Stan Freberg (born Stanley Friberg; August 7, 1926 – April 7, 2015)
was an American author, recording artist, voice actor, comedian, radio
personality, puppeteer and advertising creative director, whose career
began in 1944. He remained active in the industry into his late 80s,
more than 70 years after entering it.
His best-known works include "St. George and the Dragonet", Stan
Freberg Presents the United States of America, his role on the
television series Time for Beany, and a number of classic television
1 Personal life
4 Capitol Records
4.1 Early releases
4.2 "The Great Pretender" and "Banana Boat Song"
4.3 Political satire
4.5 Oregon! Oregon!
4.6 1960s and later
7 Later work
9 In popular culture
10 Selected filmography
14 External links
Freberg was born Stanley Friberg in Pasadena, California, the son
of Evelyn Dorothy (née Conner), a housewife, and Victor Richard
Friberg (later Freberg), a
Baptist minister. Freberg was a Christian
and of Swedish and Irish descent.
Freberg's work reflected both his gentle sensitivity (despite his
liberal use of biting satire and parody) and his refusal to accept
alcohol and tobacco manufacturers as sponsors—an impediment to his
radio career when he took over for
Jack Benny on
CBS radio. As Freberg
explained to Rusty Pipes:
After I replaced
Jack Benny in 1957, they were unable to sell me with
spot announcements in the show. That would mean that every three
minutes I'd have to drop a commercial in. So I said, "Forget it. I
want to be sponsored by one person", like Benny was, by American
Tobacco or State Farm Insurance, except that I wouldn't let them sell
me to American Tobacco. I refused to let them sell me to any cigarette
Freberg's first wife, Donna, died in 2000. He had two children from
that marriage, Donna Jean and Donavan. He married Betty Hunter in
Freberg was employed as a voice actor in animation shortly after
graduating from Alhambra High School. He began at Warner Brothers in
1944 by getting on a bus and asking the driver to let him off "in
Hollywood". As he describes in his autobiography, It Only Hurts When I
Laugh, he got off the bus and found a sign that said "talent agency".
He walked in, and the agents there arranged for him to audition for
Warner Brothers cartoons where he was promptly hired.
His first notable cartoon voice work was in a Warner Brothers cartoon
called For He's a Jolly Good Fala, which was recorded but never filmed
(due to the death of Fala's owner, President Franklin D.
Roosevelt), followed by Roughly Squeaking (1946) as
Bertie; and in 1947, he was heard in It's a Grand Old Nag (Charlie
Horse), produced and directed by
Bob Clampett for Republic
Pictures; The
Goofy Gophers (Tosh), and One Meat
Brawl (Grover Groundhog and Walter Winchell). He often found himself
Mel Blanc while at Warner Bros., where the two men
performed such pairs as the mice
Hubie and Bertie
Hubie and Bertie and Spike the
Bulldog and Chester the Terrier. In 1950, he was the voice of Friz
Freleng's "Dumb Dog" in "Foxy by Proxy", who meets up with a disguised
Bugs Bunny wearing a fox suit. He was the voice of
Pete Puma in the
1952 cartoon Rabbit's Kin, in which he did an impression of an early
Frank Fontaine characterization (which later became Fontaine's "Crazy
Guggenheim" character).
Freberg is often credited with voicing the character of Junyer Bear in
Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears
Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears (1944), but that was actor Kent
Rogers. After Rogers was killed during World War II,
Freberg assumed the role of Junyer Bear in Chuck Jones' Looney Tunes
cartoon What's Brewin', Bruin? (1948), featuring Jones' version of The
Three Bears. He also succeeded Rogers as the voice of Beaky Buzzard.
Freberg was heard in many Warner Brothers cartoons, but his
only screen credit on one was Three Little Bops
(1957). His work as a voice actor for Walt Disney Productions included
the role of Mr. Busy the Beaver in
Lady and the Tramp
Lady and the Tramp (1955) and did
voice work in
Susie the Little Blue Coupe
Susie the Little Blue Coupe and Lambert the Sheepish
Lion. Freberg also provided the voice of Sam, the orange cat paired
with Sylvester in the Academy Award-nominated short Mouse and Garden
(1960). He voiced Cage E. Coyote, the father of Wile E. Coyote, in the
2000 short Little Go Beep.
Freberg was cast to sing the part of the Jabberwock in the song
"Beware the Jabberwock" for Disney's Alice in Wonderland, with the
Rhythmaires and Daws Butler. Written by
Don Raye and Gene de Paul, the
song was a musical rendering of the poem "Jabberwocky" from Lewis
Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass. The song was not included in the
final film, but a demo recording was included in the 2004 and 2010 DVD
releases of the movie.
