NEEDLE DROP NOTES
October 7, 2018 posted by James Parten

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Of course, as any good movie of the day must, Melody Time had an over-the-titles theme song. This was a pleasant ballad, and it actually got several covers.

Of course, these songs had to be recorded before midnight on December 31, 1947–when the second ban took into effect. And record companies were busy cutting sides right up to the Witching Hour–in case the strike lasted a long time.

Melody Time was made for the crooners of the day.And it was the crooners that got to wrap their tonsils and tongues around this song.

Columbia gave it to Buddy Clark, who sang it on screen for Disney. Clark was a singer who, after a long apprenticeship in radio and on records, was coming into his own. His star would rise–until a 1949 plane crash put a sudden quietus to his career.

Decca decided to give it to Lawrence Welk’s orchestra to play as a fox-trot, with vocal refrain.

Capitol handed it to Hal Derwin, a competent crooner, but one whose career never really took off. He had been vocalist with Shep Fields and his Rippling Rhythm (a very stylized orchestra), but his solo efforts were only modest sellers at best.

And RCA Victor gave it to their singing bandleader Vaughn Monroe. Monroe did lead a band (and occasionally played the trumpet), but was best-known for possessing a nasal baritone, which was coupled to a set of pipes that earned him the nickname “Ol’ Leather-Lungs”. Of all the versions of “Melody Time”, it was Vaughn Monroe’s that made the lower reaches of one of the “Billboard” charts of the time.

At least “Melody Time” got recorded and issued. That is more than you can say for “Once Upon A Wintertime”.

Frances Langford sings that number in the film. But she seems to have been “between” record company assignments at the time. In fact, she wasn’t recording for anybody in particular during 1947 or 1948–a far cry from when she was a steady-selling artist for Decca, only a scant few years earlier.

On the other hand, Ethel Smith was quite fortunate. Decca was still interested in her organ solos. Ethel Smith epitomized the old axiom, “It takes the sizzle to sell the steak”.

Starting with her appearance in Bathing Beauty (1944, M-G-M), she showed that she had a winning smile, a wholesomely pretty face, and considerable skill on the Hammond electric organ. She impressed greatly playing “Tico Tico”–a number we’ll remember from “Three Caballeros”–which she also recorded for Decca.

Walt Disney’s mam didn’t raise no fool! Ethel Smith was signed up–presumably post-haste. And her performance of “Blame It On the Samba”–in concert with the Dinning Sisters (who,oddly enough, didn’t get to record the song for Capitol)–was used as a frame for some new animation of Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and the loony Aracuan Bird.

She did get to record “Blame It On The Samba” for the Decca, with her usual backing of the Bando Carioca.

4 Comments

  • The title tune is very pleasant! Buddy Clark, as always, was very good with the crooning, classic Bing Crosby type crooning! You, or other fans, can mention his big hits of the previous year, 1947, “Linda”, about the then-later-to-be Linda McCartney, with Ray Noble and his fair sized orchestra. A major hit..no doubt that would have made Buddy even a better choice had “Linda” come out, not in 1947, but in 1944. And it’s just the beginning, as Ted Lewis said back in the twenties, (was it him that intoned for years in broadcasts and what have you “And it’s Only the beginning”) for this film.

    • Actually, the line “It’s only the beginning, folks-only the beginning!” is associated with Edward “Tiny” Ruffner, who played the Captain in the Broadway show “Show Boat”, and on the “Maxwell House Show Boar” radio program.

    • Actually to James E.Parten:
      Thanks! In the 1935 Warner Bros.cartoon “Shake your powder Puff” a take off on the character appears. Again, thanks!

  • Correction: “Tico Tico” was in Saludos Amigos not Three Caballeros

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