Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Andy Griffith and Huckleberry Hound

It seems like a logical conclusion. Hanna-Barbera borrowed voices of stars for its characters—Ed Wynn, Art Carney, Bert Lahr, Jimmy Durante, Ed Gardner, Desi Arnaz, Phil Silvers, for example—so why wouldn’t the studio have Daws Butler borrow Andy Griffith’s voice and stick it in a lazy blue hound? Even John Fink in his column in the Chicago Tribune of October 25, 1958 noted the resemblance, and Griffith hadn’t achieved his huge fame on television at that point. And you may recall the immortal words of son-of-a-cartoon-character-thief Roger Myers, Jr. on “The Simpsons”:

Animation is built on plagiarism! If it weren’t for someone plagiarizing ‘The Honeymooners,’ we wouldn’t have ‘The Flintstones!’ If someone hadn’t ripped off ‘Sergeant Bilko,’ there’d be no ‘Top Cat!’ Huckleberry Hound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear? Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney.

Griffith’s death at the age of 86 has provided a good opportunity to lay to rest that theory once and for all.

Tim Lawson and Alisa Persons, in their book The Magic Behind the Voices (2004), interviewed Daws himself on the subject:

Though Hanna-Barbera claims that Huckleberry Hound was based on Andy Griffith, the voice was actually based on William Harwood, a North Carolina man who was a veterinarian and next-door neighbor of Butler’s future wife, Myrtis.
"Myrtis was from Albemarle, North Carolina. When I was in the navy, I’d hitchhike home on the weekend and this fella would be sitting on the front porch next door. He'd see me come panting just to see Myrtis, and he'd say (in a drawl), ‘Hi, Daws! Come on up and sit down. We’ll talk a bit.’ I’d say, ‘Well, maybe a half an hour or an hour.’ Anyway, he kind of stuck in my head. I was in the navy then, but I put him in a little separate box. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Then when Huckleberry Hound came along, there he was!”
Now, Daws Butler wouldn’t lie to you, would he?

Just in case there are any doubts...

Daws borrowed Huck’s voice all, right. He borrowed it from himself. Daws used a lower-key version of his North Carolina drawl while employed at the MGM studio for the director that wasn’t named Hanna or Barbera—Tex Avery. He put it in a wolf character for the first time in “Three Little Pups,” released December 26, 1953. Avery was already gone from the studio; Mike Barrier reveals in his book “Hollywood Cartoons” that Avery’s unit was disbanded on March 1, 1953. Daws, obviously, would have recorded the soundtrack before that; the film is even copyright 1952. What was Griffith doing then? Not much that anyone would have known about. He shot to national fame only after the release of his first comedy record, and that wasn’t until after December 9, 1953 when Capitol bought the rights to it for $5,000.

So, yes, Hanna-Barbera reworked celebrity voices in the early days. And, yes, Huckleberry Hound’s voice has the same accent and is in the same range as Andy Griffith’s. But, no, one isn’t based on the other. Daws Butler came up with it on his own, with the help of a real-life “Pet Vet.”

15 comments:

  1. Greg Chenoweth4 July 2012 at 08:17

    Thanks for posting, Yowp. I have never believed that Andy Griffith and Huckleberry Hound sound alike. Daws always did the right kind of voice for the right character and no one can touch him on voice acting.

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  2. I never bought into that theory, even though I recognized many of the other H-B “voice tributes” even as a kid. Gleason, Durante, Silvers, Wynn, Lahr, Cary Grant, etc. There were people I saw elsewhere on TV, in other shows and movies, and “got the joke”.

    I figured that Lippy the Lion (and Peter Potamus) was SOMEONE, but didn’t know who.

    But, to me, Huck was an original… unless you counted the MGM Wolf, and Lantz’s Smedley.

    It’s too easy to believe something off the Internet, and that may be why this persists. Thanks for setting the record straight.

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  3. To delve even further back, in the archives of the National Lum & Abner Society, we have an audition disk Daws Butler recorded in 1948, hoping to land a role on that radio series. It's basically the wolf/Huck Hound voice, showing that good ol' Daws was getting mileage out of it while Griffith was still toiling away at a day job in North Carolina.

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  4. I too, had heard the story about Andy Griffith being the inspiration for " Huck ". But, in 1979, I actually heard Daws himself on an interview with Ron Gregory on WOWO Radio out of Fort Wayne, Indiana tell the real inspiration behind Ol Huck. It was his neighbor. I heard the Griffith theory long after that, so I always took it with a grain of salt.

