June 24, 2014 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Popeye on Golden Records

Jack Mercer and Mae Questel, and one of the most popular children’s labels of the baby boom era, combined for a perfect storm of cartoon spinnery: Popeye on Golden Records!


Golden Records LP-56 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono / 1960)
Reissues: Wonderland (Golden) Records LP-56

Producer: Arthur Shimkin. Writer: Bill Kaye. Musical Directors: Jimmy Carroll, Mitch Miller, Jim Timmens. Running Time: 42 minutes.

Performers: Jack Mercer (Popeye, Wimpy, Movie Director, Umpire); Mae Questel (Olive Oyl, Swee’ Pea), The Sandpipers (Mike Stewart, Bob Miller, Ralph Nyland, Dick Byron), Rose Marie Jun.
Songs & Parodies: “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man (Theme Song)” by Sammy Lerner; “Beautiful Lullaby,” “Help! Help! & I Had a Hamburger Dream,” “What’s the Difference?” “Every State is a Great State,” “Why Do You Answer a Question With a Question?” by Bill Kaye and Jimmy Carroll; “Never Pick a Fight,” “Swee’ Pea (Bicycle Built for Two),” “A Fan for Each Woman and Man (Titwillow),” “The Man On the Flying Trapeze,” “Entrance of Mikado and Katisha” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.”

Stories: “Popeye in Cartoon-Land,” “Strolling in the Park” (with the Song), “Home On the Range ” (with the Song), “Television Night,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (with the Song),” “The Emperor of Japan,” “A Game for a Rainy Day.”

Popeye_helpThe year that King Features festooned daytime TV with hundreds of Popeye cartoons supplied by various studios (Paramount Cartoon Studios, Rembrandt Films, Halas and Batchelor, Larry Harmon Pictures, Jack Kinney Productions and Southern Star Productions), Golden Records released this album, graced by the presence of both Jack Mercer and Mae Questel (who didn’t record as many Popeye discs as Mercer).

The album is a delightfully mixed bag of little stories and songs, some previously released on Little Golden Records. Other Golden vocals and music tracks are also included as song excerpts and music beds. Jimmy Carroll is credited, but some music is from the more recent Jim Timmens era of the label.

What a treat to hear these voices, not only Popeye and Olive, but also Swee’ Pea—and especially Wimpy, who shows up in “disguise” in the Old West and at a baseball game. The Popeye heard here is as tough and scrappy as he is subdued and suburban, just as he evolved on TV. Even in his fiercer moments—as in “Never Pick a Fight,”¬—the lyrics remind kids to “Never pick a fight with no one.” Most often Popeye is in a merry frame of mind, even tender when singing Swee’ Pea to sleep on Side One. He’s a sailor man of many moods.

A.A. Records, which became unable to license the Golden name from Western Publishing in 1977, became Wonderland Records and released this album under the same catalog number. A few years later, they became unable to use the character likenesses, so it was reissued under a new catalog number with the same title and a simple drawing of a little boat.

“Popeye in Cartoon Land”
Popeye and Olive arrive on a movie set to film “Popeye the Sailor Man in Havana” (this was at a time when Cuba was a resort destination). Mae Questel gets to sing an original tune called “Beautiful Lullaby” in a pleasant, straightforward way. When Olive says, “This is so exciting!” she sounds a little like Peggy Cass of TV’s To Tell the Truth.

Golden Records R-60 Side One (7” 45 RPM & 6” 78 RPM / Mono)
(Side Two: “Scuffy the Tugboat”)
Golden Records R-346 Side One (7” 45 RPM & 6” 78 RPM / Mono)
(Side Two: “Scuffy the Tugboat”)

Vinyl Reissues on Golden/Wonderland GLP-27 TV Jamboree; LP-285 Cartoon Favorites
Currently Available on Shout! Factory MicroWerks CD MW-022, The Best of Little Golden Records

Producer: Arthur Shimkin. Musical Director: Mitch Miller, Jimmy Carroll.
Performers: Jack Mercer (Popeye, Wimpy); Mae Questel (Olive Oyl, Swee’ Pea).

