NEEDLE DROP NOTES
February 23, 2021 posted by James Parten

WB 1957 and Beyond: The Final Hit Parade

The Oscars kept coming for the Termite Terrace crew, with Bugs finally getting his statuette (instead of his 1940’s “Booby Prize”). Franklyn and his confederates, to their credit, did not avert their emphasis to rock and roll, only occasionally lampooning the medium with the likes of an Elvis impression. They instead preserred swinging jazz, and knew where to go to get it when needed, as in out first offering this week.

Three Little Bops (1/5/57) – A favorite among jazz collectors. Friz Freleng’s hot and contemporary setting of the Three Little Pigs as jazz musicians playing the night club circuits. Complications arise when Big Bad Wolf, a fledgling trumpet player, tries to sit in on their session, but demonstrates to the pain of everyone’s eardrums that he has no lip. He finds himself getting ejected bodily from every venue, amd gets his revenge with his huffing and puffing – until the pigs find a nightclub made of bricks. Unable to blow the place down, the wolf decides to blow it up – but is too close to ground zero to escape the effects of the blast. Reduced to a devil-red ghost in a Hades stewpot, the wolf finally “gets hot”, and blows notes suitable for the band, joining the pigs ro form the Three Little Bops Plus One. Original narrative music is provided throughout by Shorty Rogers and his Giants, with vocalist Stan Freberg demonstrating his affinity for jazz and having a ball. Two oldies sneak into the score, played by the wolf, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” and “Charleston”.

Here’s a Shorty Rogers track, not from the film, but presented to illustrate the inspiration provided for Freleng, Foster and his crew.


Birds Anonymous (8/10/57) – Oscar Winning episiode in which Sylvester tries to kick the habot in a support group of bird-a-holic cats. When he gets home, he finds everything reminds him of bitds, including a cooking-show takeoff on Chef Milani, an Italian accented entrepreneur whose 15 minute cooking shows appeared on Los Angeles television. (The show was originally broadcast following another 15 minute program called “It’s Fun To Reduce.” It would have been much funnier if they had appeared in opposite order!) The representative of the support group tries his best to intervene as Sylvester’s resolve weakens, but ultimately turns out to be even weaker afainst the temptation of Tweety than Sylveste, and totally breaks down, leaving Tweety to comment, “Once a bad ol putty tat, always a bad ol’ putty tat”. “Tip Toe Thru the Tulips” is geatured, a number introduced by Nick Lucas in one of Warner’s earliest musicals, the all Technicolor Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), a film now mostly lost, though the song’s footage somehow survived. Recorded by Lucas for Brunswick, Gene Goldkette on Victor, Fred Rich on Columbia, and Roy Fox (the Whispering cornetist) and his Montmartre orchestra on Brunswick. Don Voorhees also featured the song on the first issue of Hit of the Week from Durium records – pressed on cardboard base for 15 cents. Revived 40 years later by Tiny Tim on Repriise, becoming essentially his theme song.


Ducking the Devil (8/17/57) – Daffy hears of a $5,000 reward for the escaped Tasmanian Devil. The duck may be a coward, but he’s a “greedy little coward”, and would like to get his hands on those 5 G’s. Daffy learns that Taz becomes docile when exposed to music, so goes out hunting for the beast, hoping to prove that music hath charms. But the cord of an electric radio will only extend so far, so Daffy tries his hand at the trombone, the bagpipes, and finally singing, until laryngutus nearly does him in. Nevertheless, he succeeds in getting the beast back into his cage, and fights the beast bodily over the last stray dollar of the reward. A potpourri of oldies is featured: “Sweet Georgia Brown”, “It’s Magic”, “You Oughta Be in Pictures”, “L’amour, Toujours, L’amour”, “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover”, “The Campbells are Coming”, “Carolina In the Morning”, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”, “Moonlight Bay”, and “The Gold Diggers’ Song”.


