It Won't Be a Green Chri$tma$
April 7, 2015 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Stan Freberg has passed away at the age of 88. Equally famed as a voice and a satirist (and Weird Al Yankovic's idol), he had hit records making fun of pop music ("The Banana Boat Song", "The Great Pretender", Lawrence Welk, among others) with his biggest hit a re-located parody of "Dragnet", and his most memorable the 1958 attack on Christmas commercialization: "Green Christmas". He got even deeper with his deconstruction of American history, and was punished for his irreverence by becoming much in demand to make television commercials. But even earlier, he did cartoon voices, being one of the few to work (uncredited) alongside Mel Blanc at Warner Bros., and was the voice of Cecil the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent on the local-puppet-show-turned-network cartoon "Time for Beany". And more... previously here.
posted by oneswellfoop (92 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Tiny Tim Chestnuts! They're mild… mild… mild…"

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posted by Going To Maine at 1:53 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have long felt like the only person in Omaha who knew of the long, brilliant satire of musicals he did for Butternut Coffee called Omaha! The Musical.

Apparently, he actually performed it in Omaha with the local symphony. I shall have to track down the news stories about the event.
posted by maxsparber at 1:56 PM on April 7, 2015 [4 favorites]




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Our family listened to Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Part One so often we quoted it throughout the seventies and eighties.

"Captain, there are rumblings of mutiny among the crew."
"Really?"
"Listen!"
[many voices, chanting in unison] "Rumble rumble rumble. Mutiny mutiny mutiny."

The last radio comedy star.

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posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 2:03 PM on April 7, 2015 [12 favorites]


What was that?

French horn!

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posted by RakDaddy at 2:04 PM on April 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


I like the animations some folks put to his work:
Calypso Singer (Banana Boat Song)
St George and the Dragonet
posted by nightwood at 2:11 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Those Encyclopedia Britannica commercials.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:15 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I never made the connection to Cecil the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent.

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posted by benito.strauss at 2:17 PM on April 7, 2015


I used to love Cecil and never knew it was he. And I loved much of the rest of his work. RIP.

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posted by Joey Michaels at 2:18 PM on April 7, 2015


The 'kid' in that commercial was his son Donovan, who, after a long, difficult relationship, was the first to break the news of his passing.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:18 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


All of the voices on the low-budget Time for Beany were Stan and Daws Butler (aka Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, etc.)
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:20 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


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posted by key_of_z at 2:22 PM on April 7, 2015


Try doing that on television!

So many great taglines:

"Too piercing, man, it's just too piercing. Ahmo take my bongoes and go home . . ."

"Wait a minutm, stoppa de bubbleah machinah . . ."

"The perfuit of happineff . . ."

Please join me in shouting:


FREE BERG!!


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posted by Herodios at 2:22 PM on April 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


Another fan of Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America here.

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posted by Obscure Reference at 2:32 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by Thorzdad at 2:36 PM on April 7, 2015


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His take on Ben Franklin will always and forever be one of my favorite things.

Purfuit!

I use "surly to bed, surly to rise" at least on a weekly basis.
posted by phunniemee at 2:39 PM on April 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


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posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:41 PM on April 7, 2015


You've influenced me a lot, Bix!

Freberg was a big part of my childhood, as it was for my mom and her siblings; we quoted from it frequently and with gusto. ("The boatman has them, sir." "Didn't they pick you up on a 903 last year for stealing tarts?" "Compared to him, my dear, James Bond is a fink." "After all, WE came over on the Mayflower." ) In my family, my mom and aunt refer to each other as Bix, and as a child I was sometimes called little Bix.

Might I recommend my former theme song, Everybody wants to be an art director as heard in Betsy Ross and the Flag?
posted by julen at 2:44 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, no. RIP, Stan. Thanks for all the laughs and the catchphrases and allusions that I cherish even though none of my peers ever have or ever will recognize them. I'll keep revoking their maiden hunting licenses and foolin em with pig iron! Before I secede from the band.

