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October 28, 2010

Country Bear Jamboree - Part Two

Yesterday I presented you with a history of Country Bear Jamboree. Now let’s take a look at the individual stars of the show.

Henry is the Master of Ceremonies for Country Bear Jamboree. He wears a dickey, high-starched collar, bow tie, and top hat. This gives him a formal look appropriate for hosting such a “classy” to-do. The backstory for Henry indicates that he was a football player who found music and changed careers.

Henry is voiced by Pete Renoudet who can also be heard announcing the arriving trains at Disneyland’s Main Street Station. In years past Renoudet was the voice of the Captain on the Rocket to the Moon attraction, First Officer Collins on the Mission to Mars ride, and Captain Nemo in the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea adventure.

Henry can be seen on three different stages during the performance. During the show he sings:

The Bear Band Serenade (with the Five Bear Rugs)
The Fractured Folk Song (with Wendell)
Mama Don't Whip Little Buford (with Wendell)
Davy Crockett (with Sammy)
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)
Come Again (with Sammy, Melvin, Buff, and Max)


Henry

Henry


Hanging on the wall we have (from left to right) Melvin, Buff, and Max.

Melvin is a dimwitted moose and voiced by Bill Lee. Bill Lee voiced a number of Disney characters including Roger’s singing voice in 101 Dalmatians and the Father in Cinderella. Lee was also a member of the Mellomen singing group.

Buff is a buffalo and the leader of the three talking heads. Buff is voiced by Disney Legend Thurl Ravenscroft (Tony the Tiger) who co-founded the Mellomen with Max Smith. This group lent their talents to such Disney films as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp.

Max is a stag and is also voiced by Pete Renoudet.


Melvin, Buff, and Max

Melvin, Buff, and Max


Gomer is the piano player and wears a high starched collar and blue necktie. The piano is adorned with cornstalks and a beehive sits on top with two straws for easy honey sippin’. Gomer never speaks or sings during the show.

Gomer tickles the ivories during the following numbers:

Pianjo
The Bear Band Serenade (accompanies The Five Bear Rugs - beginning only)
Tears Will Be the Chaser for My Wine (accompanies Trixie)
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)


Gomer

Gomer


The Five Bear Rugs are a country-western band consisting of Zeke, Zeb, Ted, Fred, and Tennessee. They perform the following numbers:

The Bear Band Serenade (with Henry)
Devilish Mary (Zeke as the soloist)
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)


Five Bear Rugs


Zeke is the leader of the group. He plays a banjo made out of an old frying pan and a chicken bone. With his left foot he bangs on a dishpan to create “a real ol’ country beat.” Zeke is an old codger and wears a collar, hat, and spectacles. Dallas McKennon provided the voice for Zeke from October 1971 to July 1975. McKennon’s distinctive voice can also be heard on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and as Ben Franklin in the American Adventure.

Randy Sparks took over the role of Zeke following McKennon. Sparks is a folk musician who is probably best known for cofounding The New Christy Minstrels.


Zeke

Zeke


Zeb plays a homemade fiddle with a hickory bow. He wears a miner’s hat and a red polka dot bandanna. He is voiced by a member of the Stoneman family.

“Pop” Stoneman was born on May 25, 1893. Music was in his blood and he played multiple instruments. After being a solo artist, Pop began to include his wife, 13 adult children, and extended family members in his performances. The group became so large and the music so varied that they frequently broke into "band segments." At times there were as many as six family bands simultaneously performing throughout the country.


Zeb

Zeb


Ted is rather lanky for a bear. He wears a tall hat and a white shirt. He plays the corn jug and we’re told he also plays the washboard which can be seen near his feet. A close observer will notice “B flat” printed on the side of his corn jug. Two additional jugs can also be seen near his feet sporting “E flat” and “F sharp.”


Ted

Ted


Fred is a big boy who learned to play the mouth-harp (harmonica) from his dad. He wears blue jeans held up by suspenders as well as a red and white striped tie.


Fred

Fred


Tennessee Bear plays the “thing,” a homemade guitar-like instrument with only one string. It sits on a bathroom plunger, has symbols attached to the side of the instrument, and a wooden bird and nest sit atop its neck. Tennessee is voiced by a member of the Stoneman family.


Tennessee

Tennessee


Baby Oscar is not part of the Five Bear Rugs, but is actually Zeb’s son. His constant companion is a teddy bear. Baby Oscar does not speak or sing, but contributes double-squeaks three times during the performance when he squeezes his teddy bear. Unlike all of the other bears, Baby Oscar wears no clothing.


