Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Music for Cartoons and Aliens

Stock music was as much a part of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the studio’s first couple of years as the animation or the sound effects (many of which arrived from the MGM cartoon studio film library along with Hanna and Barbera). You’ve read on the blog about some of the composers and a couple of the different music libraries that were used. We haven’t talked about the concept of stock music itself, though, because it’s a little off topic. However, I found a piece on production libraries quoting Bill Loose who, as you likely know, composed music that was used in Ruff and Reddy, The Huckleberry Hound Show and The Quick Draw McGraw. He was put in charge of studio operations for Capitol Records in February 1956, about the time the Hi-Q Library was being composed, arranged and assembled.

In this Wall Street Journal story from September 5, 1978, Loose doesn’t mention which library he’s referring to, but he was involved with a couple of different ones at Capitol. Cues from the OK and PMS (Production Music Services) libraries were composed by Loose (with Emil Cadkin or Jack Cookerly) in the late ‘50s, bought by Emil Ascher in 1967 and removed from the Capitol repertoire. But the story gives you an idea about the industry itself and what Hanna-Barbera might have paid to use stock music.

Need Music to Do Nearly Anything By? These Firms Have It
They Provide Recorded Tunes Quickly, Cheaply for Ads, TV Shows, Budget Films

The industry grosses only $2 million to $3 million a year and provides full-time employment for perhaps 75 people in a dozen companies. Yet nearly every man, woman and child in the U.S. is exposed almost daily to the product these firms turn out.
“People just can’t understand what I do or how I make money from it,” says the president of one of the largest companies in the field. “It’s usually easier to tell them I’m a bookie and let it go at that.”
What his and the other companies do is provide, quickly and cheaply, vast amounts of pre-recorded music that accompany television and radio shows, commercials, documentaries, industrial films and slide presentations, to name a few of their activities The clients of the music-library or production-music business are advertisers, producers, governmental agencies, universities and most large companies with audiovisual facilities There is a lot of international business. The industry may be small but for an increasing number of clients, it has become essential in helping them get their messages across to the public.
“Music is really an integral part of making any production look and sound expensive and professional,” says Ed Hansen, head of an independent film-production agency in Studio City, Calif. “But the cost of using all original music for a half-hour show might run $10,000 not counting any residual payments to the musicians for subsequent showings. That’s hard to justify when library music provides such a good alternative.
A Sour Note
Some people, however, aren’t so pleased with music libraries. Victor W. Fuentealba, in fact, wants to put them out of business. Because Mr. Fuentealba is president of the 300,000-member American Federation of Musicians of the U.S. and Canada, his position isn’t easily dismissed. “A couple of people are making a lot of money with products made cheaply overseas that displace our members here,” he complains. Library operators counter that if the residuals problem could be worked out they would record in the U.S. and provide more work for musicians.
The controversy between the union and the music libraries has been under way since the libraries sprang up in the U.S. 30 years ago. Many observers believe that it was costly union demands during television’s infancy that helped solidify the position of the libraries in the first place. Hundreds of independent stations working on shoestring budgets decided they couldn’t afford musical groups, so they switched to recorded music.
The heart of every music library is hundreds of hours of specially written musical pieces, often no longer than one or two minutes each. “These aren’t songs or tunes or even necessarily formal pieces of music with beginnings, middles and ends,” says Everett Ascher, president of Emil Ascher Inc. and its West Coast affiliate, Regent Recorded Music Inc. But the snippets can be cut blended or added to the narration skillfully enough to make the listener believe the music is an original composition.
While corporations are the heaviest users of library music for such things as training films, much of it finds its way onto television and radio, particularly as the background for local commercials. Theatrical films use mainly original scores, but library music shows up in many X-rated movies and occasional general releases like “The Blob,” which starred a then-unknown actor named Steve McQueen. It is also used extensively by background-music services such as Muzak and has provided themes for several television shows like “Mary Hartman Mary Hartman.”
Rising Costs
Because the musicians’ union won’t let its members record music for libraries, all the recording is done abroad, mainly by full-time orchestras in Europe. Costs have risen sharply there in recent years; today the cost of producing and recording one album with a 50-piece orchestra is $7,000 to $10,000. Libraries constantly have to add new albums to keep up with the latest musical tastes or fads.
Most composers are European, but Americans also write for libraries, sometimes using pseudonyms. “The union called me in once and told me to stop,” one US composer says, “but I told them where to go.” William Loose, a 60-year-old Hollywood writer who composes mainly original scores, is among the more prolific American tunesmiths. He once spent three months writing, arranging and supervising the recording of five hours of production music. The score covered 2,400 pages.
Library usage fees vary. Thomas J. Valentino Inc., a long-established New York library that produces all its own music, allows clients to buy all its 157 albums for $754 and then to make unlimited use of them for $500 a year. Other libraries charge $60 to $70 for commercial use of each cut. There aren’t any residual payments. Besides the large amount of money saved, clients say the use of production music saves time and lets them know in advance exactly what they’re getting.
All the musical pieces are indexed to help the user. The 194-page Ascher catalog, for example, is broken down into 158 categories, ranging from ceremonial and funereal to eerie and outer space. Mr. Ascher says his library contains the music of 14 production companies on 900 albums containing 16,000 individual tracks written by more than 1,300 composers The titles of the selections range from dull (“Product Efficiency”) to weird (“Dracula’s Kitchen”) but are rarely descriptive enough to provide more than a clue to the client. However, since Mr. Ascher has an uncanny ability to remember most of the music in his library he is able to pull out records for suggested listening.
Picking the proper music is something of an art. “You have to keep in mind the visual what the announcer’s saying and what you’re trying to sell,” says Robert Canning, broadcast-production assistant for May Co., a Southern California department store chain. “Sometimes, I’ll spend a couple of hours looking for the perfect 30 seconds of music, although after the first seven or eight cuts everything starts to sound the same.”
In more complex projects, where several pieces of music have to be blended and cut to fit the screen action, expert editors such as Richard R. McCurdy are called in. “You have to make every effort to avoid a canned music sound,” he says. “But the quality of library music is excellent and as getting better all the time.”
One of the problems with production music is that the same piece may be used unknowingly by two or three different sponsors or shows. Another criticism is that some of the music sounds disturbingly close to popular hits. “We aren’t ripping off any composers,” says Roy Kohn of the Peer-Southern Organization. “Just because a piece has the feel of Glenn Miller or sounds like Count Basie doesn’t mean it’s a copy. We had library music that sounded like the themes from ‘Jaws’ and ‘Star Wars’ even before those two were written.”
There’s little ego satisfaction or public acclaim in the music-library business. One recent exception was a disco-classical number, “A Fifth of Beethoven,” which Walter Murphy, a young pianist and composer, originally wrote for the Valentino library. “I thought a couple of his pieces had commercial potential, so I pushed them,” says Thomas J. Valentino Sr., the 71-year-old founder of the library. Still, Mr. Valentino was surprised when “A Fifth” became so popular that it was added to the soundtrack of the movie “Saturday Night Fever” and the repertoire of the Boston Pops. “Everything is a gamble in this business,” he says.

