From the Vault...


Stan Freberg
"The United States Of America Vol. 1 And Vol. 2"

© Rhino Records

Year of Release: 1996

track listing
Disc One:
  • Overture
  • Columbus Discovers
  • Pilgrim's Progress
  • The Thanksgiving Story
    (Under The
    Double Turkey)
  • The Sale Of Manhattan
  • The Boston Tea Party
  • Declaration Of
  • The Midnight Ride Of
    Paul Revere
  • Betsy Ross And The Flag
  • The Discovery Of
  • Washington Crosses
    The Delaware
    (Command Decision)
  • Yankee Doodle Go Home
    (Spirit Of '76)
  • The Battle Of Yorktown
  • Finale
    Disc Two:
  • Intro And Overture
  • Madison Jefferson
    Franklin And
    The First
    Advertising Agency
  • Madison Jefferson
    Franklin And
  • Madison Jefferson
    Franklin And
    (Part 2)
  • America America
  • Madison Jefferson
    Franklin And
    (Part 3)
  • Rumplemeyer's
    The Francis Scott
    Key Story
  • Rumplemeyer's
  • Stephen Foster-
    Beloved Songwriter
  • Samuel F.B. Morse
    Sends The First
  • Abe Lincoln In Analysis
  • Show Folk
  • Abe Lincoln At Home
    In The White House
  • Barbara Frietchie-
    Martyr Of The Year
  • Shoot If You Must
  • Lincoln At Shiloh With
    General Grant
  • As Long As You're Up-
    A Sober Life's
    A Hard Life
  • The Appomattox
    Courthouse Bar And Grill
  • There'll Never Be
    Another War
  • Custard's Last Stand
  • Alexander Graham Bell
    And The First
    Phone Call
  • Thomas Edison Invents
    The Light Bulb-
    The Phonograph
    (Part 1)
  • Perserverance
  • Thomas Edison Invents
    The Light Bulb-
    The Phonograph
    (Part 2)
  • Planned Obsolescence
  • The Wright Brothers At
    Kitty Hawk
  • Henry Ford Invents
  • Perserverance (Reprise)
  • The Sinking Of
    The Lusitania
  • Two Tin Pan Alley
  • U-Boat-
    The Guns Of
  • Hello Peace Hello
  • There'll Never Be
    Another War
  • Finale America America

  • WSVNRadio Archives
    A B C D E F G H I J K L M
    N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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    Stan Freberg
    "The United States Of America Vol. 1 And Vol. 2"

    In the style of Old-Time Radio, Stan Freberg originally recorded The United States Of America in 1961. This Volume, titled "The Early Years" has been featured on OTR shows (especially when I first discovered this release on Chuck Schaden's Old-Time Radio show). 35 years later, Stan Freberg created a sequel, Volume 2: The Middle Years. Stan Freberg would host the nightly radio show When Radio Was, an hour show of presenting 1 or 2 Old-Time Radio. Chuck Schaden would take over his host role, years later.

    My memories of Stan Freberg was calling in a radio show, by the late Bob Collins on WGN Radio. "Uncle Bobby" would have Rock n Roll Trivia on Friday afternoons, where he would ask for a winning caller to name a song and its artist, to win a prize. The song in question was Freberg's version of "Heartbreak Hotel." I won an Uncle Bobby big orange cap; I can't remember if there was another prize -- I think it may have been dinner tickets for a resturant.

    The United States Of America is a comedical look at U.S. History, by Stan Freberg. Freberg, a man who in his early years, looked like another funnyman, Allan Sherman. His voice is similar to another funnyman, Peter Schickele, the man behind the brainchild, P.D.Q. Bach. Volumes 1 and 2 are best heard at Fourth of July time. What is interesting to learn, is how these volumes came to be:

    Original Notes From Stan Freberg Presents The United States Of America
    An Original Musical Review Created Specifically for Stereo
    As you listen to this album you'll soon begin to understand why Stan Freberg flunked American history in high school (Alhambra, California, 1944). For here the satrircal genius of the somewhat irreverent Mr. Freberg sheds a hilarious new light on the pages which chronicle the saga of this great nation.

    Did you know (if we are to take Freberg's word for it) that the turkey was supposed to become our national bird, but was mistakenly substituted for roast eagle (with all the trimmings) at our first Thanksgiving dinner? Or can you imagine George Washington haggling over the price of a boat rental while his troops stand shivering along the icy banks of the Delaware? Well, it all happens right here as conceived in the whimsical mind of America's funniest historian.

