“…by the end of the '50s, Bagdasarian's career had stalled. Broke and struggling, he took a chance on an idea:
‘My dad and the three kids, family, mortgage, $200 left in the bank, my dad should what any really crazy person would do: 'I'm taking $190 and buying a tape machine,' Bagdasarian said. ‘About two weeks later he has written 'Witch Doctor,' because that tape machine allowed him to slow the machine down, change speeds.’
Bagdasarian wasn't the only one near bankruptcy - so was his record label.
‘They just looked at him and said, 'What are we gonna do with this?' He said, 'Well look, you guys are about to go bankrupt. If it's a flop, you're gonna go bankrupt anyway. But if it's a hit, you guys will have a business,'‘ Bagdasarian said.
The song bewitched the record-buying public. And David Seville - Bagdasarian's performing name - found himself with a number one hit. Liberty Records soon came calling for another novelty song.
‘About that time, my brother, who was about four, is asking in the middle of July,’ Bagdasarian said. ‘It's really hot outside and he's wondering if it's Christmas yet. So that gave my dad the idea of kids that can't wait for Christmas.’
Ross wrote 'The Chipmunk Song' in the fall of 1958. Alvin, Simon and Theodore were named for executives at the record company.
The record broke records. Millions were sold. David Seville and the Chipmunks became stars. They won three Grammys.
Over the next ten years, the Chipmunks popped up everywhere: Ed Sullivan, Tribute Records, commercials, and even a show on CBS.
By the end of the decade, Ross Sr. decided he was ready to retire the Chipmunks and start something new. But he never got the chance. Ross Bagdasarian died in 1972 at 52 years old. The Chipmunks fell silent.
But Ross Jr., then in his '30s, missed Alvin, Simon and Theodore.
In 1975, he met his wife Janice, a young actress in Los Angeles, and enlisted her help to bring back his old friends.
‘And he said, 'Do you think they could be viable today?'‘ Janice said. ‘And I said, 'Absolutely. I loved the Chipmunks.'‘
So, for the last three decades - with Ross Jr. and Janice voicing almost every part - the Chipmunks have been busier than ever. And this week: Alvin, Simon and Theodore hit the silver screen - starring in a live-action Hollywood movie. Actor Jason Lee plays David Seville.”
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