Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Original Main Street Music

Photo Credit: Joe Shelby's Mom
Main Street USA 1976-1991: Morning Music | Evening Music

Last time, as we took the time machine right down the middle of Main Street USA, we stopped by some well-remembered but hard to authenticate music for the morning, and a much more obscure and even more difficult to authenticate evening loop, each one telling half the story of the other.

It's generally "known" that these music loops started playing in 1976, and there are fingerprints all over the tracks, in a way, indicating how they were assembled, that they were probably assembled together. Which is good background to have as we launch off into informed speculation on what played at Magic Kingdom (and Disneyland!) for her first five years.

It gets dicey here way back in the super early days because the existence of affordable home video cameras starting in the mid-80s has provided an invaluable source for authenticating music as it actually played in the park; basically, even if you have the music, there's no telling if it's actually honestly what played in situ without home videos or live recordings. As a result, we're probably never going to know for sure about this particular music loop unless a Wagner tape reel or list appears.

Despite all of that, I'm willing to make an educated guess, a guess that grows out of my experiences identifying the other two loops.

Since I wasn't there for Magic Kingdom's early years, as a Disney history specialist I have a bad habit of mercilessly pressing everybody who is in any condition to remember anything I'm interested in for information, and I spent about a year seriously on the trail of the Main Street music loops. As a result I came across about a half dozen people who have strong memories of visiting Magic Kingdom in the early 70s and hearing the Main Street music.

These memories generally came in two varieties: memories of either Sweet Rosie O' Grady or Strolling Through the Park / Mary Is A Grand Old Name. Some musically oriented people even directed me to the source album, which they sought out without my prompting: The Gaslight Orchestra's Gay Nineties Waltzes.

The trouble, of course, is that Gay Nineties Waltzes and the tracks Rosie O' Grady and Strolling Through the Park / Mary also appeared in the 1976 Morning loop, so there really was no way to be absolutely certain that these people were remembering what they heard in 1972 instead of 1978. I never quite solved the problem, and left it alone during production of A Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World.

As it turned out, that was the project that attracted my biggest hint yet, in the form of a comment. I ordinarily don't put a lot of faith into personal anecdotes when searching out something as specific as music tracks, however this one by user dichuy carries an unusual amount of authority:
"For those of you who are looking for a more expanded selection of music:

My dad use to take the family tape recorder all over the Magic Kingdom in the 70s and tape all the background music, as well as the rides. One of our favorite tapes was from Main Street USA when it first opened. This soundtrack played for quite a long time before it was changed.

One day my dad came home with a gleam in his eye and a package in his hand. He took out an LP and put it on the record player. The entire family burst into smiles. It was the record Disney used for Main Street. Dad said it was the order of the songs that made a light bulb go off and he ran home with his purchase to make sure his hunch was right."
A few things to note. First, this is an anecdote involving not somebody remembering a specific song, but exposure to a specific set of songs both in the theme park and at home, repeatedly, which lends huge credibility to the accuracy of the memory.

Second, notice the way the record was identified: not by track titles, which of course are commonly recorded standards, but through track order. This can only come about through repeated exposure to the recorded music, and then the version played in park must be identical to the order on the record.

Third, notice that this anecdote fits in with our previously established date of 1971-1976. In 1976, the "Gay Nineties" tracks were split between two longer music loops and ammended with additional tracks from Albert White and elsewhere. Since the 1976 loops do not play the Gay Nineties Waltzes songs in album order, dichuy's father could not have identified the correct album using track order alone after the installation of the 1976 loops.

This anecdote, plus the memories of others, leads me to embrace the theory that for the first five years of the Magic Kingdom, Main Street USA played the Gaslight Orchestra record, in album order, either in or nearly in its entirety.

Two problems that immediately arise from this theory are easily addressed:
1) The Gay Nineties Waltzes album is too short to provide area music alone.
It is a short album, but many of the earliest Wagner loops were quite short. The Liberty Square music seems to have been about twenty minutes long, the Tiki Room hosted a mere fifteen minutes of music, and many other loops hardly broke the one hour mark. The average seems to have been about thirty minutes, and that's about how long the Waltzes LP is.
2) Wagner never used a whole album in album order for BGM.
Actually, he did, for Caribbean Plaza in 1973, and that was in album order too, even if he didn't use the last few songs on the LP to make the loop an even 30 minutes.

And, actually, who says that Wagner made this early Main Street loop at all? There is literally no date on the original Somerset LP, although it's commonly considered to be from the early 60s. Knowing this, it could very well have been playing on Main Street at Disneyland in Walt's era.

