This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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"Rumble, Rumble, Rumble. Mutiny, Mutiny, Mutiny" - Stan Freberg (1926 - 2015)
by John C. Abbott © 2015
(From Radio Recall, August, 2015)
It was a warm summer night in the early 1950s. My family was driving back from Grandmother's home in Dad's 1952 Lincoln, and I, riding shotgun, was searching the AM radio dial for entertainment. I finally stopped on a fairly strong station when I heard the "Dum De Dum Dum" of Dragnet- only it wasn't Dragnet. The station I had found was playing one of the hottest hits of the day. The record? "Saint George and the Dragonet". The artist, a young man named Stan Freberg (who was born Stanley Victor Friberg.)
Little was I to know that Stan Freberg was, to say the least, a comedy genius. It was not until the compilation "Tip of the Freberg - The Stan Freberg Collection 1951-1998" was issued in 1999 that the true scope of his genius could be felt. There was not one aspect of entertainment that Stan did not successfully master.
TV? Yep, Stan worked on the program Time for Beany and won three Emmy awards for his efforts. And, there were the commercials.
Records? Stan was a past-master at satirizing the hits of the day, from Elvis to Lawrence Welk. Stan used the voices of Daws Butler, June Foray, Jessie White, Peter Leeds and many other experienced voices to work the magic he would write for them. And who can forget his "History of America" volumes I and II? Diehard fans of these albums will no doubt remember the lines from which the title of this article is drawn.
Radio? Stan was chosen by CBS to replace the King of Radio, Jack Benny, when Jack moved to television in 1953. Although Stan would only last less than one season, there was no doubt that "Elderly Man River", "The Honey Earthers" and "Incident at Los Varoces" were on the cutting edge of radio satire. Even after the demise of radio drama, Stan issued numerous pro-radio commercials.
Films? Stan appeared in several feature films, most notably Callaway went Thataway and It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. But Stan also did the voices in dozens of cartoons, at one time even sharing the mike with the inimitable Mel Blanc.
Advertising? This where the story gets off the beaten course, for Stan was supposedly so dismayed over the poor quality of the advertising messages of the day that he formed his own firm, and proceeded to introduce humor into the advertising media. "Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles. Sunsweet marches on!" was the tagline for his Sunsweet campaign. "Who put eight great tomatoes in that little bitty can?" helped sell more Contadina Tomato Paste. And who can forget that Jenos Pizza Roll commercial featuring The Lone Ranger and Tonto? All told, Stan won 21 Clio Awards for his advertising efforts.
Stan ultimately returned to radio, hosting the program When Radio Was, which featured radio programs from the Golden Age. Sadly, Stan left us on April 7, 2015 at age 88 before he could deliver on a promise and give us "The History of America Volume Ill".
There is so much more to the Stan Freberg story, and telling all that there is to tell would take years. Suffice it to say that, if there is a Pearly Gate with Saint Peter checking IDs, Stan was granted admission, but probably with a stern warning to watch his step, as "The Big Guy" is very sensitive about rumblings of mutiny.