August 4, 2015 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Popeye Records – with the mysterious Harry F. Welch

An actor, who may-or-may-not have been a big-screen voice of Popeye, had his day in the vinyl sun when he starred on some long-selling Peter Pan Records.


Stories from TV Scripts
Peter Pan Records PP-5017 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)
Reissues: Diplomat 5017; Rocking Horse 5017; Peter Pan 1114

Released in 1960. Popeye Cartoons Executive Producer: Al Brodax. Writers: Izzy Klein, Jack Kinney. Running Time: 36 minutes.
Stories: “Skin Divers” (a.k.a. “The Sunken Treasure Affair”; Based on the cartoon, “Popeye and Buddy Brutus”), “Jeep Jeep”, “Flea’s a Crowd” (a.k.a. “Popeye’s Trained Fleas”), “Where There’s a Will”.

Popeye45This is one of those ubiquitous children’s records that ended up in millions of kid’s record collections if only because it was so easy to pick up for 99 cents at the supermarket or discount store. It’s chief distinction is that it is one of the few (if any) Popeye records based directly on animated Popeye cartoons—the King Features shorts made for TV starting in 1960.

Harry Welch, who apparently did the voice of Popeye on one cartoon (or maybe not) and apparently filled in for Jack Mercer for various functions, doesn’t do the greatest Popeye voice in the world, but he does carry an entire album by himself, narrating and doing all the voices, male and female. His female voices sound a lot like Irene Ryan as Granny Clampett when she’s not yelling at Jethro. Jerry Beck examines the misty, hazy, shrouded, clouds surrounding Mr. Welch in this Cartoon Research story.

Popeye Original PP LPThe stories depart from the cartoon source material out of necessity, since the record cannot do justice to sight gags like fish that look like Popeye and Brutus in the animated “Popeye and Buddy Brutus”, adapted as “Skin Divers” for the record album. But they’re largely faithful, as the King Features were, to a lot of vintage Popeye lore. For some reason—probably a lack of research material provided for the record makers such as model sheets and 16mm prints—Sweet (not Swee’) is referred to as female (and once as male).

Such is life for a very inexpensive and quickly made record. A record that was divided into parts and parceled on to countless book and record sets, single 45s and 78s and repackaged with new art. In 1979, this album was given a mock-stereo treatment and reissued with retitled stories, along with several other old and new Peter Pan Popeye records to tie into the Robin Williams big-screen Popeye movie release.

All of the music on the disc comes from various Peter Pan Records, including a bit of “Swanee River” sung by the label’s Chipmunk sound alikes, The Grasshoppers. Several cues come specifically from an album released the same year: Musical Stories of Hans Christian Andersen (see below).


ABOVE Popeye and Buddy Brutus(animated version of “Skin Divers”)

BELOW: Fleas a Crowd (animated version)

“Where There’s a Will” and “Popeye the Sailor Man” (Peter Pan Records)
This story contains the greatest number of music cues borrowed from the Hans Christian Andersen album described below. Following the story is the single version of Peter Pan’s “Popeye the Sailor Man” song, which must have startled many a child when they realized it was not “I’m Not Popeye the Sailor Man”. (Peter Pan originally released this record as “Popeye’s NEW song hit” but forgot to do that in subsequent reissues.

BELOW: Where There’s a Will Cartoon:

Thumbelina / The Ugly Duckling
Peter Pan Records PP-5016 ((12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)


Released in 1960. Musical Director: Elliot Lawrence. Vocals and Character Voices: The Honeydreamers (Keith & Sylvia Textor, Bob Davis, Bob Mitchell, Lew Anderson, Marion Bye).
Thumbelina Songs: “Thumbelina”, “What Shall I Do?” “Mole Song”, “Thumbelina’s Lament”, “My Pretty Little Bird”, “A Land Above the Snow”.
Ugly Duckling Songs: “Who Wants Him?” “It’s Lovely to Swim”, “The Duckling’s Escape”, “Split the Milk”, “Mister Cat and Mistress Hen”, “Such Birds”, “A Swan Am I”.

There are some records we might have heard so long ago that we’ve largely forgotten them, yet traces of them linger, so much so that one might rack one’s brain to recall “What was that record with the ‘What shall I do?’ song and the snooty hen and cat?”, etc. This was one of them. I know because I’ve been able to un-rack some brains about it.

HansHappyTunesLPLike the aforementioned Popeye album, this was a big seller in the ’60s and ’70s, appearing in an endless stream of LP, single and read-along versions. The two stories divide nicely, making the distribution a breeze for the clever merchandising of the Peter Pan people.

The fact is, though, that these are two very fine productions. When you get past the tendency to reflect the cute and precious nature of some children’s records of the era, what emerges is an excellent musical score that accounts for the lingering memories it created for decades. There was also no other Peter Pan Record like it. Usually an album with such a distinctive style has companions in the catalog with similar approaches. This is the only one like it. The Honeydreamers did an excellent Child’s Introduction to Jazz album for Golden Records, but it bears no audio resemblance to this one.

Renowned musical director Elliot Lawrence, whom we mentioned in a Spin about NBC’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, may have composed the music, but there are no songwriting credits, much less song title listings (I made up the ones listed above). These songs are of such a quality that they had to have come from seasoned professionals who, for one reason or another, were not listed on any issue of these recordings.

My guess is that these mini-musicals were intended for children’s theater, TV specials, or some such, as the songs could have come from someone associated with the New York Stage, broadcasting or something related. For all we know, they actually were performed at one time or another. Many children’s records with original “book, music and lyrics” were also published as plays for schools and organizations to rent for local productions.

