In the wake of Father’s Day, let’s celebrate some more with two animation-related record albums offering music from two generations of Sherman talents.
THE CHIPMUNKS SING WITH CHILDREN
Liberty Records (Later Sunset Records) LST-7405 (Stereo) LRP 3405 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP)
CD Reissue: EMI Records (1990)
Released in 1965. Executive Producer: Ross Bagdasarian. Producer: Don Blocker. Arrangements: Pete King. Engineer: Bob Doherty. Photography: Roger Marshutz. Running Time: 25 minutes.
Songs: “Do-Re-Mi” by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II; “Rag Mop” by Johnnie Lee Wills, Deacon Anderson; “Me Too (Ho-Ho! Ha-Ha!)” by Al Sherman, Charles Tobias, Harry M. Woods; “Mister Sandman” by Pat Ballard; “Hello Dolly!” by Jerry Herman; “Puff (The Magic Dragon)” by Peter Yarrow, Leonard Lipton; “Tonight You Belong to Me” by Billy Rose and Lee David, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman; “Tea for Two” by Vincent Youmans, Irving Caesar; “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” by Jay Livingston, Ray Evans; “Mississippi Mud” by Harry Barris, James Cavanaugh; “Down By the Old Mill Stream” by Tell Taylor.
The most ambitious of the Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. Chipmunk albums, The Chipmunks Sing with Children combines a full orchestra with strings with the leading Hollywood studio children’s singers of the ‘60s: The Jimmy Joyce Singers. These are the same kids who sang with Doris Day on Columbia’s With a Smile and a Song LP (not the TCM album)—and the voices you heard the whenever Von Trapp children sang as an ensemble in The Sound of Music.
“Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music
Bagdasarian, in the LP liner notes, describes his pride in the finished recorded project, due in no small part to the kids, “who could sing like children but behave like adults during the complicated recording sessions”. The Joyce musical legacy continues with such offspring of Betty and Jimmy as Bill Joyce, who sings on, among other things, several Disney Theme Park attraction soundtracks.
Jimmy Joyce had an adult vocal group too, heard every week on TV’s Red Skelton Show and in a fine collection of Alfred Burt Christmas Carols called This is Christmas. After Jimmy’s passing, among the musical projects his wife Betty worked on were Disneyland albums for producer Jymn Magon; as “the Disneyland Sing-Along Children’s Chorus,” their records included Goin’ Quackers and the Children’s Favorites series.
The album is unique for several reasons. It’s the first Chipmunk album to entirely feature songs that are not in the public domain or in the pop vein of the time. The possible ‘60s pop exception might Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Puff, The Magic Dragon”, a poignant song which, believe it or not, is made all the more touching by the Chipumnks singing the sad last verse with the children doing the “ooohs”.
The album also presents a technical difference from previous releases in that the Chipmunks, in order to blend with the human (non-speeded-up) voices, are rendered in a smoother, subtler way. Sure, Alvin causes some trouble here and there, but it’s never at the expense of the overall musical integrity of each song. Things are taken a little more seriously here.
The Chipmunks Sing with Children is the least “hip” of the Bagdasarian Sr. albums, perhaps deliberately, as he may have felt this work would stand on its own over time. The selections from Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and Hello Dolly! were recent hits in 1965, but they were, nevertheless, songs in the classic “Great American Songbook” tradition and have, as he may have predicted, become standards of their kind. Other songs on the album were published in 1925, 1927, 1949, 1954 and 1956.
Among the “Tin Pan Alley” tunesmiths represented on this LP is Al Sherman, who co-wrote “an old favorite” of David Seville’s called “Me Too (Ho-Ho! Ha-Ha!) in 1926. His songwriting is joined on this album with that of his two sons Richard and Robert, whose “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is also included. It was Al who encouraged his two Sherman sons to have a go at songwriting full-time and remained supportive of their careers until he passed away in 1973, the same year that their film musicals Tom Sawyer and Charlotte’s Web (Al’s personal favorite) were released in theaters.