Show Biz Bugs (11/2/57) – Bugs and Daffy are a double act on the vaudeville stage. Daffy complains about his billing, and then finds white tile in his “dressing room” – the sign on the door reverses to read “Men”. Bugs draws plaudits for his performance – Daffy, only the chirp of crickets. Bugs shows Daffy up at every turn, until Daffy finally uses the act he’s been saving for a special occasion – a recycled bit from “Curtain Razor”, as he self-destructs in a devil costume after drinking explosives. The crowd loves it, and wants an encore. “I know, I know”, says Daffy’s ghost – “But I can only do it once.” Songs: a tap-dancing specialty act set to Vincent Youmans’ “Tea For Two”. This was an old music right for Warner, originating from the 1924 musical, No No Nanette. The musical was adapted by Warners to the silver screen in 1930 (now lost). Then portions of its score, including this number, made their way into a Doris Day picture using the song as its title (embed below). The song was originally recorded by the Benson Orchestra of Chicago for Victor, Carl Fenton for Brunswick, The Knickerbockers on Columbia, and as a vocal record by Helen Clark and Lewis James on Victor. It became a standard rather quickly, and in later years would be recorded by Red Nichols on Brunswick, Fats Waller in a piano solo on Victor, Fred Feibel as a Hammond organ solo on Columbia, and other versions too numerous to mention. Returning songs include “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover”, “Jeepers Creepers”, and the inevitable “Those Endearing Young Charms” for the oft-repeated exploding note gag.


Robin Hood Daffy (3/8/58) – Daffy is trying to convince Friar Tuck (Porky Pig, played without stutter) that he is really Robin Hood. But his feats of derring-do turn out to be derring-don’t, crashing into trees, having his duckbill folded repeatedly, and winding up dunked in ponds or streams. Porky isn’t buying it one bit – and ultimately the “amusing clown” concedes “Oh, never mind. I’kll join you. Shake hands with Friar Duck.” Songs: an original for Daffy, which I’ll call “Trip It Up and Down”, which soon devolves into the kind of cartoon action it’s title would imply, and “Barbara Allen”, an English folk song traceable back to the Elizabethan days of the 16th century, and discovered in the Appalachians by British folk song collector Francis James Child, who went into the mountains looking for the oldest songs he could find. Recorded in the 1920’s and 1930’s by Bradley Kincaid on Gennett, who had to sing the song nearly every week on the WLS Barn Dance.


Now Hare This (5/31/58) – Bugs is being chased by “Uncle Big Bad” wolf, and uses his ears to demonstrate his inner sense of radar while being pursued. The only way the wolf succeeds in having a rabbit for dinner is to invite Bugs as a guest to the dinner table. An original number, “The Carrots That Bloom In the Springtime”, is sung by Bugs.


Baton Bunny (1/10/59) – Bugs conducts the Warner Symphony Orchestra in Von Suppe’s “Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna”. His actions are inspired by the music, including staging almost a full dress Western to a martial theme from the score. His conducting efforts are interfered with, however, by a pesky fly, whom Bugs takes after with cymbals and other instrunents, eventually destroying the entire performing orchestra. After all this, Bugs finds his audience has deserted him – with the exception of the fly himself, who is the only one remaining to applaud, and to whom Bugs gives his final bows. “Morning, Noon, and Night” was of course a popular staple for other studios previously, including Max Fleischer in a Betty Boop of the same title featuring Rubinoff and his Orchestra, and Walter Lantz (Dick Lundy’s Kiddie Koncert.) Early commercial recordings included a band concert style version by Sousa’s Band on Vicor from approximately 1902, an accoustical version by the Victor Concert Orchestra, circa 1916, an accoustical by the American Concert Orchestra on Edison Diamond Disc fron the early 1920’s, and electrical versions on HMV by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham and the London Philharmonic Orchestra on British Columbia records, and by the Berlin State Opera House Orchestra on Parlophone.


