Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I’m Yogi the Sailor Man

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.’

8 comments:

  1. It must have been something in their contracts. An engineer friend of mine has the Lp " Huckleberry Hound and Ruff and Reddy " featuring the voices of Gilbert Mack. Gilbert did Huck, Pixie & Dixie, Mr. Jinx. The flip side is Quick Draw McGraw with Don Elliot and Gilbert Mack doing Quick Draw, Baba Looey, Super Snooper, Augie Doggy/Daddy Doggie and Blabber Mouse. It is on the " Golden Records Label ". I wonder how many kids at the time noticed the voice change?

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  2. Where do we find Sam to Q's blog?

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  3. Doug, click on "the Sphinx" in green.

    Errol, any intelligent kid would know the voice was the wrong one.

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  4. Jack Mercer's impersonation of Huck and Yogi didn't cut it for me at all. It felt like I was listening to a 60s Paramount Cartoon or Modern Madcap in a really weird way. Imagine if they had picked Jackson Beck or Eddie Lawrence to do Yogi and Huck. Now that would have been really strange. It was still really interesting and fun to listen to.

    Paul Frees luckily did a far better job with Huck Hound on the 1965 LP. It still felt like I was listening to a completely different character, but at least Frees still provides a decent voice to listen to in contrast to Jack Mercer's seemingly cheesy impressions of the characters.

    Neat post. Now I'm curious as if those 70s HB recordings really sounded that bad.

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  5. Sorry, I REALLY stated the last question wrong. Of course any smart kid would have noticed the change. I was wondering what kids at the time thought. All these different voices were an immediate tune out for me. There is an Lp that exists with June Foray doing " Boo Boo ". As much as I love June..no cigar. To me, that would be like Don Messick doing " Rocky the flying Squirrel". Makes me wonder how many of these Lps and 45s received a few plays and found their way into the closet, or sat in the rack collecting dust. I've heard the Jack Mercer lps. They do sound like something right out of " Famous Studios ". The only thing missing is Winston Sharples' music cues.

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  6. Actually, I didn't think Mercer did that bad of a job (his Yogi was better than his Huck), though obviously still nowhere near Daws Butler (Boo Boo was horrid). Frees on the other hand did a respectable impression of the hound dog...

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  7. I had quite a few HB records and I remember feeling like the best thing about them was the cover and liner art! I also had a Yogi album with a Colpix label that had the soundtracks from 3 or 4 actual cartoons - one of which was The Buzzin' Bear!

    Thank you for this, Jim. The whole subject is just fascinating to me.

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  8. Bizarre doesn't begin to describe the idea of Huck narrating a rather obscure story (as opposed to the classic fairy tales the H-B crew usually star in) that contains the term 'tar baby'. Maybe the producers felt Huck's southern vocal qualities were appropriate for this type of setting. Frees comes nowhere close to Daws' characterization; rather, he does Huck as more of an Andy Griffith imitation. There's still controversy as to whether or not Daws patterned Huck on Griffith.

    Unlike Allan Melvin's decent job as Yogi in the other HBR exerpts you've presented, I kept forgetting it was Huck narrating this story.

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