It's the same dilemma that faces Stan Freberg every time he has to fill out one of those forms that asks him to list "occupation." Is he a comedian? Singer-songwriter? Puppeteer? Actor? Producer? Advertising man? Radio host?
What to put?
He finally settled on "guerilla-satirist."
Stan Freberg is, first and foremost, a satirist, in the tradition of greats like Henry Morgan and Fred Allen, pointing his well-aimed barbs at those affectations of society that need a good deflating. But somewhere along the way, he also became one of advertising's funniest geniuses. This second CD of uncollected (or woefully unavailable til now) Freberg
gems has its share of commercials, song parodies, and social commentaries.
To wit, A Peculiar Concert (Stan's first billed national radio apperance, on "The Henry Morgan Show," Oct. 29, 1947, ABC Radio); followed by
"Hollywood Nature Boy," a live broadcast parody of eden ahben's classic composition that became a monster hit for Stan's labelmate Nat "King" Cole. It has never been commercially recorded by Stan, and this cut makes its first appearance in a Freberg compilation. This is followed by 3 Capitol Records B-sides showing Stan as a song stylist:
"(When You And I Were Young) Maggie," a tune that dates back to the early 1900s; "Ragtime Dan," a 1951 Freberg original that first appeared on the flip side of Stan's debut, "John and Marsha"; and "Gary, Indiana," which was the B-side of another tune from "The Music Man," "Ya Got Trouble." (Of the three,
only "Ragtime Dan" escapes unscathed.)
We move on to a highlight from Stan's legendary CBS Radio show, which features one of Stan's legendary stock company, the late, great Charles Daws Butler
(yep, "Daws" was his middle name) as the spokesman for
"Puffed Grass" (Commercial #2). More from that classic show later.
Now we move on to the advertising portion of Stan's career.
In 1959, Blitz-Weinhard breweries and the state of Oregon commissioned Stan to create a mini-musical comedy celebrating the Beaver State's 100th anniversary. What he came up with ran nearly 21 minutes, with 3 acts, an overture, and a reprise of the title tune. It's name:
"Oregon! Oregon! A Centennial Fable in Three Acts." You'll hear, in addition to Stan, Helen Kleeb as The Witch, Stubby Kaye as one of the explorers in Act 1, radio veteran Lou Merrill ("Crime Classics") as The Governor in Act 3, and another treasured member of the SFSC (Stan Freberg Stock Company), Byron Kane, as The California Fruit Inspector.
Another Freberg stock player, the mega-talented June Foray, features prominently in "Swimsuitsmanship," a sales record for Rose Marie Reid swimsuits.
In the mid-60s, Stan - the son of a Baptist minister - was pressed into service by the United Presbyterian Church to produce commercials for them. They wound up getting rave reviews (to say the least), and Stan had planned to do something else for the follow ups. What he came up with instead, and why, is explained in the next 4 cuts, under the collective title "Three More Messages for Our Time."
In the following three "audio essays" from the early 70s for The Southern Baptist Radio-TV Commission,
"Stan Freberg Takes a Look (shudder!) at the Self-Improvement Movement," you can hear the roots of what would become his popular syndicated radio commentary series of the 90s, "Stan Freberg Here" (which we'll get to in a subsequent release. Trust me.)
The cuts from "Uncle Stan Wants You!"- a recruiting commercial series for the U.S. Army - features the girl vocalist from his CBS Radio series, Peggy Taylor, singing Stan's "Modern Army" jingle.
With that, we leave the world of advertising and specialty sales promotion records, for a definitely serious side of Stan. Those who bothered to turn over his controversial Christmas single, "Green Chri$tma$," were treated to "Stan Freberg Presents The Meaning of Christmas," in which Stan - aided and abetted by The Jud Conlon Chorale and Billy May's music - presented 4 of his favorite Christmas carols. Listen for Stan's vocal solo on the second song, "O Come, All Ye Faithful."
We wrap up this CD with another cut from Stan's classic CBS Radio series, "Face The Funnies" from "The Best of The Stan Freberg Shows" double LP, featuring Stan, Peter Leeds, Daws Butler and June Foray. How this cut, and "The Lox Audio Theater: Rock Around My Nose," missed being included in the 4-CD Rhino boxed set overview of Stan's career, I'll never know. The inclusion of "Face" here is a partial remedy for that oversight.
So, there you have it. 78 minutes and 27 seconds of
the rare, the outrageous, and the always amazing work of Stan Freberg. Take it or leave it.* But don't take my word for it. As a certain California fruit inspector said once, "If you don't mind, I'll open it up and have a look for myself." As Stan himself suggested on the liner notes of an earlier LP, that's what you should do. If it looks like it might be carrying fruit fly, though, don't buy it.
-Lee W. here.
(Special thanks to Warren Debenham and Norm Katuna for the discographical information; and Tom K. and Rich K. [no relation] for supplying a great deal of the featured material in this CD.)
*(Actually, we ARE scared silly that you might leave it.)