The long lost era of locally hosted children’s TV shows is preserved in vinyl on three records featuring the veteran stage, screen and voice actor—and even Mae Questel!
OFFICIAL TV POPEYE RECORD ALBUM
Captain Allen Swift and Mae Questel
aap (associated artists productions, inc.) Records #1001 (7” 45 RPM / Mono)
Released in 1956. Producer: Allen Swift, Arthur Pine. Music: Charles Naylor. Running Time: 9 minutes.
Voices: Allen Swift (Popeye, Captain “Allenswift”); Mae Questel (Olive Oyl, Swee’ Pea).
Songs: “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” by Sammy Lerner; “Duz You Like Popeye?” by Allen Swift.
Public Domain Songs: “Doo-Do,” “Hickory, Dickory, Dock,” “Down in the Valley,” “Pop! Goes the Weasel,” “Yankee Doodle,” “Blow the Man Down.”
Of the three records discussed here, this is the one that captures the best of all possible Popeye TV worlds, with the caveat that Jack Mercer does not appear on it. Allen Swift, a gifted impressionist, does a fine Popeye imitation, however, and he’s assisted by Mae Questel throughout the mini-album. It’s a modest, pleasant affair with arrangements by Charles Naylor that are very cartoonish with some nods to early animation music.
Allen Swift was a very distinguished dramatic actor but is best known to cartoon fans as the voice of Simon Barsinister (a spot-on take on Lionel Barrymore) in Total TeleVision’s Underdog, his roles in various Gene Deitch cartoons (Clint Clobber, Dicky Moe), as well as every character voice besides Boris Karloff, Phyllis Diller and Gale Garnett in the Rankin/Bass classic, Mad Monster Party. Mark Evanier wrote extensively about Swift on this must-read blog post.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Official Popeye TV Record Album”
This recording may be the only one in which Olive joins in singing “I’m Popeye, The Sailor Man,” along with a few original tunes and lots of P.D. ones.
TV RECORD ALBUM AS FEATURED ON THE POPEYE SHOW
15 All-Time Favorite Children’s Songs
Allen Swift and The TV Kids Chorus
[No Record Label Given] #777 (7” 45 RPM / Mono)
Released in 1956. Producer: Allen Swift, Arthur Pine. Running Time: 9 minutes.
Songs (all Public Domain): “The TV Show (Camptown Races),” “Go In and Out the Window,” “Skip to My Lou,” “Sailing, Sailing,” “The Old Gray Mare,” “Looby-Loo,” “Jingle Bells,” “TV Boy (Billy Boy),” “Alouette,” “A-Hunting We Will Go,” “Did You Ever See a Lassie?” “Rig A Jig-Jig,” “Frere Jacques,” “Sing a Song of Sixpence.”
Other Song: “Famous Bosco Jingle.”
More than likely, both this little record and the one above were mail-in premiums connected with Allen Swift’s four-year run on New York’s WPIX-TV Channel 11. The children’s chorus and small band, featuring an electric organ, really captures the local kiddie show sound of the era.
Most of the songs are public domain with new lyrics that are either kid-friendly or, more importantly, TV friendly. It closes with the “famous” Bosco jingle that was also sung on commercials that were undoubtedly shown during the show. (I’ve always loved the fact that Bosco wasn’t just a chocolate syrup—it was a “milk amplifier.” I guess if you used up the whole bottle all at once, you’d dial your sugar rush up to eleven.)
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“TV Record Album As Featured on the Popeye Show”
Popeye’s only presence on the record is on the picture sleeve, in the context of the TV show. The sailor has no role on the actual recording. For those of us who were Miami baby boomers, this would have been the kind of thing that Chuck Zink might have recorded with Uncle Don and Scrubby for Popeye Playhouse (later The Skipper Chuck Show, the show we watched before we went to school every morning. Alas, it was not to be.
POPEYE’S FAVORITE SEA SHANTIES
Captain Allen Swift with Bill Simon and His Crew
RCA Bluebird Records LBY-1018 (1959)
Reissue (1960): RCA Camden Records CAS-1018 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Enhanced for Stereo)
Producer: Allen Swift, Arthur Pine. Music: Charles Naylor. Running Time: 9 minutes.
Songs: “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” by Sammy Lerner.
Public Domain Songs: “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “Oh Susanna,” “Home on the Range,” “Dixie,” “The Rugged Ship,” “He’ll Be Sailing on the Ocean,” The Sailor’s On the Ship,” “The Sailor’s Deck,” “London Bridge is Falling Down,” “The Silly Sailor,” “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” “I Saw a Ship A-Sailing,” “Row, Row, Row,” “Away to Rio,” “Blow the Man Down,” “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” “Blow, Boys, Blow,” “First Down Below,” “Haul on the Bowlin’,” “Goodbye, My Captain, Goodbye.”
While this album came at the tail end of Swift’s Popeye hosting gig, it had the longest shelf life, sold in stores for many years, to listeners who may have never known about the local New York TV show. The 200 new King Features Popeye cartoons that appeared shortly after the LP’s release surely helped its sales.
Except for the theme song, neither Popeye nor Olive have anything to do with the record’s contents. Swift provides commentary between the songs about life as a pirate with an occasional mention of Popeye here and there, as if they were friends on the high seas. The songs are sung with vigor by Swift and a male chorus.
This LP could just as easily have been a generic sea shanty album and may have been a bit of a disappointment to some kids expecting more Popeye and less shanty. Writer Bill Simon, who penned stories for another RCA Popeye album (Popeye’s Favorite Stories), participated in this one as well, perhaps at the same time, but the other album was closer to the “real” Popeye, as it starred Mercer and Questel in adventure stories.
The real historic value here is the presence of Swift, because of his connection with Popeye as well as animation and children’s TV. His contributions are considerable and deserving of more celebration and exploration.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” and “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”
Just to give an idea of how the album plays out, here is the beginning section with some commentary and singing. The rest of the album follows the format through to its conclusion.