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  5. Tend to disagree with Roger Myesr Jr. The word "plagiarism" has been very overrused, so it's natural that evryone would have forgoten it's true meaning, which is to steal something to the fullest extent. An impression is by no means a steal, it is a tribute, a pop culture reference, a part of the character, but NOT a steal. It would be plagiarism if they were to use Edward G. Robinson's voice for a character named Edward G. Robinson (or Emanuel Goldberg if the case may be).

    To Joe, because a character is a impression of someone does not make him any less original; Cary Grant was not a brown cat, Ed Wynn was not an alligator, nor was Gleason a caveman.

    Daws Butler was one awesome genius, he could do anything from Jack Benny to Bobby Darin.

    RIP Andy Griffith - On the Fourth of July, USA will mourn the loss of its treasure.

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  6. To Anon:

    Perhaps I should have been more clear in saying “To me, Huck was an original VOICE”! That’s what I meant, anyway.

    Those other characters (all great and beloved, BTW) were “originals” too! They just SOUNDED LIKE Gleason, Grant, Wynn, etc. for the comedic effect of it all. And, yes… Daws was a true genius at his craft!

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    1. To Joe:
      There was also an actor named william rehnolds, he was in a 1952 episode of mavrick, his voive was a lot. Like hucks, so his voice could have been plagerized by your beloved daws, so don't go slamming other ppls beloved andy griffith for someone elses voice mix up

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  7. Butler used an unctuous version of the drawl in Punchy DeLeon (1950) - just one or two lines spoken by Crow. And in Stan Freberg's "Christmas Dragnet", Daws' Brownie character sounds like a combination of Huck and Augie Doggie. Amazing talent!

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  8. Daws Butler resued that beloved North Carolina drawl for the dog (words at the end only) at WB, for Freleng's "A Waggily Tale",1958. And before Huck he used a variaiton of the voice fo Reddy in "Ruff and Reddy".Great guy.Steve

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  9. Some time ago you had posted the soundtrack of a 1965 HB record in which Huck, voiced by Paul Frees, narrates the story of Br'er Rabbit. Listening to it, I don't hear Huck at all but rather Frees imitating Andy Griffith.

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  10. When, in 1958, you make a cartoon starring a character who sounds very much like an actor who, in 1958, has become a huge national star of stage and screen, then you are doing an impression of that actor, whether or not that voice has been in the wheelhouse of the voice actor earlier. Your argument here simply does not work. Huck is a blue dog -- that much is unrelated to Griffith. Huck is more than just a voice... he's an attitude, he's a moseying pace...and much of that was borrowed from Andy as well. Andy Griffith was a very popular flavor in 1958, and if he didn't exist on the national scene at that time, there is little to no chance that Huckleberry Hound, in the incarnation we know, would exist. Daws and Joe and Bill knew what they were doing with Huck and Yogi and their voices back in 1958, and I see no value in diminishing their savvy.

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  11. Don't forget that Daws voice was also bouncing around the Lantz studio from 1955 on in Smedley, by Avery and then Alex Lovy, so it was still in use as Griffith became popular, and was't just put away for a few years as MGM wound down its operations.

    I prefer to think of it more as Bill and Joe borrowing from what Tex found would work, to the point that even Fred "Stoneface" Quimby found it funny ("Every time he opens his mouth, he gets a laugh" I believe was Avery's recollection of Quimby's comment on "Three Little Pups" when it was screened). Hanna-Barbera no doubt thought anything that could make their boss laugh had to be funny

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  12. Daws' low-key Southern attitude character pre-dates Griffith's fame and, more importantly, it pre-dates Andy Taylor. In Griffith's comedy record routines, he certainly wasn't doing a relaxed Andy Taylor character which, more or less, is what people today know Griffith for. Obviously in 1958 they didn't know him for a character that didn't exist. The comparison made occasionally between the two back then was based on the accent.

    Daws continually used the voice in cartoons through the '50s. It's not like he suddenly invented it for Bill and Joe, any more than he suddenly came up with a voice for Hokey Wolf.

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  13. "What it was was football" -- 1953...made Andy Griffith famous...
    Quite Huck-like. "No Time for Sergeants" big hit in 1957, cemented Andy Griffith doing the friendly country guy. Very Huck-like. Sheriff Andy Taylor-like as well, with a touch of Gomer.

    Yes, Daws did a similar voice for years. But Joe and Bill used Daws' voice on Huck because it reminded them of Andy Griffith.

    Don't know why you fight this concept...but it's true.

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  14. Andy Griffith:
    May his memory be eternal!

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