Baby Oscar


Wendell plays the mandolin and wears a bowler hat and a blue bandanna. He has a bit of an overbite and a bit of an attitude. He is voiced by Bill Cole. Cole was part of the Mellomen singing group.

Wendell sings the following:

The Fractured Folk Song (with Henry)
Mama Don't Whip Little Buford (with Henry)
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)


Wendell

Wendell


It’s fairly obvious how Liver Lips McGrowl got his name. He plays the guitar and wears tattered overalls and a red-checked kerchief around his neck. Liver Lips is voiced by Van Stoneman, one of the Stoneman family members.

Liver Lips sings:

My Woman Ain't Pretty
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)


Liver Lips McGrowl

Liver Lips McGrowl


Trixie (aka Loser) is a little bit of ever-lovin’ cuddlesome fluff. She hails from Tampa and has a crush on Henry. She wears a blue tutu and a blue bow on her head. Trixie carries a handkerchief in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. A large perfume bottle can be seen near her feet.

Trixie only sings one song, "Tears Will Be the Chaser for My Wine" and does not appear in the grand finale. She was originally voiced by Wanda Jackson but was rerecorded by Cheryl Poole. In 1968, Cheryl Poole was voted Top New Female Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music


Trixie

Trixie


Terrence (aka Shaker) is from the Ozarks. He is tall and wears only a hat. He plays the ukulele and is voiced by Van Stoneman, one of the Stoneman family members.

Currently, Terrence’s hat covers his brow. However in years past, you could see his eyebrows do a “dance” at the end of his number.

Terrance performs:

How Long Will My Baby Be Gone
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)


Terrence

Terrence


The Sun Bonnet Trio hail from Florida and consist of Bunny, Bubbles, and Beulah. The triplets wear matching light blue dresses with sun bonnets and hold a handkerchief in their right hands.

Bunny, center stage, is voiced by Jackie Ward (aka Robin Ward). Ward is known as a “one-hit wonder” due to her 1963 million-selling smash "Wonderful Summer";

Bubbles stands to the audience's left, and is voiced by Loulie Jean Norman. Among Norman’s many accomplishments, she is the singer of the classic Star Trek theme as well as the soprano opera-singing ghost in the Haunted Mansion.

Beulah stands to the audience's right and is voiced by Peggy Clark.

The Sun Bonnet Trio perform the following numbers:

All the Guys That Turn Me On Turn Me Down
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)


Sun Bonnet Trio

Sun Bonnet Trio


Ernest (aka Dude) wears a derby, collar, and lilac polka dot bow tie. He plays the fiddle. Ernest was voiced by Van Stoneman until July 1975. He was rerecorded by Randy Sparks.

Ernest only sings "If Ya Can't Bite, Don't Growl" and does not appear in the grand finale.


Ernest

Ernest


Teddi Barra hails from the Dakotas and is alluring to a number of the cast members as is evident by their catcalls and whistles. Teddi descends from the ceiling on a rose-covered swing. She wears a feathered hat and a feather boa and carries a parasol. Teddi does not play an instrument. She was originally voiced by country singer Jean Shepard but Patsy Stoneman (Stoneman family member) now provides the vocal.

Teddi Barra sings:

Heart We Did All That We Could
Old Slew Foot (entire cast)


Teddi Barra

Teddi Barra


Big Al is perhaps the “biggest” star of the show. Even before his curtain opens, the off-tune strums of his guitar brings laughter from the audience. Al has a personalized guitar and wears a red vest and hat. Al is voiced by Tex Ritter. Ritter is possibly the best known name of the voice actors in this show. His credits include Country Music Hall of Fame member, movie actor, and father to John Ritter of “Three’s Company” fame.

Big Al only sings “Blood on the Saddle.” Even during the grand finale, he continues with this piece while everyone else sings “Old Slew Foot.”

A continuation of the song goes like this:

There was blood on the saddle, blood all around
And a great big puddle of blood on the ground

The cowboy lay in it, all covered with gore
He'll never ride tall in the saddle no more

Oh pity the cowboy, all bloody and dead
A bronco fell on him and mashed in his head


Big Al

Big Al


Sammy is Henry’s raccoon friend and is voiced by Bill Cole.

It’s appropriate that Sammy should be resting on Henry’s head while he sings Davy Crockett. Walt’s 1950’s television program “Disneyland” featured three “Davy Crockett” episodes starring Fess Parker – who wore a coonskin cap. The show was a huge hit and the hat became a tremendous fad among boys all over the United States (I owned one). A variation of the cap was marketed to young girls as the Polly Crockett hat (Davy’s wife). BTW, synthetic fur was used.

