Decades after the public first saw their work, it was captured on audio recordings (along with classic music from Tom and Jerry cartoons) to draw attention to its unique artistry.
TEX AVERY CARTOONS
Music from the Tex Avery Original Soundtracks
Composed by Scott Bradley
Milan Records 731138-35635-2 (Remastered & Enhanced Mono) Compact Disc
Released in 1993. Producer: David Franco. Milan Executive Supervisor: Emmanuel Charmboredon, Toby Pienick. Editing/ Mixing: Bob Norberg. Engineer: Wally Traugott. Art Direction: Judy Kaganowich. Package Supervision: Dana Renert. Running Time: 36 minutes.
Voices: Daws Butler, Bill Thompson, Joe Triscari.
Scores (music and SFX only): “Cellbound” (1955), “TV of Tomorrow” (1953), “Deputy Droopy” (1955).
Scores (with dialogue): “Little Johnny Jet” (1952), “The Three Little Pups” (1953 / excerpt), “Drag-A-Long Droopy” (1954).
Scott Bradley took pride in creating music for cartoons. “Scoring cartoons is a lot of fun,” he once said. “We get to thinking of these little characters as human beings who believe in ‘direct action,’ and the world that needs a few laughs in the midst of so much suffering.”
Animation fans of the late twentieth century saw the great music of cartoons slowly make its way onto home turntables, CD players and recently music files. The Disney library was generous but far from comprehensive, the Hanna-Barbera “HBR” cartoon series brought the unmistakable cues of Hoyt Curtin, Ted Nichols, Jack de Mello and others to vinyl, the important Carl Stalling Project discs made the miracles of Warner musical audio accessible, among a few others.
There remain several studios and composers, like Winston Sharples and Philip Scheib, for which the world is still waiting. But in the ‘90s, a single disc of Scott Bradley music came down from the heavens in a 1993 disc from the Milan label with Tex Avery’s name on the front cover.The Milan CD came along just after the book, Tom and Jerry: The Ultimate Guide to Their Animated Adventures was published in France (1987) and the U.S. (1990). Author Patrick Brion wrote the liner notes for this CD and participated in the 1988 documentary, Tex Avery: The King of Cartoons, which appears as a special feature on the superb new Blu-ray and DVD release, Tex Avery Screwball Classics, Volume Two (which this author has enjoyed watching several times already).
“I remember when I was just casting about, trying to locate any musical material from the cartoons, how it was much harder to come by this stuff. At the time this CD was it,” said longtime colleague Daniel Goldmark, Ph.D., Head of Popular Music Studies at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. “This was one of the few things out there, certainly one of the few things dedicated to MGM short subject animation.”
Bringing such classic material to audio is just as challenging as bringing to video. A small company, Milan must not have been able to license more than six cartoons. They were also limited to the scores created specifically for the cartoons and only public domain songs, which resulted in the editing of most of the published popular songs. A few remain, including “Broadway Rhythm” and “Sweet and Lovely,” but most are free and clear like “The William Tell Overture.” Only about half of The Three Little Pups survived the approval process, but along with Drip-A-Long Droopy, it was never released on CD other than on this album.
On the “up” side, three cartoons are free of dialogue with only sound effects remaining and the delightful soundtrack of the others, like Little Johnny Jet, are presented in their final mixes with its wonderful Daws Butler voice performance intact. The mono tracks were not distorted or rechanneled in any way for stereo effect, but they were given a slight reverb and “opened up” just a tad for clarity. They did the very best they could with what they had so we could have a treasure we would not have had otherwise.
Hearing the audio of a Tex Avery cartoon without the wildly inventive visuals invites the listeners to pay more attention to what Bradley accomplished, how his music differed from other animation composers and the contrast between the “Avery Bradley” and the Hanna-Barbera Bradley.”
“Bradley always worked with economy,” said another esteemed colleague, animator/historian Mark Kausler. “I think he always refused to work with an orchestra with greater than 18 or 19 musicians. Of course, Carl Stalling had the whole Warner Brothers orchestra with about 40 pieces. Stalling’s cartoons sound richer musically. Bradley did great things with only 18 or so pieces. He had wonderful trumpets and trombones and a small but great string section. It’s tough to tell, but that it’s not a much bigger orchestra.”
TOM AND JERRY & TEX AVERY, TOO!
