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STAN'S THE MAN
10 August 2006
Dang. I forgot to send him a card. Now it's three days later and he's probably inundated with greetings, so I'll just have to write this little column.
"He" is Stan Freberg, who turned 80 years old on Monday.
Now, I don't normally keep track of Stan Freberg's birthdays and have never sent greetings before, but Walt, who is on the Stan Freberg fan list (a Yahoo group) said that suddenly his email box was flooded with greetings for Freberg and I didn't want to appear rude or anything, so...
Belated Happy Birthday, Stan!
I guess I was aware of Stan Freberg as a kid. Our Girl Scout troop used to put on shows for our parents in a private rustic cabin somewhere in the middle of San Francisco that we had the use of once or twice a year. We would lip sync the words to pre-recorded material and I'm sure that either his "St. George and the Dragon-net" or "John and Marsha" (or both) were on the list. Freberg's comedy recordings were hot stuff in the 50s.
And who, growing up in that time period, who had a radio, was unaware of the Contadina tomato commercials ("who put 8 great tomatoes in that little bitty can?") or the Sunsweet Prunes commercial ("Today the pits...tomorrow the wrinkles...Sunsweet marches on!") or any of a number of commercials he either produced or starred in, or both (remember Ann Miller tap dancing for Campbell's soup?)
But I never really got "into" Freberg until I met Walt, who was an avid fan, who had listened to The Stan Freberg show in the middle 50s, who knew that Freberg and Daws Butler were the voices on Time for Beany, an early puppet version of characters created by Bob Clampett, who were better known in their later animated incarnation, Beanie and Cecil.
Mostly, Walt had Stan Freberg's Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Volume 1. (hi, Mary!) In later years we joked that we courted to this album. It featured Freberg (of course), Paul Frees, Jesse White, Peter Leeds, June Foray...all the guys.
I can't think of USA without immediately bursting into song... "It's a round, round world," (the story of Columbus' discovery of the New World), or "Take an Indian to lunch this week" (the story of the first Thanksgiving).
Certain phrases began to creep into our vocabulary...phrases like "rumble-rumble-rumble, mutiny-mutiny-mutiny" (the pre-mutineering grumblings of Columbus' crew just prior to discovering land), and "What was that? French horns." (you'll have to listen to the record to understand that one), or "how does that fit together, design-wise" (said by George Washington to Betsy Ross upon first seeing the newly made American flag), or "Jeez, Charlieyou dumped a whole load of tea in the harbor."
The album was a goldmine of memorable quotes and hummable tunes.
And we waited patiently for the promised Volume 2. Volume 1 was released in 1961 and we were sure that any day now we would see Volume 2. And we finally did....in 1996. Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America: The Middle Years. Stan Freberg fans are very patient. Somehow, after raising five kids it was difficult to get back into the same mindset that we were in in 1961. It was enjoyable, but I couldn't tell you the name of a single song on it, and have only listened to it a couple of times. Also, by the time Vol. 2 was made, many of the collaborators of Volume 1 were dead.
The best part of Stan Freberg worship was when the kids got the bug. David, especially. He listened to the Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America: The Early Years so much that he could sing all the songs and knew all the in-jokes as well as Walt and I did. I have missed that shared interest frequently since his death.
I joined the Freberg discussion group some time ago, too, but have never actually participated (and I don't download the messages, so it's like I'm not even a member), but it's fun to hear Walt talking about the discussions that take place there.
Thanks for the memories, Stan...and here's to 80 more years. Or at least until you finally get to finish Volume 3.
(check the Freberg videos I link to in "Look at
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