The Chipmunks Sing with Children is a musical feast of popular music representing the first half of 20th century. In retrospect, it may not have the contemporary mainstream staying power of The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles’ Hits or the two Christmas with the Chipmunks albums, but it stands as a spectacular example of Ross Bagdasarian at the top of his game, seamlessly blending two completely different kinds of creative performances together, much as Walt Disney did with animation and live action.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Me Too (Ho Ho! Ha Ha!)”
Millions of kids and their parents listened to this song and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and never realized both came from the same gene pool. Pete King’s (1914-1982) arrangements, favoring trombones and xylophones on this album as he would in the two final Chipmunk albums, also created music for TV’s Happy Days and The Brady Bunch as well as for the movie classics State Fair and An Affair to Remember.
OLD-TIME BUBBLE GUM MUSIC
Two Generations of Sherman Family Music
The Children of Prague
Mercury Records SR-61296 (Stereo)
Released in 1970. Producer/Arranger/Conductor: Lor Crane. A & R Director: Bob Reno. Engineers: Marti Lennard, Bill Radice. Art Direction: Des Strobel. Illustration: Warren Linn. Recorded at Mercury Record Studios, New York. Remixed at Olmstead Sound Studios, New York. Running Time: 38 minutes.
Al Sherman Songs: “(What Do We Do On A) Dew Dew Dewy Day” (Written with Charles Tobias, Howard Johnson); “Me Too (Ho-Ho! Ha-Ha!)” (with Charles Tobias, Harry M. Woods); “Pretending” (with Symes); “Save Your Sorrow” (with Buddy DeSilva); “No! No! A Thousand Times No!” (with Al Lewis, Abner Silver) “You Gotta Be a Football Hero” (with Bert Fields).
Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman Songs:
“Lovely Lonely Girl”, “Doll on a Music Box”, “You Too” from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; “Chim Chim Cheree” from Mary Poppins; “You’re Sixteen”.
“The Children of Prague” is not a children’s chorus as the name implies, but rather a highly groovy late ‘60s/early ‘70s mellow singing ensemble, in the style of The Association, Harper’s Bizarre or The Addrisi Brothers—who sang the theme song to TV’s Nanny and the Professor.
As to why they called themselves (or Mercury Records called them) “The Children of Prague”, the only clue I could find is a piece of music with that name by Colin Bayliss, written for “Charter 77”, a treatise on the lack of rights caused by the 1968 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. As this LP was recorded in the midst of worldwide social and political upheaval, I’m guessing that this was a group of young studio singers (actually it sounds like a very small group with doubled voices) who showed their support by using the name.
For those who love the “flowers in her hair, flowers everywhere” flair of the music of those days (count me in!), it’s very Pufnstuf, very Mama Cass, very Cowsills. And it’s a revelation to hear such Sherman Brothers songs as “Doll on a Music Box” and “Lovely, Lonely Girl” (the male version) done in this manner. Even more remarkable is how the songs of the Sherman’s beloved father and mentor sound as if they were being sung from the hilltops by lovely people holding bottles of Coca-Cola.
Al Sherman wrote a lot of big hits in the heyday of raccoon coats and flappers, so much so that they even popped up in classic cartoons like these:
Popeye in You Gotta Be a Football Hero (1933)
Betty Boop in No! No! A Thousand Times No! (1935)
The album’s overall concept was fantastic, but Mercury’s packaging and marketing strategy cannot have helped it sell very well. The music has a bubble gum feel, but it’s really not an accurate way to describe the album. The cover art, depicting bubble gum, is a nice pop art idea but much too obtuse. Where would the stores put the record? The children’s section? Vocal artists? And would shoppers stop and look at it while flipping quickly through a stack of hundreds of records? The title and the Sherman name are not given enough prominence in the design.
But once Sherman music lovers hear the record, the title doesn’t matter. They’ll usually fall into a groovy kind of love.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“(What Do We Do On A) Dew Dew Dewy Day”
This tune opens the album, setting the course for the entire listening experience. You know when you hear the perky electric harpsichord that it’s time to study philosophy under the campus persimmon tree. Pass the Shasta root beer and the Cheese Waffies!