Volume 1: The 1950’s
Music Composed and Conducted by Scott Bradley
Film Score Monthly Volume 9, Number 17 (Stereo / *Mono) Two Compact Discs
Released in 2006. Executive Producer: George Feltenstein. Producers: Daniel Goldmark, Lukas Kendall. Liner Notes: Daniel Goldmark. Orchestrations: Scott Bradley. Remix: Michael McDonald. Mastering: Doug Schwartz. Art Director: Joe Sikoryak. Production Assistant: Jeff Eldridge. Additional Images: Michael Barrier, Bob Burns, Photofest. Special Thanks: Mike Barrier, Rebecca Bodner, Tim Curran, Ned Comstock, Nick Corsello, Noni Ellison, Alexander Kaplan, Jonathan Z. Kaplan, Dave Kapp, Mark Kausler, Leonard Maltin, Mark Pinkus, Bill Rush, Keith Scott, Craig Spaulding, Richard Steele, Keith Zajic. Running Time: 159 minutes.
Voices include: Françoise Brun-Cottan, Shug Fisher.
Tex Avery Scores: “Deputy Droopy” (1955), “TV of Tomorrow”* (1953), “Dixieland Droopy”* (1954), “Little Johnny Jet,”* (1952), “Field and Scream”* (1955), “Billy Boy”* (1954), “Cellbound” (1955), “Homesteader Droopy”* (1954).
Tom and Jerry Scores (Hanna and Barbera): “Touché, Pussy Cat!” (1954), “That’s My Mommy” (1955), “Blue Cat Blues”* (1956), “Busy Buddies” (1956), “Mouse For Sale”* (1955), “Neapolitan Mouse” (1954), “Happy Go Ducky”* (1958), “Pecos Pest”* (1955), “Downbeat Bear” (1956), “Pet Peeve” (1954), “Tom and Chérie” (1955), “Tom’s Photo Finish”* (1957), “Downhearted Duckling”* (1954), “Barbeque Brawl”* (1956), “Tot Watchers”* (1958).
Spike and Tyke Scores (Hanna and Barbera): “Give and Tyke”* (1957), “Scat Cats”* (1957).
When the aforementioned Daniel Goldmark, also the author of Tunes for ’Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon (and who worked with this author on several Rhino Records cartoon albums and The Cartoon Music Book, which he co-edited), was working at Rhino Records, he got to know many of the people who made the new and improved MGM/Tom & Jerry/Avery soundtrack CD set possible.
“You were just not getting the full effect of Bradley’s work on the Milan CD,” he said. “I can only guess at how much Bradley might have been disappointed that the only evidence of his output, where you could hear his music, not only was buried with the dialogue and sound effects but that they were cartoons for Avery, who he didn’t like composing for in the first place. We knew that, this time, we had to get this music out there, we want to hear it in as unobstructed a way possible.”
Nine of these selections offer the “who would have believed it was possible” opportunity to hear them from open to close. There are no sound effects at all and only three short, signature instances of voice work (like “Maria, Mari (O Marie)” from Neapolitan Mouse and Uncle Pecos’ crucial “Froggy Went a-Courtin;” song). The other soundtracks in crisp, clear mono.
The higher budget allowed for more cartoon soundtracks in their entirety, as well as more popular songs like “I’ve Got a Feeling’ You’re Foolin’” from Broadway Melody of 1936; “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz; “You Wonderful You” from Summer Stock; and “The Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe” from The Harvey Girls.
Scott Bradley had done some scoring for live-action features and shorts. He composed the entire score for the 1950 Red Skelton comedy, The Yellow Cab Man, but he was mostly assigned sequences calling for his previous work. Like Carl Stalling, who was uncredited for the coffee billboard sequence in the 1945 Jack Benny classic The Horn Blows at Midnight, Bradley scored forest and animal scenes in MGM’s Courage of Lassie (1946) and of course, Tom and Jerry’s swim with Esther Williams in 1953’s Dangerous When Wet.
Veteran soundtrack producer/historian Lukas Kendall, who not only founded the indispensable Film Score Monthly magazine and website but through its label has helped bring many of the greatest soundtracks of the long and recent past to disc, was a catalyst for the Avery project. (Kendall also produced the Courage of Lassie soundtrack in a CD set called Lassie Come Home: The Canine Soundtrack Collection.)
“After I left Rhino, I stayed in touch with Lukas about it,” added Goldmark. “We had been batting it around for a couple of years until about August of 2005 when he said, ‘We have nine of these cartoon soundtracks in stereo. There are portions of some others. Let’s see what we can find. We know we have the nine, and if we can flesh it out with others for which we have portions, great.’
“I don’t think there was ever the idea that we were going to try to do something along the lines of The Carl Stalling Project CDs, where Greg Ford with Hal Willner created montages of all these great bits. That really makes sense—especially considering the number of times I’ve listened to them, I can sing those tracks to you, I’ve heard them so many times—for Carl Stalling and Warner Brothers. But Bradley’s style was more ‘through-composed.’
