The Banana Splits was one of Saturday Morning’s most popular shows – but it was also a very mixed bag. The good news: it featured songs created by some of the best pop music talents in the industry. Let’s take a spin.
THE BANANA SPLITS
Sing ‘n Play “The Tra-La-La Song”
HB Premium Division Records 34578 (7” 45 RPM Record)
Released in 1968. A Past, Present and Future Production for Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. Producer: David Mook. Arranger/Conductor: Jack Eskew. Running Time: 9 minutes.
Songs: “The Tra-La-La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)” by Mark Barkan, Richie Adams; “That’s the Pretty Part of You” by Carl Spencer, Bob Halley; “It’s a Good Day for a Parade” by Joe Levine; “The Very First Kid on My Block” by Neil Sheppard, Ray Fox.
THE BANANA SPLITS
Sing ‘n Play “Doin’ The Banana Split”
HB Premium Division Records 34579 (7” 45 RPM Record)
Released in 1968. A Past, Present and Future Production for Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. Producer: David Mook. Arranger/Conductor: Jack Eskew. “Beautiful Calliopa” Arranged and Conducted by Hoyt Curtin. Running Time: 10 minutes.
Songs: “Doin’ the Banana Split” by Barry White; “I Enjoy Being a Boy (In Love with You)” by Joey Levine, Marc Bellack; “The Beautiful Calliopa” by Hoyt Curtin, N.B. Winkless, Jr.; “Let Me Remember You Smiling” by Al Kooper, Bob Brass, Irwin Levine.
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1968) was a forerunner to The Krofft Supershow (1978), in that it featured various shows within the show with comedy skits and songs to bridge them. There were animated cartoons (Arabian Nights, The Three Musketeers, Micro Venture) and one live-action serial (Danger Island). Pre-Superman director Richard Donner helmed both Danger Island and the Banana Splits segments.
It always seemed odd that the Splits segments were zany (sometimes to the point of the four costumed characters just bumping into each other and falling down), while the segments were so dour and, for the most part, serious (at least to a kid). The song segments were filmed “romps” in the style of The Monkees, many filmed at King’s Island theme park, which featured a Hanna-Barbera Land.
Two stereo Banana Splits 45 RPM extended play records were offered by saving Kellogg’s box tops, filling out a little form and sending it all with a nominal sum (about 50 cents). The entire process was very exciting to carry out, even though your family may have required you to eat every flake of the cereal, whether it was “your brand” or not.
After an eternity, the two records appeared in the mailbox, tucked inside a manila envelope with red printed lettering and drawings. Life would be happier forevermore!
I cannot say if today’s kids can imagine the same rush from hearing the songs from TV shows or movies played right in their homes, sometimes in stereo. Back then, it was so monumental, I got permission to use Dad’s “big” Sears Silvertone stereo with the “hidden” speakers cleverly disguised as Shakespeare books.
Even as kids, we knew that the songs on these records sounded as if they were sung by very different groups of people—and certainly not even trying to suggest the speaking voices of the Splits themselves (Allan Melvin, Daws Butler and Paul Winchell). But unlike Saturday morning pop bands like, say, The Archies, in which Ron Dante was the consistent voice, The Banana Splits’ songs had no rhyme or reason as to which voice was supposed to represent which character, if any. Hanna-Barbera later went to great lengths to cast singing voices as well as speaking voices for Josie and the Pussycats (originally planning to have a live tour group), but such precision was not for the Splits.
Producer David Mook sought out several journeyman musicians and studio singers, many of them with substantial credits. Yes, that really is Barry White singing his composition, “Doin’ the Banana Split”, a tune frequently played on the show.
The four record sides follow a format in that the more hit-based, “novelty” number is first, and a “B” level song is next. The second song could be an uncharacteristic romantic ballad (“That’s the Pretty Part of You”), a song of despair (“Let Me Remember You Smiling”, “The Very First Kid on the Block”) or the set’s most memorable kiddie-psychedelic tune, “I Enjoy Being a Boy” (“I live in a purple plum mansion/In the mist of a strawberry stream/And mellifluous bells ring out softly/From a hill of vanilla fudge cream”). We kids wore these discs out.