Jack Wagner, for his part, always said that when he got the contract with Disney in 1970, he had to change a lot of music. For an example, this is excerpted from his interview in Disney Magazine in 1998, shortly before his death:
Besides providing vocal talent, Wagner does the master tape recording of music and effects for the Parks' shows and parades. His first job as Production Consultant was supplying background music for 40 different themed areas at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. 
"In Disneyland, you'd go down Main Street and they'd be playing '70s musical hits like 'Mrs. Robinson,'" he recalls. "So I changed that to turn-of-the-century ragtime music."
He told this story several times, and for all I know, it's true. But does late 60's pop music on Main Street sound like a Walt Disney Production to you? So much of Disneyland was so carefully put together that I can't see Walt Disney signing off on pop music in his personal time machine. And while we could say that maybe Disney management put it in after his death, these men were hand-picked by Walt and guarded his Kingdom jealously. So I just can't see Roy Disney, Jack Lindquist, Don Tatum and Dick Nunis signing off on it, either.

And so I've always felt that story had a whiff of apocalyphical to it. But it's worth keeping in mind.

Let's Crunch Some Numbers

Let's take a quick look at the overall structure of the 1976 loops. As noted in the relevant articles, each loop seems to be constructed out of five basic records, with individually-chosen tracks interspersed in. These five records laid the foundation for the 1976 Morning and Evening tracks for Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, and eventually World Bazaar in Tokyo Disneyland.

What's interesting is that when you start to look at breakdowns of how much of each album was used across the two loops, and also how much of each album was used in either the morning of the evening loops, you start to see something like design intent. Of the five core albums represented below, the album which got the least amount of use across the two loops was "Your Father's Moustache Volume 1", using 4 out of 18 songs, or about 22%. They break down, in order, like so:

 - Your Father's Moustache, Vol 1 / 4 of 18 songs or 22%

 - Your Father's Moustache in Hi-Fi / 4 of 14 songs or 28%

 - Your Father's Moustache, Vol 2 / 6 of 16 songs or 37%

 - 30 Barbary Coast Favorites / 11 of 27 songs or 41%

 - Gay Nineties Waltzes / 9 of 12 songs or 75%

This shouldn't be too surprising, as Gay Nineties dominates the daytime loop and Barbary Coast dominates the night time loop, but it is surprising that Gay Nineties leads by so much. In fact, of the three songs left out of the loop - In The Good Old Summertime, After the Ball and Man On The Flying Trapeze - we can even theorize that Flying Trapeze and Good Old Summertime could have been replaced with the versions from Barbary Coast Favorites in 1976.

Let's not forget how Wagner assembled these loops: by working with record companies and compiling themed reels for reference. Once he had worked out a "sound", he rarely deviated from it. And he always reused. Always always reused as much as possible. Does the fact that he used nearly the entirety of Gay Nineties Waltzes in the 1976 Main Street loops seem to corroborate the working theory that the original Main Street music was that entire record,as the music had already been paid for?

I'll let you come to your own conclusions there. The original LP isn't too hard to come by, and if you have a turntable, is definitely the best sounding of the three options. Gay Nineties Waltzes seems to have been one of those records that slipped into the grey market, jumping from label to label over the years. Two companies have remastered the record for digital download: Studio 102 and Lost Gold. Both versions sound equally good:

Gaslight Orchestra: Studio 102 Essentials on
Gay "1890s" Waltzes on iTunes

And if you were around Magic Kingdom in the early 70s or have any sort of memories or even documentation proving or disproving this theory - by all means, speak up! We need you!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Music of Country Bear Jamboree, Part Three

Country Bear Jamboree: The Deleted Songs

Country Bear Jamboree seems to have come into this world in very much the shape it was conceived in. As is well known, the basic idea for a singing bear band dates back to the mid-60s, when Davis was developing ideas for all sorts of musical bears - marching band bears, tuba bears, rock band bears, and more. Many of these idea ended up informing America Sings, three years later.  One of Imagineering's favorite myths is the "last laugh" story, probably most famously related in the original large format hardcover "Walt Disney Imagineering" book, and this story has sometimes been used to conflate Country Bear Jamboree as some sort of extension of something Walt Disney wanted.

