It doesn’t feature the “real voices,” but the Golden Records version of The Jetsons is worth exploring, if only for the two magnificent album covers .
New Songs of the TV Family of the Future
Golden Records LP-98 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono)
Released in 1962. Executive Producer: Arthur Shimkin. Script/Songs: Fay Winter, Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera. Musical Director: Jim Timmens. Running Time: 24 minutes.
Voices: Herb Duncan (George, Elroy); Rose Marie Jun (Jane, Judy); Ann Thomas (Rosie); Gene Lowell (Interviewer); Gene Steck, Golden Studio Singers.
Songs: “The Jetsons Theme Song”, “Typical Family”, “I Got a Heart”, “Astro”, “Eep Opp Ork”, “Rama Rama Zoom”, “Never Fear While Rosie’s Here”, “The Fun Pad”, “Push Button Blues”, “The Good Old Days”.
When I wanted Corgi cars and my brother wanted Hot Wheels, my grandmother got us Tootsietoys. When my sister wanted a Barbie, my mom got her a Dawn doll (which was too tall for her Barbie Friend Ship jet playset).
Parents and relatives didn’t see the difference. When I worked in the Record Department of a large store, I saw adults checking the price rather than the credits (if any) of a beloved cartoon or movie-related recording. It certainly helped sell budget records, but having the genuine article mattered to kids.But there are “cover versions” that click. I was four when I first played “Push Button Blues” and “Rama Rama Zoom”, as performed by “The Golden Orchestra and Chorus” instead of the TV cast of The Jetsons. Even at four, I knew it was not Penny Singleton or Daws Butler singing for Jane and Elroy (by the way, B.J. Baker was the singing voice of Jane in the TV series). There was, nonetheless, something charming about this record that I liked. When I finally found a second-hand copy of the entire Golden Jetsons album, it was a treasure. Not of the same stature as the Colpix soundtrack album, but still genuinely nice.
Musically, it has no similarity to Hanna-Barbera cartoons at all. Purists may not find it very satisfying in that respect. Instead of Hoyt Curtin’s splashy big band or electronic sounds, the Golden album warbles with the mellow jazz style of Jim Timmens. It’s as if the Golden cast has gathered at a smart Manhattan supper club to entertain sophisticated Jetson devotees.
However, after decades of listening to the “real voices” as well as the “imposters”, there is a quality that makes the imitation versions acceptable—even likable. It’s effort. It’s competent actors, writers and directors doing the best they possibly can with very limited budgets, resources and patchy information. It’s being respectful to the material.
Let’s go back to 1949, when Golden Records founder Arthur Shimkin was invited to a screening of Cinderella at the Walt Disney Studios. Roy convinced a reluctant Walt to show the unfinished film to potential publishers and merchandisers to rally their support. Everyone loved it, including Shimkin, who sold millions of Cinderella songs on Little Golden Records. Shimkin did not have a Blu-ray, VHS or even a 16mm print of Cinderella as reference; he had press materials, sample recordings, merchandise art and whatever the studio could supply far in advance of the release date.
Fast forward to the early ‘60s, when Shimkin enjoyed a fine licensing relationship with Hanna and Barbera, with several studio-version Golden/Hanna-Barbera records and one original cast LP (Songs of The Flintstones, recorded in Hollywood). Shimkin had likely seen a presentation of The Jetsons pilot and was provided some support materials from H-B. But the cost of doing a song album with the TV cast on the West Coast would be far more than a New York ensemble. The Jetsons was not a proven property yet, while The Flintstones had already become a success before Golden did their album in 1961.
Shimkin played safe, but played well. He and musical director Jim Timmens brought in Herb Duncan to play George and Elroy. Duncan was a veteran of stage and commercials, and would go on to voice New York-based cartoons for Hal Seeger and Rankin/Bass. (Mad Magazine fans may have the flexi-disc of “Gall in the Family Fare” in which he plays Mike Stivic.) While his Elroy voice is passable, his take on George is quite good. George Jetson’s character voice was close to the natural speaking voices of both Duncan and George O’Hanlon.