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posted by snuffleupagus at 2:44 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 2:52 PM on April 7, 2015


I heard my father's record of "The United States of America" about a million times as a kid. So much so that when I heard a clip recently I realized it was seared into my brain. I guess I owe a lot to Stan Freberg and Tom Lehrer.
posted by acrasis at 2:53 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh. Oh, damn.

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posted by blurker at 2:55 PM on April 7, 2015


One of those guys who have influenced so many even if they don't realize it.
posted by tommasz at 2:56 PM on April 7, 2015


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posted by briank at 3:35 PM on April 7, 2015


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posted by Danf at 3:51 PM on April 7, 2015


> I heard my father's record of "The United States of America" about a million times as a kid.

Me too. Farewell, Stan, you did good.
posted by languagehat at 4:05 PM on April 7, 2015


So many of those voice actors in the clips people've posted I recognize from Rocky and Bullwinkle or Fractured Fairytales. Maybe it's time for someone to make a Fractured Fairytales post....
posted by benito.strauss at 4:06 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was a fan for sure, brought to his recordings by my advertising art-director uncle, who worshipped him.

I got the Freeberg CD boxed set several years ago... I'll have to give it a spin again.

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posted by Artful Codger at 4:19 PM on April 7, 2015


I'm weak in the eyes, weak in the head like wise.

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posted by asok at 4:23 PM on April 7, 2015


"John!"
"Marsha!"

. Stan!
posted by dannyboybell at 4:24 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


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Stanley Freberg, Stanley Freberg, the All-American Dog!
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 4:40 PM on April 7, 2015


His short lived radio show can be heard on Archive.org. What a genius, sorry to hear that he passed away.
posted by Calzephyr at 4:42 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


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“And all of us had our mouths set for roast eagle with all the trimmings."
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 5:03 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Who could ever forget his hilarious vocal performance as Pete the Puma opposite Bugs Bunny?
posted by Quasimike at 5:03 PM on April 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


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posted by brujita at 5:04 PM on April 7, 2015




It's too piercing, man.

It's too piercing.

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posted by tzikeh at 5:21 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Why should Spain sponsor you? Why don't you go to Portugal?"

"I did. They bought The Price Is Right."

Thanks to my dad, I can quote lengthy passages from History of the United States of America to this day. It was perhaps the biggest influence on my sense of humor outside of Mad Magazine. Brilliant man, sad to lose him.

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posted by Cash4Lead at 5:38 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Three Little Bops. Freberg sings the main tune.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:52 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


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posted by Ignorantsavage at 5:52 PM on April 7, 2015


"I come through da window!"

That line just slayed my 8 yr old self; "Banana Boat (Day-O)" was a big part of the canon of humor in our house.

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posted by Bron at 5:57 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


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I had a tape of collected bits from his radio show that I listened to all the time in high school. Sad news about one of my favorite comedians.

*BUZZZ* "Now, really, Mr. Freberg, that's a double negative. Did you mean 'he does say something'? Please. Keep in mind ... the tiny tots."
posted by wanderingmind at 5:59 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's so sad the world has lost a man who made so many wunnerful, wunnerful records.

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posted by jonp72 at 6:01 PM on April 7, 2015


Don't stop now, Stan, I got to where I like it.
posted by carping demon at 6:16 PM on April 7, 2015


As expected, Mark Evanier has a great tribute to Stan. Evanier had given him his last cartoon voicing gig just last year, and as he noted, Stan's voicing career ran 69 years! And that was mostly stuff he didn't write himself. And thanks partly to Evanier, Stan got a star-studded tribute last year while he could still enjoy it.

He outlived all the Capital Records artists in that picture on Mark's site (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Danny Kaye...) and he outlived most of the great voice actors he worked with (Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, Paul Frees...); the only one of that group I know to be still around is June Foray (97 years young - that's older than Betty White).

"I come through da window!" He always did.
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posted by oneswellfoop at 6:30 PM on April 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


What a genius he was, and so quotable. ("Rumble rumble rumble. Mutiny mutiny mutiny" and "I come in t'ru de window" have already appeared in this thread, but they're worth repeating.)