Jack Mercer and Robin Williams
The interesting thing about Golden’s version of Popeye’s signature tune is that the precise Jimmy Carroll arrangement was redone in stereo by arranger Van Dyke Parks for the 1980 Popeye movie starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. This was not a concealed imitation, but an affectionate acknowledgement of how solid Golden’s version is. They even mixed in some of Jack Mercer’s voice track!


Golden Records LP-73 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono / 1961)

Producer: Arthur Shimkin. Writer: Paul Parnes. Musical Director: Jim Timmens. Running Time: 41 minutes.

Performers: Jack Mercer (Popeye, Wimpy); Mae Questel (Olive Oyl, Swee’ Pea).
Songs: “Shake Hands,” “A Friend is Someone You Like,” “I Have a Little Friend,” “A Friendly Town,” “Red and Green,” “When You Ride Your Bicycle,” “Never Play with Matches,” “Lonely Tooth,” “Sleepy Head,” “Scrub and Scrub,” “It Matters If You Have Good Manners” by Paul Parnes; “Swimming,” “Ah-Choo!” by (Richard?) Rosenblatt and Victor Ziskin; “Polite Ways Make Happy Days,” by (Cynthia?) Weil and Jim Timmens; “When You Go to a Show” by Jim Timmens and Paul Parnes;

With Popeye cartoons going strong on TV—and Golden certainly selling lots of single records, EP’s and LP’s of the first album, it was natural to do a follow-up with Mercer and Questel, this time with completely new songs.

Popeye_safety250Things had changed at Golden Records, though. Jimmy Carroll and Mitch Miller had amicably moved over to bigger roles at Columbia Records. The new musical director was Jim Timmens, who was also a sound editor. Producer and Golden Records founder Arthur Shimkin was so fond of his work that Timmens continued to edit, arrange and conduct at Golden through the mid-‘60s, while also composing for commercials and Terrytoons. He later joined Shimkin at the Columbia’s children’s division, which struck gold with the first Sesame Street records; CRA (Children’s Records of America), which reissued Columbia releases; and at Sesame Street Records.

Timmens’ music is easy to identify because of his mellow, light jazz sound, with a very distinctive use of vibraphones, woodwinds and percussion. In some incarnations of TV’s The Woody Woodpecker Show, Timmens’ Golden arrangement of “Cartoon Showtime” was heard.

New York songwriter Paul Parnes, creator of countless commercial jingles like “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” also wrote a number of songs, scripts and background music for Golden Records. His talent for the musical advertising hook was especially helpful when Golden Records were “selling” concepts to their young listeners.

The music tracks of this album were recorded separately from the vocals. Two albums of music were produced, this LP with Popeye, and another with the Golden Singers, which did not appear in stores until over a decade later. The Popeye album was discontinued but five of its songs were available into the 1980’s (with “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man”) on Wonderland Records, as a 45 RPM EP (extended play) record—first with Popeye on the cover and later with the little boat and no character image.

Since two of the songwriters are listed only with their last names, I cannot say with conviction that they may have become big names in pop music in the ensuing years. “Weil” may be Cynthia Weil, who with Barry Mann wrote hit after hit for Don Kirshner’s Aldon Music (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”, “On Broadway”). Richie Rosenblatt may be Richie Cordell, who wrote “Mony Mony” and “I Love Rock and Roll.” Both were writing songs in New York when this album was made (and after all, David Gates of Bread wrote “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear).

This is probably not Popeye for purists, as he and his friends sing and discuss all things oh-so nice and clean. Popeye recalls his sea faring adventures, but it ties to his appreciation of the world’s cultures. Most of this album could easily be released today (with Popeye’s pipe smoking removed).

“Never Play with Matches”
The weirdest track on the album. Most of the LP is mellow and jaunty. This one is a bit Danny Elfman-like. Dark and forboding. Ironically, with all their talk of health and safety, nobody seems to mind Popeye’s pipe puffing (but this was the early ‘60s). Questel’s Olive sounds a little like Didi Conn here.


