How David Seville And The Witch Doctor Rescued Liberty Records

October 11, 2017

Liberty records was an American record label formed in 1955. Started by former 20th Century Fox music producer Simon Waronker, by 1957 the label had had a string of successful hits including recordings by the likes of Julie London, Patience and Prudence, Eddie Cochran, John D. Loudermilk, and many more.

In 1958 a couple of years of slow movers sent Liberty on the fast track to the poor house. That was, until the day was saved by a young pianist / voice actor named Ross Bagdasarian Sr. or David Seville. Ross had already started to make a name for himself in the music biz with a couple of minor hits under various pen names. One instrumental piano ballad called Armen’s Theme and another song called Trouble With Harry… A novelty record based on the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.

With Liberty hinging on bankruptcy Ross had successfully convinced the execs to allocate the remaining vinyl pucks and labels in the warehouse to pressing his new record “Witch Doctor”. The song was an enormous number one hit and rescued the company.

Witch Doctor is a love song, in which a gentleman seeks advice from a witch doctor, when the woman of his affection will not requite his love. The Witch doctor simply replies “Oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang”. (Allegedly the Walla Walla bing bang part was a low key shout out to his uncle, who had recently moved Walla Walla, Washington… how cool is that). Witch Doctor utilizes experimentation of tape speed to create the doctor’s high pitched voice (David’s own voice recorded at half speed, then played back normally), a technique he would use to create all of the records for the rest of his career, including his next and lesser known novelty record “Bird on My Head” (1958)

This one is about a disgruntled man sitting in a parking lot, lamenting the lack of his life’s achievements with a similarly disgruntled bird sitting on his head. The characters in Seville’s arrangements never seem to come to resolution, which I find to be super intriguing.

The disgruntled character angle is another popular formula to be found in Seville’s records Including the earlier “The Trouble With Harry”

The entire Trouble With Harry record seems to be the narrator (David) complaining about how the Harry the piano player just plays the same song over and over. It’s a playful exchange with the listener in a sort of Looney Tune, or Woody Allen sort of way. Even though this is an earlier song, before his tape experimentation method, and under a different name (Alfi & Harry) this song is an important one in the trajectory of David’s career. The voice over instrumental tool is one very much in the tool kit of David’s Swan Song… Alvin and the Chipmunks.

At the end of 1958, David Seville applies all of his learned skills in to one perfect idea and creates The Chipmunks, “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)”. In another magical, low key shoutout, he names the Chipmunks after the founding members of Liberty Records Al Bennet, Simon Waronker, and Theodore Keep, respectively. The record comes just in time for Christmas… It’s a smash, selling 4.5 million copies in 7 weeks, and garnering the distinction of being the only Christmas record to ever reach number one on the charts.

Despite contrary belief David did the voice of all three Chipmunks. He and Liberty continued to make Chipmunks records until shortly before his death in 1972. But Chipmunk song would be his last #1 hit. In 1979 his son Ross Jr. took over the Chipmunk empire, became the voice of David Seville… and the rest is a billion dollar global success story that is ongoing to this day. All because Ross Bagdasarian Sr. convinced a few record execs to hang the fate of their company on pressing his record: a kooky, experimental, novelty song called Witch Doctor. Pretty Cool.

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Massive $1.00 Record Sale at Folksbier Brewery /Tasting Room — Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

August 10, 2017

BLACK GOLD to host the 17th Black Gold Gold Dig with friends at FOLKSBIER — right around the corner from their Court Street location (at 101 Luquer St, Brooklyn, NY 11231). Thousands and thousands of vinyl records will be available here for one day only at the low price of $1.00 each. This is a cash only sale! Expect all genres of music, LPs, 12″s,and 45s: promotional records, label overstock, new and used rock / jazz / blues / soul / funk / disco / indie / metal / foreign / soundtracks / oddball / dance / techno / electronic… the list goes on. 12pm Noon the doors open. Any questions call Black Gold at 347-227-8227. Tell your friends! ALL AGES – 21+ to drink! ¬†Find out more: Massive Vinyl Record Sale at Brooklyn Brewery.

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November 29, 2016

It’s time again for Black Gold’s BITS OF GOLD contest. The rules are as follows: Pictured are sixteen (16) close ups from popular LP album covers. Name as many as you can, listing from L to R, top to bottom. Any submission with at least one correct answer gets your name in the drawing x1, anyone who can get all 16 correct gets their name in the drawing x5. One entry per person please. Drawing will be held Thursday, Dec. 15th. Submit your answers by emailing info@blackgoldbrooklyn.com by noon 12/15/16. Prizes as follows: 1st place (x1) = $100 gift certificate good for anything at our Black Gold locations. 2nd place (x1) $50 gift certificate good for anything at our Black Gold locations. 3rd place (x1) Your choice of a Black Gold T-shirt or one pound of our coffee. No purchase necessary and we can ship your prizes to you if/when you win! Thanks and good luck.

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November 23, 2016

Check the new BLACK GOLD RECORDS ONLINE STORE — We plan to add some new items in the coming weeks, but for now you can get some orders in and have them shipped to you before the holidays hit!

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November 17, 2016

We are always buying and selling records in the New York City area. We travel and can pick up too! Call today to make an appointment! 347.227.8227.

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September 10, 2016

Black Gold Records pays the best prices for your old records! We are buying records in Brooklyn , and all other boros in NYC and beyond. We can come to you or you can bring them to us! No collection too big or too small — One of our friendly buyers would be more than happy to make you a fair deal. You can call and make an appointment by dialing 347-227-8227. We look forward to making you happy!

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August 5, 2016

Saturday, August 27th at 10 a.m. we will be opening the doors at the Morbid Anatomy Museum to offer somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 records all at $1.00 a piece! LPs, 12″s, and 45s will be in the lot, and there are literally tons of records for you to dig through. Expect to find promotional records, cut outs, doubles, overstock, dead stock, test pressings – from classic records to obscure records… much stuff overlooked just to make room in our storage space.
This event has been extremely successful in the past, so much so that the last Dig was too big for our Court Street location. Again, this record sale will be at the Morbid Anatomy Museum at 424-A 3rd Ave. Brooklyn NY and will end at 6 p.m. Saturday, August 27th.
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June 14, 2016

If you can’t make it to the shop or are just interested in seeing what other stock we have for sale, check out Black Gold Records Discogs page. We’re just getting rolling with it and it’s been a great experience so far!

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© Copyright 2012 Black Gold Brooklyn Inc.