My thanks to Bill M. for helping fill in some blanks in the article above, clipped together from Google News, and to Your Pal Doug for the pictures. They’re kind and generous people.

Now, I know you’re saying “Yowp, don’t you always have cartoon music in those posts about production music?” Well, for the most part, you’re right. And today is no exception. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything from the Langlois Filmusic library, though I do have a post on Langlois’ Jack Shaindlin coming. The majority of the cartoon cues that haven’t been posted here are from his library. However, I’ve managed to dig up some music from Ruff and Reddy.

As you know, Ruff and Reddy was Hanna-Barbera’s first effort after the studio formed in July 1957; some artists say they worked on it while still at the about-to-close MGM cartoon. Like The Huckleberry Hound Show and The Quick Draw McGraw Show, it featured music from the Capitol Hi-Q library. Several cues, like ‘TC-304 Fox Trot,’ ‘TC-215A Chase-Medium’ and ‘ZR-53 Comedy Mysterioso’, have already been posted here. They rarely or never were used in the other shows. We’ve got some more now.

As far as I know, all but two are all from the ‘D’ series, which I don’t have a lot of interest in. ‘D’ is for ‘dramatic’ and the music was perfect for westerns, detective shows and low-budget outer-space/horror feature films. And that brings us to our first set of cues.

The first Ruff and Reddy adventure (each was a 13-part cliff-hanger) involved an unexpected trip to the planet Muni-Mula (“That’s ‘aluminum’ spelled backwards”). Fortunately, Hi-Q had suitable scary space music, 15 pieces on two sides of an album, all by Spencer Moore. The first cue can be heard in production A-1 (Planet Pirates), the second in production A-4 (Mastermind of Muni-Mula) and the third in production A-5 (The Mad Monster of Muni-Mula).