Freberg made his movie debut as an on-screen actor in the comedy
Callaway Went Thataway (1951), a satirical spoof on the marketing of
Western stars (apparently inspired by the TV success of Hopalong
Cassidy). Freberg costarred with
Mala Powers in
Geraldine (1953) as sobbing singer Billy Weber, enabling him to
reprise his satire on vocalist
Johnnie Ray (see below).[citation
needed] In 1963's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Freberg appeared in
a non-speaking role as the Deputy Sheriff and also voiced as a
Contrary to popular belief
George Lucas called upon Freberg, not Mel
Blanc, to audition for the voice of the character
C-3PO for the 1977
film Star Wars. After he and many others auditioned for the part,
Freberg suggested that Lucas use mime actor Anthony Daniels' own
Freberg began making satirical recordings for Capitol Records,
beginning with the February 10, 1951, release of "John and Marsha", a
soap opera parody that consisted of the title characters (both played
by Freberg) doing nothing but repeating each other's names (with
intonations to match the moods). Some radio stations refused
to play "John & Marsha," believing it to be an actual romantic
conversation between two real people. In a 1954 follow-up, he used
pedal steel guitarist
Speedy West to satirize the 1953 Ferlin Husky
country hit, "A Dear John Letter", as "A Dear John and Marsha Letter"
(Capitol 2677). A seasonal recording, "The Night
Before Christmas"/"Nuttin' for Christmas", made in 1955, still remains
a cult classic.
Daws Butler and June Foray, Freberg produced his 1951 Dragnet
parody, "St. George and the Dragonet", a #1 hit for four weeks in
October 1953. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a
Another hit to receive the Freberg treatment was Johnnie Ray's weepy
"Cry", which Freberg rendered as "Try" ("You too can be unhappy … if
you try"), exaggerating Ray's histrionic vocal style. Ray was
furious until he realized the success of Freberg's 1952 parody was
helping sales and airplay of his own record. Freberg reported
getting more angry feedback for this than from his other parodies.
After "I've Got You Under My Skin" (1951), he followed with more
popular musical satires, such as "Sh-Boom" (1954), a parody of the
song recorded by The Chords. At the end, he yells "STELLA!" at a
Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. The B side
of that record was a parody of "C'est si bon", broadcast in 1955 on
the TV show Sam and Friends. Other songs include "The Yellow Rose
of Texas" (1955), where a "Yankee" snare drummer gets out of hand
on the recording; "Rock Island Line", based on the 1955 Lonnie Donegan
skiffle version, with interruptions by Peter Leeds; and "The Great
He recorded Elvis Presley's first gold record, "Heartbreak Hotel"; in
Freberg's version, the echo effect goes out of control, and Elvis
eventually rips his jeans during the performance.
With Foray, he recorded "The Quest for Bridey Hammerschlaugen", a
The Search for Bridey Murphy
The Search for Bridey Murphy by Morey Bernstein, a 1956 book
on hypnotic regression to a past life and an LP of the first actual
"The Great Pretender" and "Banana Boat Song"
Freberg used a beatnik musician theme in his 1956 parody of "The Great
Pretender", the hit by The Platters—who, like Ray (see above) and
Belafonte and Welk (see both below), were not pleased.[citation
needed] At that time, when it was still hoped that musical standards
might be preserved, it was quite permissible to ridicule the
ludicrous, as Freberg had obviously thought when he parodied Presley.
The pianist in Freberg's parody, a devotee of
Erroll Garner and George
Shearing, rebels against playing a single-chord accompaniment,
retorting, "I'm not playing that 'clink-clink-clink jazz'!" But
Freberg is adamant about the pianist's sticking to The Platters'
style: "You play that 'clink-clink-clink jazz', or you won't get paid
tonight!" The pianist relents—sort of. The pianist even quotes
the first six notes from Shearing's classic piece "Lullaby of
Birdland", before returning to the song. The song concludes with
the piano accompaniment, despite the histrionic singer's pleas,
becoming uncontrollably fast, and the singer having to escape the
Freberg's "Banana Boat (Day-O)" (1957) satirized Harry Belafonte's
popular recording of "Banana Boat Song". In Freberg's version, the
lead singer is forced to run down the hall and close the door after
him to muffle the sound of his "Day-O!" because the beatnik bongo
drummer, voiced by Leeds, complains, "It's too shrill, man. It's too
piercing!" When he gets to the lyric about "A beautiful buncha ripe
banana/Hide the deadly black tarantula," the drummer protests, "I
don't dig spiders!" The flip is "Tele-Vee-Shun", an anti-TV song
about what television has done to his family, sung in a heavy
Trinidadian accent and set to a Calypso tune.
Freberg first recorded the song in 1952, but the 1957 version is the
most well known, which lampoons
Elvis Presley in one verse: "I turn on
Elvis Presley and my daughter scream. I fear she have a nervous
breakdown cos of heem. I wonder why he wiggle-waggle to de beat. As a
boy he must have had a loose bicycle seat."
Freberg's musical parodies were a by-product of his collaborations
with Billy May, a veteran big band musician and jazz arranger, and his
Capitol Records producer, Ken Nelson. Two weeks after
Johnny Mathis' "Wonderful! Wonderful!" fell off from what became the
Billboard Hot 100, "Wun'erful, Wun'erful! (Sides uh-one &
uh-two)", Freberg's 1957 spoof of TV "champagne music" master Lawrence
Welk, debuted. To replicate Welk's sound, May and some of Hollywood's
finest studio musicians and vocalists worked to clone Welk's live
on-air style, carefully incorporating bad notes and mistimed
cues. Billy Liebert, a first-rate accordionist,
copied Welk's accordion playing. In the parody, the orchestra is
overwhelmed by the malfunctioning bubble machine and the entire Aragon
Ballroom eventually floats out to sea. Welk denied he had ever said
"Wunnerful, Wunnerful!", though it became the title
of Welk's autobiography (Prentice Hall, 1971). Some of the regulars on
Welk's show got lampooned as well;
Alice Lon became "Alice Lean,"
Larry Hooper became "Larry Looper," trumpeter-novelty singer Rocky
Rockwell became "Stony Stonedwell" and the
Lennon Sisters became the
"Lemon Sisters."
