NEEDLE DROP NOTES
August 5, 2018 posted by James Parten

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As leaves fell from the 1947 calendar, approaching the Autumnal Equinox, the staff of the Music Department of the Walt Disney studios was cloaked in anticipation. And why should that not have been the case?

Make Mine Music had done all right for Disney. And Song of the South had reaped a bonanza of ancillary income from three hit songs. Why should it be different with the upcoming “package” feature, “Fun and Fancy Free”?

Alas, it was not to be.

Fun and Fancy Free did well at the box-office, both here and abroad. But, from the standpoint of hit songs–frankly, Fun and Fancy Free was a flop!

The film’s title song did get covered by a number of the companies–big and small–that were now in the record business. But few of the records really caught on with the public. The film’s title song did get covered by several companies.

Columbia, which seems to have invested heavily in recordings connected with this film, handed Fun and Fancy Free to Gene Krupa’s orchestra, (with a vocal). Krupa had his troubles during the recent World War II, but he was over that now, and had a big, swinging band.

Another swinging group was handed this tune by RCA Victor. Louis Prima had just been pinched from Majestic Records, and had a big, swinging band which he led with lots of personality.

Other companies went in a different direction. Musicraft gave this song to an Italianate crooner, Phil Brito,who had been recording for them for several years after serving an apprenticeship with the band of Al Donahur.

M-G-M–which had only just gotten into the record business at the beginning of 1947–handed it to ex-Paul Whiteman pianist Buddy Weed and his trio.

And Capitol went in for a completely intimate treatment, putting this song in the hands of the Dinning Sisters, a soft harmony trio. They were backed up by the Art Van Damme Quintet–a group led by someone who showed that swinging jazz could be gotten even out of a piano-accordion.

Even some of the transcription services got into the act. Frankie Masters had a middle-level big band which had some popularity,especially in the Middle West. He got to cut “Fun and Fancy Free” for one of the transcription services–possibly for Lang-Worth.

As for the main parts of the picture, the music industry ignored “Mickey and the Beanstalk” entirely. There were no pop covers of “My, What A Lovely Day” or “Fee Fi Fo Fum”. We shall see how the industry responded to “Bongo”–and what they got for it!

4 Comments

  • The original lyric is “So if you’d really like to be happy-go-lucky just like me,” yet all of the re-interpretations of the song alter it to “So if you’d really like to be happy lucky just like me.” I know that “happy-go-lucky” was a phrase that had currency back in the 40’s, although it is little used today. To my ears, “happy-go-lucky” makes more sense than “happy lucky.” Perhaps the “go” was dropped because it doesn’t fit the musical phrase exactly. To fit “happy-go-lucky” into the phrase the singer has to “cheat” slightly with the phrasing. Still, the original version seems the more reasonable one.

    I’m not surprised that “Fee-fi-fo-fum” or “In My Favorite Dream” didn’t have much of a life outside of the film, because those songs are embedded into the context of the story. “My What a Happy Day” is a different matter–it could survive as a song out of context. But perhaps the tunes were so well blended into the mini-feature “Mickey and the Beanstalk” that removing one of them from the original context just didn’t occur to those looking for material to supply to recording artists. The visuals do spring immediately to mind when hearing the audio portion of those songs. They are good songs, but they may have been too well incorporated to warrant further exposure.

    There is also the consideration that by the late 1940’s, Mickey Mouse and cartoons in general had become associated with entertainment for small children. In the 1930’s there were many “adult” recordings celebrating the character and personality of Mickey Mouse and his friends, as Mickey was the darling of adults and critics during that period. But by the late 40’s, songs written for a Mickey Mouse feature would have been considered exclusively the province of the nine-and-under crowd. Even if it were arranged and recorded for adults, they probably weren’t interested in songs from a Mickey Mouse movie. (Sad to say, because I am one of those adults who still considers Mickey Mouse and friends appropriate entertainment for all ages, particularly for adults.)

  • Bandleader Ray Noble, who co-wrote “My, What a Happy Day” and “My Favorite Dream,” had a contract with Columbia Records at the time FUN AND FANCY FREE was released, which makes it a little surprising that he didn’t get to record at least the two songs he helped write. Perhaps it’s a reflection on how little potential as commercial hits record companies thought the songs had.

  • Found the following the in October 11, 1947 issue of Billboard Magazine. Sure wish they’d been more specific about what those “81 platters” were.

    81 PLATTERS PLUG DISNEY PIC SCORE

    New York, Oct.4 — Probably setting a record for the number of disks plugging a film score is the music from the Walt Disney FUN AND FANCY FREE pic released by RKO Radio. The score, which is published by the Santly-Joy group, has no fewer than 81 platters, ranging from Dinah Shore’s Columbia cuttings of three pops from the pic thru three FUN AND FANCY FREE albums issued by RCA Victor, Columbia and Capitol, to a kidisk package built around the BEANSTALK tale (from the film), featuring Johnny Mercer.

  • “Mickey and the Beanstalk” ran more than once on “World of Color”, but I don’t remember “Bongo” appearing anywhere in my 60s youth (although the character and story were familiar from comic and storybook versions). I think my very first viewing was the DVD.

    Did it get any screen exposure after “Fun and Fancy Free” completed its theatrical run?

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