    But this Freberg's eye-view of early Americana is much more than just a mere "comedy recording." It is, in fact, a complete musical review, for in addition to its droll dialogue, the album contains a rousing score written by Stan and brilliantly arranged by Billy May, and an all-star cast slightly larger than the Omaha branch of the D.A.R. Along the way Stan also manages to get in some pretty socially significant digs. In one skit, for example, a pilgrim sings a tune entitled "Take an Indian to Lunch This Week", while still another finds Ben Franklin casting a suspicious glance at the Declaration of Independence and singing "A Man Can't Be Too Careful What He Signs These Days."

    Stan has been doing historical satire for many years, and regular listeners to his 1957 Freberg CBS radio series will no doubt remember his riotous take-offs. This album (subtitled "The Early Years") is the first volume of a four-album series which could well be, according to Freberg, "The most significant contribution to American history since Grant took Custer."

    Over the past decade, master satirist Stan Freberg has been making quite a bit of history on his own, not only as a star of radio and TV, but as the man who actually pioneered the now-booming field of comedy recording. For it was the tremendous success of such Frebergian funnies as St. George and the Dragonet, The Yellow Rose of Texas, and the controversial Yuletide classic Green Christmas which opened the floodgates for the current rash of hi-fi humor for the home. More recently he has extended his talents to the world of advertising, where he has been setting Madison Avenue on its grey flannel ear with his brilliant comedy commercials for both radio and TV.

    Original Notes From the 1989 Capitol Reissue of Stan Freberg Presents The United States Of America
    A Few Historical Afterthoughts From Stan Freberg
    In the years that have elapsed since I first put this album to bed, as they say, I have been greeted by quite a few surprises. The first was the discovery that hundreds of schoolteachers across America had been using it as a teaching aid to help make American History more interesting to their students -- a possibility that, frankly, had never crossed my mind when I recorded this album back in 1961.

    Another way was gradual awareness of the true cult following which this work seemed to have spawned. (So far, no National Convention is planned like that of the "Trekies," but nothing would surprise me.)

    Originally I conceived this project as the first of several recorded volumes. Space here does not permit a long and detailed unburdening of exactly why this plan was temporarily sidetracked. But I refer you to my book, It Only Hurts When I Laugh, published in 1989 by Times Books/Random House for a hopefully amusing, if frustrating account. Which leads me to the most recent surprise. When Capitol Records early in 1989 decided to reissue the album as a compact disc and audio tape, they informed me that I could get more material on a CD than that had been possible on the original LP.

    One morning in the middle of a phone conversation with Larry Hathaway, the Capitol executive in charge of their "Collectors Series" and a big fan of this album, he said casually: "By chance did you record any material from the Revolutionary Era which didn't make it onto the finished LP because of the 45-minute maximum time restriction?"

    The answer was yes. Somewhere deep in the vaults underneath the Capitol Tower in Hollywood were two sketches: "The Discovery Of Electricity" and "The Midnight Ride Of Paul Revere," and an expanded section of "Betsy Ross And The Flag," in which George Washington actually comes by to check out the fit of his new blazer -- with his okaying of Ross's brand new American flag almost as an afterthought. The engineering department of Capitol finally found the expurgagted tapes at the end of a reel, in the midst of several miles of the orignal recorded material. After some thirteen weeks in the studio back in 1961, the tape boxes made a stack over seventeen feet high or, if you prefer, taller than two and a half Los Angeles Lakers. The new-all-new dialogue has been inserted along with Billy May's original underscoring exactly as it was originally recorded. Except for one slight problem: We could locate no sound effects overlaid on these original three added selections. So along with the tranferring of all this from analog tape into the crisp clear world of digital stereo, new digital sound effects had to be added. Many of them -- the horses' hooves, saddle creaks, footsteps, window, and door effects were added live by myself in the studio along with the thunder, lightning, crickets, and other assorted effects. All the new digital engeering was done by Bob Norberg, and John Kraus, the engineer who recorded the original album, came by the studio as a consultant to help us figure out where all the pieces were. Although there may be those buffs who protest the adding of anything to the original album. I hope they may come to love this new, slightly expanded version along with the beautiful CD sound.

