Thursday, 15 April 2010

Walt Disney's Gay Nineties in Song

Disney would not be Disney without music. From the very beginning with synchronized sound and Steamboat Willie's whistling "Turkey in the Straw" to Broadway-style song and dance blowouts to the wafting rhythms of Jazz quartets in New Orleans Square, the history and allure of Disney is tied intimately with music. And when it came to defining the aura of Disneyland's Gay Nineties, this was no less true.

Ken at Walt's Music provides an invaluable service for fans of Disney music. For the benefit of those of us without the resources and in some slight defiance of a company that is often reluctant to rerelease vintage material, he records and posts his extensive Disneyland Records vinyl. His is a rich repository of material, including this trio of albums that typify Main Street USA and the Gay Nineties motifs which so capture the hearts of wanton nostalgists.

Meet Me Down on Main Street was performed by the house barbershop quartet, The Mellomen. Perhaps the most famous member of the foursome is Thurl Ravenscroft who, besides having one of the best names in the world, is a familiar voice throughout Disneyland and as the original growl behind Tony the Tiger. In his posthumous life, he can be seen as one of the Singing Busts in the Haunted Mansion's grand "swingin' wake" finale. Meet Me Down on Main Street perfectly captures the mood of Main Street USA, including its titular theme song. The liner notes do their best to describe it. Click on the cover below to listen for yourself.

Main Street USA used to be a focal point of music echoing from every storefront and bandstand. One of those storefronts was the Wurlitzer Organ shoppe, staffed by musician Dee Fisher. The liner notes of the album Echoes of Disneyland paints a lovely word-picture that Fisher completes with the soothing sounds of the organ:
For most people, the word Disneyland means throngs of happy people having a wonderful time. Very few have ever seen it under the circumstances shown in our cover photo. It's a California winter evening and the lights are just beginning to flicker on. The noonday crowds are gone, and the few visitors remaining stroll slowly toward the gate. It's then that the little old Main Street, springing so recently from an orange grove, takes on a patina of quiet dignity and age that makes it really become the heartline of America.

The album is a perfect intersection of classic Disney songs delivered in a warm vintage style. A click on the cover will take you to it.

Also, nice, clean versions of Meet Me Down on Main Street and Echoes of Disneyland are available through the iTunes store. If you like what you hear, make sure to obtain your copies!

The third is the Disneyland Band Concert. Recorded live at Disneyland in 1956 (only the second year of operation), this album is a delightful mix of classic Disney tunes with genuine era music. One track is even titled Gay Nineties Medley, another Old Time Ballads Medley, and another yet captures the era of the Mississippi steamships with the River Boat Medley. Disneyland's own paddlewheeler, the Mark Twain Riverboat, got in on the act and became an instrument in itself. Once more, click on the album cover to listen for yourself.

While listening at Walt's Music, be sure to drop Ken a line of thanks for all his hard work!


Craig said...

Glad to see Walt's Music get more coverage - it's my favorite Disney music site by far!

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

Cory, your Disney theme couldn't have come at a better time! It whets my appetite for my own trip to WDW (13 days to go!).

Time to go and watch "Donald's Diary" again...

Cory Gross said...

Craig, I would be lost without Walt's Music. He posts so much stuff which, as I said, simply doesn't get released by Disney. It even spurred on my own interest in making use of my stereo's turntable by starting a Disney vinyl collection.

C.K., I aim to please! I'm sure you're also studiously watching all the old classics over again, ready to catch all the romance and references when you ride the rides ^_^