“In every job that must be done/There is an element of fun/You find the fun and snap!/The job’s a game!”
For more than fifty years, the tuneful team of Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman found the fun in their own job: songwriting. Together, “The Boys” penned memorable hits by Annette Funicello and Ringo Starr, defined the sound of Disneyland with unforgettable songs like “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” and “It’s a Small World,” and made timeless movie magic with Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Charlotte’s Web, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and too many others to mention. Along the way, they racked up nine nominations and two Academy Awards, four nominations and a pair of Grammy Awards, and over 20 gold and platinum albums. Robert passed away in 2012, but Richard Sherman remains more active than ever – and his latest project reflects on the brothers’ enduring legacy in a most supercalifragilisticexpialidocious way.
This morning, Kritzerland announced Unsung Sherman Brothers – a first-of-its-kind compendium of three never-before-heard scores by The Sherman Brothers. Unsung Sherman Brothers: Song Scores from Three That Got Away, a limited edition of 1,000 units, is available now for pre-order. It presents the world premiere of vintage demos recorded in the 1960s for three lost projects: The 13 Clocks, Sir Puss-in-Boots, and a movie musical adaptation of Roman Holiday. By “demos,” however, we mean fully-orchestrated tracks crafted by the likes of Irwin Kostal (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and Don Ralke (Snoopy, Come Home) and featuring performers such as Sammy Davis, Jr. and Karl Malden!
We’re thrilled that Kritzerland’s own Bruce Kimmel has taken time out of his busy schedule to discuss this landmark release at length with The Second Disc! But first, we’re turning to the press release for a tour through the three projects comprising Unsung Sherman Brothers:
THE 13 CLOCKS
In 1950, the great cartoonist/humorist James Thurber published his fantasy story, The 13 Clocks, a tale about a prince who must perform a seemingly impossible task, to rescue a maiden from an evil duke. In 1968, Warner Bros. hired producer Mervyn LeRoy to make a film of it, and the Sherman Brothers were to write the score, having just come off their first film away from Disney, Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang. They wrote a delightful score, but then Warners was purchased by the Kinney conglomerate and the project was cancelled. Happily they’d made a demo of their song score, orchestrated by Don Ralke, sung by the Don Ralke singers and guest singer Fred Darian. The score they wrote is classic Sherman Brothers, filled with their trademark hummable tunes and wordplay.
That same year, the brothers formed an alliance with two educational film producers, Ira Englander and Barry Taper. For their first project, they created an original musical that would, in the brothers’ words, “borrow a little bit of mythology from every fairy tale we could think of.” They titled it Sir Puss-in-Boots. They assembled an amazing voice cast for the film: Sammy Davis, Jr., Karl Malden, comedian Jack Carter, Jinny Tyler, and English radio host Michael Jackson. Everything was going well until the money ran out. And so, the second project was cancelled. Again, thankfully, a demo recording was made, with several of the voice actors singing their songs, including Sammy Davis, Jr., Karl Malden, and Jinny Tyler. And again, the brothers’ songs are toe tapping, tuneful wonders.
In 1969, Paramount Pictures and director Franco Zeffirelli (riding high on his success with his film of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew), decided to make a musical update of the classic film Roman Holiday, and Zeffirelli invited the brothers to join the project. They wrote three songs to play for producer Dino De Laurentiis. He loved the songs and the project was a go – until the day the studio pulled the plug. And that was the third cancelled project. But while the project was still a go, the brothers had the great good fortune of having the brilliant conductor, arranger, and orchestrator, Irwin Kostal, do orchestral recordings of the three songs. But before vocals could be put on them, the ax fell. For this CD, we took those three orchestral tracks and brought in singers to record the vocals all these years later, a Roman Holiday indeed.
Unsung Sherman Brothers continues in the spirit of past productions by Kritzerland’s Bruce Kimmel including his three volumes of Unsung Musicals, released between 1994 and 1997, as well as Unsung Sondheim and Unsung Irving Berlin. Bruce also produced Kritzerland’s acclaimed, sold-out Expanded Edition of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang back in 2011!
Bruce, thanks for joining us once again at The Second Disc. What was your introduction to the music of The Sherman Brothers?
The Parent Trap, for now, for always (a Sherman Brothers reference). Summer of 1961. I fell head over heels in love with Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills, and head over heels in love with the three Sherman Brothers songs in the film. I bought the album immediately and played it to death.
Now, more than 50 years later, you’re releasing an album of never-before-heard Sherman Brothers music on your own label…that’s pretty amazing. When did you first meet and work with Richard?