  • Greg:
    Another great post! The Popeye in Cartoon Land cut was well done,and that was a good mixing job on the Jack Mercer-Robin Williams Popeye theme (though to be completely honest,even though Robin’s a tremendous talent,Jack’s shadow is too strong to overcome!) And I see what you mean by ‘weird” with Never Play With Matches.I wonder why they took such an off-kilter tack with that one.Nevertheless,I still considered it entertaining!

  • “Popeye, Our Sailor Man in Havana” is a poke at the 1960 British production, Our Man in Havana, starring Alec Guiness and Ernie Kovacs.

    • And for a minute there, I sorta giggled at the thought of comparing Cuba to a “cartoon land”. I suppose it could still be one in it’s own snappy way if you don’t think too politically about it. 😉

  • If you dig Popeye, check out Fandom Planet’s recent audio interview with Bobby London. Bobby was one of the legendary Air Pirates and did the Popeye newspaper strip in the 80’s. He’s a talented, funny cartoonist. IDW has recently released his Popeye strips in a high-quality hardback volume and he spoke with my show to promote the book. It’s an hour of fun, jokes and POPEYE POPEYE POPEYE…

    (We’ve also had Jerry Beck on the show in the past. We’d love to have him back, too. Check the archives to listen to a great interview with Jerry, too!)

  • ohhhhhhhh, you have brought back a barrage of (good) memories today! I HAVE ’em still, and even got to lip sync one (or maybe 2) on tv when i was a weee tot! Thank you for this today!!

  • Caveat: My mom bought me a Peter Pan record of “Popeye’s Favorite Sea Shanties” No actual Popeye content; there were instead a bunch of manly voices singing “Nancy Lee”.

  • GREG,dont forget the CABOT AAP Popeye record and the Popeye song folio on Pickwick–I also own an MASTERS
    VOICE Popeye record from Austrailia….

  • Years ago I heard on a local radio station (Ian Whitcomb?) heard Mercer and Questel do a duet of I’m a Little Teacup that was quite chaming.

    • That was a Little Golden Record, released on 78 and 45 RPM.

  • As a kid I had a Peter Pan “Popeye” record called (I think) “Skin Divers;” it was either a 45rpm or a 7-inch 78. It had a fake Popeye “theme song” (“Popeye the sailor man, eats his spinach by the can, no one alive is stronger than, Popeye the sailor man”) and I’m not sure if Jack Mercer was Popeye, but I recall Brutus/Bluto’s voice being very weird, maybe slowed-down (the reverse of the Chipmunk technique.) Anyone else remember this?

    • This record was on either the Peter Pan or one of its other labels, like Rocking Horse or Diplomat. All the voices were by Jack Welch, except the singers, who indeed sang a different version of the theme, probably written for Peter Pan.

    • I have been looking for the lyrics to this piece of music. I can only remember some of them…”He isn’t very handsome and he isn’t very tall…”, “He has a friend named Wimpy, who dearly loves to eat, the way he packs the food away is really quite a feat…”, “Itchin’ for a fight, then Popeye eats his spinach and knocks Bluto out of site.”
      If anyone has the full lyrics, I’d really appreciate it.

    • The Popeye the Sailor Man was on Peter Pan records. Here’s a YouTube video of it.

  • This was the FIRST LP I owned- mom got it for me.
    I was a “big boy”, me getting an LP like my older brother and sisters- who owned many “LP’s” 🙂
    My taste for music later ranged ALL genres- Jazz/Rock being my favorite…
    Thanks again for this post.

  • Hello.I am looking for a Popeye song- I think it’s called “Has anyone seen my Goyle?” It was either on The Golden Label or Peter Pan. I’ve never forgotten it’s catchy melody,even after 45 years. I would very much like to find a copy of it.

    • Search Discogs for Popeye titles.

  • Had this record in the early ’80’s and played it all the time. Couldn’t remember the name of the record but Googled some lyrics to the songs and came to this page. Excellent, thorough page. You truly can find anything on the internet. Thank you for this.

