Licensed products were quite lucrative for Hanna-Barbera, even in the pre-Flintstones days, and children’s records must have been a huge part of it. Several companies put out discs with Huck, Yogi and others in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.
Unfortunately—and I presume it was for contractual reasons—Daws Butler couldn’t re-create the characters he voiced in cartoons for all kids records. Thus, we hear New York radio actors like Gil Mack and Frank Milano attempting (with not a lot of success, I’m afraid) to sound like Mr. Jinks or Super Snooper on Golden Records.
But well-known cartoon voices were enlisted, too, and perhaps the oddest choice to impersonate Huckleberry Hound was the versatile Jack Mercer, who spent decades as the aural alter ego of Popeye the Sailor.
Over at the Sphinx, Snake and Boris have posted an obscurity that’s kind of a combination of a kid’s record and a Give-a-Show movie projector called “Movie-Wheels.” This 1960 venture doesn’t appear to have been around for long, but it did license the top two H-B characters of the time and had Mercer voice them. The Sunday Herald of Bridgeport, Connecticut did a story on “Movie-Wheels” on October 30, 1960.
Newest Thing in Records: Huckleberry Hound and Yogi
Lou Lewis of Bridgeport and Westport’s Paul Kwartin have launched a new phase of the record business. It is called “Movie-Wheels” and offers this innovation:
Suppose the record is about “Huckleberry Hound.” The child playing this, holds the envelope which has in one corner a built-in, revolving device that shows the “Hound” pictures by dialing. The other side of this particular record is “Yogi Bear and His Friends.” With this also is a series of pictures, making the new product a kind of music to listen by while dialing.
* * *
LEWIS is making these records at the Lithographic Corp. of America, 1483 State St. The platters, he says, are non-breakable and made differently from all other existing records.
While “Movie-Wheels” begins as children’s entertainment, it is expected to develop because of the picture addition, as a general education aid.
Another product of the same concern, but being made in Chicago, is the magazine called “Echo”. This in miniature form is published once a month and contains six records, along with pictures and stories about the performers.
Kwartin is the well known baritone who also is consultant at United Artists in New York.
One of the upcoming “wheels” will be about Popeye, a character with whom Kwartin has had a great deal of business experience.
President of the company is Paul White of New York. Asked when new ingredient goes into the records, Kwartin said “Very simple — it’s polyvinylchloride.”
What Dr. Kwartin’s connection had been with Popeye is a mystery. Kwartin was an opera singer who was also chairman of the American Conference of Cantors. He was the Cantor at Union Temple in Brooklyn, presented sacred Jewish music on radio, and had a promotional job in the late ‘60s at the Lincoln Center.
So how did Mercer do?
Well, you can hear for yourself. Click on the title. He’s certainly different and some of the voices may sound like something from a Paramount cartoon.
HUCKLEBERRY HOUND – THE MOON JUMPER
YOGI BEAR – THE BIG BOOM
My thanks to Sam to Q for spending the $7 on this obscurity for you to hear. His blog has a lot of interesting music links for you to check out while you’re there.
There was one other familiar actor who lent his considerable pipes and talent to Huckleberry Hound and who later appeared in Hanna-Barbera cartoons himself—a chap named Solomon Hersh Frees. I’m sure you know him better as Paul.
In fact, he did Huck for Hanna-Barbera Records on an LP called “Huckleberry Hound Tells Stories of Uncle Remus,” released in 1965, likely in May. Paul, unfortunately, doesn’t sing, but we get a few songs by a generic, anonymous, rock combo. The Huck song is kind of cool in a Boyce-Hart sort of way. And you should recognise the sound effects and the Hoyt Curtin background music from The Jetsons and Magilla Gorilla. Part 4 fades up, so some of the monologue is missing.
HUCKLEBERRY HOUND (song)
HUCKLEBERRY HOUND (story)
UNCLE REMUS (song)
UNCLE REMUS Part 1
BRER RABBIT (song)
UNCLE REMUS Part 2
UNCLE REMUS Part 3
BRER RABBIT (song reprise)
UNCLE REMUS Part 4
LAUGH YOUR TROUBLES AWAY (song)
Too bad Frees didn’t tackle Huck tackling my favourite Frees-voiced Hanna-Barbera character—Yellow Pinkie.
If you want the definitive story of the Hanna-Barbera Records label, you must read this fascinating and meticulously-researched piece by Kliph Nesteroff at the WFMU blog. It’s chock-full of links to great, and not-so-great, sound clips.
Speaking of not-so-great, stay tuned. Some day, we’ll get around to letting you hear some lame attempts at passing off obvious impersonators on defenceless 1960’s children as their favourite Hanna-Barbera characters on obsolete circular things called ‘records.’