I would be remiss if, in mentioning the Kroffts above, I did not note that Sid & Marty did the characters and costumes and sets for The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. This led directly to their creating H.R. Pufnstuf and becoming a Saturday morning rival for Hanna-Barbera, Filmation and other suppliers of animated and live-action TV programs.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Beautiful Calliopasaxaviatrumparimbaclaribassatrombophone”
This is the most traditional-sounding Hanna-Barbera song on the record set and was among the few that was exclusive to this Kellogg’s premium. Hoyt Curtin’s H-B house sound is in fine form here, along with what sounds like the same male vocal group that gave us “Magilla for Sale”. It’s a fun children’s song that deserves more exposure than it ever received. Like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, it’s an accomplishment to be able to say and sing it.
As seen on the show:
As heard on the record:
WE’RE THE BANANA SPLITS
Decca Records DL-75075 (Stereo / 12” 33 1/3 RPM)
Released in 1968. A Past, Present and Future Production for Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. Producer: David Mook. Arranger/Conductor: Jack Eskew. Running Time: 30 minutes
Songs: “The Tra-La-La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)”, “Wait Til Tomorrow” by Mark Barkan, Ritchie Adams; “I’m Gonna Find a Cave”, “Don’t Go Away—Go-Go Girl” by Buddy Scott, Jimmy Radcliffe; “We’re the Banana Splits” by Tony Powers, Ritchie Adams; “The Spot” by Jay Fishman, Don Lauren; “Soul” by Carl Spencer, Jimmy Radcliffe; “”You’re the Lovin’ End” by Al Kooper, Irwin Levine; “In New Orleans” by Billy Barberis, Bobby Ronga, Aaron Schroeder.
Instrumental: “Toy Piano Melody” by Roy Alfred.
This is a more “adult” pop record than the two above EP’s, in that the songs tend to lean toward harder pop and more driving R&B sounds. The most juvenile numbers are the title song (which was to be the theme), and “The Tra-La-La Song”, which became the theme. Frequent Archies songwriter Ritchie Adams co-wrote both songs, and with Mark Barkan, also wrote the original theme to Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? the following year.
Both the album and the EPs benefitted from quite a few music industry movers and shakers between these grooves. As Wikipedia notes (and I have verified):
“The Banana Splits’ bubblegum pop rock and roll was provided by studio professionals, including Joey Levine (“I Enjoy Being a Boy”, “It’s a Good Day for a Parade”); Al Kooper (“You’re the Lovin’ End”); Barry White (“Doin’ the Banana Split”); Gene Pitney (“Two Ton Tessie”) and Jimmy Radcliffe provided his songs (“I’m Gonna Find a Cave”, “Soul”, “Don’t Go Away Go-Go Girl”, “Adam Had ‘Em” and “The Show Must Go On”) but did not contribute vocals to Splits recordings. The music director was music publisher Aaron Schroeder, while production duties were mainly handled by David Mook. When a heavier R&B vocal was needed, the music producers usually turned to singer Ricky Lancelotti, who was billed in the show credits under his stage name Rick Lancelot. Lancelotti went on to record several songs with Frank Zappa.”
Among Al Kooper’s accomplishments was putting together the band, Blood, Sweat & Tears, as well as movie scores. Barry White, of course, became a big recording star with a signature sultry, romantic murmur over his music. Gene Pitney is now considered a legendary pop singer, with such hits as “Town Without Pity” and compositions like like “Hello, Mary Lou.” Hanna-Barbera didn’t commission the music carelessly; they brought in the best. Generating hit songs was a big priority for any potential hit entertainment property, much as it is now. Maybe things didn’t go the distance this case, but those involved gave it their best—if wildly eclectic—try.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“We’re The Banana Splits”
Also released as a single, this must have been the front runner to becoming a novelty hit. Not only does it open the album, it was released as a single, and was often heard on the TV show in different videos.
One video “romp” of this song from the show:
Same song, different video “romp”:
As heard on the record: