Sunday 19 February 2023

Sing Along With Touche

Earl Kress was among a handful of wonderful people who loved and really knew Hanna-Barbara cartoons, and would go out of his way to help others who did, too, even if it was just to chat by e-mail.

Hanna-Barbera and other studios employed Earl as a writer. He won Emmys. He was only 60 when he passed away from cancer in 2011. When he died, the good people in animation said many good things about him.

Earl amassed what, I gather, was a huge amount of material; he was involved in publicity of the H-B cartoons after the studio was sold to Turner, in addition to music CDs and cartoon DVDs. Much of it has been sitting in his home in the dozen years since he left for another plane.

Denise Kress went through her late husband’s material some time ago and mailed some of it to me. I’ve passed on some of it in this blog. I think he would have wanted it. Earlier this month, Denise bundled up a package of Earl’s files and took the great expense of sending it to me. It’s a bewildering amount of material, including voice recording session data and animation credits for The Flintstones, a whole episode guide from Wacky Races, one of his draft stories for H-B from 1980, non-cartoon cues from the Capital “Q” library (the one before Hi-Q) and a lot more.

With this overly long introduction, let me post the lyrics and music for what I suspect was a theme song for Touche Turtle.

Yes, Touché’s part of starting-to-get-blah period of Hanna-Barbera comedies. But I post this because the lyrics are by Mike Maltese, my favourite of all cartoon writers, and I don’t know if this was ever used on television.

Touche’s gestation period seems to have started in 1960. A Life magazine spread featured story director Dan Gordon looking over concept drawings for a proposed Hairbrain or Harebrain Hare series. One of the drawings is pretty much Touché Turtle. A Variety story of October 20, 1960 stated a deal had been worked out for two syndicated cartoon series, one starring swordsman Hairbrain and Dum Dum, and the other with Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har, another Maltese invention.

Somehow, during development, the rabbit disappeared and Dum Dum was paired with Touché Turtle. Wally Gator was added by August 1961 (sayeth the Hollywood Reporter) and the troika appeared (in colour) on the Beachcomber Bill Show on KCOP in Los Angeles on Monday, September 3, 1962, after a preview the previous August 27th—at 7:30 in the morning! (The station signed on early). The Los Angeles Citizen-News reported “Zero-Hero,” animated by Ken Muse, was previewed. Screen Gems claimed each episode in the three shows cost $9600 a piece, 156 cartoons in all (Variety, Mar. 7, 1962).

Those of you who have seen the series know the theme song before each cartoon consists of the Randy Horne Singers belting out “Touché, away! Touché, away! It’s Touché Turtle.” Maltese did better, though he’s been wittier (eg. “The Flower of Gower Gulch” at Warners).

As you can see below, Hoyt Curtin composed a theme, including chords. I have no skill at playing in A-flat on anything so I can’t attempt to recreate this aurally for you.

It might have been cool if Bill Thompson, the voice of Touché, had sung this, but I don’t know if it was ever recorded.

Late note: Kurtis Findlay, who is the only person who subscribes to this feed who has met me in person, gave it a go. That is so cool. Don’t expect perfect pitch as he has a cold (I was a boy soprano. My choir teacher told me I had almost perfect pitch. I’m a pensioner now and am extremely flat).

As you know, this blog is retired but when I get a chance, I’ll put up a few more things Denise has sent this way.