Here are the two ‘L’ series cues from the The Chickasaurus Egg Caper, animated by Carlo Vinci, the first cartoon of the fifth Ruff and Reddy serial. The first one is by Loose, who wrote at least a half-dozen reels with mechanical beds in a couple of different tempos featuring strings and/or horns meant to evoke chugging sounds. I’ve heard them in numerous industrial films from the late ‘50s/early ‘60s, which was the heydey for Hi-Q. The second was originally in the C-B music library by Harry Bluestone and Emil Cadkin and was repackaged in Hi-Q reel L-2A. You may recognise snatches of it from a couple of the “Seely Six” cartoons at Warners that used the Hi-Q library during a musicians strike (Seely was an executive at Capitol at the time, so that’s why his name was the one on the credits).


There are other Ruff and Reddy cues I haven’t been able to find and identify. To be honest, I have trouble sitting through those cartoons, though I saw some funny Ed Benedict people designs in one the other day.

While we’re at it, let’s give you a cue from Phil Green, originally found in the EMI Photoplay library. You’ll have heard this in Space Bear, when the quivery-voiced alien is pointing to a slide show of Yogi. Hi-Q put it in reel D-40 Dramatic.


And, finally, some bonus cues. These weren’t in Hanna-Barbera cartoons, they were either in live-action TV or movies and some you may have heard before. Here’s more of Spencer Moore’s work. The first two are from reel D-24 Dramatic, the next from D-1 Suspense Underscore and the last one from D-2 Dramatic.


These three are from Bill Loose and John Seely, the first from reel D-6 Tension, the second from D-3 Light Dramatic/Suspense and the last from D-4 Suspense/Mysterioso/Somber.


Finally, a cue originally from the Sam Fox library. The composer is not indentified. It’s on Hi-Q reel D-27 Mysterioso.


These are a little sampling. I haven’t bothered with more because, as the article says, the cues do sound alike after awhile, and you’d get weary listening to a bunch of not-always-melodic music anyways. However, we can only hope we may soon be able locate, and pass on, more of the music you heard in those earliest Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the ‘50s.


  1. Great post Yowp. Always love your stock music posts, but then, you know that. I have heard L-7 Suspence Underscore on a few 1950's dramas. Good luck in that never ending search for more of the libraries.

  2. I've heard almost all of them, and I second Erroll's post>:), outside H-B---TC-43 turns up frequently in the stop motion Gumby, but I, too,m have eard Ruff and Reddy using almost all of these. "Night of the Living Dead" used almost all of those too..:)

  3. Thanks for "Eerie Dramatic (L-657)". It was also used a few times in Ren & Stimpy.

  4. The few Ruff & Reddy episodes I've seen were on a late 1980s home video compilation, and maybe on the old Family Channel. But I remember being surprised to hear mostly completely 'new' underscore instead of the familiar cues from THE HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW. The fact that R&R was primarily an action-adventure show with very little humor may be a factor.

    Thanks to this blog, I have learned how rich and varied the Capital Hi-Q music library is- and that what we hear on the Huck and Quick Draw shows is only the tip of the iceberg.

  5. Terrific article. Where do you find these things!?
    William Loose is the man!
    Thanks again for adding to the history of production music library.

  6. Whoa! One of the musical pieces you linked, L-657EerieDramatic, is one I've been wanting to hear isolated for a long time! It was used in one of my favorite Ren & Stimpy episodes, "Sven Hoek," as well as the b-movie "Teenagers from Outer Space." What serendipity! Thank you!

  7. At least SIX of those are in "Night of the Living Dead" and one, L-1214 by Spencer Moore, is in the seminal "Gumby" favorite, "The Small Planets", 1962,right before the kid appears that everyone discussing this quotes-"My Beautiful Arpeggio"--it appears when Gumby and Pokey land on the planet.

    As for Walter Murphy, mentione din the quote, too bad "Family Guy"'s what he is associated now with.
    Steve J.Carras. Happy Holiday Season, everybody..

  8. Agh! I guess I should've nabbed some of these a year and a bit ago - the links aren't working now.

  9. any idea who owns the music rights to the music of john seeley, bill loose, & bill shaindlin??

    1. Hi. Ole Georg, or the widows, for Seely/Loose, and APM/Cinemusic has a lot , but sadly, not all Jack Shaindlin. I'd love to find George Hormel, Spencer Moore, and for outside H-B, Winston Sharples/Hal Seeger on some production site...:)