Nelly’s Folly (12/30/61) – Jay Ward-ish fable about a singing giraffe, whose recording and Broadway career hits the skids when her involvement in a love-triangle alienates her public. (Today, nobody might mind it.) The film gives singer Gloria Wood a real opportunity to exercise her vocal “chops”. Gloria gets screen credit (which is oddly denied to a baritone who joins her at the end of the cartoon – is this the same singer heard on “One Froggy Evening”?) Songs: “Then You’ll Remember Me”, an aria from the operetta, “The Bohemian Girl” by Balfe. It was recorded by John McCormack on Victor, George Hamlin on Victor, Charles D’Almaine (violin solo) on very early Victor, Harry McDonough on Victor, Ruby Helder (billed as “the female baritone) on Columbia, Harold Wilde on British Zonophone, Henry Scott on Cameo, Charles Harrison on Operaphone, and electrically by the J.H. Squire Celeste Octet on British Columbia. Other songs making repeat appearances include “Voices of Spring” and “I’m the Flower of Gower Gulch” (a slight rewrite of the original from “Drip Along Daffy”), “Aloha Oe”, “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean”, “Auld Lang Syne” (with new lyric as a singing commercial), and an original which is depicted by an album cover entitled “Nellie’s Blues”.


Now Hear This (4/20/63) – How do you describe this? The most abstract cartoon Warner ever turned out. One can only wonder what kind of feedback this got from exhibitora and cash custoers, many who probably couldn’t figure the thing out. A stuffy British gentlemaan discards his green ear trumpet in favor of a red one, which augments his hearing to a distracting degree. Treg Brown gets a real workout on the soundtrack. The red trumpet turns out to be the horn of a devil seen in the opening credits bereft of a horn. “Rule Brittania”, a signature theme associated with anything British, though never quite rising to the level of a national anthem (much like “America the Beautiful” in the states), is used as a scoring theme for the Britsisher. Early recordings include Alan Turner on Canadian HMV Victor circa 1909, also imported to the U.S., Arthur Laycock on British Columbia, Dame Clara Butt on British Columbia, with much later recordings by bands such as the Band of the Grenardier Guards on both British Columbia and British Decca/London, and the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra on HMV. Here’s an excerpt:


Dumb Patrol (1/18/64) – WWI pilot Bugs Bunny takes the place of Porky Pig on a perilous aerial mission (“He has a wife and six piglets”). Baron Sam Von Spamm engages him in dogfight tactics, ultimately crashing into an ammunition dump. “I’ve hear of Hell’s Angels”, says Bugs, “But I never though I’d see one”. as Sam’s ghost ascends into the clouds in a devil costume. The film anticipates some of the set pieces and atmosphere that would become stock in trade for Charles M. Schulz a few years later. Songs: “There’s a Long, Long Trail”, a sentimental WWI standard, recorded in a best-seller by John McCormack on Victor Red Seal, Herbert Stuart and Billy Burton on Columbia, Oscar Seagle on Columbia Exclusive Artist, James Reed and J.F. Harrison on Victor black label, Henry Burr on Emerson, and a rare version by the Aeolian Concert Band on Aedlian Vocalion in multicolor “bloodshot” shellac. The song was revived in the 40’s by the Sons of the Pioneers on Decca (below). Also appearing in the film was “Mademoiselle from Armentieres (Hinky Dinky Parley Voo).”


Hawaiian Aye Aye (6/28/64) – By now Bill Lava was well entrenched. The inevitable Sylvester and Tweety chase, in the land of the pineapple and swaying palms. Songs: “Hula Lou”, originally a 1924 pop song, set to the chord changes of “Aloha Oe”. Recorded by Sophie Tucker on Okeh, Verbnon Dalhart on Pathe/Perfect, Dolly Kay, a vaudeville belter on Columbia, accompanied by the Georgians (a hot jazz band), the California Ramblers on Columbia, Billy Jones (of the Happiness Boys) on Regal, Isham Jones on Brunswick, The Troubadours (a house orchestra directed by Hugo Frey) on Victor, Isabelle Patricola on Vocalion Red Record, Bailey’s Lucky Seven on Gennett, Casino Dance Orchestra (another house band alterately billed as Nathan Glantz) on Perfect, Margaret Young (Margaret Whiting’s aunt) on Brunswick, and a country version from 1927 by the Carolina Tar Heels on electrical Victor.


