"David Bonner's fascinating look at the nostalgic world of Young People's Records takes the reader far beyond memory lane and into the political and philosophical worlds of those who planned them, wrote them, and performed on them. The complicated history of a host of record labels that sprung from those children's discs, which Mr. Bonner recounts, adds to the tremendous value of his book. Anyone who grew up with these priceless records must read what's on these pages."—Peter Bay, Conductor, Austin Symphony Orchestra

"I grew up with Young People's Records. 'The Funniest Song In The World' featuring Groucho Marx and 'By Rocket To The Moon' with Raymond Scott helped mold the mind of the boy who became Dr. Demento. Here's the whole story of how those and hundreds of other YPR favorites were created by some of the most progressive thinkers and artists of their times, how they became a target for those in the McCarthy era and later those who sought to repress and confine the minds of young Americans, and how their spirit of joy in knowledge perseveres."—Dr Demento, Syndicated Radio Personality


Friday, August 15, 2008

"R3" REVIEW PT.1: The Two Howard Hansons

In Rhythm Riots and Revolution ("R3" for short), David A. Noebel relied heavily on Howard Hanson's musical expertise, cited him with awe on 11 pages, and even deemed him "prophetic" (p.86). Hanson, the noted American composer, conductor, and YPR editorial board member, had written a couple of snobby essays in the 1940s for the American Journal of Psychiatry, in which he condemned the "concentrated doses of rhythm" present in "Hot Jazz" and "violent Boogie-Woogie." However, while declaring Hanson to be a prophet, Noebel simultaneously accused him, in a footnote, of being a Communist (p.37).

How can this paradox be explained? Since the arch anti-Communist Noebel would never knowingly praise a Communist, he must have either not read his own footnote, or else believed that there were two different Howard Hansons.

This is particularly amusing, considering Noebel's advice that "A reading of the strongly recommended, not only for verification purposes, but also for vital additional information" (p.11).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Loewenthal/Lowell: From Beethoven to Happity-Yappity Appetite


When researching RCR, I noticed that Eugene Lowell was identified as "Eugene Loewenthal" on his original YPR contract. (Actually, it might have been simply "Loewen" -- my notes are sketchy and my memory foggy.) I never followed up on this until recently. His wife had told me that he recorded with Stokowski in the 1930s, but I never knew which recording until I realized that there is a Eugene Loewenthal credited on Victor album M-236, a 1934 recording of Beethoven's 9th. According to the album insert, the chorus members were students at the Curtis School, which indeed Eugene was.

As far as I know, the only other commercial recordings on which Eugene appeared as Loewenthal (or Lowenthal) were the controversial trio of titles put out in 1946/47 by the Winant kidisk label. He portrays "Happity Yappity Appetite" on IT'S FUN TO EAT; "Brighty-White the Wall" on IT'S FUN TO BE NEAT; and "Happy Toy Chest" on PICK 'EM UP AND PUT 'EM AWAY AT TOY-TIME. These discs were universally panned by reviewers. Educator Beatrice Landeck called the first one "a superficial and high-handed treatment of a very delicate problem." Hecky Krasno and Philip Eisenberg observed that the "tunes are catchy, but if you have a feeding problem in the family we advise seeing your local psychologist"; they had similar comments about the other titles. Helmut Ripperger, proprietor of the Book and Record Shop in Manhattan, remembered: "When the [first] album arrived and we saw that the main character was Goodee assisted by Doc Clock, Happity-Yappity Appetite and Sip-Sup Supper we began to have slight misgivings which were ably and repeatedly confirmed by the unwary who wished to listen to it in the shop." The producers did, however, manage to get the progressive educator Angelo Patri to endorse it. (His endorsement does not appear on the successors.)

Music Treasures circa 1964

As mentioned in RCR, Music Treasures of the World records were, at some point, sold by the Grolier Society. (My only evidence at the time: some MTW jackets refer to MTW as being "a division of the Grolier Society.") After RCR was published, I found a non-dated MTW direct-mail circular originating from Americana Interstate, Inc. -- Grolier's mail-order arm. I had assumed that Grolier's MTW franchise dated from the late 1950s. However, I recently discovered an Americana Interstate ad for the MTW club in the November 1964 issue of High Fidelity. (Headline: "THE BIGGEST HI-FI RECORD BARGAIN EVER!") By then, the records were being offered in "Electronic Stereo," in addition to the original mono. I've seen only one MTW "stereo" disc. It has a red label, as opposed to the standard blue.

UPDATE: I just found a couple of MTW discs in Americana Interstate shipping boxes, postmarked 1962. So the "no later than" beginning date of Grolier's MTW should be revised from 1964 to 1962. As if it matters...

MTW and the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission objected to Music Treasures advertisements, and in 1956 decreed a "Consent order requiring New York City operators of a record-of-the-month club under the trade name of 'Music Treasures of the World,' to cease representing falsely that those who became 'associate members' by purchasing a record for 10-cents might cancel their membership at any time, and to cease shipping records and attempting to collect payment after the required notification had been given." Many years later, John Stevenson explained: "They wanted an immediate explanation with the headline that there was a commitment if there was a commitment. Of course, you could cancel, but they don't like the inertia factor at all. So we tightened the offers."