By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin May 15, 2012 at 9:25PM
What do Jerry Lewis, Bugs Bunny, and Hopalong Cassidy have in common? They all recorded special material for an innovative kid-oriented Capitol Records series in the 1940s and ‘50s. This amazing output, perfectly timed for the baby boom of the post-World War II era, has now been exhaustively documented by Jack Mirtle in his self-published book The Capitol Records Childrens' Series: 1944 to 1956: The Complete Discography.
The crossover from the movie world is notable, as Capitol featured such talents as Tex Ritter, Margaret O’Brien, William Boyd (as Hopalong Cassidy), Jerry Lewis, Claude Rains (reading Bible stories), and Smiley Burnette, along with the voice artists for many popular cartoon characters. Pinto Colvig, who created the voice of Goofy in the 1930s, played the character most closely associated with Capitol’s kiddie series, Bozo the Clown, created by the company’s enterprising Alan Livingston. Bozo at the Circus was such a sensation when it came out in 1946 that later Capitol releases featured a logo declaring each record to be “Bozo approved.” It was also Livingston who devised the idea of making each record “album” a storybook, with pages that kids could turn upon a cue from the characters on each 78rpm (or, later, 45rpm) disc.
Mirtle has gathered a staggering amount of information for each release, including the date and location of the recording session and (in many cases) the names of every artist and musician who appeared on the record. Thus, for Bugs Bunny Meets Hiawatha we learn that Mel Blanc, Arthur Q. Bryan, and Pinto Colvig provided voices, Jimmy Macdonald (a legendary figure at the Walt Disney studio) performed sound effects, and the music was conducted and arranged by Billy May, whose orchestra included Uan Rasey and Manny Klein in the brass section and Alvino Rey on banjo!
The information has been organized chronologically, with innumerable footnotes, several appendices and indexes, and a handful of rare photos and illustrations—including the lyric lead-sheet that Mel Blanc used on “Daffy’s Rhapsody.”
I feel a special connection to this endeavor, as a Boomer who grew up playing many of these 78rpm recordings. Among my favorites were Walt Disney’s Tales of Uncle Remus, featuring Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers singing “The Laughing Place” from Disney’s Song of the South, and all the Looney Tunes records with great vocals by Bugs, Daffy, Porky, et al. That’s also where I first heard the distinctive sound of Billy May’s orchestrations, which I love to this day.
A fan of the pop music of this era, as well as old time radio—another point of crossover—I enjoyed browsing through Mirtle’s book and learned a great deal.
(I’ve always been interested in the cross-pollination between the movie industry and the music business. I chronicled this relationship, dating back to the songs and sheet music of the silent era, in a three-part article in my newsletter Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy. You can find back issues 10, 11 and 12 by clicking HERE.)
If you want to purchase a copy of this paperback volume, you’ll have to go old-school. Jack Mirtle is Canadian and has arranged for his friend Walt Mitchell to handle sales here in the U.S. The price is $26 postpaid, and here is Walt’s breakdown of sales details:
Please send payment made out to Walt Mitchell, P. O. Box 201, Oriskany, NY 13424-0201. I am prepared to ship one copy of this paperback book to any address in the USA for $26.00, which includes shipping by Priority Mail, with the following exception: all customers with New York State mailing addresses must add 8¾% NYS Sales Tax. The figure is $1.75, making the total amount due $27.75. Again, this additional charge is only for shipments to any destination within the state of New York.
Payment must be made to Walt Mitchell (not to the author, please!) and I accept either a money order or a check. A check may cause a delay, at my discretion, of as much as ten business days in order to clear my bank. Since this is a lone business venture, I am not set up to accept credit cards of any kind. Also, I strongly advise against sending cash through the mail! If someone sends cash to me and it gets lost in the mail, I am not responsible for money that I don't receive!
Since this is not a huge publishing venture, we cannot afford to give discounts on the books for multiple-copy purchases. However, we are glad to sell multiple copies to anyone who wants to buy them! In that instance, contact Walt Mitchell either at the address above or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how many copies you wish to purchase. I shall then pack them in an appropriate-size box and find out the shipping charge from the post office, then let you know the total amount due. For multiple copy orders like this, I can also offer Media Mail as an alternative, to save you a little more money. I am happy to work out a postage break in such instances and I am happy to pass the savings on to such customers!
Finally, if the owner/manager of a bookstore chain would be interested in stocking this book in his stores, I would not be able to address the details of that. Such parties are cordially invited to contact the author, Jack Mirtle, himself. His e-mail address is email@example.com.