Bunny and Claude (11/9/68), a late post-Termite Terrace entry parodying Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie and Clyde featured an original number, “The Ballad of Bunny and Claude (We Rob Carrot Patches)”, performed by Billy Strange, who had been a country singer in the early 50’s, but by this time had become better known for a series of instrumental albums featuring his guitar playing for GNP Crescendo.

When Warner would do cartoons again in the 90’s and -oughts, they would occasionally remember an old song or two. Tiny Toon Adventures’ “TT Music Television”, includes an exotic Casablanca-Maltese Falcon style spoof music video, set to the old Four Lads hit, “Istanbul”, originally recorded on Columbia, but in this instance performed in a double-tempo version by They Might Be Giants, a group Warner music was pushing at the time. One episode of Batman: the Animated Series, “Harlequinade”, gives Arleen Sorkin the chance to sing “Say That We’re Sweethearts Again”, introduced by Virginia O’ Brien in MGM’s “Meet the People” (1944), and recorded with good sales by Dorothy Shay on Columbia. An episode of Justice League Unlimited, “This Little Piggy” makes use of “Am I Blue?”. in a twist ending with Batman forced to sing the song in a nightclub run by Circe. An episode of The Batman, “Two of a Kind”. featured the Joker singing Hank Williams’ “Settin’ the Woods On Fire” (originally recorded on MGM Records). How Warner acquired the rights to this Acuff-Rose publication remains a mystery. And a surprise “instrumental” from Batman: The Aninated Series, where Arleen Sorkin cracks up the members of the recording session by playing a funeral rendition of “Amazing Grace” (then a well known chart hit for the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards on RCA) for “The Man Who Killed Batman”, on kazoo!

Th-th-th-that’s enough, folks!

22 Comments

  • I’m very familiar with the Fats Waller recording of “Tea for Two”, and even more so with the version recorded by barbershop quartet the Buffalo Bills on their 1961 Columbia album “Home Is Where the Heart Is”. My family had all of the Buffalo Bills’ albums, as lead tenor Albert Shea was my father’s first cousin. (I never met him; he died when I was seven.)

    “Rule, Britannia!” was originally the finale of an opera by Thomas Arne, whose name nowadays commonly turns up in crossword puzzles and seldom anywhere else. It quickly became a popular patriotic song. Beethoven quoted it in “Wellington’s Victory”, Wagner composed a concert overture on its theme in the hopes of winning over British audiences (didn’t work), and Sir Arthur Sullivan used it in several of the operettas he wrote with W. S. Gilbert. There’s a funny musical gag in an Animaniacs cartoon where the narrator sets the scene by intoning “Paris, France,” as the orchestra plays “Rule, Britannia!” The narrator repeats, rather pointedly, “Paris, France!” and then we hear the conductor tapping on the music stand with his baton before proceeding with “La Marseillaise”.

    Sorry to see this wonderful series of articles come to an end, but then all good things do, don’t they? Do another studio!

  • There seems to be one cartoon conspicuously missing from this post. I think most readers can guess which one, but here’s a hint:
    Kill da wabbit! Kill da wabbit! Kill da wabbit!…

    • I think that short deserves a whole article to itself.

      • Daniel Goldmark devoted an entire chapter (27 pages) to “What’s Opera, Doc?” in his 2005 book “Tunes for ‘Toons”.

  • Just thought I’d mention that there is a version of “Barbara Allen” to be found on Art Garfunkel’s very first solo album. And I have to echo the disapppointment at this series of posts coming to an end. It allowed all of us to hear what these various popular tunes and pieces really sound like outside these cartoons. Other studios have used popular songs and popular musicians beyond the days have challenged themselves to take on the piece for whatever it or them mean to the artist in question. No need to list examples; I’m sure that they may very well be discussed here. It is a reason (a major reason) why I want to see all or most of the taboo cartoons become restored and issued on physical media–so we can understand where some of this good music came from and why or if it is being parodied somehow within the cartoons. Warner Brothers, as we’ve noticed, have done some of the best alternate arrangements on tunes popular in the day, sometimes as major cartoony production numbers that we remember far more than the actual tunes themselves. Thank you for all this terrific historical value.

