NEEDLE DROP NOTES
June 10, 2018 posted by James Parten

That First Step… Is a “Lulu”!

To the bottom-line-oriented executives at Paramount Pictures offices in New York, the “Little Lulu” series of cartoons must have seemed a dream come true.

They would prove cheaper to produce than the “Superman” cartoons they replaced in the regular program of releases. Even if the licensing-fees were little different–and we don’t know one way or the other on this–they would require less work and less effort in the production.

And, as with the “Popeye” cartoons, a theme song was in order.

Sammy Timberg may not have been available at this time. So a team, consisting of Buddy Kaye, Fred Wise and Sidney Lipman was assembled to write a theme song for the new cartoon series.

A vocal group, consisting of Helen Carroll, Bob Lange, Ted Hansen and Art Lambert, was retained, and they provided a clear vocal, with engaging modern harmonies.
This group may not have, as yet, had a name.

For the first cartoon, “Eggs Don’t Bounce”, the group recorded with a Winston Sharples unit that mostly offered rhythm background to their singing.

For subsequent cartoons, a new “bed” was called for, and Sharples came up with one with stings for clarinets, and a signature piano flourish at the end.

Though some of the lyrics have become cringe-worthy over he past seventy years, the song was engaging enough to remain in the memories of those who heard it, either in a theater or from a television’s small speakers.

Occasionally other songs woudl be written for individual cartoons. Thus, “Eggs Don’t Bounce” features a song called “Now Ya Done It”, sung by Mandy (the maid in the Moppet household).

And “I’m Just Curious” features a title song, sung by Lulu after her father has spanked her and sent her to bed.

On other occasions, a Famous Music copyright would be used. Thus, “Bout With A Trout” features a lengthy rendition of “Swinging On A Star”, a tuneful, moralistic ditty introduced by Bing Crosby in “Going My Way” (and recorded by “Der Bingle” with a juvenile quartet known as the Williams Brothers–one of whom, Andy, would become a major star in the 1950’s and 1960’s.).

Once the vocal group did the recording for Famous Studios, they went on their way, while Famous used that recording for the other “Little Lulu” cartoons.’

This freed the group for other gigs–including their biggest gig, backing up Perry Como on the “Chesterfield Supper Club”. On this show, the group got its name: Helen Carroll and the Satisfies (a name derived from a long-time Chesterfield slogan: “They Satisfy”).

The group became well-known form the regular appearances on this NBC radio program. And hey landed a contract to appear on their own RCA Victor records.

One of the last recordings they made before the “second Perillo ban” took effect was a version of “Little Lulu”, which was issued early in 1948.

And thereby hands ANOTHER tale. . .

12 Comments

  • What was the public reaction to the Little Lulu cartoons? Were they considered purely kid stuff, or did adults go for them? Also, was the difference noted between the cartoons and the comic book version?

    Did the Little Lulu song become a best seller in its day?

    Why did Famous eventually abandon the Little Lulu cartoons?

  • When Cinar did the mid to late ’90’s “Little Lulu” series (which were based on John Stanley’s beloved Western Publishing comics), they brought back the “Little Lulu” theme song with the said cringeworthy (and now politically incorrect) lyrics replaced.

    • Speaking of Cinar, they rebranded to Cookie Jar Entertainment in 2004, then bought-out DiC Entertainment in 2008, and they were bought out by DHX Media in 2012. Just felt like bringing that up.

  • Petrillo.

  • It’s Lulu’s replacement I find cringe-worthy. Say what you will of this series,the early eps are livelier, better animated and more imaginative than the “Little Audrey” series. Plus it’s more in the true comic vein because Lulu actually looks funny. Much of the humor of “Lulu in Hollywood” comes from her deadpan looks and reactions. The Audreys always struck me as insufferably cute cartoons aimed at young girls. I can imagine the boys in the theater saying to their parents “Excuse me. I think I’ll go out to the lobby for a cigarette.”

    • The first couple of official Audrey efforts simply play as Lulu cartoons with a different character — “Butterscotch and Soda” and “The Lost Dream” are similar in tone to the Lulu dream segment cartoons. It’s only when you get to “Song of the Birds” that you start getting into stories Famous never would have done with Marjorie Buell’s character (and Famous also went too heavily into the dream sequence efforts with Audrey, where the Lulu series would better mix those with ones featuring a battle between her and some adult male authority figure, which were the most slapstick and funniest efforts in the series).

  • Here’s the 78-rpm record version of the theme song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWy5jMXV1Ro

  • Oh, you picked my absolute favorite musical moments of the entire LITTLE LULU series, although elements of the cartoons surrounding those moments are also “cringe-worthy” but well done. I like the scoring on those early LULU cartoons–all kinds of quick little flourishes to Lulu’s antics and visual expressions of the other characters involved…oh, and thanks, Stu Shostak, for providing us the 78 version of that theme song. I sure wish that a follow-up to the 50 CARTOON CLASSICS disk of toon-related themes and musical highlights, would be created with some of these stunning musical memories.

    I liked some of the other added lyrics on the version released on record. All of this LULU talk makes me wish that I’d paid closer attention to the original comic panels, although I really enjoyed the Paramount/Famous LULU cartoons, regardless of the differences. In the cartoons, she was a sly but feisty observer of grown-up behavior, right down to the bad attitudes, and I imagine that some of that also appeared in the original comic panels. I must also say that I enjoyed the Audrey cartoons because I often saw the design of the LITTLE AUDREY character as being influenced by imagined childhood portraits of her voice, Mae Questel.

  • Bill Evans,considered to be the most important jazz pianist of post WWII,lifted the Little Lulu theme to heights of the Great American Songbook as an instrumental over the years. Look for the Trio ’64 album-the 1997 reissue has an alternate take included.

  • Current comic strip fans are in a tizzy with Nancy being brought to 2018 sensibilities as she is finally being drawn by a woman(under a psudonym) who is trying to reclaim the unfettered essence of Ernie Bushmiller while using iphones and computers for gags. One ongoing subject early on has Nancy involved in the Robotics Club at school. I wonder how Little Lulu & Tubby(yes,Sluggo is part of the new Nancy) would make sense,or nonsense of the 21st. Century?

    • Not really sure about a comic as DreamWorks Animation/ Universals owns those characters I believe and I would be a bit worried of them to do a new animated series as they seem to already get the wrong people involved for a new version of Lulu’s clone, Audrey.

    • True Nic. That series just doesn’t feel like the show I would want to watch anyway.

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