One of the unexpected pleasures of putting out the dusty old bits and pieces and musings that you read here is that there are others who want to take time out of whatever they’re doing to help.
I’ve been very fortunate that one of those was Earl Kress.
Earl passed away of cancer this morning.
That’s Earl you see in the picture with the world’s perennial teenager, Janet Waldo, at ComiCon last year.
Unlike other obits you’ll read on the net, this writer had never met Earl, never worked with him, and didn’t really know anything about his career; the cartoons I like most are of a vintage before Earl started writing them. But he really loved the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons and the studio.
Fans who have DVDs, or have watched cartoons on the internet ripped from the DVDs, of the Huck and Yogi shows, the Flintstones and Top Cat, can thank Earl for his work in getting them released, and with extras we might never have seen otherwise. He worked on a Quick Draw McGraw DVD which, sadly, we likely will never see. Quick Draw was Earl’s favourite character and he was always a little sad that, first, restoration, and then music rights issues got in the way of it being released.
I suspect few media executives know, or care, about production library music from the 1950s. But Earl did. When the Rhino discs of Hanna-Barbera themes and music came out in 1996, he managed to get included nine Capitol Hi-Q pieces by Phil Green that fans had never heard without dialogue over the top. He did it with a “hey, listen to this” sense of glee. Earl had gone over the cue sheets for a bunch of the cartoons in the Hanna-Barbera library, made some notes, and off he went. He saw Ole Georg at Capitol, where someone went into their archives, found the music he was looking for—including a piece by Hecky Krasnow—and played it for him. He went to Cinemusic where they told him even they didn’t have some of Jack Shaindlin’s music any more, but gave him the address of someone who had preserved the cues on film. Even then, he couldn’t find everything he was hoping for, including the original version of his favourite Shaindlin cue, ‘On the Run.’ After all that, only a deal could be worked out for Green’s music. I remember being astounded and really excited when I heard the cues for the first time. I had been trying to track down the library for more than 20 years and here was some of the music I was looking for. Others wanted to hear it, too. They’ve even come to this blog to do it. Credit Earl.
Earl was a friend and student of Daws Butler. And he personally knew an awful lot of old-timers who had worked on many of his favourite Hanna-Barbera cartoons, which must have been a real treat.
Quite unexpectedly one day, Earl dropped me a note about the cartoon music cues and asked me if he could help me with any of them. And that’s the way he was. He generously shared information and offered things from his collection when he didn’t have to. But we both liked the same cartoons and he really wanted to help. And he did.
Earl had many great, supportive friends and they’re all suffering a sad loss today.
Thanks so much for everything, Earl. I’m going to miss you.
Stu Shostak has broadcast a tribute show to Earl, featuring an old interview about his career and the H-B studio. You can go here and download it. Head to the bottom of the page.