Part of “The Mole Song” was used on the Popeye album. We like the part when the fairy says, “Take this tiny tulip bulb, plant-it-in-a-flowerpot, water it carefully and then…W-aiT.” Several generations of my family have quoted that, as well as other lines from these stories. This album has been in my life for a very, very long time.

“The Ugly Duckling”
This has an even better score than “Thumbelina” and has some charming humor, including the cat and the hen. Several cues from this story were used in Popeye’s “Where There’s a Will” and there are some genuinely excellent melodies, like the lovely “A Swan Am I”.


  • Brutus was Bluto’s doppelgänger (double) in the 1960’s Popeye cartoons since King Features Syndicate had some type of issue involving the original Bluto thus “creating” Brutus (and they’re weren’t exactly “buddies” like in the 1939 animated Popeye cartoons Fighting Pals and It’s the Natural Thing to Do. And note the Peter Pan record cover with Olive Oyl . She was based on the Bud Sagendorf Popeye comic strip that unlike the mish-mosh Frankensteinish nightmare that KFS had in their version of Popeye (she had the head of the 1950’s Famous Studios version and the body of the classic Olive Oyl that we know and love).

  • “An actor, who may-or-may-not have been a big-screen voice of Popeye”

    So, we still don’t know who voice Popeye in mid-40s Famous cartoons while Jack Mercer was away?

  • Part of the confusion is based on the one time appearance of “Bluto” in the original Segar strips, which Fleischer Studios incorporated as the stock villain, which as “assumed” to be a Fleischer creation. This detail was mentioned in the 1957 lawsuit waged by Dave Fleischer against A.A.P. and Paramount. KFS was unclear as to the true origin of the Bluto character, and to be safe changed the name to Brutus, and altered his appearnace from the sailor costurme to avoid legal complications. “Brutus” was adapted by Bud Sagendorf for this same reason. So when KFS produced their series of television cartoons, it was under complete ownership of all characters, especially since the original Fleischer/Paramount arrangement was so complicated and restrictive.

  • There are TWO things I am thrilled-as-punch i’ll never have to do the rest of my life : play sports and/or watch a 60s Popeye!

  • I thought that Mae Questel did the Popeye voice in some of the 1940s Famous cartoons while Jack Mercer was in the service.

  • That article embedded in Jerry’s post reads like some work of an agent or a press release to promote.

    Résumés. People claim things that while are not a lie, are not the whole truth.
    I worked with someone who is now a great fine artist. In the bio it is said they worked for Disney. While true, specifically they were a pixel pusher in the 80s on a kid’s game by a contracted developer, developed for Disney Software.

    So a guy worked on one cartoon or kids’ records as Popeye and says he is the voice of Popeye. Always dig when hiring someone.

  • Did the artist of the fourth cover actually place Popeye’s ear below his mouth?

    I recall owning one Popeye record in my childhood, a yellow Little Golden record with its paper label long gone, with “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” (the Sammy Lerner original) and almost certainly Jack Mercer on vocal, because he did his trademark scat-singing towards the end. (The B side had a chorus singing “Blow the Man Down.”)

    • We featured the Popeye Golden Record you mentioned right here:

    • The artist of the later Popeye covers is George Peed, Bill Peet’s brother. He worked for Disney Consumer Goods for several years, and did most of the super-colorful covers for the Disneyland Records “DQ” series movie soundtracks.

      Some of his work for the Peter Pan labels does tend to look a bit … let’s say, “rushed”.

    • I had that fourth cover as well for my copy of this record my mom gave me for Christmas one year in the 80’s, and yes, that ear is ridiculously low! Still I liked the stoned look of that dog on the back cover (which I guess is suppose to be “Eugene the Jeep”, but again, this was RUSHED)!$(KGrHqR,!lgE9rN)(vgOBPnCuwPSJw~~60_10.JPG?set_id=880000500F

  • I still stand by comments I made in the reply section to Jerry’s earlier Cartoon Research Harry Welch posting which you can link to above in Greg’s article. I still live in hope that a Paramount (or Famous Studios) paper trail exists with recording log data and/or payment slips. If I ever get the time I will transcribe all the actual Mercer stuff heard in these 1945-47 cartoons and try to determine from which earlier Popeye cartoons the sound engineers lifted bits of his dialogue, and intercut it with new lines recorded by mimics while Jack was stationed overseas during the war. I do have one interview on video with Mae where she states to Leonard Maltin that she was the replacement voice, and actually demonstrates her Popeye, and says the engineers then slowed her down mechanically….but again, she may have recorded stuff way back in 1945 that wasn’t finally used after some executive decision…it happens all the time, even today. It’s one of my most fervent wishes to solve all these pretend-Popeyes, as it’s one of the biggest and most frustrating mysteries to me.

  • “Skin Divers” was adapted from “Skinned Divers” (also a Jack Kinney Popeye), not “Popeye and Buddy Brutus”.

  • If you’d like to hear Mae Questel imitating Popeye, you’ll find a little sample in this TV Popeye cartoon “Seer-Ring Is Believe-Ring”…

  • The Popeye 5017 album was re-issued on Peter Pan #8184 as well in 1976.

  • I worked with Bob Davis of the Honeydreamers in the 1970s. Thanks for the information about him and the Honeydreamers. I lost track of him in 1973, and I’ve been Googling to find out whatever happened to him.

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