Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Saturday Morning Musical Kid's Shows of the 1960s and 1970s Part Two

In the Sixties animated television series emerged in the United States in which pop music played a large role. Among these shows were The Alvin Show, The Beatles, and The Beagles. In 1968, largely spurred by the success of the primetime sitcom The Monkees, two Saturday morning children's shows debuted that incorporated music as part of the shows. The Banana Splits Adventure Hour and The Archie Show started a whole cycle towards musical kid's shows on Saturday morning that lasted for five years.

It was in 1967 that William Hanna and Joseph Barbera conceived a show that would be hosted by anthropomorphic characters who were part of a bubblegum pop band. To this ended they contracted brothers Sid and Marty Krofft to create the costumes. The Banana Splits consisted of Fleegle, a dog and the band's guitarist, Bingo, an ape and the band's drummer, Drooper, a lion and the band's bassist, and Snorky, an elephant and the band's keyboardist. It was also early in the show's pre-production that Hanna-Barbera found a sponsor in the form of Kellogg's. The band was originally meant to be called "The Banana Bunch," but it turned out that was already the title of a children's book and the author was unwilling to let Hanna-Barbera use the title. This caused problems for Kellogg's, who had already printed 1.25 million cereal boxes with the name "The Banana Bunch." Every one of them had to be destroyed.

The format of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour would be inspired by two primetime shows. Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In provided the basic framework of the show, with The Banana Splits performing both comedy sketches and songs in between cartoons that aired on the show. Both The Banana Splits themselves and their musical segments owed a good deal to The Monkees. In addition to the segments featuring The Banana Splits, other segments were included on the show. Arabian Knights was an adventure cartoon set in a fantasy version of medieval Persia. The Three Musketeers was a cartoon based on the popular novel Danger Island was a live action segment about an archaeologist, his daughter, and his assistant having adventures on an uncharted island. Micro Ventures was a segment that only lasted for four episodes, in which a scientist shrinks himself and his family in order to explore the world around them. In the second season Arabian Knights was replaced by reruns of The Hillbilly Bears (originally a segment on The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show).

Music was a major part of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, and some well-known professionals provided The Banana Splits with their songs. Al Kooper, Barry White, Gene Pitney, and Jimmy Radcliffe all contributed songs to The Banana Splits, although none of them performed on the recordings. An album, We're The Banana Splits, was released in 1968 on Decca. The Banana Splits released three singles. Neither their first single, "Wait Til Tomorrow"/"We're The Banana Splits" (released in 1968) nor their third single "Long Live Love"/"Pretty Painted Carousel" (released in 1969) saw much in the way of success. Their third single "The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)" (single version)/"Toy Piano Melody," proved a bit more successful, although it was hardly a huge hit. "The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)" (which was the show's theme song) peaked at no. 96 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Banana Splits Adventure Hour debuted on September 7 1968 on NBC and proved to be a huge success. In fact, it was the number one show on Saturday mornings for the 1968-1969 season. Unfortunately, it would falter in the 1969-1970 season. In its second season The Banana Split Adventure Hour found itself opposite a brand new cartoon, Scooby Doo, Where Are You? and The Archie Comedy Hour (an expanded version of the previous season's The Archie Show) on CBS. The Banana Splits Adventure Hour dropped in the ratings as a result and was cancelled at the end of the season.

It was a week after The Banana Splits Adventure Hour debuted, on September 14 1968, that The Archie Show debuted on CBS. The Archie Show was based on the comic book character Archie Andrews and his assorted friends (Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and Reggie), who had first appeared in Pep Comics no. 22 (December 1941). Archie had proven extremely successful, not only spurring an entire cycle of teen humour comic books, but inspiring a newspaper comic strip and a long-running radio show. It was Irv Wilson, Filmation's agent at the time, who brought Archie to the animation studio. Mr. Wilson had approached John Goldwater, the head of Archie Comics, about licensing Archie and his associated characters for a show. According to Lou Scheimer in his book Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation, he had never even heard of Archie when Irv Wilson called him about the idea. Mr. Scheimer met with John Goldwater and the two worked out a deal for the television rights to Archie.

It was decided early in the project that music would play a part on the show. This idea actually originated in the comic books. Life with Archie was an Archie Comics title that often featured stories set in realities alternate from that of the mainstream Archie reality. Among these were parodies of popular television shows or superheroes, such as "The Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E." parodying The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Among the shows parodied in Life with Archie was The Monkees. A series of stories featuring a rock group called The Archies began in Life with Archie no. 60, April 1967. The feature ended with Life with Archie no. 66 (October 1967). Here it must be pointed out that The Archies in Life with Archie differed a bit from The Archies on television. Namely, Betty and Veronica were not part of the band, which consisted of Archie, Jughead, and Reggie.

To provide music for the show, Filmation went to Don Kirshner. Don Kirshner had a notorious falling out with both The Monkees and the producers of the TV show The Monkees, so the idea of a fictional band that he could completely control appealed to him. The fictional band consisted of Archie on guitar, Jughead on drums, Reggie on bass, Betty on tambourine, and Veronica on keyboards. Of course, in reality the music was provided by session musicians hired by Don Kirshner. The songs were written by such composers as Jeff Barry, Andy Kim, Mark Barkham, and Ritchie Adams. Lead vocals were provided by Ron Dante.

For a time the fictional band The Archies would prove very successful. Their first single, "Bang-Shang-A-Lang," peaked at no. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their third single, "Sugar Sugar," did even better. It went all the way to no. 1. Its follow-up single, "Jingle Jangle," peaked at no. 10. Ultimately, The Archies released 10 singles from 1968 to 1972, although by 1971 they were no longer charting. Even The Archies' first two albums did moderately well. Their first album, The Archies, went to no. 88 on the Billboard album chart. Their second album, Everything's Archie, went to no. 66.

