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.
The Fleischer Popeyes before the move to Miami definitely had a urban, gritty New York City vibe, but Mercer’s voice was pretty generic in terms of any regional accent. Swift version definitely sounds like his Popeye’s been docking his boat on the shores of Brooklyn (i.e. — the voice is one half Popeye and one half Clint Clobber….).
I think Jack Mercer’s Popeye sounds like he’s from New York. He says things like “goil”, “boid”, “moider”, “shoit”, “poil”, and “toin”.
I forgot the “MEN AT WOIK” sign in “Many Tanks”.
That pronunciation of “woids” is typically New Yorkese, but not exclusively; Georgia born-and-bred Oliver Hardy did the same thing. (He soitenly did…)
It’s interesting that the first record mentioned here was tied in with a.a.p. Could have been that a.a.p. was trying to launch a line of Popeye merchandise and got called on the carpet by King Features? (Wonder if they might have attempted the same thing with Bugs Bunny…)
Is this the same Allen Swift who starred in Munro, It’s a Living with Dinky Duck, Alice of Wonderland in Paris (Alice in Paris), the Gene Dietch Tom and Jerry cartoons, the anime Han Christian Anderson Jr and The Mighty Heroes?
Also on the cover Popeye’s Favorite Sea Shanties, notice Olive Oyl how she looked the opposite of the KFS version of Olive Oyl (The KFS version had Their version of Olive Oyl with the head of the Famous Studios version and the body of the Classic Olive Oyl and the cover of the LP record version had the head of the classic Olive Oyl and the body of the Famous Studios version which she wore the high heeled Stilleto pump shoes instead of her hobnail boots.
Yes – this is that same Allen Swift.
Did you upload the wrong album on youtube? Because there was some switcheroo going on……….
All fixed! Sorry about that.
Am I crazy or did you just repeat the clip from TV Record Album twice? Can’t find hide nor hair of the Popeye theme with Mae Questel joining in.
Anyway, it’s a joy hearing ‘Captain Allen Swift’ again… this is the guy who introduced me to Popeye cartoons every weekday afternoon so many long years ago. Growing up outside of NYC in the late 50’s, early 60’s, we were exposed to a pretty high caliber of kiddie show hosts (Swift, Chuck McCann, Sandy Becker, Joe Bolton, et al) but the Popeye show was my favorite!
All fixed! Thanks!
What happened to Olive’s glorious feet?
That Olive was based on the Famous Studios version of Olive Oyl of the 1950’s (they ((Famous Studios)) decided to ditch Olive’s Famous Hobnail boots with the white rolled up stockings and replaced them with Stilleto pumps with nylons/pantyhose stocking which was popular with women in the 1950’s) KFS brought back Olive’s Hobnail boots with red rolled up stockings instead of the white rolled stockings but they replaced Olive’s classic face with the face she had in the 1950’s Famous Studio version.
A bit of related trivia: when Shelley Duvall played Olive in Robert Altman’s Popeye movie, she wore boots that were padded with cork to make her size-7 feet look bigger.
Here’s Allen Swift voicing Popeye in a commercial for a Tang imitator. (I wish Jack Mercer had been available to do it, since it looks like it was animated by Johnny Gentilella.)
I remember being mightily disappointed when Allan Swift was replaced by WPIX staff announcer Jack McCarthy (Captain Jack) as the Popeye host.
McCarthy had a long run as the Popeye host, though, well into the 1970s…although his backdrop got cheaper and cheaper as the years wore on. I think it ended with just a smokestack on an otherwise empty stage.
McCarthy was also something like WPIX’s “professional Irishman”, hosting their day-long telecast of the St. Patrick’s Day parade for decades.
“Capt.Jack”McCarthy did use the captain’s quarters and the deck of the ship….but the elaborate one that “Capt.Allen”Swift and “Capt.Ray”Heatherton used for their versions of the show..Pat..
(“Capt.Ray”mc’d the weekend evening edition of WPIX TV’s “Popeye Show”from saturday and sunday September 8,& 9,1956 to sunday April 13,1958)..eventually..he simply stood in front of the doorway of the captain’s quarters and talked one on one with the viewers at home..”Capt.Jack”rare went into the captain’s quarters on the program.
Mr.Swift didn’t perform The”Popeye”voice for a “Tang”commercial..Bobby..
He performed the voice for a “Start”commercial..”Start”was a imitation
of the healthy,orange flavored breakfast drink.