    From Dr. Demento...
    First released in 1961, Stan Freberg Presents The United States Of America is the greatest history album in comedy, or is it the greatest comedy in history? Either way, or both, it's been an icon and a mantra (as in "rumble rumble rumble mutiny mutiny mutiny") for a couple of generations of comedians and historians alike ... despite the fact that it ends with the Battle of Yorktown ("that highly military, script by Dore Schary, Revolutionary Waaaar!").

    It was a crowning achievement for a man who's worn many crowns. In addition to having been America's top comedy/novelty recording artist of the 1950s, Stan Freberg is a TV pioneer (his 1949-54 puppet show with Dawn Butler on Los Angeles' KTLA-TV, Time For Bunny, is still widely revered), cartoon voice actor, on-screen film actor, singer, musician, author, and the ranking advertising genius of the century. He was the star and chief writer of the last of the great CBS radio comedy shows, and his daily radio commentaries are still heard coast-to-coast.

    It was the records, mostly, that made Freberg famous. Before S.F.P.T.U.S. Of A., there was "St. George And The Dragonet" (#1 for four weeks in Billboard), "John And Marsha," "Sh-Boom," "Heartbreak Hotel" (a la Elvis), "The Yellow Rose Of Texas," "Banana Boat (Day-o)," his devastating Lawrence Welk spoof "Won'erful, Won'erful (Sides Uh-One & Uh-Two)" and his withering satire of the commercialism of Christmas, "Green Chri$tma$," to name just a few.

    Like most humourous records before 1960, these were singles. As the new decade started, comedy albums suddenly began to sell very well.

    Naturally, Stan's record label, Capitol, wanted a Freberg comedy album. Actually, Stan already had three albums out, but two were simply collections of previous singles, while the third was a set of highlights from his 1957 CBS radio show (that one won a Grammy). He'd never gone into a recording studio for the purpose of making an album.

    He needed a theme, something big to build an entire album around. As he had already done more than once in his career, he turned adversity into triumph. "Flunking U.S. History at Alhambra High School was a big help toward getting that album written," Stan recalled recently. "THe reason I flunked it was that it was so incredibly boring. It put me right to sleep. Better than Valium. I thought 'Why does American history have to be so incredibly boring?' I kept thinking about all those people, Betsy Ross, Thomas Jefferson ... they were real people, not just a bunch of marble statues in a park. So [years later] I thought ... that's a great idea for an album.

    "I told Ken Nelson, my A&R producer at Capitol, what I wanted to do and ad-libbed the Columbus sketch to him, and he said, 'That's a very unusual record. Great! Let's do it!' It took us 13 weeks in the studio. 'I was amazed at the reception. It seems to have survived the passage of time,' Stan says, putting it mildly.

    It was, among other things, the comedy album that almost became a Broadway musical.

    Freberg had envisioned that even before the album was released. When legendary producer David Merrick became interested, Stan went ahead and wrote the songs and dialogue to bring the story up through World War I. Stan wanted to record and release the new material on Capitol, but Merrick insisted he wait until after the musical had opened.

    Many trials and tribulations later, the project collapsed, largely due to Merrick's insistence meddling with the script (the whole story is told, with many others for less painful, in Freberg's autobiography It Only Hurts When I Laugh). By that time Freberg had moved on to a new career phase, leaving records behind to create some of the most innovative, hilarious, and successful advertising campaigns of all time.

    Meanwhile, the original album became a prized collector's item. Even after it went out of print, history teachers across America brought their treasured copies into class to make the subject come alive, the way it had never done for Stan back at Alhambra High. Captiol reissued it on CD in 1989, restoring a few minutes of material that had been recorded in 1961 but left off the LP due to vinyl's timing restrictions. (Those portions are retained on the CD you are now holding or, better yet, hearing.)

    Stan had briefly considered making an album of the unrecorded U.S. Of A. material for the 1976 Bicentennial, but couldn't spare the time then from his ad business. Eventually, though, the Freberg fans got to him. "I got tired of people coming up to me and saying, 'What happened to Volume Two?' I can tell -- they have a certain look in their eye, I can tell they're going to ask That Question.

    "About five years ago [Rhino president] Richard Foos started asking me if I'd like to record for Rhino, and I suggested Volume 2.