Freberg also tackled political issues of the day. On his radio show,
an extended sketch paralleled the
Cold War brinkmanship between the
U.S. and the
Soviet Union by portraying an ever-escalating public
relations battle between the El Sodom and the Rancho Gomorrah, two
casinos in the city of Los Voraces (Spanish for "The Greedy Ones"—a
thinly disguised Las Vegas). The sketch ends with the ultimate tourist
attraction, the Hydrogen Bomb, which turns Los Voraces into a vast,
barren wasteland. Network pressure forced Freberg to remove the
reference to the hydrogen bomb and had the two cities being destroyed
by an earthquake instead. The version of "Incident at Los
Voraces", released later on Capitol Records, contains the original
Freberg had poked fun at
McCarthyism in passing in "Little Blue Riding
Hood" with the line, "Only the color has been changed to prevent an
investigation." Later, he blatantly parodied Senator Joseph McCarthy
with "Point of Order" (taken from his frequent objection). The
"suspect" being investigated was the black sheep from the nursery
rhyme,"Baa, Baa, Black Sheep". (Butler: "I would be suspicious of
anyone who tried to rhyme dame with lane.") Capitol's legal department
was very nervous. Freberg describes being called in for a chat with
Robert Karp, the department head, and being asked whether he had ever
belonged to any group that might get attention from McCarthy. He
replied, "I am, and have been for a long time, a card-carrying member
of... "—the executive went pale—"... the Little Orphan Annie Fan
Club of America." The executive retorted, "No, this is serious; this
is not funny, Freberg. Stop making jokes!" A watered-down version of
the parody was eventually aired, and Freberg never found himself "in
front of a committee".
On two occasions, Capitol refused to release Freberg's creations.
"That's Right, Arthur" was a barbed parody of controversial 1950s
radio/TV personality Arthur Godfrey, who expected his stable of
performers—known as "little Godfreys"—to toady to him endlessly.
The dialogue included Freberg's "Godfrey" monologue, punctuated by
Butler imitating Godfrey announcer Tony Marvin, repeatedly
interjecting, "That's right, Arthur!" between Godfrey's comments.
Capitol feared Godfrey might take legal action and sent a tape of the
sketch to his legal department for permission, which was denied.
Capitol also rejected the equally acerbic "Most of the Town", a spoof
of Ed Sullivan's "The Toast of the Town", under the same
circumstances. Both recordings eventually surfaced on a box-set
Freberg retrospective issued by Rhino Records.
Freberg continued to skewer the advertising industry after the demise
of his show, producing and recording "Green Chri$tma$" in 1958, a
scathing indictment of the over-commercialization of the holiday, in
which Butler soberly hoped instead that we'd remember "Whose birthday
we're celebrating". The satire ended abruptly with a rendition of
"Jingle Bells" punctuated by cash register sounds. The original
version was somewhat longer when it was first released in 1958, but in
later years Capitol did not reissue the full recording.[citation
needed] Freberg also revisited the "Dragnet" theme, with "Yulenet",
also known as "Christmas Dragnet", in which the strait-laced detective
convinces a character named "Grudge" that Santa Claus really exists
(and Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and the Easter Bunny, but Grudge
still hadn't made up his mind yet about Toledo). Butler does several
voices on that record.
In 1958, the
Oregon Centennial Commission, under the sponsorship of
Blitz-Weinhard Brewing Company, hired Freberg to create a musical to
celebrate Oregon's one-hundredth birthday. The result was
Oregon! Oregon! A Centennial Fable in Three Acts. Recorded at Capitol
in Hollywood, it was released during the
Oregon Centennial in 1959 as
a 12″ vinyl LP album. Side one featured two versions of an
introduction by Freberg (billed as "Stan Freberg, Matinee Idol"), with
the second version including a few words from the president of
Blitz-Weinhard Co. This was followed by the show itself, which runs
for 21 minutes. Side two includes separate individual versions of each
of the featured songs, including several variations on the title
piece, Oregon! Oregon!
Fifty years later, as Oregon approached its Sesquicentennial, an
updated version was prepared by Freberg and the Portland band Pink
Martini as part of a signature series of performances throughout the
Pink Martini toured the state and performed four
regional performances in the northern, southern and central areas of
Oregon in August and September 2009. This was made possible by a grant
from the Kinsman Foundation for a $40,000 launch of Pink Martini's
Oregon! Oregon! 2009 with Freberg.
1960s and later
Freberg in an early 60s publicity photo
In 1960, in the light of the payola scandal, Freberg made a two-sided
single titled "The Old
Payola Roll Blues", which tells the story of a
corrupt recording studio promoter (voiced by Jesse White) find a
teenager who cannot sing named "Clyde Ankle" (likely a take-off on
Paul Anka). He records a song called "High School OO OO", which lasted
only a few seconds. (Noting this, Ankle asks, "Kind of a short song,
isn't it?" To which the producer answers, "Gets more airplay that
way.") The flip side was, "I Was on My Way to High School" (complete
with fake audience noise from a "scream machine"). The promoter then
tries to bribe a disc jockey at a jazz station to play the song on the
air, which he flatly refuses, suspecting that the promoter was never
in the music business in the first place. Afterward, a song in the big
band style heralds the end of rock and roll and a resurgence of swing
and jazz. Freberg's record was on the Hot 100 only the week of Leap
Day 1960, at #99, about three and a half months after Tommy Facenda's
multi-versioned "High School U.S.A." peaked at #28. Alan Freed, whose
career fell prey to charges of payola, reportedly laughed at Freberg's
interpretation of the scandal.
Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Volume One: The
Early Years (1961) combined dialogue and song in a musical theatre
format. The original album musical, released on Capitol, parodies the
history of the United States from 1492 until the end of the
Revolutionary War in 1783. In it, Freberg parodied both large and
small aspects of history. For instance, in the Colonial era, it was
common to use the long s, which resembles a lowercase f, in the middle
of words; thus, as Ben Franklin is reading the Declaration of
Independence, he questions the passage, "Life, liberty, and the
purfuit of happineff?!?" Most of that particular sketch is a satire of
McCarthyism. For example, Franklin remarks, "You...sign a harmless
petition, and forget all about it. Ten years later, you get hauled up
before a committee."
The album also featured the following exchange, where Freberg's
Christopher Columbus is "discovered on beach here" by a Native
American played by Marvin Miller. Skeptical of the Natives' diet of
corn and "other organically grown vegetables", Columbus wants to open
"America's first Italian restaurant" and needs to cash a check to get
Native: "You out of luck, today. Banks closed."
Columbus: [archly, knowing what the response will be] "Oh? Why?"
Native: "Columbus Day!"
Columbus: [pregnant pause] "We going out on that joke?"
Native: "No, we do reprise of song. That help ..."
Columbus and Native together: "But not much, no!"
Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America, Volume Two was
planned for release during America's Bicentennial in 1976, but it did
not emerge until 1996.
Freberg's early parodies revealed his obvious love of jazz. His
portrayals of jazz musicians were usually stereotypical "beatnik"
types, but jazz was always portrayed as preferable to pop, calypso,
and particularly the then-new form of music, rock and roll. He whopped
doo-wop in his version of "Sh-Boom" and lampooned
Elvis Presley with
an echo/reverb rendition of "Heartbreak Hotel". The United States
of America includes a sketch involving the musicians in the painting
The Spirit of '76. The terribly hip fife player ("Bix", played by
Freberg) and the younger drummer (played by Walter Tetley) argue with
the older, impossibly square drummer ("Doodle", also voiced by
Freberg) over how "Yankee Doodle" should be performed.
Theater for the ear: Freberg strikes a pose, 1962
The popularity of Freberg's recordings landed him his own program, the
situation comedy That's Rich. Freberg portrayed bumbling but cynical
Richard E. Wilt, a resident of Hope Springs, where he worked for B.B.
Hackett's Consolidated Paper Products Company. Freberg suggested the
addition of dream sequences, which made it possible for him to perform
his more popular
Capitol Records satires before a live studio
CBS series aired from January 8 to September 23, 1954.
The Stan Freberg Show was a 1957 replacement for
Jack Benny on CBS
radio. The satirical show, which featured elaborate production,
included most of the team he used on his Capitol recordings, including
Foray, Leeds, and Butler.
Billy May arranged and conducted the music.
The Jud Conlon Singers, who had also appeared on Freberg recordings,
were regulars, as was singer Peggy Taylor, who had participated in his
"Wun'erful, Wun'erful!" record. The show was produced by Pete Barnum.
The show failed to attract a sponsor after Freberg decided he did not
want to be associated with the tobacco companies that had sponsored
Benny. In lieu of actual commercials, Freberg mocked advertising by
touting such products as "Puffed Grass" ("It's good for Bossie, it's
good for me and you!"), "Food" ("Put some food in your
tummy-tum-tum!"), and himself ("Stan Freberg—the foaming comedian!
Bobba-bobba-bom-bom-bom"), a parody of the well-known Ajax cleanser
The lack of sponsorship was not the only issue. Freberg frequently
complained of radio network interference. Another sketch from the CBS
show, "Elderly Man River", anticipated the political correctness
movement by decades. Butler plays "Mr. Tweedly", a representative of a
fictional citizens' radio review board, who constantly interrupts
Freberg with a loud buzzer as Freberg attempts to sing "Old Man
River". Tweedly objects first to the word "old", "which some of our
more elderly citizens find distasteful". As a result, the song's
lyrics are progressively and painfully distorted as Freberg struggles
to turn the classic song into a form that Tweedly will find acceptable
"to the tiny tots" listening at home: "He don't, er, doesn't plant
'taters, er, potatoes… he doesn't plant cotton, er, cotting… and
them-these-those that plants them are soon forgotting", a lyric of
which Freberg is particularly proud. Even when the censor finds
Freberg's machinations acceptable, the constant interruption
ultimately brings the song to a grinding halt (just before Freberg
would have had to edit the line "You gets a little drunk and you lands
in jail"), saying, "Take your finger off the button, Mr. Tweedly—we
know when we're licked", furnishing the moral and the punch line of
the sketch at once. But all of these factors forced the cancellation
of the show after a run of only 15 episodes.