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If you're like me, and I know I am, you occupy the narrow slice of Venn diagram where fans of Stan Freberg and fans of '80s and '90s hip-hop overlap. May I present to you the great Luke Ski's MC Freberg.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:32 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


In 1959 for the Oregon Centennial, the Blitz Weinhard brewery commissioned Freberg to create a special record to commemorate the occasion. The result was called "OREGON! OREGON! A Centennial Fable in Three Acts" and it was released on an LP.

We had a copy of it when I was a kid, but I don't remember much about it. But I gather it's considered a collector's item now.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:33 PM on April 7, 2015


"There's a lot to like in a Freberg! Sneakers! Glasses! Flip-top head!"

RIP. He will be sorely missed.
posted by Bromius at 6:38 PM on April 7, 2015


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posted by contrarian at 6:38 PM on April 7, 2015


NBC has an excellent obituary for Freberg, with lots of links.

They pointed out that there's a huge archive of Freberg's work at the Internet Archive.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:54 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


He hated the Beatles. (Hilarioulsy, I must admit). RIP.
posted by jonmc at 7:05 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


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posted by Catblack at 7:06 PM on April 7, 2015


He hated the Beatles, and he hated Elvis. I think Freberg may have been among the last of the true, red-blooded squares, although Tom Lehrer also qualifies.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:17 PM on April 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


FoB: Pat Boone, God Bless him, still walks among us.
posted by jonmc at 7:18 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Yellow Rose of Texas has helped me more than I care to admit. Thanks Stan. ("I appreciate it, I appreciate it!")

"Excuse me - you ain't any kin to the snare drummer, are you?"
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:26 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also (linked in the fpp but worth relinking): The Great Pretender (original by The Platteers that he's spoofing).

So I read in one of the YouTube comments (so it must be true) that Stan Freberg was a big jazz fan in the 50s and hated rock n roll - so his parodies were meant to undermine rock, which he derided, in favor of his more admired musical genre, jazz. See also his piss-take on Elvis: Heartbreak Hotel. See also: Sh-Boom.

More links:

The Rock Island Line - super funny and you must listen to if you've never heard it! But first, listen to the original version that he's spoofing: Johnny Horton.

Stan and Marsha - irredeemably silly and knocked my 6 year old socks off. Not sure what he's spoofing here so pipe up if you know...

Frustratingly, I cannot find one of my favorites, "Al and Yetta's Television Set" on YouTube. Anyone?

Man was a comedic genius, it may not be apparent how great his spoofs were today, far removed from the cultural / pop music zeitgeist, but he really was.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:41 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Right, Faint of Butt. He also appears to have hated the mumbling in rock n roll songs at the time - a complaint that he wasn't alone in sounding off about. However the mumbling is nothing compared to music that follows it, making his original complaint seem a bit quaint.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:53 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Through his advertising campaigns, Stan taught us that Ray Bradbury never mentioned prunes in any of his stories and that a Zagnut by any other name... would be a good thing.



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posted by Spatch at 7:55 PM on April 7, 2015


John and Marsha is spoofing radio soap operas/love scenes.

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"Look, if Lenny wants to starve to death, that's up to Lenny. "

"Oh, sure, harmless. I know how these things happen. You go to a couple of harmless parties, sign a harmless petition, and forget all about it. Ten years later, you get hauled up before a committee. No, thank you, I’m not going to spend the rest of my life writing in Europe." (the whole Jefferson visits Franklin bit is great)

"The story of Little Blue Riding Hood is true. Only the color has been changed to prevent an investigation."

It was all so good - the interview with the Abominable Snowman! The Madison Avenue Werewolf! The visit from the Daughters of the American Revolu -- *slam*
posted by julen at 7:59 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nooooooooooooooooo!

I only just watched his Jeno's Pizza Roll ad last week on the 'Tube because that one and the Great American Soup ad crack me up, even though they're before my time. Hell, everything I've seen of his so far has made me guffaw. And his bit as Papa Boolie on The Weird Al Show was fantastic.