  • This has been a fun series. Are you up for Tom & Jerry next? That had quite a few song cues as well, especially during the ’40s.

    Birds Anonymous also used perhaps the most anxious arrangement of “Bye Bye Blackbird” ever put to film, during the scene when Sylvester is experiencing insomnia.

    Now, Hare This also featured the oft-used “Jeepers Creepers”, during the scene when Bugs puts the coals under the wolf’s covers. But it’s kind of hard to hear because the sound mixing on this cartoon has always been poor.

    A few other noteworthy songs from cartoons not mentioned in the post: The Mouse on 57th Street used “Show Me the Way to Go Home” by Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly when the mouse stumbles home drunk on cheese- I believe this is the only usage in the Looney Tunes series. Bonanza Bunny used “There is a Tavern in the Town” and “The Sunshine of Paradise Alley”, two songs that weren’t used much (if at all) in Looney Tunes. And Dog Gone People had the only instance of “Can’t We Be Friends?” by Kay Swift in the Looney Tunes series. So even as late as 1960, Milt Franklyn was still coming up with new cues to use, even if few of them were “modern”.

    “Songs: an original for Daffy, which I’ll call “Trip It Up and Down”, which soon devolves into the kind of cartoon action it’s title would imply”

    Actually, that’s an existing song called “Come Lasses and Lads”, except with parody lyrics by Daffy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saob2eUcdTU

  • Show Biz Bugs being released in 1957 would be better described as Bugs and Daffy doing a variety show since “vaudeville” had died around 1932. Best known example to those of us of a certain age was The Ed Sullivan Show.

    In any case, this and Robin Hood Daffy were examples of Daffy’s continued slide downwards (for my taste) from his loony days.

    • I agree…”ill tempered” Daffy does not really wear well.

      • And I disagree as I enjoyed both cartoons.

  • What about High Note?

    Sorry, all I could find was the opening and closing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K4b0Bsk0CM

    • High Note used “Blue Danube Waltz” by Johann Strauss as the recurring theme. It also used “Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?”, “How Dry I Am”, “Little Brown Jug” and “Brahms’s Lullaby” by Johannes Brahms. The rest of the score was original cues, I believe.

      It was also one of the scores selected for Bugs Bunny on Broadway. Thematically appropriate, considering the musical motif going on.

      Incidentally, I consider this one of the best scores Milt Franklyn ever made. Which is how it should be, because with no dialogue, the music HAD to carry the short, which was innovative but far from the funniest in the LT/MM filmography.

  • In “The Million-Hare,” Bill Lava crafts a decent rendition of “With Plenty of Money and You,” which was created for “Gold Diggers of 1937.”

  • I often criticise Bill Lava’s cartoon scores, especially his repetitive, by-the-numbers Road Runners; but “Now Hear This”, like “Martian Through Georgia”, proves he was capable of great ingenuity. Consider the theme he assigned to the one-horned devil, with a tuba solo accompanied by dissonant chords in the trombones. Trombones have been associated with Hell in music going all the way back to Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo” (1609). Likewise the aleatory string glissandos, which had by then become a cliché in the avant-garde music of the sixties, provide an eerie effect seldom heard in cartoons. I’m reminded of a learned article I read about the use of the glissando in the TV show “Lost”. It is full of passages like, oh here’s a good one:

    “In the glissando all the types of musical listening discussed above collide: from musical and phenomenological perspectives it is linear and harmonic and melodic and motionless. But the glissando also immediately and simultaneously undoes all these types of listening and musical time through its continual transgression of harmonic, melodic and often rhythmic boundaries. Glissando time, therefore, is linear, cyclical, out of joint and vertical all at once, but simultaneously none of these: this convergence of time and non-time I call diagonal time.”