In 1966, he recorded an album, Freberg Underground, in a format
similar to his radio show, using the same cast and orchestra. He
called it "pay radio", in a parallel to the phrase pay TV (the
nickname at the time for subscription-based cable and broadcast
television) "…because you have to go into the record store and buy
it". This album is notable for giving Dr.
Edward Teller the Father of
the Year award for being "father of the hydrogen bomb" ("Use it in
good health!"); for a combined satire of the Batman television series
and the 1966 California Governor's race between Edmund G. "Pat" Brown
and Ronald Reagan; and probably most famous for a bit in which,
through the magic of sound effects, Freberg drained
Lake Michigan and
refilled it with hot chocolate and a mountain of whipped cream while a
giant maraschino cherry was dropped like a bomb by the Royal Canadian
Air Force to the cheers of 25,000 extras viewing from the
shoreline. Freberg concluded with, "Let's see them do that on
television!" That bit became a commercial for advertising on radio.
Freberg returned to radio in several episodes of The Twilight Zone
Radio Dramas in the early 2000s, including "The Brain Center at
Whipple's," "Four O'Clock," "The Fugitive," "Gentlemen, Be Seated,"
"Kick the Can," "The Masks," and "Static."
Beginning in 1949, Freberg and Butler provided voices and were the
puppeteers for Bob Clampett's puppet series, Time for Beany, a triple
Emmy Award winner (1950, 1951, 1953). Broadcast
KTLA in Los Angeles, the pioneering children's TV show
garnered considerable acclaim. Among its fans was
Albert Einstein, who once reportedly interrupted a high-level
conference by announcing, "You will have to excuse me, gentlemen. It
is time for Beany."
Freberg made television guest appearances on The
Ed Sullivan Show and
other TV variety shows, usually with Orville the Moon Man, his puppet
from outer space; he reached through the bottom of Orville's flying
saucer to control the puppet's movements and turned away from the
camera when he delivered Orville's lines. Freberg had
his own ABC special,
Stan Freberg Presents the
Chun King Chow Mein
Hour: Salute to the Chinese New Year (February 4, 1962),[citation
needed] but he garnered more laughs when he was a guest on late night
talk shows.
A piece from Freberg's show was used frequently on Offshore Radio in
the UK in the 60's: "You may not find us on your TV".
Other on-screen television roles included The Monkees (1966) and
The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.
The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (1967). Federal Budget
Review was a 1982 
PBS television special lampooning the federal
government. In 1996, he portrayed the continuing character of Mr.
Parkin on Roseanne, and both Freberg and his son had
roles in the short-lived
Weird Al Show
Weird Al Show in 1997.
When Freberg introduced satire to the field of advertising, he
revolutionized the industry, influencing staid ad agencies to imitate
Freberg by injecting humor into their previously dead-serious
commercials. Freberg's long list of successful ad campaigns includes:
Butternut coffee: A nine-minute musical, "Omaha!", which actually
found success outside advertising as a musical production in the city
of Omaha. It tells the story of a young man, "Eustace K. Butternut",
who was stolen by Gypsies at an early age and, as an adult, returns to
his own city, finding the residents under a spell that keeps them
singing and raising their arms in the air. He frees them by saying his
last name backwards ("Tunrettub"), but he immediately orders them to
raise their hands back up again, taking everything the citizens have.
Contadina tomato paste: "Who put eight great tomatoes in that little
Jeno's pizza rolls: A parody of the Lark cigarettes commercial that
used the William Tell Overture and a pick-up truck with a sign in the
bed saying "Show us your Lark pack", here ending with a confrontation
between a cigarette smoker, portrayed by
Barney Phillips (supposedly
representing the Lark commercial's announcer) and
Clayton Moore as the
Lone Ranger over the use of the music.
Jay Silverheels also appears as
Tonto, filling his possibles bag with pizza rolls, after asking "Have
a Pizza Roll, kemo sabe?" It was regarded as one of the most
brilliantly conceived and executed TV ads of the period; after one
showing on The Tonight Show,
Johnny Carson remarked that it was the
first commercial he had ever seen to receive spontaneous applause from
the studio audience.
Jeno's pizza, in a parody of Scope mouthwash commercials. "You know
why nobody likes your parties, Mary? You have bad pizza—bad
Sunsweet pitted prunes: Depicted as the "food of the future" in a
futuristic setting, until science fiction icon Ray Bradbury, a friend
of Freberg's (shown on a wall-to-wall television screen reminiscent of
Fahrenheit 451) butts in: "I never mentioned prunes in any of my
stories." "You didn't?" "No, never. I'm sorry to be so candid." "No,
they're not candied" (rim shot). Bradbury reportedly refused to
consider doing a commercial until Freberg told him, "I'm calling it
Brave New Prune", prompting Bradbury to ask, "When do we start?" Prune
sales increased 400 percent the year following the campaign.
Another Sunsweet commercial features
Ronald Long as a picky eater:
"They're still rather badly wrinkled, you know", and ends with the
famous line, "Today, the pits; tomorrow, the wrinkles. Sunsweet
marches on!"
Heinz Great American Soups:
Ann Miller is a housewife who turns her
kitchen into a gigantic production number, singing such lyrics as
"Let's face the chicken gumbo and dance!" After watching his wife's
flashy tap dancing, her husband, played by veteran character actor
Dave Willock, asks, "Why do you always have to make such a big
production out of everything?" At the time (1970), this was the most
expensive commercial ever made.