    "I used some of the material from the David Merrick era, added to it, and updated it. This new album is exactly the way I heard it in my head."

    The United States Of America, Vol. 2: The Middle Years
    That's right. You read the title correctly. To those just coming upon the continuing Freberg/U.S.A. saga for the first time, who are unfamiliar with the original album, reissued on Capitol in 1961, let me say, I know you will find this more entertaining than the history books you read in U.S. History class in high school and/or college. For one thing, your history class probably didn't have satire and music.

    And now to the rest of you. From the legion of Freberg/U.S.A. album buffs, I detect an occasional, "But Mr. Freberg! Vol. 1 came out in 1961, and you promised the second volume would be out shortly after that! Mr. Freberg ... It's been 35 years!" To those people I say, "Stop whining! In the first place, you can't rush into these things. In the second place, where's your patience?"

    To answer the nagging questions of this second group, the rest of these liner notes will take the form of an interview with a typical, hard-core Freberg buff, the kind I encounter in malls and airports all over the world. They are like Trekies. But they are actually Frebies.

    FREBIE: Patience!! You don't think 35 years is a long time to wait!

    FREBERG: Nah. A little over a quarter of a century, that's all.

    FREBIE: World War II only lasted four years. But 35 years between volumes of The United States Of ...

    FREBERG: It won't be as long between Vols. 2 and 3.

    FREBIE: You mean ... there's a third volume?

    FREBERG: You heard it here. Trust me in the first place. I'm getting too tired to wait another 35 years.

    FREBIE: When will it be out?

    FREBERG: Don't press! You haven't even played Vol. 2 yet.

    FREBIE: Okay, okay. Will I like it?

    FREBERG: I hope so. I enjoyed writing and recording it for Rhino.

    FREBIE: It's just that I waited so long! By the way ... why did it take so long?

    FREBERG: I can't answer that. It's a matter of national security.

    FREBIE: No kidding! By the way, did you write all the songs on this volume, like you did on Vol. 1?

    FREBERG: As I did on Vol. 1 Yes.

    FREBIE: And did Billy May do all the musical arrangements and conduct the orchestra?

    FREBERG: Yes. Some of the original orchestra members died in the meantime. Willie Schwartz, a great sax player. Irv Cottlier the drummer ... Jud Conlon, the original vocal arranger.

    FREBIE: What did they die of?

    FREBERG: Boredom, probably, waiting to record this album. There's only so long musicians can hang around a studio playing gin rummy.

    FREBIE: But Billy May pulled together a great orchestra, just the same?

    FREBERG: A great orchestra. In it are such outstanding musicians as the legendary trumpet player Uan Racey (who did work on the first U.S.A. album) and the percussionist Jerry Williams, who is John Williams' brother. And the Jimmy Bryant Singers are terrific. Some of the actors who worked on Vol. 1 are also here on Vol. 2: June Foray, Peter Leeds, Jesse White, my great stock company of Freberg players. Lorenzo Music joined the cast as James Madison and Robert E. Lee, to name a couple of roles. He is famous, of course, for being the voice of Garfield the cat and as Carlton the doorman on the TV series Rhoda. And the great comedian and actor Harry Shearer is also in the cast. Harry is notorious as a member of the legendary mock rock group Spinal Tap and does about every other voice on The Simpsons. Harry appears as Stephen Foster's publisher and a foreman with Henry Ford. They are joined by that formidable and versatile actor and singer David Ogden Stiers, who is not only famous for being in the cast of TV's M*A*S*H but for doing everything from the prosecutor on Perry Mason to Woody Allen movies to the villian in Disney's Pocahontas. David appears as Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln's analyst, the general in Edison, and Ulysses S. Grant. All my actors are wonderful. I'm also honored that the great Tyne Daly is on it with me, acting as well as singing.

    FREBIE: Singing?

    FREBERG: Yes, she won a Tony Award on Broadway for Gypsy. She came up behind me a couple years ago at the Emmy Awards and whispered, "Rumble rumble rumble! Mutiny mutiny mutiny!" in my ear, thus assuring herself a place in this cast. She's great as Mary Lincoln and Barbara Frietchie in the Civil War era, where she sings "Shoot If You Must!" Marvelous!

    FREBIE: Do I understand John Goodman is on Vol. 2 as well?

