February 12, 2019 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Walt Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” from Decca to Disneyland

In the years after Decca Records was the first to premiere a Disney animated feature score (with soundtrack excerpts) on LP records, it took a roundabout journey to the Disney label.

Songs from Walt Disney’s

Peggy Lee
Decca Records DL-8462 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)
Decca 10” LP (without additional songs): DL- 5557
Australian 10” LP: Festival Records FR10-1186

Released in 1955. Album Producer: Sonny Burke. Running Time: 37 minutes.

Performers: Peggy Lee (Darling, Peg, Si, Am); Dal McKennon (Toughy); Bill Thompson (Bull), George Givot (Tony), The Mello Men (Pound Dogs), Victor Young and His Orchestra and Chorus, Oliver Wallace and the Disney Studio Orchestra.

Soundtrack Songs: “The Siamese Cat Song,” “He’s a Tramp,” “Bella Notte” (Sung by George Givot), by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke; “Home, Sweet Home” (Traditional).
Decca 1955 Studio Versions: “Bella Notte” (Sung by Peggy Lee), “Peace on Earth,” “What is a Baby?” “La La Lu” by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke.
Additional Songs: “Jim Dear,” “Old Trusty,” “That Fellow’s a Friend of Man” by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke; “Singing (‘Cause He Wants to Sing)” by Eliot Daniel and Ray Gilbert.
Soundtrack Instrumental: “Lady” by Oliver Wallace, Ed Penner and Sidney Fine.

The release of Lady and the Tramp saw the Walt Disney Studios firing on all cylinders. Both Disneyland the park and the TV series were brand new and the Mickey Mouse Club was a few weeks away. The weekly anthology series had added to the high anticipation of Lady and the Tramp with a special presentation with superstar Peggy Lee demonstrating how to “double” her voice for “The Siamese Cat Song.”

Although the 1940s had seen a number of major recording artists headlining in Disney features—including Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman, Frances Langford and The Andrews Sisters—this was the first time any animated feature enjoyed the creative input of one of the top female artists of the 20th century.

Disneyland Records was less than a year from its inception, so the usual practice of releasing Disney studio music on other labels fell this time to Decca, Lee’s contracted label. For Lady, there were a variety of approaches to the score: hit-ready versions of some songs by Lee with Victor Young and his orchestra, some from the soundtrack itself and a few that were used only in part, or not at all, in the final film.

The running times of the soundtrack version of “He’s a Tramp” and “The Siamese Cat Song” were ready made for 78 and 45 discs of the day. No studio recordings were produced for them. Decca cut four of their own Lady songs, including “La, La, Lu,” “What is a Baby?” and “Bella Notte.” “Peace on Earth” was sung in countermelody with “Silent Night.” This rendition was also done by Marilyn Hooven on Tutti Camarata’s 1962 Disneyland studio cast Lady and the Tramp album. It was also the only Disney song ever recorded by Dean Martin, for a star-studded Reprise Christmas album called Frank Sinatra and Friends: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (which was produced by Lady co-songwriter Sonny Burke).

Some of the soundtrack cuts must have been supplied to Decca before the final mix, as a few elements are missing, like the piano sections in “Siamese Cat Song” and “Home, Sweet Home,” and Joe’s harmony in “Bella Notte.” The delightful instrumental of “Lady” is included (a song with lyrics not sung in the film but published as sheet music and performed on the Mickey Mouse Club by the Mellomen). The album ends with the film’s main and end title, both edited together.

Three additional Lee and Burke songs may well have been written for the feature but ultimately unused. It is also possible that these songs were created solely for promotional purposes. According to Disney artist/historian Russell Schroeder, creator of the “Lost Chords” series, it is not verified that they were especially for the film.

“Jim Dear” may have been intended for the character of Darling. “When Dell published their comic book version of Lady and the Tramp before the film came out, they must have used an early story draft from the studio as a reference, because the comic book shows Darling staying home with Aunt Sarah when Jim Dear went on the trip,” he said. “So in this song, Darling is singing about how she misses him.”

Old Trusty,” could have appeared at any point, possibly when the bloodhound became injured in the story. The exciting, Vegas-style “That Fellow’s a Friend of Man” might have offered a livelier alternative to the more sultry “He’s a Tramp” for Peg as her big number in the pound sequence.

A fourth additional song, “Singing (Cause He Wants to Sing)” was definitely written for the film in 1952, when Tramp was planned as a singing character. “On the Decca record, Peggy Lee sings the song in the first person, but Tramp would have sung it as, ‘I’m singing ‘cause I want to sing,’” Russell explains/ “The songwriters, Eliot Daniel and Ray Gilbert, also created a song for Tramp called “Free as the Breeze.’”

While this Decca album has never been reissued in its complete, original form, the Decca studio versions and the alternates were reissued on a superb CD called Peggy Lee Classics & Collectibles.

“Bella Notte” – Peggy Lee

Lee’s Decca single was recorded as a single – as the pop version – much as an artist would do a separate rendition for a current signature ballad in a Disney feature. Lee’s cover here with Victor Young and His Orchestra probably isn’t heard as often nowadays as the George Givot rendition in the Disney film.

Pop stars and Disney songs are nothing new and are covered in James Parten’s excellent “Fun With Music Day” alternate Tuesdays post, Needle Drop Notes (where I enjoy discovering records, too!)

Walt Disney’s LADY AND THE TRAMP Picture Disc
Featuring Peggy Lee
Disneyland Records #3103 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / Mono)

Released in 1980. Album Producer: Jymn Magon. Running Time: 22 minutes.