In actuality, the decision to move in the country music direction didn't come until 1969 or 1970, making Country Bear Jamboree one of WED Enterprises' first "solo voyages". Deep in the early planning files for the Florida Project is a curious Colin Campbell drawing of the Bear Band show in an open air arena-like setting, with the audience facing a huge rock wall covered with cascading waterfalls. As each act would appear, the waterfall would part, revealing a new bear. The opening waterfall gag ended up being used at the Tiki Room and the richly appointed Victorian theater we know so well was devised by Dorthea Redmond.

You probably remember this photo from Part One:

Back in 2009, the always formidable Stuff From the Park posted a larger, alternate take of the same publicity photo:

Do you see what's behind them? It's Al Bertino's original storyboard. The size of the scanned image allows us to study it in at least a little detail after some futzing in Photoshop:

As can be seen, the entire show doesn't fill a single board. Right below the "Big Albert" poster Davis and Bertino are examining, the return of Big Al to interrupt the show can be clearly seen. There just plain isn't a lot of supporting material to suggest that Bear Band was ever a radically different show.

So it was a pretty direct process to get to the show we actually know, and the various false starts along the way, for the Mineral King Resort for instance, are so deeply buried in the Archive that digging them out is not a realistic goal for this blog. But I can shed light on exactly two songs that were intended for the show and deleted.

The first of these is known simply because of a cue sheet I have listing the various numbers. This same cue sheet was used by WED in 1988 to alter to Japanese version of Country Bear Jamboree for reasons unknown, and the very fact that they had to use an outdated sheet in 1988 does tend to suggest just how little supporting documents the Bear Band show left behind.

Besides presenting an extremely different musical number order than what was used in the final show, it's full of little clues and things that were written out by 1971, for example:

Yeah, sure, for all we know "Bear Bash" is just the working title for Bear Band Serenade, but then we start coming across stuff that absolutely isn't in the show, like:

What is "The Funny Farm"? It seems to be a deleted Henry/Wendell song, as this sheet predates the casting of Bill Cole as the voice of Wendell (and Sammy, by the way).

The only song I knew of that went by "The Funny Farm" was the famous novelty song "They've Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" by Napoleon XIV. This would be an extremely bizarre choice for Country Bear Jamboree, although, to be fair, it wasn't any more bizarre than many of the other choices in the show itself.

"They're Coming to Take Me Away" was also a staple of a novelty record radio show based in Los Angeles hosted by Dr. Demento, which is where many people were also exposed to Homer and Jethro, so that was a possible link. As much as it tickled me to imagine Al Bertino or Marc Davis listening to Dr. Demento on their way to work, he started broadcasting in 1970, making the timing of all of this a little unlikely.

The actual solution did not present itself until I actually got ahold of the Homer and Jethro Fractured Folk Songs record ..... and there it was, right at the end of Side Two:

The Funny Farm - Homer and Jethro - Fractured Folk Songs - RCA Victor LPM-2954 1964

The fact that The Funny Farm shares the same platter with Mama Don't Whup Little Buford and Fractured Folk Song is a dead giveaway. It makes sense that the deleted Henry and Wendell song, a duo modeled on Homer and Jethro, would be itself yet another Homer and Jethro song. And this is Marc Davis territory for sure - the song is about drinking!

It isn't hard to see why this one was cut. It's hard to top Little Buford for comedy, at which point it made sense to just keep Wendell off stage until the finale of the show. A minor deletion, to be sure, but in the unstable terrain of WED Enterprises history, one worth recording.

The second number I've actually known a bit about for a long time, but never had enough information to give a full picture of what happened. It's a song from 1968 called You Make A Left and Then A Right.

You Make a Left and Then a Right - Johnny and Jonie Mosby - Make a Left and Then a Right - Capitol ST-2903 1968

Look at that hair....

Johnny and Jonie Mosby, "The Sweethearts of Country Music", perhaps typify the mainline Nashville sound better than any of the other performers this series of articles has covered. "You Make A Left and Then A Right" is a slow waltz detailing a rekindled affair.

Looking back from 2013 and knowing what we know about the way Country Bear Jamboree turned out, this song seems almost impossible to imagine in the show sung by the Sunbonnet Trio instead of "All the Guys Who Turn Me On Turn Me Down", which is who it was intended for.

I think Davis and Bertino knew they had a problem here. The song seems grossly inappropriate to be sung by three young girls. There's always been a hint of ambiguity about the ages of Bunny, Bubbles and Beulah: the songs they've always been chosen to sing aren't about fantastic kinds of romantic love, they show an awareness of attraction as a physical response. That's part of the joke, I gather: the ones in a ludicrous baby clothing know all of the reasons they want a boyfriend. A lot of the first laughs these characters get in the show is because of the disconnect between their appearance and their song.