“What set the Tom and Jerrys apart from the some of the Warners, or Bradley from Stalling—and if you’ve read my books you know these are both ‘my guys’—is that they talk a lot more in Warner cartoons and that’s one of the reasons the Stalling Project was so revelatory. Stalling is doing all these ninety-degree turns—we do this, then we do this, and we do this, and so on. Ten genres of music in thirty seconds. Nobody anywhere was doing that.
Bradley’s did similar stuff, too, but he was far more through-composed. One of the best examples, though it’s not on the CD set, is Solid Serenade, with the song ‘Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby.’ There’s a part where he’s taunting Spike. The music is ‘Runnin’ Wild.’ Jerry leaves the screen with Tom right behind him. As Tom catches up to Jerry, Jerry is about to untie Spike. There’s the sound effect of the brakes, and the music completely takes that turn from Jerry’s playful little theme to a totally different direction. Bradley can do that, but he could also do all kinds of other crazy stuff—experiments with modern music, his interest in Bartok and Schoenberg—it’s all coming through there.”
The FSM CD set allows listeners to compare and contrast a Tex Avery cartoon score with a Hanna and Barbara score even though at first they sound similar. Actually, Bradley was not especially fond of Avery’s use of music, as the great director repeatedly requested what the composer felt were obvious old folk tunes and less of what Goldmark calls “through-composed” music.” Most likely to him, it was less of a challenge and more “wah-wah-wah-wah.”
“It was all punch lines,” explained Goldmark. “Not only was it all punch lines, but he wanted the same old corny tunes again and again which would drive him crazy.” As a rule, Bradley preferred composed original melodies overusing existing tunes altogether, but if he was going to interpolate a song, he was happier when it was a pop, blues or classic piece.
“The song, ‘Lovely Lady’ was a favorite of Bradley’s,” said Mark Kausler. “He used it in Springtime for Thomas, beautifully orchestrated. But I guess my favorite musical moment in a Tom and Jerry cartoon was in The Bodyguard. Tom is trying to get Jerry to chew gum so he can’t whistle for the bulldog to protect him. Bradley uses ‘You’re a Sweetheart. It’s sort of a swing arrangement but beautifully orchestrated with these sweet strings that Scott Bradley weaves through it. So great.
“This is such ironic scoring because the idea is kind of gross slapstick. Tom paints a gumball with glue, which makes Jerry’s jaws all stuck together so he can’t whistle. So the premise is very cartoony and slapsticky, yet Bradley plays ‘You’re a Sweetheart’ behind it. It’s my favorite musical idea in its juxtaposition.”
Conspicuous by its absence on both Avery soundtrack collections is anything from the Riding Hood cartoons. Milan used an illustration of Red and the Wolf, perhaps in hopes of finding audio material, but it was not to be. Lost and damaged elements are among the chief reasons. There was also never a second volume from FSM.
“There was a part of me that was hoping that we would put in earlier stuff if there could have been a volume two,” said Goldmark. “I knew it wasn’t going to happen because I know the elements probably didn’t exist. I knew realistically the material didn’t exist and also it was probably not in the cards. Dance of the Weed, for instance, all these ballet-driven scores. Especially that one because he specifically cited it numerous times.”
Dance of the Weed was an experiment between Bradley and Rudy Ising to create an animated film from an original composition from scratch. It was not unlike what Stalling and the other composers had done with Silly Symphonies, but according to Bradley’s mentioning of the film, this was something different and special. Looking at it now, it has a Fantasia/Make Mine Music/Silly Symphony feel to it, but a better understanding the effort makes it worth a great deal more attention, especially if Ising truly inverted the process for Bradley. Perhaps by 1941, the circumstances were not going to support such ideas.
Bradley believed animation music was one of the most important art forms of the twentieth century that would only offer more potential by the next millennium. “As to the future, I believe that this medium offers the serious composer far more possibilities than the live-action pictures. The animated fantasy of the future will, I hope, be adapted to pre-composed music. We have only to imagine a Debussy composing ‘The Afternoon of a Faun’ as the basis of such a picture, to visualize the importance of music in cartoons.” Who else was saying this in the 1940s?
“The question would be, is the pride in that he was trying to take what he did seriously? Goldmark wondered. “Was it that he was not just a composer of funny pictures, where he’s seen as just the guy writing for cat-and-mouse chases all the time, being typecast for it?”
So many answers lie somewhere in between, perhaps this one does as well. The most important thing is to do the best you can and try to enjoy the ride.
“Fun? Loads of it!” Scott Bradley wrote in of his score for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse in a 1947 Music Educators Journal Essay, reprinted in The Cartoon Music Book. “I’d rather score a cartoon like this than a half-dozen ordinary live-action pictures. No noisy actors shouting at the top of their voices, drowning out perfectly good music!