GOOD ADVICE FROM DANNY HEP-CAT (1947)

I can’t remember how I first learned of a children’s record, SYLVESTER THE SEAL, which featured Bobby Hackett and other jazz players. (It is not in any discography I know.) But I was terribly excited to find a copy of the two-disc set (two 10″ 78s in a paper sleeve) at an estate sale this summer.  I think it is not only an endearing story but a musically satisfying experience.

SEAL

Charles Grean gets credit for the music (several short blues excerpts, variations on YANKEE DOODLE and AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL); Irving Townsend the story — in part an introduction to jazz, but also a fable with an encouraging moral.

The narrator, Eddie Mayehoff, was a radio star and comic actor; I presume that one of his routines involved speaking in his version of a seal’s voice, which sounds rather like a person talking with his face half-submerged in the bathroom sink. If any seals read JAZZ LIVES, they can write in and comment on his authenticity.

Through the research efforts of Hackett discographers Bert Whyatt (now deceased), George Hulme, and Derek Coller, I found out the personnel of the seriously impressive band.  (Thanks to Derek for sharing the facts; the original data was uncovered by Vince Giordano.)

EDDIE MAYEHOFF with All-Star Orchestra (Eddie Mayehoff, narration; Bobby Hackett, trumpet; Will Bradley, trombone; Joe Marsala, clarinet; Peanuts Hucko, tenor saxophone; Sanford Gold, piano; Bob Haggart, bass; Cozy Cole, drums). New York, New York: Monday, December 29, 1947.

(It is intriguing — or odd? — that they recorded Parts 2, 3, 4, and 1 in that order.) I note that Hackett, Hucko, Haggart, and Cole had worked and recorded with Louis Armstrong that year; in addition, SYLVESTER was completed just before the second Petrillo recording ban of 1948.

The records start off inauspiciously, with a stiffly formal trumpet that bears no resemblance to Hackett’s beautiful arabesques, but the atmosphere warms as we hear more from the band.  The fourth side is especially rewarding.

And although amateur brass players know that it is impossible to sound like Bobby Hackett in the space of fourteen minutes, that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying.  I wish more people would take up this challenge, whether or not a job with Benny Bunny and his Broadway Band was at stake:

Here, thanks to a site called “The technicolor Dreams of Perri Prinz – Furry Jazz,” I offer the inside covers with four of the eight charming illustrations from the RCA Victor issue for listeners who wish to follow along:

SEAL inside 1

and

SEAL inside 2

Thanks, “Furry Jazz,” which can be explored here.

That moral?  Anything is possible for those who are fervently committed to their goal, who are truly willing to work for it, who will “put the time in,” which is never this easy. But I hope this story encouraged some young listeners on their own paths. It also helps to have wise, kind friends, willing to share what they know.

“You could, if you tried,” says Danny Hep-Cat — help we all could use.

May your happiness increase!

4 responses to “GOOD ADVICE FROM DANNY HEP-CAT (1947)

  1. Don "Zoot" Conner

    What, no be-bop? I truly enjoyed this, it’s remindful of some Danny Kayes stuff from the same period.Thanks for the post and the nostalgic memories that go with it.

  2. Wow! What a find. I don’t remember having Sylvester as a child. I did have a Toono set though. As Joe and Adele’s years at the Hickory House were winding down, Joe began to look for other ideas to broaden business opportunities. My father was good friends with Bobby Gordon’s father Jack at the time, and since Jack was an exec. at RCA I would imagine that he had something to do with Sylvester.
    Prior to that in 1946 Joe had an idea for a kids game that was played like Bingo except the cards had pictures with song titles that children would be familiar with. There were three unbreakable records with the different songs played by the “Toono Symphonette Orchestra”( 17 members of the American Broadcasting Co.) and sung by the “Toono Lady” Adele Girard. A few of the titles were, Three Blind Mice, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The Birthday Song, and My Country Tis Of Thee etc. Adele said it was a great idea but Jack didn’t follow up on the distribution as he promised, so for a while Joe, Adele and Jack drove around the country distributing the games themselves. Adele said that on one such trip she was driving Jack’s car at night and somewhere in Kansas they came to a curve in the road just as the headlights went out and of course they went off the road, through a fence and into a field. “Oh yeah,” says Jack, “I meant to tell you I’ve been having a little trouble with the headlights!” Adele was not happy, “We could’ve been killed,” she said.
    I have a couple of these old games that a friend of mine found and gave to me, a nice souvenir.

  3. As always, so nice to hang out in cyberspace with the actual daughter of Danny and Mrs. Hep-Cat. (The record didn’t say Danny was married, but I guess that fact would have interfered with the main story.) Have some catnip?

  4. This was really before my time and this was also the first time I’ve heard it.I was exposed to jazz when I was very young by way of Basie’s records from the early ’50s and to the recordings of Benny Goodman,Harry James,Woody Herman a 78 on the TOPS label that featured the bands of Wilbert Baranco,Earle Spencer and Jack McVea back in the late ’50s when my parents bought an old Philco radio/phono combination from some neighbours of ours for $10.00.I started taking it seriously in 1965 when I was 14 when I discovered Bunny Berigan and Red Nichols.Then I went back and pulled out those old records that was with that radio/phono and started to listen to them seriously.I started to collect big band jazz and other kinds of jazz afterwards.I’ve been at it now for 50 years.I’ve been an amateur jazz historian since the ’70s.

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