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posted by droplet at 8:02 PM on April 7, 2015


My favourite commercial is this Banquet frozen dinner one. I showed it to a friend and he asked if it was real! It's just...very funny.
posted by Calzephyr at 8:03 PM on April 7, 2015


Last night as the Badger band played "On Wisconsin", the lyrics running through my head (as always) were:
Stanley Freberg
Stanley Freberg
Buy some of him today!
This show is costing a
Hundred bucks, and
Brother, that ain't hay!

When I was about 9, I found my dad's comedy LPs that included Freberg's radio show. A radio show? On a record? Who'd want to listen to that? It took about 30 seconds for the answer to be - ME. Those bits and so many others I found later had a huge impact on my sense of humor. I knew "Elderly Man River" by heart long before I ever heard "Old Man River", so the original song has always seemed like a crude and ungrammatical imitation.

In the tomato paste aisle, the "8 great tomatoes" jingle makes me smile enough that I often pay the extra 5c or so for Contadina, knowing that they really wouldn't be going to him but enjoying the thought that I meant them to. And don't get me started on American history - I won't be able to stop.

The work he did, and the work he influenced, have made the world better place in uncountable ways.
posted by NumberSix at 8:14 PM on April 7, 2015


joseph conrad is fully awesome: I believe "Al & Yetta" is an Allan Sherman song.
posted by NumberSix at 8:18 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


A friend posted about his death on Facebook and I knew his face looked familiar...
posted by symbioid at 8:26 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


joseph conrad is fully awesome: I believe "Al & Yetta" is an Allan Sherman song.

It is. At the risk of being overly off-topic, I'll link to it here though.
posted by zachlipton at 8:27 PM on April 7, 2015


On a more on-topic point, one aspect of Freberg's work that I've always admired is the anti-Vietnam War ads he made in support of the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment. They're haunting and bold with a great When Johnny Comes Marching Home riff at the end: "call your Senator and Congressman in Washington. Irresponsible demonstrations will not move them, but you may."

Winding the War Down
Vietnamatic 3
posted by zachlipton at 8:35 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, when I saw "He hated the Beatles. (Hilarioulsy, I must admit)." I immediately thought of Allen Sherman's "Pop Hates the Beatles" (to the tune of 'Pop Goes the Weasel'). I don't recall Freberg ever parodying the Beatles (most of his music-based bits were pre-1964 and all over the spectrum of pop music, from Elvis to Lawrence Welk). But then, as Weird Al pointed out in the "idol" link in the post, Freberg and Sherman were two of the Four Horsemen of Comedy Music, along with Tom Lehrer and Spike Jones.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:41 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll always remember when I was a grumpy teenager who hated everything, and my dad put on his shiny new Stan Freberg CD. I was SO prepared to hate it and be grumpy... and then I couldn't, because it was just too hilarious. Thanks, Stan, for being funny enough to break through this girl's sullen-teenager barrier and give her a fun afternoon bonding with her dad.

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posted by augustimagination at 8:41 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]




Freberg has a nice little mention of the Beatles and his preference for jazz music at the end of "Oh Dat Freeway System" (not sure how long that link will last, but it doesn't seem to be otherwise available online:
All up and down the aggravation
Sadly they honk
While their radios play bad jingles
Or at best the Beatles
Seldom Thelonious Monk
posted by zachlipton at 8:50 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Somebody sure cut through that fence all right.

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posted by turbid dahlia at 9:45 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


The easiest way to make my mother laugh is to quote any line from the United States of America .

"Sorry isn't good enough, Charlie..."

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posted by teponaztli at 10:11 PM on April 7, 2015


I knew his version of the Banana Boat song way before I'd heard the original. When I finally heard the original, I didn't know it wasn't a Stan Freberg song, and thought, "Hey! Why'd he take all the funny out?" before it dawned on me.

step step step step step step step step              DAAAAY-OH!          step step step step step step step

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posted by not_on_display at 10:50 PM on April 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


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Thanks for all the larfs, man.
posted by On the Corner at 4:11 AM on April 8, 2015


Black is a great color! It sets off your wig!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:18 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


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This news is too piercing, man, too piercing.

