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|In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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contributions to Bill Fuller %Earlyjas, or
I was recently cleaning out a dresser in which my youngest son (now 28) had
stored some of his youthful “treasures.” Among the items rediscovered was a
coffee-table sized book by Joe Adamson entitled Bugs Bunny: 50 Years and Only
One Grey Hare. It’s basically a history of the Warner Brothers animation
department known as “Termite Terrace.” I kept it, read it, and really enjoyed it.
In fact, one section of it inspired me to write what you’re reading now.
Aside from the fact that the evolution of cartoons (e.g. Betty Boop; Bosko, The
Pink Panther, The Flintstones, the Walter Lantz cartoons, and the Charlie Brown
TV Specials) often used jazz, swing, or “jazzy” musical accompaniments, it was
Carl Stallings, musical director for Warner Brothers cartoons in the heyday of
Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes, who brought the arrangement of many
obscure tunes from other composers into the limelight of hummable melodies.
He had a penchant for finding just the right melody to accompany assembly-line
activity, balancing acts, athletic contests, fast-moving trains, people dining,
mysterious caves, buzzing insects, etc., etc.
The music that accompanied the antics of cartoon super-star Bugs Bunny was was
the prototypical hipster back at a time when only Lester Young was doing a
better job of [it]...”
Stallings became particularly fond of the quirky, high-energy works of
composer/performer Raymond Scott. The titles of some of the jazz-oriented Scott
tunes used by Stallings in Warner Brothers cartoons give us hints as to why
Stallings may have selected them: “Powerhouse”[see below]; “Reckless Night on
Board an Ocean Liner;” “In a Subway Far from Ireland;” and “Dinner Music for a
Pack of Hungry Cannibals.”
Many tunes were used over and over again by Stallings and, while few of us
could name them, many of us would recognize their melodies.
Here are some other tunes in toons used by cartoon maestro Carl Stallings:
POWERHOUSE-written by Raymond Scott and recorded for Irving Mills’ Master
label in 1937, with Scott’s “Toy Trumpet” on the flip side. Both tunes were used
by Carl Stallings in Warner Brothers cartoons. “Powerhouse” was first used in the
1943 cartoon Porky Pig’s Feat and was subsequently used in over 40 other
FREDDY THE FRESHMAN- written in 1932 by Cliff Friend and David
Oppenheim, this melody was used by Stallings to “jazz” up any contest that
resembled a game.
A CUP OF COFFEE, A SANDWICH AND YOU-written in 1926 by Joseph Meyer,
Al Dubin, and Billy Rose. It was often used as background music in Warner
Brothers cartoons depicting scenes of cooking, eating, or hunger.
THEY GOTTA QUIT KICKIN’ MY DOG AROUND- when Stallings found this
1912 tune by Cy Parker he quickly cleared the rights to it and used it for his
BE MY LITTLE BUMBLE BEE- Billy Murray and Ada Jones wrote this in 1912
and it was featured in Hoppity Goes to Town in 1941.
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