NEEDLE DROP NOTES
February 19, 2019 posted by James Parten

Neverland or Bust!

Walt Disney had been toying with doing an animated version of James M. Barrie’s enduring stage success, Peter Pan since the middle 1930’s.

There maybe songs in a trunk somewhere that date back as far as “Never Smile At A Crococile”, which would have to have been written before Frank Churchill’s untimely death in 1949.

So, with Alice In Wonderland in the can, attention could be turned to the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up.

At the same time, the staff at Walt Disney Music,Inc. had learned a valuable lesson from Alice. Too many songs make it less likely that one or two of them will be hits.

So, there were only around a half-dozen songs featured in Peter Pan. Only five got “grownup” commercial recordings. None of them were big hits in their own right–although there were again circumstances where some shekels were made by the back-door method of being on the flip side of somebody else’s hit.

Another lesson learned was not to have so much lag time between the time the songs get introduced to the public, and the release of the picture proper. The first of the songs from Peter Pan to get advertised was “Your Mother and Mind”, the film’s gentle ballad.

The November 29th, 1952 issues of “Billboard” and “Cash Box” had ads for a new Coral release of this tune, as played by Larrence Welk and his orchestra, and with vocal refrain by Roberta Linn. Although not a hit on its own, the record sold fairly well–due to Welk’s cover of the fluke hit of the period,”Oh, Happy Day”.

The next week’s issue saw Decca–parent label to Coral–get into the act with a version of ‘The Second Star To The Right’. Chosen for this ballad was one Don Cherry, one of those big-voiced belters who were so prominent in the pre-rock Fifties. Decca had been trying to establish Cherry as viable competition to the likes of Eddie Fisher and Tony Bennett, with only a limited degree of success.

In the issue of the 20th, the dam broke. Columbia and RCA Victor each had two discs, with several songs from the “Pan” score represented between them. CBS’s label issued two of the songs, separately. Both were given to a bright and perky star of ballrooms, radio, records and motion pictures.

Doris Day was one of Columbia’s biggest stars in 1952, and had just come off “A Guy Is A Guy”–which might be considered a “stalker’s song” today. So, Doris got both “Your Mother and Mine” (39905) and “The Second Star To the Right” (39913), assisted by the Four Lads and their discreet vocal harmonies.

Again, “Your Mother and Mine” did not make the turnstiles click. But is flip side, a piece of froth called “Mister Tap Toe”, did stir enough interest to make the charts.

3 Comments

  • Hey James,
    What about Jerry Lewis’s record of “Never Smile At A Crocodile”, and surely somebody must have recorded the Pirate Song (“A Pirate’s Life is a Wonderful Life”)? I have some acetates of the 1930s with songs written for “Peter Pan” which didn’t make it into the final score, including an earlier version of the pirate’s song which was devoted to Captain Hook. Probably somebody put that out on a CD by now.

    • In 1996 Varese Sarabande produced a Peter Pan cd that featured new renditions of Peter Pan songs from various productions including the movie version. For example Susan Egan did a version of You Can Fly and Crista Moore did Second Star to the Right. In 1997 Disney produced a cd of music from the movie and it also included The Boatswain’s Song.

  • Just a quick note to mention that Frank Churchill died in 1942, not 1949.
    But, thanks for your great articles!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.