20091228

ALVIN!!!!! The Chipmunks celebrate their 51st Birthday!

I really don't know if Alvin, Simon and Theodore had birthdays, but fifty one years ago a little song called "The Chipmunk Song" (which you will probably remember better as "Christmas Don't Be Late") hit number one on the music charts. So, even though their birth occurred in the mind of Ross Bagdasarian sometime in 1958, I kind of think of today as their birthday.

The very first record I ever owned was The Chipmunks Album which included this song. I got it for Christmas along with my first little record player and I'm sure my parents were a bit sorry they had given those two gifts to me after I played that album over and over and over.

The Christmas Song from the 1961 cartoon:


If you're planning on taking your grandkids to see "Squeaquel", here's a little historical background on The Chipmunks you can pass on to your grandchildren when they go on about these "new singing chipmunks" Alvin, Simon & Theodore:

Alvin, Simon and Theodore were created by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. in 1958 and Mr. Bagdasarian did all the voices of the Chipmunks as well as the voice of their manager/father figure, David Seville. David Seville was Bagdasarian's stage name and each of the Chipmunks was named after an executive at their original record label, Liberty Records: Alvin Bennett (the president), Simon Waronker (the founder and owner), and Theodore Keep (the chief engineer). You might also be surprised to learn that Bagdasarian also wrote "The Witch Doctor"!

The famous high pitched voices of the Chipmunks was created by speeding up Bagdasarian's own voice recordings - a method he had used in The Witch Doctor. His exceptional use of this technique for The Chipmunks earned him/them two Grammy Awards for engineering.

Interestingly, Alvin, Simon and Theodore made their first public appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show as puppets! Below is that appearance in a wonderful Chipmunk History video hosted by Will Smith/The Fresh Prince. The Sullivan clip appears around the 2:30 time marker:


You can view Part Two and Part Three of this fun Chipmunk special which includes them doing songs of some of the greats of music from the baby boomer generations at YouTube.

A few years later The Chipmunks showed up on our television consoles as animated characters in The Alvin Show, originally filmed in black and white and later colored for reruns. The Alvin Show aired from 1961 - 1962 and was one of a very few animated series that were aired in prime time - which is probably the reason for it's short life. I always found it interesting they named the first animated series after Alvin alone - to me what would Alvin be without his second, third and fourth bananas - Simon, Theodore and David? By the way, does anyone else out there remember the other characters featured in this first series - Clyde Crashcup and his assistant Leonardo?

Today, even though the Chipmunks are almost old enough to be baby boomers themselves, they are still rockin', making movies and bringing joy to another generation of children. Like all of us the Chipmunks have gone through some changes over the last half century, but I have to admit I am partial to the look of them back in my day, if only for the sake of nostalgia. However, I am happy to see that Alvin still has his signature cap tilted at that cocky angle!


HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALVIN, SIMON & THEODORE
& David Seville too!
Thanks for half a century of childhood music and laughs.

Visit The Official Chipmunks Website

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4 comments:

  1. Very nice and informative tribute. I used to watch "The Alvin Show" occasionally when it was on Saturday mornings. Even though I didn't watch the 80s version much, the theme song is stuck in my head because I had a couple of nieces who watched it all the time. A very catchy theme!

    By the way, did you ever see the clip of David Seville performing "The Witch Doctor" on "The Ed Sullivan Show"?

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  2. i loved alvin and the chipmunks. i watched them all the time on...tbs i believe it was after pre school. the new movie is weird though. i always assumed the chipmunks were the same size as normal children but in the movies theyre so small. stop by Pop-o-matic Deluxe when you get a chance. i think we're kindred spirits. happy new year!

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  3. The Alvin Show was indeed originally produced in color, not black and white. It first aired in b/w because CBS at the time broadcast few if any color programs. They had lost a bitter patent battle with RCA and NBC a few years earlier over the development of color TV, and would not broadcast a program in color unless a sponsor or agency demanded it. CBS was the last of the three major TV networks to fully adopt color, and was still broadcasting some shows in b/w as late as 1966 or 67. When the Alvin and Clyde Crashcup cartoons went into rerun syndication for local TV, they were available in color prints for stations so equipped; over the years the b/w prints in circulation were scrapped and replaced with color ones. But they were never "colorized" as there was no need to do so.

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    Replies
    1. Jeffm, thank you for adding some pertinent information!

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