    FREBERG: Absolutely. John joins me as we play two Twin Pan Alley songwriters, Eddie and Irving, singing their medley of World War I songs. A fantastic performer! It was thrilling singing with John. And let's not forget the wonderful comic actor Sherman Hemsley of The Jeffersons fame, who plays Dred Scott, Abraham Lincoln's butler, in the "Abe Lincoln At Home In The White House" section. It's a great cast.

    FREBIE: I hear your son Donavan Freberg is on the album as well. Was he on Vol. 1?

    FREBERG: He wasn't even born yet when we did Vol. 1. He's been acting since he was eight, when he did the voices of both Linus and Charlie Brown. He also starred as Tom Little in the animated show The Littles on ABC-TV and has built his own cult following as the blond teenager in the Encyclopedia Britannica TV spots. Donavan plays two characters in "Madison, Jefferson, Franklin & Osbourne: The First Advertising Agency" and is Edison's assistant, "Myron." He is also "Dave" in "Rumplemeyer's Horseshoes," as well as Sam Morse's associate urging him to write the first telgraph message.

    FREBIE: And do I also see your daughter's name, Donna Ebsen?

    FREBERG: yes, she appears as the stewardess with the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk. The first time she worked with me on a record was on the Freberg Underground album. She played the little girl in "Anybody Here Remember Radio?" She was nine years old.

    FREBIE: I see your wife, Donna, is the producer. Was she the producer on the original Vol. 1: The Early Years?

    FREBERG: Yes, she was, doing what she'd done in live network TV, as an associate producer. We'd just gotten married, and even then she was yelling about production costs, but I love her. She produces all my stuff.

    FREBIE: Couldn't she have gotten you to record this sooner?

    FREBERG: Yeah, she tried. But my career sort of did a zigzag into advertising and creating commercials, and the next thing I knew 35 years had ... I don't want to talk about this any more. Just play the CD.

    FREBIE: Does it have a new overture?

    FREBERG: Of course. New album, new songs, new overture. Billy May outdid himself.

    FREBIE: It starts where the first album left off, at the end of the Revolutionary War?

    FREBERG: With the great American invention: advertising. Then it goes through the Civil War, up through the great inventions. Morse, Bell, Edison, Ford, the Wright brothers, and World War I. Just play the CD.

    FREBIE: Wow. Hand it over!

    From Ray Bradbury...
    So you thought you knew everything about Abraham Lincoln's wanting to be a stand-up comic, did you?

    No way.

    But Stan Freberg knows!

    Who laced General Grant's whiskey with 99-proof alcohol?

    Stan Freberg!

    Who was the first to realize "The Star-Spangled Banner" was sung as a "jingle" in the original version?


    Who would have Alexander Graham Bell tangle with a telphone operator on his very first phone call?


    Who would show Thomas Edison inventing a lightbulb that would burn forever, until a big business tycoon shows him a thing or two about planned obsolescence?

    Need you ask?

    It's taken more than 30 years for Freberg to finally finish dramatizing Vol. 2: The Middle Years of the true history of the United States of America as a nonperfect union dedicated to nebulous propositions, most of them outragously enacted in this CD (civil disobedience) recording. America, thank God, will never be the same!

    Chuck Jones once said a comedian shouldn't act funny, he should be funny.

    Stan Freberg is just that. Funny. Truly funny. Beyond belief.

    The quotes are accurate: This is a great (yet comedical) look at U.S. History. The skits on how this U.S. country was founded is funny and acurate. (Although some argue the Indians may have discovered America first, being there before Columbus.) Volume 1 has funny and great interpretations of our founding fathers (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln). Likewise the inventions (Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, The Wright Brothers, etc.) on Volume 2.

    It's also interesting to learn how this "documentary" was used in actual U.S. History teaching lessons, and learning that Stan Freberg actually flunked U.S. History, due to his being bored to the subject. All in all, both Volumes reflect on the history covered, and understood, in a funny sense of it all.

    Both Volumes are entertaining and to learn from. Stan Freberg promised at least 4 volumes. We're all curious if the other two volumes will exist -- Stan Freberg was 70 years old in 1996 when these two volumes surfaced. Hopefully we will see the remaining volumes exist before the next 35 years. Unless Stan Freberg is 105 years old when 35 years pass by, and Volumes 3 and 4 (and/or more) see the light; that is highly unlikely.

    © All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rhino Records and is used for reference purposes only.

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