Jacobsen Mowers: Sheep slowly munch on a front lawn. On camera
reporter/announcer (voice of William Woodson): "Jacobsen mowers.
Faster... than sheep!"
Encyclopædia Britannica: The boy in these commercials is Freberg's
son Donavan. Freberg talks to him from off screen.
Chun King Chinese Food: Magazine ad, featuring a line-up of nine
Chinese men and one white man, all with stethoscopes around their
necks and dressed in white doctors' tunics, with the caption, "Nine
out of ten doctors recommend
Chun King Chow Mein!"
Kaiser Aluminum produced foil, to rival Reynolds Wrap. Freberg created
a sales campaign based on Kaiser's difficulties in getting grocers to
stock their product, featuring the "Kaiser Foil Salesman". Despite the
company's initial hesitation, the campaign produced a huge increase in
distribution and sales.
Today, these advertisements are considered classics by many
critics. Though Bob & Ray had pioneered
intentionally comic advertisements (stemming from a hugely successful
campaign for Piels beer),
Stan Freberg is usually credited as being
the first person to introduce humor into television advertising with
memorable campaigns. He felt a truly funny commercial would cause
consumers to request a product, as was the case with his elaborate ad
campaign that prompted stores to stock Salada tea.
Jeno Paulucci, then the owner of Chun King, had to pay off a bet over
the success of Freberg's first commercial by pulling Freberg in a
rickshaw on Hollywood's La Cienega Boulevard. Freberg won 21 Clio
awards for his commercials. Many of those spots were included in
the Freberg four-CD box set Tip of the Freberg.
Freberg with his second wife at the Annual Annie Awards, 2014
Following his success in comedy records and television, Freberg was
often invited to appear as a featured guest at various events, such as
his skit at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards, again playing
straight man to Orville in his UFO. He innocently asks why there is a
hole in the end of the spacecraft, only to be told, "That's where the
swamp gas comes out."
In his autobiography, It Only Hurts When I Laugh, Freberg recounts
much of his life and early career, including his encounters with such
show business legends as Milton Berle,
Frank Sinatra and Ed Sullivan,
and the struggles he endured to get his material on the air.[citation
He had brief sketches on
KNX (AM) radio in the mid-1990s, beginning
each with "Freberg here!" In one sketch, Freberg mentioned that the
band played "Inhale to the Chief" at Bill Clinton's
He guest starred multiple times on
Garfield and Friends and The
Garfield Show, where he provided the voice of Dr. Whipple, and as the
studio chairman on an episode of Taz-Mania.
Freberg was inducted into the
National Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.
From 1995 until October 6, 2006, Freberg hosted When Radio Was, a
syndicated anthology of vintage radio shows. The release of the
1996 Rhino CD The United States of America Volume 1 (the Early Years)
and Volume 2 (the Middle Years) suggested a possible third volume
(which never happened). This set includes some parts written but cut
because they would not fit on a record album.
He appeared on "Weird Al" Yankovic's The Weird Al Show, playing both
the J.B. Toppersmith character and the voice of the puppet Papa
Boolie. Yankovic has acknowledged Freberg as one of his greatest
influences. Freberg is among the commentators in the special
features on the multiple-volume DVD sets of the
Looney Tunes Golden
Collection and narrates the documentary "Irreverent Imagination" on
Freberg was the announcer for the boat race in the movie version of
Stuart Little, and in 2008 he guest starred as
Sherlock Holmes in two
episodes of The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd. From 2008 onwards
Freberg voiced numerous characters, including Doctor Whipple and
Fluffykins, on The Garfield Show. He recorded his last voice-over role
for the episode "Rodent Rebellion" in 2014.
Freberg died on April 7, 2015, aged 88, at UCLA Medical Center, Santa
Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica, California from pneumonia.
In popular culture
In 1961's The Parent Trap, the characters during the animated opening
title sequence refer to each other as "John" and "Marsha".
The 1968 film The Acid Eaters has a John & Marsha exchange. Marsha
is played by Dianne Curtis.
In 2007, comedian the great
Luke Ski recorded a ten-minute homage
called MC Freberg, a parody illustrating what a Freberg-type satire of
rap music would have sounded like. Originally recorded for The
FuMP, the track also appears on Ski's album BACONspiracy.
On the fourth-season premiere of the TV series Mad Men, Peggy Olson
(Elisabeth Moss) and Joey Baird (Matt Long) act out the "John and
Marsha" comedy soap opera parody and repeatedly call each other "John"
Warner Brothers cartoons (in which Freberg appeared, uncredited, as a
voice artist) often had cameo appearances by couples named "John" and
"Marsha". In one case, the woman was an alien, making the couple
"John" and "Martian".
Benny Hill did a video version of Freberg's "John and Marsha" on his
November 24, 1971 special, in the form of an art film parody titled
"The Lovers", with Benny as John,
Jenny Lee-Wright as Marsha, and
Henry McGee as a third character, George; the distinguishing visual
factor being that the actors were photographed from the neck down.