Somewhere around 1998, I think. A fan of my albums was working here in LA at Borders. She called me excitedly one day to tell me Richard Sherman had just been in the store, because he’d heard some Sherman Brothers songs from Slipper and the Rose in a department store and made one of the salespeople there go down to where the music was and find out what it was – and it turned out they were playing my Cinderella album, which has music from all the versions of Cinderella. He and his wife Elizabeth ran to the nearby Borders and bought the album, raving about how great it sounded and how he loved the arrangements and singers. She told him she knew the guy who produced it, and he asked for my number. Next thing I know, Richard Sherman is on the phone with me raving about the CD. I couldn’t believe it. He said, “I’d love to come and meet you.” I said, “Come now because meeting YOU would be amazing – I’m a huge fan of the Sherman Brothers!” He came a day later and we had a wonderful chat for two hours. I promised him then that I’d do a Sherman Brothers CD – that took three years but I kept my promise.
That’s an incredible story! You recently wrote a marvelous new song with Richard, “Two Roads,” which has hardly left my CD player in months!
Well, I’d been joking with Richard for a couple of years that we should write a song together – he’s always been very gracious about my songs – he really loves them. So, two years ago on Christmas Eve I had my annual Christmas Eve Do, which he and Elizabeth always attend. And for his Christmas gift I gave him a lyric I’d written for him, which was “Two Roads,” a song whose message, I thought, was very Sherman Brothers-esque. He really liked it, and about a week later he called me and told me he’d come up with a tune and he played it and it was just delightful. He’d made a couple of lyric additions to make his tune work and that was fine. Then he came over and we finessed it – I finessed his lyric adjustments, he finessed my adjustments, and I finessed his tune a tiny bit – a real collaboration it was, and we had our song. We’ve performed it a few times and I put it on Sandy Bainum’s CD of my songs, with a terrific arrangement by Lanny Meyers. [JM: Sandy’s It Might Be Fun, with the premiere recording of “Two Roads” and a host of Bruce’s original songs, is available at Kritzerland.]
And now, you’re releasing an entire CD of previously unreleased songs by Richard and his brother, Robert. How did this project initially come about?
Over the years, Richard and his wife have become dear, dear friends and even collaborators. One day about two weeks ago someone posted online a photo of some live recording LP of the Sherman Brothers’ show, Victory Canteen, which was the precursor to what become their first Broadway show, Over Here! So, I called him and asked him about it and he said he’d tried to find it. I said if he liked it we could put it out. He found it and listened and told me it was awful – recorded from the audience on a cassette player, you know, amateur. Then he said, “But I found some other stuff you might be interested in, can I come over now and show it to you?” And so he came over with The 13 Clocks demo and a CD demo of a musical the brothers had written that had never gotten off the ground. That’s what we actually listened to and he gave me a script and wanted my opinion and if I would maybe meet with the book writer – I liked what I heard, and said if I liked the script that maybe we’d do a staged reading of it. But I said I was really looking for something we could put out on CD, and we turned to The 13 Clocks, based on the book by James Thurber, who happens to be my favorite humorist. That project had been cancelled and never made. So, I said, let’s put it out and he loved that idea. But it was obviously not enough material for a CD so he told me there was this other project that never happened – Sir Puss-in-Boots, an animated thing which was to star the voice of Sammy Davis, Jr.!
So, he found that demo and brought it over and it was absolutely delightful. So with that we really had a CD’s worth of stuff. And then he told me there’d been a third project that had gotten cancelled, a musical film of Roman Holiday that they’d written three songs for before it had gotten the ax. He sat down and played the three songs, just like that – he’s eighty-eight years old and his memory is amazing. He then told me he had three orchestral tracks of those songs that they’d never put vocals on. My mouth was on the floor. I made him go home and get them and bring them to me, and I told him I’d hire singers and we’d put the vocals on. He couldn’t find the sheet music, so he just wrote it up again. And we had a CD of three projects that had gotten away and that the brothers had been heartbroken about.
We couldn’t be more thrilled to hear these three scores – and I know our readers will be, too. What can we expect from the sound of these vintage demos? And given the time period in which these songs were crafted, is it safe to say that the music is stylistically similar to the Shermans’ Disney work or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?
I have an audio restoration guy named Chris Malone – this is the man who saved two scores that even three years ago could never have been saved – A Place in the Sun and It’s a Wonderful Life – I don’t know how he did it, but both releases sound incredible and if you heard what they sounded like when they were sent to him, you would not believe it possible that he could have done anything with such horrible-sounding stuff. The 13 Clocks had an LP demo in stereo, which had been nicely transferred to CD but still had all those lovely ticks and pops that vinyl lovers adore. Chris cleaned that up amazingly. Then we had the demo LP for Sir Puss-in-Boots – we transferred that into the computer as hi-rez files and Chris cleaned all that up, too – that demo had all the Sammy Davis, Jr. vocals and he sounds as good as he ever sounded. That was in stereo, too. That left the three Roman Holiday orchestral tracks, which had been on a vinyl disc of some sort and transferred to CD. Those were in mono – the amazing thing about them, though, was they’d tagged those three songs onto the end of one of the Chitty recording sessions – so the songs were orchestrated and conducted by the one and only Irwin Kostal. We put those tracks into Pro Tools after Chris had worked his magic on them, and I hired really good singers to do them and they came out really well, I think. As to the style, well, there’s no mistaking that all three projects are in the classic Sherman Brothers style – tuneful, clever lyrics, and just addictive.
