I've always had a thing for the music of mid-20th century America. In high school I was the guy who was cranking up Rosemary Clooney's "Slow Boat to China" on my Buick Skylark's tape deck while the preppy guy stopped next to me at the light was blasting Blues Traveler.
So it's no stretch that last week I dragged the too-busy James Stegall, who certainly has other things to do, with me to a screening of Welcome to the Club: The Women of Rockabilly, a Grammy-nominated 2001 documentary by Washington State-based filmmaker Beth Harrington at Eugene's Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts.
The film was fantastic, just what the doctor ordered in terms of a pick-me-up in the midst of a soggy northwest winter. And it got me thinking about the roots of my taste in music. Upon reflection, it all really boils down to two major influences:
"Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet," a short that helps comprise Disney's 1946 poorly-titled theatrical release Make Mine Music, first introduced me to the close harmonies of the transcendent, angelic Andrews Sisters (and by extension the Puppinni Sisters, their 21st century successors). I remember that repeat viewings on the Disney Channel of the 1980s had already transpired before I realized there were multiple voices singing. Beautiful.
And hey, as an added bonus, this cartoon includes the mind-blowing surreality of anthropomorphised chapeaus wriggling around like angry puppies attached to human heads.
Turning the culture clock ahead by a decade, the 1957 Looney Tunes short "The Three Little Bops," directed by the underappreciated Friz Freleng and scored by Shorty Rogers, not only engendered in me an appreciation for Louis Jordan-style jump blues, but the streamlined mid-century googie aesthetic, as well.
This is one weird cartoon, including, as it does, oblique references to jazz drug culture (the wolf's "red-rimmed eyes") and segregation ("a sign on the door: no wolves allowed"), and achieves its denouement (spoiler alert!) with the lovable loser anti-hero reborn as a horrifying, crimson-hued shade sprung from Hades, forever to haunt his porcine tormentors. Heavy, daddio.
Did any childhood cartoons have a strong influence on your adult tastes in music? Let me know in the ol' Inkville comments corral. And no, getting the Muppet Babies theme song stuck in your head last week doesn't count.