In the forty years I’ve heard him, the legendary saxophone player, Fly McLard, of Fly and the Zippers, Chris Daniels Band, Dusty Drapes and the Dusters, Ophelia Swing Band, Tim Duffy Band, and countless other legitimate and illegitimate congregations – impromptu, pickup, hired, voluntary, occasional, incredible, unforgettable, incidental, regimental, inspired, required, acoustic and wired ensembles, has always blown my mind. In addition to being an incomparable musician, he has one of the largest collection of animated cartoons and old movies outside of Hollywood or Florida.
Warner Bothers, Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Fleischer Brothers, he’s got them all. Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang, and anyone else you can think of is represented on the shelves of Chez Fly. I once spent several months viewing these gems and getting a complete education and explanation of the artwork, narrative process, and, most importantly, musical accompaniment of these often under-valued works of art. And I had only stopped by to say hello and have coffee! When I emerged into the daylight, in November, I had a new appreciation for Leroy Shield, Carl Stalling, and Raymond Scott, not to mention Rossini, Louis Armstrong, and Max Steiner.
My childhood, like many others, involved inordinate amounts of time in front of the television. In those early days, the content they mined for impressionable young minds, included war movies, westerns, all-star wrestling, Tarzan, and lots of cartoons. The cartoons had music that highlighted, exaggerated, and propelled the visuals. Think of what that combination created – the Sixties.
OMG! as we say today, without irony.
Let us return to those thrilling days of yesteryear and listen to a couple outrageous examples of these essential sountracks.
Carl W. Stalling – 1891-1972 – is, if not the father, the Godfather of Looney tunes and Merry Melodies cartoons. He was a silent movie accompanist in Kansas City, where he met and befriended Walt Disney. Out of that friendship came the celebrated Silly Symphonies of the Disney Studio. In these and, later, at Warners Bros., Stalling weaved together insane and melodious mixups of classical, popular, and original material.
Variations on La Danza – Carl Stalling
Leroy Shield – 1893 – 1962 – from the incredibly musical state of Minnesota, was an employee of RCA Victor and, while working part-time for Hal Roach Studios, composed songs, themes, and backgrounds for the films of Laurel and Hardy and Our Gang. He even toured with Toscanini. The Beau Hunks, a bunch of Dutch musical maniacs named after a Laurel and Hardy movie, have recorded several discs of faithfully reproduced compositions by Shield.
Good Old Days – Leroy Shield
Bells – Leroy Shield