"John and Marsha" is also parodied in the
Rocko's Modern Life
Rocko's Modern Life episode
Callaway Went Thataway (1951) as Marvin
Geraldine (1953) as Billy Weber
Lady and the Tramp
Lady and the Tramp (1955) as Beaver (voice)
Tom Thumb (1958) as Yawning man (voice)
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) as Deputy Sheriff
I Go Pogo (1980) as Albert the Alligator (voice)
Stuart Little (1999) as Race Announcer (voice)
Tweety's High-Flying Adventure (2000) as
Pete Puma / Additional voices
Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003) as Baby Bear (voice)
Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
"John and Marsha"
b/w "Ragtime Dan" (Non-album track)
A Child's Garden Of Freberg
"I've Got You Under My Skin" /
"That's My Boy"
A Child's Garden Of Freberg
b/w "Tele Vee Shun" (from
Stan Freberg With The Original Cast)
b/w "Pass The Udder Udder" (Non-album track)
A Child's Garden Of Freberg
"The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise"
b/w "The Boogie Woogie Banjo Man From Birmingham"
"Dinky Pinky" - Part 1
b/w Part 2
"St. George and The Dragonet" /
A Child's Garden Of Freberg
"Little Blue Riding Hood"
Stan Freberg With The Original Cast
"Christmas Dragnet" - Parts 1 & 2
"C'est Si Bon"
b/w "A Dear John and Marsha Letter" (Non-album track)
A Child's Garden Of Freberg
"Person To Pearson"
b/w "Point Of Order"
b/w "Widescreen Mama Blues"
A Child's Garden Of Freberg
"Yulenet" - Part 1
b/w Part 2
b/w "The Lone Psychiatrist"
"The Yellow Rose Of Texas"
b/w "Rock Around Stephen Foster"
A Child's Garden Of Freberg
"Nuttin' For Christmas"
b/w "The Night Before Christmas"
"The Great Pretender"
b/w "The Quest For Bridey Hammerschlaugen" (from The Best Of Stan
A Child's Garden Of Freberg
"Heartbreak Hotel" /
"Rock Island Line"
"Banana Boat (Day-O)"
Stan Freberg With The Original Cast
"Wun'erful, Wun'erful" (Side uh-one and side uh-two)
b/w "Ya Got Trouble" (from
Stan Freberg With The Original Cast)
b/w "The Meaning Of Christmas" (Non-album track)
Stan Freberg With The Original Cast
Payola Roll Blues" (Like The Beginning and End)
"Comments For Our Time" - Part 1
b/w Part 2
Yankee Doodle Go Home"
Stan Freberg Presents The United States Of America Vol. 1: The Early
"The Flackman and Reagan" - Part 1
b/w Part 2
Freberg Underground! Show No. 1
"-" denotes release did not chart.
^ Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons,
^ "Influential Satirist, Ad Maverick
Stan Freberg Dies at 88". NBC
News. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
^ "Stanley Friberg, Born 08/07/1926 in California".
CaliforniaBirthIndex.org. August 7, 1926. Retrieved 2014-01-05.
^ Jalon, Allan (February 18, 1988). "Stan Freberg, a Sage for the
Masses, Returns to Public Eye". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September
^ Frankel, Mark. "
Stan Freberg Pens a Memoir About His Strange Career
Move—from Comedy to Commercials". People.com. Retrieved
^ Yardley, Jonathan (December 14, 1988). "Freberg, Laughing All the
Way". Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. Retrieved 2014-01-05.
^ "An audience with Stan Freberg". Cosmik Debris. 1999. Archived from
the original on February 15, 2009. Retrieved February 8, 2009.
^ Freberg 1988, pp. 32–36
^ "Stan Freberg". IMDb.com. Retrieved October 28, 2017.
^ "Little Go Beep - Video Dailymotion". Dailymotion.com. Retrieved
^ "Interview with Mel Blanc's son Noel". Harrisonline.com. Retrieved
September 27, 2012.
^ "Stan Freberg". POVonline. Mark Evanier. Archived from the original
on February 19, 2009. Retrieved February 8, 2009.
^ a b "Show 1 – Play A Simple Melody: American pop music in the
early fifties. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library".
Digital.library.unt.edu. Retrieved September 27, 2012.
^ Number-one hits of 1953 (United States)
^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The
Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London:
Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 64–5.
^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 2 – Play A Simple Melody:
American pop music in the early fifties. [Part 2]: UNT Digital
Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas
^ "Notes about Try by
Stan Freberg (note 3 )". Archived from the
original on January 13, 2012. Retrieved January 3, 2012. CS1
maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
^ "C'est Si Bon". IMDb.com. October 28, 2017. Retrieved October 28,
^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 7 – The All American Boy: Enter
Elvis and the rock-a-billies. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles.
University of North Texas Libraries.
^ "Show 5 – Hail, Hail, Rock 'n' Roll: The rock revolution gets
underway. [Part 1] : UNT Digital Library".
Digital.library.unt.edu. March 9, 1969. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
^ The parody was partly parodied when Mitchel Torok recorded "All Over
Again, Again" for Columbia Records in mid-March 1959, but billed it as
"The Great Pretender", as a spoof on the recent
Sun Records recordings
of Johnny Cash. Cash had only recently been signed to Columbia. The
annoying pianist on the Freberg record was replaced by an equally
annoying banjo player and a showboating guitarist on the Columbia
release, a song written by Torok's wife who was then billed as "R.
Redd" (Ramona Redd).
^ "Show 18 – Blowin' in the Wind: Pop discovers folk music. [Part
1] : UNT Digital Library". Pop Chronicles.