Below: Episode 2 of “The Milton the Monster Show” with Herb Duncan as Muggy-Doo, Boy Fox:
Duncan and I met twenty years after he recorded The Jetsons for Golden. He was appearing in a TV commercial for the film production company where I was on staff. He was flabbergasted—not just because he had such an enthusiastic fan, but that anyone actually remembered the album. He loved the experience of recording it, and was responsible for Golden hiring radio actor Ann Thomas to play Rosie.Duncan and Thomas are actors who sing, but Rose Marie Jun is a singer who also acts. Her pitch-perfect performances graced many a Golden Record (including The Mighty Hercules and hundreds of commercials. She was also a popular Broadway demo singer who was the first to perform many of the greatest songs in the history of the stage in order to enlist financial backers and assist production teams. Some of these demos have been released on CD in a series called “Broadway: First Take”.
On stage, Jun’s credits include a featured role in the Off-Broadway 1962 revival of the comedy revue, Pins and Needles, alongside a young Barbra Streisand. Her big number was “Sing Me a Song of Social Significance”:
For twenty years after Golden’s Jetsons album was released, Herb Duncan had never heard it. (It is not common practice for the talent to automatically receive sample copies of their work.) I made him a tape and he was delighted to finally be able to play it for his kids. It’s always gratifying to be able to do things like that for people whose work has meant so much over the years.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Push Button Blues” and “Eep Opp Ork”
The Jetsons Golden album is a sentimental favorite of mine and I consider this its best original song. Rose Marie Jun gives it just the right blend of seriousness and camp. “Eep Opp Ork” is in no way comparable to Howard Morris’ definitive soundtrack version, but it is included here because it’s the album’s only complete song from the TV show (the theme is represented by only four notes).
SING ALONG WITH THE GRASSHOPPERS
The Chipmunk Song and 11 Other Songs
Featuring Eddie Maynard
Various Peter Pan Record Labels: Parade SP-372; Spin-O-Rama MK-3074 & RMK-3074; Promenade 2215 (12 Songs / 12” 33 1/3 RPM / Mono) Spin-O-Rama S-91 (Stereo)
Merry Records (Golden) MR-6022 (10 Songs / 12” 33 1/3 RPM / Stereo)
Released in 1959. Executive Producer: Martin Kasen. Producer/Director: Eddie Maynard. Running Time: 31 minutes.
During the baby boom era, hit records were sure to result in low-budget knockoffs. So when Ross Bagdasarian’s “The Chipmunk Song” was the best selling novelty record of all time and Chipmunk albums and singles were flying off store shelves, it seemed a simple matter to duplicate the sound of three speeded-up voices.
Songs: “The Chipmunk Song”, “Alvin’s Harmonica” by Ross Bagdasarian; “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”; “On Top of Old Smokey”, “The Little Tin Soldier and the Little Toy Drum”, “Glow Worm”, “When the Saints Go Marching In”, “Big Rock Candy Mountain”, “The Counting Song”, “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”.
The 99-cent record racks soon boasted such musical mammals as Chippy the Chipmunk, Woody The Woodchuck and The Happy Crickets, but none of them released as many records for as many years as Peter Pan Records’ The Grasshoppers. Of course, most of those releases were the same record with slightly altered covers, but the first LP led to a second volume and, also following Bagdasarian’s lead, an album of Beatle songs. Some of the material even appeared on non-Peter Pan labels, like the Golden Merry series.
The Grasshoppers (“Dennis”, the Alvin-type and two nondescript brothers named “Rickey” and “Archie”) were around so long, they had at least three “Dave Sevilles”. The first was musician/arranger Eddie Maynard. As an orchestra leader, he was responsible for show music and big band tributes on Peter Pan and Pickwick labels such as Compose and Grand Prix, some of which have been reissued on CD and download. I don’t know the identity of the other “Daves” with certainty except that one is a singer who did a lot of material for Peter Pan producer Arthur Korb and should be familiar to those who know those records of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
None of the Chipmunk impersonators realized how difficult it was to accurately recreate the authentic speaking and singing quality—nor what a brilliant producer and performer Ross Bagdasarian was, though some tried harder to attempt it correctly than others. These knockoffs continued through the century with groups like Shirley, Squirrely and Melvin, and still pop up occasionally on low-budget CDs and downloads. And it’s still nearly impossible for them to get the unique Chipmunk sound precisely right.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
The Grasshoppers Medley
There is a little bit of doubling that mars the original recording quality, but this clipfest is a good way to sample the first album with Eddie Maynard. This medley comes from one of the last (if not the final) Grasshoppers vinyl album (Peter Pan 8210), an amalgam of new and previous selections which included all three “Daves”. Note that the big finish to “When the Saints Go Marching In” bears the strongest resemblance to a genuine Bagdasarian Chipmunks record, particularly through in the use of the saxophone.