    You may be thinking, “Gee, maybe if I studied music theory long enough, that might make sense.” I assure you that it doesn’t.

    Lava also composed a catchy bubblegum-pop groove for “Chimp and Zee”. No question, the guy had range.

    So are we just not going to talk about John Seely? Okay….

    • Lava fared much better doing the early Pink Panther shorts, since he didn’t have to live up to Stalling and Franklyn’s scores. Plus, it’s hard to screw up your score if you have Mancini’s immortal theme to work from.

    • “So are we just not going to talk about John Seely? Okay….”

      In fairness, it’s tough to talk about Seely’s “scores” because they were stock music with generic names (i.e. “Wistful Comedy”), never covered by any artists like these posts have mostly been about. And I use quotation marks around scores because, AFAIK, Seely wasn’t responsible for the actual composing of the pieces- he organized them for use in specific spots in the cartoons. The actual composing were by people like William Loose, Geordie Hormel, Philip Green, and Spencer Moore.

      I’ve discussed the Seely Looney Tunes before- while a couple of the shorts did a good job with the cues (Weasel While You Work was probably the best of the bunch, and of course Hook Line and Stinker had the Dennis the Menace-sounding recurring melody), overall the style just didn’t fit Looney Tunes. And the majority of the shorts didn’t end with any big “oomph” like Stalling, Franklyn and Lava did- they just sort of quietly fade out. Which is strange, because there were cues that could’ve fit the bill but Seely chose not to use them for whatever reason.

      Yowp has written about this kind of stock music extensively on his blogs, check ’em out if you haven’t.

  • I often wonder if producer Bill Hendricks specifically instructed William Lava to think in terms of song titles like Carl Stalling had done. Popular songs return with a vengeance under Hendricks’ tenure. In FIESTA FIASCO Lava dug up a tune from the early talkie “Gold Diggers of ’29”!

  • NOW HEAR THIS was such a mindf-ck. I mean, it got nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Subject (so did Disney’s A SYMPOSIUM OF POPULAR SONGS, but at least that one didn’t confuse people), and it rarely aired on Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, or Nickelodeon back in the day. It never got aired on THE BUGS BUNNY AND TWEET SHOW. Why? Because it is weird. It makes you forget you are watching a Looney Tunes cartoon. Now, it is on HBO Max.

    • I recall it aired a bit frequently on CN.

  • A couple other things I forgot to mention, all for Bill Lava-scored shorts: Banty Raids used “Gee Whiz Whilkins Golly Gee”, one of the series’ few forays into early rock n’ roll: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZygtJoz74E4 . Apparently it was also used in an episode of The Bugs Bunny Show, with Bugs singing it this time, but I can’t find the clip.

    Woolen Under Where’s title card featured “Mountain Greenery” by Richard Rodgers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYbtZaoulIo

    Finally, Shishkabugs used “Coronation March” from Le Prophete by Giacomo Meyerbeer over its title card: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSJqQsieV0Q . This is its only use in Looney Tunes- kinda surprising Carl Stalling never referenced it; though it was featured in SpongeBob much later.

  • Tiny Toon Adventures:
    “TT Music Television” also featured “Particle Man”, another song by They Might Be Giants, “Money” by Barrett Strong, and “Respect” by Aretha Franklin.
    “Toon TV” featured “It’s in His Kiss” by Betty Everett, “Do You Love Me?” by the Contours, and “Yakety Yak” by the Coasters.

    Animaniacs:
    “Little Old Slappy from Pasadena” set to “Little Old Lady from Pasadena” by Jan and Dean.

  • And did I mention the “Duck Dodgers” episode “Surf the Stars” featured the song “Believe in Yourself”, performed by guest star Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.
    It was even released on a Carl Wilson tribute album “Carl Wilson: Under God”.

  • I don’t think “Carrots That Bloom In The Springtime” is a complete original. It sounds like a rewrite of “Maytime”
    by Nelson Eddy and Jeannette McDonald.
    Listen
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kt72phbQG1w

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