Chris’ work on both A Place in the Sun and It’s a Wonderful Life was nothing short of stunning, so I know these are going to sound fantastic. Do these recordings represent all of the work completed and/or taken to the demo stage by Richard and Robert on these three scores?
The 13 Clocks and Sir Puss-in-Boots were complete scores and we have everything from them, including some bonus material. For Roman Holiday, they’d never completed the score beyond the three songs they’d written to convince producer Dino De Laurentiis that they could do the job.
Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to hear these songs from what was truly a golden age for The Sherman Brothers. What do you feel makes Richard and Robert’s music so extraordinary and so enduring?
They get right to the heart of things in their songs. There’s no meandering, there’s no fat. Their tunes are memorable, which is why people have been singing them their entire lives. Their lyrics are always heartfelt, funny, and just right. Their songs resonate with people, and are part of the fabric of millions of people’s childhoods.
Might there be more projects with Richard in the pipeline?
Yes, especially the musical I mentioned above. It’s very interesting and I’ll be meeting with Richard and the book writer, who happens to be someone I’m a real fan of, screenwriter and director Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, God Told Me To, Q, The Winged Serpent). Richard and I enjoy each other’s company. When I came up with the idea of doing my new musical revue, L.A. Now and Then, he was the first person who heard the songs I’d written for it and he absolutely loved them and the concept of the show. And he was the first person I asked to contribute to it and I specifically asked him to write a song about how it was to work at Disney in those golden years. And boy did he deliver – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when we did “The Whimsey Works” in the show – at every single performance. [JM: I can personally vouch for that, having heard a preview of “The Whimsey Works” earlier this year at one of Kritzerland’s monthly must-see shows in Los Angeles. If you’d like to hear this touching reflection from Richard, the Original Cast Recording of L.A. Now and Then is available here. It also features The Sherman Brothers’ rare song “Christmas in Los Angeles,” written in 1980 for bandleader Lawrence Welk.]
Thanks again for chatting with us, Bruce, and we hope to hear more about that musical project soon!
Unsung Sherman Brothers is the latest in a string of projects for the remarkable Mr. Richard Sherman including “Two Roads,” L.A. Now and Then, the song “A Kiss Goodnight” for Disneyland’s 60th birthday celebration, the solo piano albums Forgotten Dreams and Keys of Love, new songs for Disney’s 2013 Chicago stage musical adaptation of The Jungle Book, and even a tune for Iron Man II. The Sherman Brothers’ songs are also featured on the 2015 London Cast Recording of A Spoonful of Sherman: A Tribute to the Life, Times and Musical World of Robert B. Sherman, featuring Robert’s son Robert J. Sherman as narrator.
We know you will be as excited as we are to hear Unsung Sherman Brothers. (And song samples are already up here!) This limited edition of 1,000 units is due to ship by the third week of November, but pre-orders placed directly from Kritzerland typically arrive three to five weeks ahead of the official release date. Are you interested in having your copy signed by the legendary Richard M. Sherman? How about if that copy was free?
Kritzerland will have 100 signed copies available free of charge if you purchase $96.00 in CDs or Blu-rays at Kritzerland.com. All you need to do is order the $96.00 in CDs or Blu-rays and your free, signed edition of Unsung Sherman Brothers will be automatically added to your order until the label runs out of them! You can pre-order an unsigned edition at the link below, or click here to peruse Kritzerland’s entire catalogue to purchase $96.00 in CDs or Blu-rays to receive a free copy!
Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, Unsung Sherman Brothers: Song Scores from Three That Got Away (Kritzerland, 2016)
The 13 Clocks
- The 13 Clocks
- Ten Minutes to Nine
- Day by Beautiful Day
- Little Minor Miracle
- From the Guggle to the Zatch
- Where is Tomorrow?
- How Free Would I Be
- If You Don’t Ask Questions
- I’ll March to My Own Drum
- Hagga’s Lament
- The Time Has Come
- Puss-in-Boots – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Rhythm of the Road – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Ogre Sun – Karl Malden
- Dawning Sun – Prince and Princess
- People Are Similar – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Birthday Song – The Children
- Lungemore Lancewellington – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Ogre Beans – Karl Malden and Jinny Tyler
- Puss-in-Boots Finale – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Rhythm of the Road (Sammy’s Version) – Sammy Davis, Jr.
- People Are Similar (Trio Version) – Sammy Davis, Jr., Prince, Princess
- Birthday Song – Prince, Princess, Children
- The Bells of Roma
- So Simpatico – vocal by Lisa Livesay and Robert Yacko
- We’ll Still Have Rome – vocal by Lisa Livesay and Robert Yacko