Digital.library.unt.edu. May 25, 1969. Retrieved September 24,
^ Freberg 1988, pp. 108–114
Stan Freberg Show: Episodes One Through Seven". The Official
Website of Daws Butler. Joe Bevilacqua and Lorie Kellogg. July 2003.
Retrieved February 8, 2009.
^ Hansen, Barry and Freberg, Stan, Tip of the Freberg: The Stan
Freberg Collection 1951–1998, ISBN 0-7379-0060-1, notes
booklet, p. 12. Freberg wrote a slightly different version of this in
It Only Hurts When I Laugh (p. 85), in which he was talking with Ken
Nelson, whose final reaction was much more relaxed.
^ Freberg 1988, pp. 80–81
^ "Bob Claster's Funny Stuff". Retrieved February 8, 2009. Arthur
^ a b Simon, Scott (February 14, 2009). "Oregon's 150th Calls for a
New Act". Weekend Edition Saturday.
National Public Radio
National Public Radio (NPR).
Retrieved February 14, 2009.
^ a b "Oregon! Oregon! A Centennial Fable in Three Acts". Wolverine
Antique Music Society. Retrieved February 14, 2009.
^ Stewart, George (1999). "An Interview with Stan Freberg". Retrieved
March 15, 2012.
Stan Freberg Discography". Warren Debenham, Norm Katuna. February
2008. Archived from the original on June 15, 2011. Retrieved February
^ "The Tip of the Freberg: The
Stan Freberg Collection 1951–1998:
Stretching the Imagination". Retrieved August 21, 2008. [audio excerpt
from Stretching the Imagination]
^ Freberg 1988, p. 75
^ "Quotes about The Monkees". Monkeesrule43 Online. Retrieved
^ "Stan Freberg". IMDb.com. Retrieved October 28, 2017.
^ "REELRADIO Golden Gift – ButterNut Coffee Presents
Stan Freberg". Reelradio.com. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
^ Freberg 1988, pp. 96–98
^ "YouTube – Jeno's Pizza Rolls Commercial". Youtube.com. June 17,
2006. Retrieved September 27, 2012.
^ "YouTube –
Ray Bradbury Prunes Commercial". Youtube.com. December
13, 2007. Retrieved September 27, 2012.
^ "Stan Freberg". The Automat. Retrieved October 3, 2014.
^ Debbie Foster; Jack Kennedy. H.J. Heinz Company. Books.google.com.
p. 67. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
^ a b Freberg 1988, p. 183
^ Freberg 1988, pp. 154–173
^ "Foiled Again! More
Kaiser Aluminum Spots by Stan Freberg".
Cartoonresearch.com. Retrieved October 3, 2014.
^ "2006 Los Angeles Area Governors Award Honor to Television Pioneer
Stan Freberg". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. June 22,
2006. Retrieved February 8, 2009.
^ The Science Fiction Film Awards, The Museum of Classic Chicago
^ a b "Comedian and Voice Actor
Stan Freberg Dies at 88". Variety.com.
Retrieved April 7, 2015.
^ Yankovic, Al (October 30, 2014). "'Weird Al' Yankovic Salutes His
Hero, Stan Freberg". Variety.com. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
^ "The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd". The Radio Adventures of Dr.
Floyd. October 12, 2008. Retrieved February 8, 2009.
Stan Freberg To
Star on the Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd Podcast
^ "Garfield News - News From ME". Newsfromme.com. October 22, 2016.
Retrieved October 28, 2017.
^ Byrge, Duane (April 7, 2015). "Stan Freberg, Acclaimed Satirist,
Dies at 88". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
^ Martin, Douglas (April 7, 2015). "Stan Freberg, Madcap Adman and
Satirist, Dies at 88". New York Times. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
^ a b Anderson, Stacey. "Stan Freberg: five top parodies from the
master of the funny commercial Culture". The Guardian. Retrieved
^ "The great
Luke Ski - MC Freberg Lyrics". Lyricsmania.com. Retrieved
^ Don Aucoin, Globe Staff (July 31, 2010). "Mad about 'John &
Marsha'". The Boston Globe.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 10, 2016.
Retrieved October 8, 2016.
Freberg, Stan (1988). It Only Hurts When I Laugh. Times Books.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Stan Freberg.
Stan Freberg on IMDb
Stan Freberg Discography
"Stan the Man" in Time (July 29, 1957)
Mark Thomas Presents:
Stan Freberg BBC Radio 4 (2005)
Cosmik Debris interview
Oregon! Oregon! (1959)
"Little Go Beep"
Stan Freberg at Find a Grave
The Stan Freberg Show Entire series on the Internet Archive
Pop Chronicles interviewed Freberg on April 18, 1968;st Archived
June 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. he appears in shows 1, 2, 5, 7,
18, and 49.
Bob Claster's career-spanning 1989 interview with Stan Freberg
(featuring many excerpts) pt.1 pt.2 pt.3 pt.4 pt.5
August 31, 1956 episode of
CBS Radio Workshop Colloquy #3: An Analysis
Satire featuring Stan Freberg
Oregon! Oregon! Intro Overture Act I Interlude Act II Act III
Stan Freberg birthday episode of Ben's Wacky Radio on Internet Archive
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Stan Freberg over at Outlaws Old Time Radio Corner
Articles and topics related to Stan Freberg
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