Monday, July 20, 2015

"Color Cartoons": The only record by Gary, Indiana's Goldenrods (1958)

The Goldenrods: Charles Colquitt, Crosby Harris, Jesse Rodgers,
Hiawatha Burnett. Not pictured: Cleve Denham

Novelty songs that listed television and movie characters were common in the late '50s and early '60s. The Olympics' "Western Movies" was a Top 10 hit in 1960, and Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash" was a #1 hit in 1962. Another song in this vein, "Color Cartoons," was the only record by the Goldenrods, a doo-wop group from Gary, Indiana.

A stock copy of "Color Cartoons" 
The record was released in 1958 and immediately disappeared. It wasn't a national or even a regional hit, it wasn't reviewed in Billboard, and today it's one of the rarest of all releases on the Vee-Jay label. 

The group consisted of Crosby Harris (lead vocals), Hiawatha Burnett (tenor), Cleve Denham (tenor), Jesse Rodgers (baritone), and Charles Colquitt (bass). The group formed in 1955 in emulation of the Spaniels, a popular R&B group from Gary that recorded for Vee-Jay and is remembered for the 1954 hit "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight." The Goldenrods' took their from the Goldenrod-brand composition notebooks that were still available as late as the mid 1970s.

The Goldenrods got their deal with Vee-Jay Records by pestering Vivian Carter, one of the co-owners of the label, in her Gary record shop. They managed to capture her interest, so Vee-Jay recorded a four-song session with the group in 1958. Only two of the songs were released: "Color Cartoons" and "Wish I Was Back in School." The label must not have sent a review copy to Billboard, because the record wasn't reviewed, even though the other earlier and later Vee-Jay releases were. Vee-Jay did press promotional copies, though—an image of the promo appears below. 

The two other songs from the session—"Work, You Lazy Bones, Work" and "At the Football Game"—weren't released, but "At the Football Game" ended up on YouTube

An unusual aspect of these songs is that all of them were composed by the group's tenor, Hiawatha Burnett, who sang lead on "Color Cartoons" and "At the Football Game." Not many pop and R&B acts wrote their own material back then. Marv Goldberg interviewed Burnett several years ago. 

As a result of its obscurity, "Color Cartoons" has become a valuable record. The 2009 Goldmine Price Guide to 45 RPM Records values it at $250, but a copy in VG condition sold in 2014 for nearly $400.
The B-side of the white-label promo
The band split up in 1959 and most of the members quit the music business. Bass singer Charles Colquitt (spelled Kolquitt in some books) joined the revered Spaniels.

"Color Cartoons" is included on a couple of compilation CDs: It's on the (allegedly) South Korean anthology Forever Doo-Wop Volume 1 (KFDW 001, 1991) and the bootleg Heavy on Doo-Wop Vol. 1 (Champ #101, 2000). If the version on Forever Doo-Wop Volume 1 isn't mastered from tape, then it's a very clean disc dub.

I've transcribed the lyrics below. I wonder if the song refers to the 1953 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Robot Rabbit"? That cartoon features a carrot field, a farmer (played by Elmer Fudd), and a robot that chases Bugs all over tarnation.

"Color Cartoons" is mostly a list of cartoon characters and situations, but the lyrics have a slapdash quality. The rhyme scheme is vague, "field" is rhymed with "field," and the part about Bugs Bunny is half-formed in the middle. But the group's harmonies are tighter than you'll find on many independent-label doo-wop records, and the subject of cartoons makes for an entertaining novelty record. The song even squeezes in a reference to hula hoops, which was the biggest craze going in 1958.

"Color Cartoons"

Color cartoons, now, at the show
Twelve cents admission, so I had to go
And dig those silly, silly videos
I saw robots getting caught out on a limb
I laughed so until I almost cried
I laughed so until I almost died 
In a cartoon, in a cartoon

You know Bugs Bunny was out in the carrot field
Eating up the farmer's field
And out popped the farmer, out on the hill
And, ooh, Bugs knew that the farmer will
He grabbed a handful of the carrot stalk
Took off a-hoppin' saying, "What's up, doc?"
In a cartoon, in a cartoon

Elmer Fudd
And Woodypecker too
Sylvester the Cat was doing the hootchy-koo
And Donald Duck and Porky Pig
Mickey Mouse was doing that rock and roll jig
Ha ha ha ha ha ha

Casper the Ghost was a real cool host
Doing the hula hoop that was really the most
In a cartoon, in a cartoon

Cinderella almost didn't make it in time
Her driver was [indecipherable] at a traffic sign
Mighty Mouse came in the nick of time
He got her right home before the midnight chime

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