But "Make A Left and then A Right" is a song about a fling with a married woman, which doesn't quite seem right coming out of the mouths of babes. The key line that's funny in the Sunbonnet Trio song is "turn me on", which was, as of 1971, a relatively new slang phrase. The phrase has carried on in our culture, outliving even its 60's counterculture meaning, and has an electric effect on audiences to this day. Had Make A Left been used instead, the segment would likely have seemed to be casting about for a joke. The song itself is the difference between an unrealized joke and the show stopper here.

Let's listen to the original Mosby song:

What's interesting is that despite this song seeming to be a poor fit, it seems to have quite far along in production before it was replaced. The Stonemans are listed on my song list (excerpted above) as possible voices, presumably before WED and Bruns decided to bring in three dedicated vocalists for their performance.

We also know this because Marc Davis actually painted the slides for the Illustrated Song to accompany Make A Left and Then A Right. I don't have them in very good quality - sixth generation photocopies from the back of an old information packet - but here they are, with some digital tints to make them easier to enjoy:

Okay, a few things to note about these slides.
 - The song itself is sung by the Sunbonnets, but it doesn't seem to actually be about them, not in any way like "All the Guys" is. The awkward, heartbreaking teenage bear in the shows' final illustrated song slides typify how many young girls feel about themselves - confused, disappointed, and surrounded by hostility. "Make a Left" doesn't even readily invite a female perspective; notice how the bear in "All the Guys" unsuccessfully dresses up to attract a mate and ends up looking like the bear in "Make a Left". To compensate, Davis has invented a guileless bachelor to star in the illustrated song, but he isn't very sympathetic.

 - Davis and Bertino have had to change the basic song itself to make it into a joke, the only time they did this in the entire show. The Mosbys' verse ends with "...And if it's on, come on it / But if it's off, he's home again", which they have modified to "..I ain't in", which seems to imply that somebody beat the bachelor bear to the punch. The on / off light in the window makes good use of the illustrated song slide format, but the joke simply isn't very funny, and has to be telegraphed inelegantly with a huge "CLICK" cartoon bubble.

 - Davis' brushstrokes are extremely rough and irregular, which could indicate rough draft status. Still, he bothered to superimpose the song lyrics over the artwork, which does suggest that these were in some degree of finality. I think the rough brush strokes suggest an attempt to revive the sometimes-crude hand-painted look of vintage magic lantern slides. The final "All the Guys" slides simplify, simplify, simplify.
Everything above, plus the fact that the song, well, isn't in the show points towards the only real evidence we have of development trouble with the 1971 show. I doubt the issue is rights clearances - WED licensed other tracks from Capitol Records for use in Bear Band, including Blood on the Saddle. I think this was intentionally scrapped fairly far along in the process and the dynamics of the segment rethought.

If it seems strange to even consider a song of this type for the Sunbonnets, remember that songs like  "Make a Left" were standard issue for 60's country - "Tears Will Be the Chaser For Your Wine" and "Heart, We Did All That We Could" aren't too different. "All The Guys That Turn Me On, Turn Me Down" is the only song in Country Bear Jamboree to post-date 1968. I think "Make a Left" may have been considered because it suggests possibilities for movement of the bear figures that aren't used in the final sequence - trading off lines between the three, for example, as in the Mosbys' original recording. In the final show all three Sunbonnets move more or less like mirrors of each other, encouraging audiences to focus on the Illustrated Song. The possibilities of treating each individual girl as a unique character, or even simply as lead vocalist and back up vocalists, was not explored until the Christmas and Vacation Jamboree shows.

I'd give a lot to know when the plug was pulled. Did the Stonemans also record a version of "Make a Left"? Was the idea long dead by the time they were actually in the studio? Did the difficulties in "cracking" the Sunbonnets number lead Davis and Bertino to look elsewhere, eventually finding the Stonemans and their song?

Marc and Al took that story with them when they passed on. If it exists on paper somewhere, that memo is probably long buried or long gone. What's left is just a scrap - but a very tantalizing scrap. It's an odd but very fully realized adjunct to one of the best creations of WED's golden era, tied directly to maybe the most influential single artist who ever worked in the themed design field. And looking and marveling and wondering is part of the charm, too.

Well folks, this concludes our story. So thanks for bearing with me 'till the bare end, and barrel around to see us again. Ya'll come back now, y'hear?

The Music of Country Bear Jamboree, Part One
The Music of Country Bear Jamboree, Part Two
The Music of Country Bear Jamboree, Part Three