My father loved Stan Freberg, and passed that love onto his kids. I should call my dad.
posted by wakannai at 6:45 AM on April 8, 2015


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We had one 45 of his (and Daws Butler) in the house:
The Lone Psychiatrist
-and-
The Honeyearthers

'Thought you said there was no party' and 'I can't look at him Ralph...it's too gruesome.' were regular comments in our house.
posted by MtDewd at 7:08 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


foop, that story from Mark Evanier. Man.
posted by JHarris at 8:22 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every Fourth of July growing up meant the cerimonial experience of "Stan Freeberg Presents the History of the United States of America." (Along with many Sousa marches)


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posted by k8oglyph at 8:31 AM on April 8, 2015


Just realized he's the man behind the Yellow Rose of Texas (with the Yankee Snare Drummer) recording I played so many times as a kid. It was one of my parents' old 45s.

"You can cover up 'yellow,' you can cover up 'rose" buddy buddy, but don't you cover up TEXAS! Or I'll stick your head through that cotton pickin' snare drum and secede from the band, so help me Mitch Miller I will!"

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posted by dnash at 10:00 AM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Yes, I understood what John and Marsha was spoofing in general, I just wondered if it was something more specific.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:53 AM on April 8, 2015


holy cow did we listen to his record a lot as kids. He was one of those people who I'd always assumed had passed away a long time ago.

If there's a heaven, he and Victor Borge will have a show every evening.
posted by ghostiger at 11:26 AM on April 8, 2015


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posted by ghostiger at 11:28 AM on April 8, 2015


I really enjoy his 50s music industry parodies, and fiddling around on YouTube today revealed Rock Around Stephen Foster, which was new to me and a pretty solid entry in that category of his work.
posted by Copronymus at 12:03 PM on April 8, 2015


If there's a heaven, he and Victor Borge will have a show every evening.

Along with Spike Jones.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:05 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


JC, If Freberg has a specific target in mind, or was making a specific reference in selecting of the names John and Marsha, the details are lost in the mists of time and memory.

Freberg's autobiography and other contemporary sources simply refer to it as a parody of melodramatic soap operas on the radio, and note that the bit originated in his solo night club act -- Freberg performing both voices, as on the record, but unlike the record without background music -- while touring with Redd Foxx in the late 1940s. It was his first record, and a major hit.

There was a sequel by the way: "John and Marsha: The Nixed Generation" -- no -- John and Marsha IV: A New Hopeless -- no -- it was A Dear John and Marsha letter.

-- Elderly Man Herodios, Sr. (ret)
posted by Herodios at 2:15 PM on April 8, 2015


My parents had a comedy album called Fly Buttons and I listened to Stan Freberg's Wunnerful Wunnerful before I even really knew who Lawrence Welk was. It was natural that I'd get into Dr. Demento later in life.
posted by jessamyn at 2:30 PM on April 8, 2015


The Muppets lip-synced to Stan Freberg records for many of their earliest TV appearances. In fact, Jim Henson credited Freberg as one of his influences and learned from Freberg manipulating his Cecil the SeaSick SeaSerpent puppet the way to make some facial expressions for Kermit the Frog. All these years and I never noticed the OBVIOUS family resemblence.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:08 PM on April 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


We had one 45 of his (and Daws Butler) in the house: The Lone Psychiatrist -and- The Honey-Earthers.

And we listened to them about a zillion times (because we needed the eggs). Though it "weren't no party" to find out that he's no longer with us. RIP Stan.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:35 PM on April 8, 2015


Such a formative part of my childhood, after being part of my dad's, too. I can't believe he's gone.

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posted by gusandrews at 9:10 AM on April 9, 2015


I was so worried that I might get something wrong in my FPP... but this headline writer... ARGH. SPAN Freberg? I guess we're lucky "Span" never did commercials for Spam.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:13 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


SPAN Freberg?

At least Span Freberg lived a good long lifestan.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:09 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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