  • First off, I wonder what the abbreviation for A.A. stands for?

    And second, there were two men and one woman that sang for the record company that were on the wonderland label that, on the RCA label, were called the Jingleheimer‘s for the album entitled Children’s Favorites, featuring the jingle Heimer‘s. In addition to well-known Children’s Classics, like John-Jacob-jingle-Heimer-Schmidt they had some unique songs on there, that we’re not heard on the golden in wonderland labels, like the bird counting song, and Ally go blue glue and Jack can I ride. Or shoofly don’t bother me. Again, Children’s Favorites was heard on the RCA label, under RCA special products. One of those men, his name was Steve Clayton. I don’t know the other man’s name. Nor do I know the woman’s name. But I recognize all three of their voices, when they were credited as the “Wonderland Players” on Spooky Halloween, and on Christmas songs that tickle your funny bone, both albums were on the wonderland label.

    I wonder why A.A. Records Inc. bought golden records? I know why they purchased Wonderland records, because Bill growler passed away, as he was the cofounder of Riverside records, that which went bankrupt. The only reason why they bought golden records, I think, was because, both ours are shipped in and Jim Timmons went to form Sesame Street records over at Columbia. I only know of three producers that took over, both golden and Wonderland records when Simpkin and Timmons left. Those three producers, were Dennis and Howard Scott, and Ralph Stein. Didn’t Ralph Stein work with Maury Laws when he himself produced records or conducted music for records on the cricket label? I think so. As the song says, “it’s a small world after all. “ also, the Rita Williams singers were on some of Golden and wonderland records, and Howard Scott produced some of their songs, as did Vic Flick. I’m just trying to connect all the dots together, as I have, some 45s and 70 eights, but also 12 inch 33 and third label LPs of, both golden and wonderland records. End it while Steve Clayton’s name is not actually necessarily credited, on the RCA special products album, “Children’s Favorites: featuring the Jingleheimer‘s, “his voice is on that record, along with the other man another woman, whose names are also not credited. Those two men and women are also on two songs of side two of a wonderland record I have in titled, “Marist Doats and Other tickle twisted tunes for tiny tots.”

    They seen the two songs entitled, I’ll give me a bike, also known as toys beautiful toys, which uses the same melody as home home on the range followed by the very last song on side to the first snowfall of the season, that uses the same melody for take me out to the ball game. Now on other Wonderland and golden records, Steve Clayton sings with another gentleman and another lady. Again, none of their names are credited either. However, on the golden records LP Dr. Dolittle, one of the ladies names is revealed. Her name is Connie Zimmer it, or is it Zimmet? But the voice sounds familiar. If I make any mistakes and what I’m saying, it’s because I’m using speech to text, because I am blind and I’m using my cell phone. If I was to type everything using my fingers, it would take forever, because I have poor eye and hand coordination and I have poor manual dexterity too.

    Again, both Golden records and Wonderland records, that while they have a good history, has a spotty history and so I’m just trying to connect all the dots, knowing that I have a lot of their 33s, 45s and 70 eights, some of them which date back to even when Arthur Shinkin and Jim Timmons were producers and a Rangers.

    • AA Records stood for Arthur Shimkin and Al Massler, who operated Bestway Plastics, the pressing plant which manufactured the Golden records. From what I understand, it was a partnership forced on the two men… they couldn’t stand each other!

      Bestway also pressed Golden’s sister line, the budget sound-alike label Bell Records. In fact they continued to do so long after the two labels “split.” By the 70’s, Bell was a pop music label owned by Columbia Pictures, but it’s still possible to find Bell 45’s by Tony Orlando & Dawn, the Partridge Family, and others with “labels” enameled onto the styrene discs, just as they had been on Golden records!

  • Correction for you. Ritchie Cordell co-produced Joan Jett’s version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” (with Kenny Laguna) but it was written by Jake Hooker and Alan Merrill of The Arrows who recorded it first.

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