Musical memories from Saturday mornings long past

So there I was the other day, driving home from work and minding my own business, when my current favourite local deejay (not that there are very many local deejays to choose from, but still) played a piece of vintage music that took me back to the very earliest days of my childhood. The deejay is, of course, Freddy Vette of good old CJBQ 800 AM out of Belleville, whose weekday-afternoon show of songs from the ’50s and ’60s is hugely popular. Freddy was doing one of his frequent audience-interaction things, inviting listeners to come up with the next few words when he lifted the needle – what? you mean deejays don’t actually spin vinyl records any more? Well, you know what I mean – on the recording of the theme song from none other than the Saturday-morning cartoon show Tales of the Wizard of Oz. (Which, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, you can watch and listen to at the top of today’s post.)

Now, I have to tell you that until that little radio interlude the other day, I had probably not thought of The Wizard of Oz Saturday-morning cartoon show for – well, let’s just say it was several decades.

vintage TV set

Yes, I know I’m dating myself, but it can’t be helped. This looks a lot like the TV in my grandparents’ living room on which, as a tiny child, I used to watch The Wizard of Oz and Hercules cartoons.

The Wizard of Oz may very well be the first TV show I ever watched, back in the days even before my family moved to the Manse in 1964. While my father completed his divinity studies at Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto, we lived with my maternal grandparents in the leafy Toronto suburb of Leaside. And it was there, on the big old black-and-white TV that stood in a corner of my grandparents’ living room, that a very tiny me sometimes watched The Wizard of Oz – about which I can today recall absolutely nothing except its theme song. Let’s just say that if I hadn’t been driving, I could have called up Freddy with the correct response when he stopped the record halfway through: “Oh the world of Oz is a funny, funny place where everyone wears a funny, funny face; the streets are paved with gold – ”

“And no one ever grows old!” I enthusiastically told the radio. (The radio did not, by the way, respond.)

That entertaining exercise got me thinking about other ancient Saturday-morning musical memories – not so much the cartoons themselves, but the theme songs from them. And I thought that you readers – especially the ones old enough to remember and hum along with me – might get a smile if I were to bring a few of those melodies together in this instalment of Meanwhile, at the Manse. So come along for the musical ride.

We’ll start with another cartoon that is, in my memory at least, of the same very-early-’60s vintage as The Wizard of Oz. I think this because I remember watching it, too, from the comfort of the yellow upholstered armchair in my grandparents’ living room. How thrilling the theme song for The Mighty Hercules was!

Next I’m going to show you one that’s a bit of a mystery to me. I have always had the dimmest of memories of there being a Saturday morning cartoon show featuring The Beatles, but for all my adult life I thought I must be confused about that because I never found any reference to such a show. That is, until just a few weeks ago when someone posted this on one of those Facebook pages dedicated to funky stuff from back in the day:

ABC cartoons

You’ll notice that the ad’s listing of the cartoon shows does not include mention of The Beatles, but the images of the four chaps front and centre are so distinctive as to leave no doubt. So I realized that my dim memory was right! And then I proceeded to search out the opening theme for the show. I suppose I must have watched it back when I was a kid at the Manse (the glory days of television, as I have argued before), but I confess it brought back no memories whatsoever. Does it for you?

Gotta love And Your Bird Can Sing, though.

Then there was The Jetsons, which has a theme song that’s not terribly catchy but, in my opinion, possibly the best cartoon opening sequence of all time. So mod! So futuristic! Orbit High School! The flying car that folds up to become George’s briefcase! A guy who starts his workday with his feet up on his desk! Man, those were the days – or should I say, those will be the days…

And now, because I was really more a child of the ’70s than the ’60s, I’d like to move forward a few years to when the cartoons featured shaggy-haired kids wearing bell-bottoms, playing in fake bands, and constantly solving mysteries. Here’s one that you kind of had to love:

And speaking of Scooby, let me show you an utterly useless thing that I scored in a fundraising yard sale a couple of years ago at the wonderful Tweed and Area Heritage Centre. Stupidest thing ever, but it makes me smile every time I see it. Note the “SD” on Scooby’s collar – as if everyone wouldn’t instantly know who he is!

Scooby

Okay, back to theme songs. This show may have been more of an acquired taste. Early girl power, though:

And finally, because I want you to leave this blog post with an irresistible pop song in your heart, a classic that was not a theme song, but – well, swing it, Betty and Veronica!

12 thoughts on “Musical memories from Saturday mornings long past

  1. Hi Katherine, It’s been many years since I’ve heard that Mighty Hercules theme song. I used to love watching that show. I never paid attention to the singer much back then, but when I heard it now, I wondered if it is Johnny Mathis. Well, it is Johnny Nash, famous for the hit, “I can See Clearly Now”. Thank you for all of these interesting and fun reminders of the cartoons that we grew up with. Another one (and my favourite) is this gem:

    • Sash, it’s I who thank you! Because while I know the theme song of the Bugs Bunny Show by heart (as who among us doesn’t? Every part by heart!), I hadn’t actually watched it for years and years and years. It was fun to see it again! Like you, I was surprised to learn that smooth-voiced Johnny Nash sang the theme song for The Mighty Hercules. Isn’t it amazing what the internet can turn up?

  2. I love all these old themes and remember watching them back when. I was always impressed by what I thought was the slightly out-of-time rhyme… even though it didn’t make much sense and I could be hearing it wrong for sure… “All the streets are paved with ‘golden’, and no one ever grows ‘old… in’ that funny… etc.” Thanks for letting us hear these again. I actually have an arrangement of The Bugs Bunny Show theme for 4 french horns. I’ll let you hear that some day.

    • Obviously you had a musician’s ear even at a very young age, Gary! Since I am a musical dunderhead, I cannot even imagine parsing the rhythm of a cartoon theme song when I was watching it in my childhood, but I sure am impressed that you were. No wonder you now play for the Canadian Opera Company! And speaking of that – don’t Bugs Bunny and opera go absolutely hand in hand?

      • I can’t say when I first noticed that rhyme. Probably when I was much older, but when would I have seen the show again? A mystery. My infatuation with lyrics comes not so much from operas in strange languages as much as broadway musicals, especially those by Stephen Sondheim. And you’re absolutely right about the connection between Bugs and opera… “Kill da Wabbitt!” I have plans for that connection as part of the liner notes on a CD of horn arrangements I’ve done. Just have to find time!

  3. Hi Katherine :

    I have come upon a lot of old pictures of Madoc, including Pigden’s dealership when it was new. These were photos that I kept from the thousands we took to the Hastings County Archives people (as I knew I could never get them back) and our grandchildren showed some interest. I’ve put them aside and will bring them with us when we do our annual summer trip to inspect what shape the cemetery is in.

    Also, for my interest only, when were you working in Montreal? We lived there from Jan. 1/1962 to Jan. 1/1969. Our kids were born there. I’m sure you’re much younger than our kids, but we may have known some people that you did.

    There are a couple of medical issues to be cleared up and then we can plan the date we’re able to “go down east”. I’ll be in touch.

    Cheers. Lib

    • Hi Lib – I would be thrilled to see those photos when you visit this summer! Hope those medical issues are soon cleared up. I lived in Montreal (Outremont) from 1997 to 2013, when we moved to Queensborough. Quite a time lapse between my years there and yours, but the Montreal anglo community is so small and tight-knit that I’d pretty much bet my bottom dollar that we know some people in common.

  4. I don’t remember Hercules, but I remember The Wizard of Oz and the Jetsons, and Scooby Doo, of course. I too remember nothing about the Oz show but the theme is still in my brain all these years later.

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