Performers: Peggy Lee (Darling, Peg, Si, Am); Dal McKennon (Toughy); Bill Thompson (Bull), George Givot (Tony), The Mello Men (Pound Dogs), Victor Young and His Orchestra and Chorus, Oliver Wallace and the Disney Studio Orchestra.

Soundtrack Songs: “He’s a Tramp,” “The Siamese Cat Song,” “Bella Notte” (Sung by George Givot), by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke; “Home, Sweet Home” (Traditional).
Decca 1955 Studio Versions: “La La Lu,” “Peace on Earth,” “What is a Baby?” by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke.
Disneyland 1962 Studio Version: “What is a Baby?” by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke.
Additional Songs: “Jim Dear,” “Old Trusty,” “That Fellow’s a Friend of Man” by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke “Singing (‘Cause He Wants to Sing)” by Eliot Daniel and Ray Gilbert.
Soundtrack Instrumental: “Lady” by Oliver Wallace, Ed Penner and Sidney Fine.

When picture discs had a burst of popularity in the late ’70s/early ‘80s, Disneyland Records began issuing the same material on their standard vinyl LP’s in the colorful format, making collectors wonder if they wanted to buy them again for completist sake or to make clocks out of them. Once in a while however, there would be the odd picture disc that had no matching standard vinyl. Lady and the Tramp was one of these, and it was a treasure trove.

Before 1980, there was no way to get a soundtrack version of any Lady and the Tramp songs without searching for an import release of scattered selections, or track down the Decca records from the 1950s. For roughly twenty years, the Disneyland Records studio versions, available in a Storyteller album or by themselves, were the main way listeners heard the songs (we explored the Storyteller here).

Seemingly out of nowhere, here was a Disneyland release, picture disc only, with three out of the four Peggy Lee/Victor Young/Decca renditions and three soundtrack songs, none of which had been on Disney’s house label before. (The end title and Gigot’s “Bella Notte” were cut in two and used as separate selections). The Marilyn Hooven version of “What is a Baby?” was culled from the 1962 Camarata album. Hooven’s performance of this tune (only partially used in the final film) is similar to that of Peggy Lee, but for some reason it does not include the bridge narration that transitions between Lady and Darling’s lyrics (which makes it a little confusing to the listener). This picture disc well into the late 1980’s.

Enter Walt Disney Records Producer Randy Thornton, who brought more than a few classic Disney soundtracks to compact disc for the first time (Alice in Wonderland, 101 Dalmatians, Robin Hood, etc.). He introduced the full soundtrack Lady and the Tramp score and songs to the Walt Disney Records catalog in 1997. It was repackaged with the same material once more and then transformed into a Legacy Series title in 2015, adding in some of the Lost Chords songs mentioned above (this time presenting original demos and new versions) as well as the Camarata versions. We talked about this release in this Spin.

It came full circle—in a way–last year, when Walt Disney Records released a new picture disc of the soundtrack, fitting 40 of the CD’s 52 minutes on the grooves. It only took 63 years to start with a long-playing vinyl record and eventually “go home” again!

“Peace on Earth” – Peggy Lee

This is the version in which Lee and the chorus use “Silent Night” as a counter melody. In the film, Donald Novis sang the song on its own. Note the stunning orchestral and choral bridge at the center by Victor Young, who also composed the background for Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels (see this Spin) and won a posthumous Oscar for his spectacular Around the World in 80 Days score.


  • That LEGACY edition of the entire LADY AND THE TRAMP score is fantastic! I only wish that an extra disk was included with Peggy Lee’s own versions of some of the songs. I and a friend were looking for this on CD once in Tower Records in the 1980’s, but he then told me that there was some sort of dispute between Peggy Lee and the Disney Company and, so, a CD version will never exist, but we were checking in case this was somehow resolved. Regardless, again, I say that the LEGACY edition of this soundtrack is well worth seeking out! What is the most recent edition of the film itself on DVD and blu-ray and what were its special features?

  • I never met Miss Lee personally, but she was a good and close friend of some people I knew. She was very jubilant when she won her case regarding her Disney royalties from VHS sales of this film. Listening to these recordings reminds me of how good she was. I had never heard either of her renditions of these songs. Marvelous!

    I have often wondered why the bridge section of “Bella Note” has alternate lyrics. The original lyrics seem more suited to the mood of the song, and the revised ones don’t quite make sense. Here’s the alternate version: “So take the love of your loved one, you need it about this time, to keep from falling like a star, when you make that dizzy climb.” Here’s the original version from the film soundtrack: “Side by side with your loved one, you’ll find enchantment here. The night will weave its magic spell when the one you love is near.” Which conjures up the more romantic mood? Especially when crooned in an Italian accent?

  • Postscript:

    Multitalented producer Jim Pierson sent me a note containing more information about the Decca releases, as he was responsible for the excellent the two-disc Peggy Lee Classics and Collectibles CD album:

    “I made certain to put the four obscure Lady and the Tramp tracks on the set. (They were mercifully digitized before the Universal fire destroyed the Decca and other tape archives.) The original ten-inch LP was on the Brunswick label and the !2” on Ace of Hearts in the U.K., and oddly on Buena Vista in the ‘70s The Decca 10” was also on EP. Decca issued the 12” LP in Japan in the ‘70s on MCA.”

    Thanks, Jim!

  • This really is one of the great Disney scores of all-time. Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke wove a tapestry of early 1900s Americana from a dog’s point of view and did so beautifully. They provided Walt with a lullaby, a Christmas song, pastiches of Thai and Italian music, and a good old-fashioned American torch song. Yet they all fit so perfectly into the story and the setting.

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