Thursday, December 09, 2010


Stan Freberg wrote some nicely cynical songs, including the seasonal classic "Green Christmas." He usually sang his own material, but an exception is "Money," which was recorded by both Paul Frees and Mel Blanc.

My guess is that both versions came out around the same time, but it's hard to say who got there first. Blanc's version is in print via "The Best of Mel Blanc" from Collectors' Choice, but since they don't have a budget for decent album notes, the chintzy fold-out booklet barely has room for a few paragraphs of information. No release dates are included. Mel was issuing novelty singles on Capitol as early as 1949. His album "Party Panic" arrived in 1953. "Money" could've come out the following year. Paul's definitely did.

The Frees version was recorded on the obscure Century Records label in both 78rpm and 45 rpm forms in 1954. He usually released things under his own name, but this one's credited to "Big Jim" Buchanan. The name may have been a loudmouth conman character he created during his stand-up or radio days.

I'll give the nod for best version to Paul Frees (and not just because I cherish speaking to Frees, and never had the chance to encounter Mel Blanc.) The song is simply better suited to Frees, who talk-sings it with a W.C. Fieldsian sense of glorious corruption, and an almost obscene appreciation for filthy lucre. Blanc, who tries a similar tone, probably would've done better going for cartoonish laughs and using his Daffy Duck voice (although toward the end he can't resist a kind of Woody Woodpecker chuckle.)

Younger fans of musical dementia know that "Money" was covered twice by The Muppets…first on an episode of "The Mike Douglas Show" by a failed puppet character called Tommy, and later by the garishly memorable Dr. Teeth on a Jim Nabors-hosted episode of "The Muppet Show." This time of year…is the perfect time to hear this crass rap about the almighty dollar.

MONEY by Paul Frees as BIG JIM BUCHANAN Instant download or listen on line. No capcha codes, wait times or money extortion.


hubbit said...

I did a Google search for the words Money Raskin Freberg, trying to see if sheet music was in print, when I stumbled over a trade ad for the Paul Frees version of "Money" in the March 13, 1954 issue of Billboard.

The March 6, 1954 edition has a review of the Frees record, while the issue of April 17, 1964 manages to get Frees, Blanc, Tex Williams, and Lennie Forrest on the same page, incidentally mentioning that Mel Blanc's version was issued as Capitol 2764.

Blanc's version appears in the "Latest Release" column of the March 24, 1954 issue, so I'm going to hazard a guess that the Mel Blanc version was released less than a month after the Paul Frees/Big Jim Buchanan version was.

There ultimately seems to have been at least four versions released nearly simultaneously, which was standard practice back in the days when music publishers were hitting up every record company in the business, and often getting more than one artist to record the same thing at the same time.

Timmy said...

An excellent song. Paul Frees had THEE voice God wanted but couldn't tolerate. Thanx so much for this gem......

Ill Folks said...

Thanks for the great comments.

The trade ad in Billboard...typical of Paul Frees not to have put a face on "Big Jim" Buchanan. He once told me that he preferred to stay out of the spotlight. Yet the promo sheet sent out by his agency, Charles Stern, had a very nice portrait shot of him on it.

A few years later, I was very surprised when he released "Poster People" with a clear picture of himself for all the world to see. Wish he'd done more interviews and TV appearances.

He was a great, great talent.

Ted Hering said...

Paul was interviewed on the Joe Pyne TV Show (Los Angeles talk show)in the mid 1960s. I wish I'd taped it (even the audio would be interesting to hear again).

Ill Folks said...

Thanks, Ted!

I don't have the "expanded" Frees bio. Maybe it mentions Pyne?

I do remember Paul and June Foray on "Truth or Consequences," way before I owned a reel-to-reel. So many great (well, to us) items have been lost due to video tapes wiped and re-used.

Nobody thought to keep an archive of Pyne, Alan Burke, Soupy Sales...

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. I finally stumbled upon your article trying to find the Big Jim version after hearing it on the radio. Thanks for making it available. I love how greasy he makes his character sound!

Bobby Boy said...

I have the "Buchanan" version on a 78 that I bought when the music store where I worked in 1957-58 was closing out the "Big Ten-inch Records". This would have been long before the advent of Dr. Demento, although I was already a fan of Tom Lehrer, Spike Jones and Stan Freberg. I wasn't aware of the Mel Blanc version, although the "Man of a Thousand Voices" gets mentioned among railway enthusiasts for his "Train leaving on Track Five for Anaheim, Azusa and Cuuuuuuuc--amonga" announcement that was part of the old Jack Benny radio show.