Laughing record.
And we don’t need to concern ourselves here with the Hanna-Babera cartoons (or others) that used needle-drops from Capitol or other sources. Yowp has been taking care of that over at his invaluable Blogspot site.
Next Week: More about the folks behind these ‘needle-drops’.