Unlike The Beatles and The Beagles before it, the songs on The Archie Show were not incorporated into the stories featured on the show themselves. In fact, the stories on the show made no mention of a rock group called "The Archies." Instead, the show's format consisted of two eight minute story segments and one three minute song segment.

The Archie Show proved highly successful and would undergo various format changes through the years. It expanded to an hour to become The Archie Comedy Hour in the 1969-1970 season. In the 1970-1971 season it became Archie's Funhouse, complete with a live audience. It was with the 1971-1972 season that music no longer played the central role on the show that it had. It became Archie's Television Funnies, featuring segments based on various newspaper comic strips (such as Dick Tracy and Nancy). Ultimately, Archie and his pals would appear in some form on Saturday morning until the 1977-1978 season.

The success of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour and The Archie Show in the 1968-1969 season would lead to the debut of  three cartoons that incorporated music in some way, shape, or form in the 1969-1970 season. What is more, all three debuted on ABC on September 6 1969. The first of these shows was Hanna-Barbera's Cattanooga Cats. Cattanooga Cats owed a good deal to the format of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. The primary difference is that instead of a live-action band of people in suits, it featured an animated band instead. The Cattanooga Cats were a band of anthropomorphic cats consisting of lead guitarist and vocalist Country,vocalist Kitty Jo, bassist Scoots, and drummer Groove. They appeared in both their adventures as well as in bumpers between the other cartoons on the show. As to the other cartoons, they were Around the World in 79 Days (inspired by Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days), It's the Wolf! (which centred around Mildew Wolf, who was constantly trying to catch a lamb named lambsy), and Motormouse and Autocat (essentially Tom and Jerry on wheels).

Music played a central role on The Cattanooga Cats. The lead vocals were performed by by Michael Lloyd and Peggy Clinger. The songwriters included by Michael Lloyd, Peggy Clingerm Mike Curb, Guy Hemric, and Harley Hatcher. An album, Cattanooga Cats, was released through Curb Records. The songs "Mother May I" and "Merry-Go-Round" were released as singles. Neither the album, nor the singles charted.

The Cattanooga Cats did not meet with a good deal of success in the ratings either. For its second season, The Cattanooga Cats was shortened to a half hour, with Motormouse and Autocat and It's the Wolf spun off into The Motormouse and Autocat Show. It ended its run after two seasons.

The second show to debut was The Hardy Boys, based on the popular series of juvenile novels of the same name. Like The Archie Show before it, it was a product of Filmation. In the mid-Sixties 20th Century Fox had produced a pilot for a live-action series based on "The Hardy Boys." That pilot aired on NBC on September 8 1967. Unfortunately, it did poorly in the ratings and as a result they did not pick up the series. 20th Century Fox had produced the animated series Journey to the Center of the Earth (based on the novel of the same name) in conjunction with Filmation in 1967 and then Fantastic Voyage (based on the movie of the same name in 1968). At the same time The Archie Show was doing phenomenally well in the ratings. 20th Century Fox then approached Filmation with the idea of doing an animated Hardy Boys series which would also incorporated music. The show was pitched to ABC in February 1969 and the network placed it on their schedule.

Arguably, The Hardy Boys  was very loosely based on the novels. As in the novels. Joe and Frank Hardy, the sons of detective Fenton Hardy, solve mysteries with the help of their friends, including Chet Morton. The cartoon departed from the novels in that Joe and Frank also had a rock group, that featured Chet Morton and new characters Wanda Kay and Pete Jones. It further departed from the novels in making Chet overweight and giving him the nickname "Chubby." Each episode consisted of two mysteries, during which The Hardy Boys would have to take time out to perform a song at a club, a fair, or some other venue.

For the music for the show Filmation looked to Dunwich Productions in Chicago. As a result the show featured the work of some well-known songwriters, including Ellie Greenwich, as well as Al Kasha, Joel Hirschorn. One thing that separated The Hardy Boys from other musical cartoons is that a real band was formed to compliment the cartoon. After all, the disadvantage of The Archie Show was that The Archies couldn't actually tour. As a real band, The Hardy Boys could. The Hardy Boys consisted of Jeff Taylor (Joe Hardy), Reed Kailing (Frank Hardy), Nibs Soltysiak (Chubby Morton), Deven English (Wanda Kay), and Bob Crowder (Pete Jones). While the actual band did not voice their characters on the show (that was handled by such experienced voice artists Dallas McKennon and Jane Webb), they performed the songs on the show and appeared in both the opening and closing credits.

The Hardy Boys would release two albums (Here Come The Hardys and Wheels) and the singles "Love and Let Love," "Wheels," and "Love Train" on RCA Victor. "Love and Let Love"actually saw some success, bubbling under the Billboard Hot 100 at 101.

The Hardy Boys lasted only two seasons, coming to an end at the close of 1970-1971 season.

The third show that incorporated music to debut in the 1969-1970 season was rather unique. Hot Wheels was based on the popular line of toy cars manufactured by Mattel. It centred on a group of teenage car racers called the Hot Wheels Club. Unlike The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, The Archie Show,. Cattanooga Cats and The Hardy Boys, no band appeared on the show. Regardless, songs would often play during the various races on the show. Because of this , a soundtrack album for the carton, The Original Hot Wheels Soundtrack was released. The music was provided by Mike Curb, who had also written for The Cattanooga Cats.

While none of the musical cartoons of the 1969-1970 season repeated the success of either The Banana Splits Adventure Hour or The Archie Show, the success of those two shows guaranteed that there would be more musical kid's shows in the following season. In fact, no less that six musical kids shows would debut in the 1970-1971 season, marking the height of the cycle.

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