Here’s another little known fact. Davy Crockett was not born in Tennessee as the Disney song suggests. He was born in the State of Franklin. Don’t believe me? Look it up.


Sammy


Well that’s it for Country Bear Jamboree. I hope I’ve brought back some pleasant memories and provided you with some new information about the show.

In my never-ending endeavor to bring you quality videos, I sat through (endured) Country Bear Jamboree five times in a row so I could film it from five different vantage points. I hope you enjoy my efforts (and sacrifice – LOL).




October 27, 2010

Country Bear Jamboree - Part One

Our story about Country Bear Jamboree begins with the 1960 Winter Olympics held in Squaw Valley, California. Walt Disney had been selected as the Chairman of Pageantry and John Hench was chosen to design the Olympic Torch. This first picture is of a plaque attached to one of the official Olympic flagpoles at Squaw Valley. It displays a relief of Walt’s signature.


Olympic Flagpole


Walt was struck by the area’s alpine beauty and felt that the creation of a family oriented resort would be an asset to the public and help diversify his company. At the games conclusion, Walt began a search of existing and potential sites around the United States to achieve this goal.

In 1965 the U.S. Forest Service requested public bids for the development of Mineral King in the Sequoia National Forest in California. It was believed that this area had the potential to support year-round recreation. Mineral King is a subalpine glacial valley with a lower elevation of 7,400 feet with surrounding granite peaks rising to around 11,000 feet.

Mineral King


The Disney Company entered public bidding against five other organizations. In December of that year, Disney won out and was awarded a three-year planning permit. The Company spent $750K in research and planning and in January 1969 received final approval of its developmental master plan.

Disney proposed spending $35M to create a self-contained village, ski-lifts, and overnight accommodations for year-round use. In an effort to be sensitive to the fragile environment, plans called for the complete elimination of automobiles from the valley floor. Guests would be required to park at a lower elevation and be transported to the resort by an electric cog-assist railway. The State of California pledged $650K to build an all-weather access road to the “drop-off” location. Then Governor Ronald Reagan and a number of other high ranking state officials all went on record supporting the plan.


Mineral King Concept Drawing


Walt knew that the resort would offer plenty of daytime activities with skiing during the winter and hiking and camping during the warmer months. But he felt some sort of Disney entertainment was needed after the sun set. He believed that a show featuring bears would be apropos to the surroundings and be good for a few laughs. He assigned the project to Marc Davis who had been instrumental in developing characters for the Enchanted Tiki Room, Carousel of Progress, and Pirates of the Caribbean.


Marc Davis and Walt Disney


Working with Al Bertino, Marc came up with a number of concepts. One featured a bear marching band. Another, Dixieland bears. Even a bear mariachi band was considered. One day in late 1966, Walt walked into Marc’s office, took a look at some of his concept drawings, and told him that he loved the characters. As Walt readied to leave, he uncharacteristically said “Good bye” as he walked out the door. This was the last time Marc ever saw Walt alive. A few days later, Walt died on December 15th.

As plans progressed, it was decided to give the bears a country-western persona and feature them in the Mineral King Resort’s Bear Band Restaurant Show. Although difficult to see in this Marc Davis drawing, the names were slightly different in the beginning. From left to right they are as follows: Lil’ Lemonade Bear, Big Fred, Old Zeke, Cousin Ted, and Brother Zeb.


Five Bear Rugs Concept Drawing


To hear a one minute excerpt from a Mineral King demo recording, check out the following link.



Jumping back in time about 76 years we find naturalist John Muir, journalist Robert Underwood Johnson and businessman Galen Clark campaigning to create Yosemite National Park. They achieved their goal in 1890. Muir was also interested in safeguarding the entire Sierra Nevada Mountains and was instrumental in the formation of the Sierra Club. This organization promotes responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems, protection of natural and human environments, education, and lawful means to carry out their objectives. Muir was elected the organization’s first president and served in this capacity until his death in 1914. The Sierra Club fought many environmental battles over the years and they saw the Mineral King project as one more encroachment into pristine and unspoiled land.

In June 1969, six months after the Disney Company unveiled its master plan for Mineral King, the Sierra Club filed suit in a Federal District Court to prevent officials of the Departments of Agriculture and Interior from issuing the permits necessary for work to begin. The case proceeded through the judicial system and eventually landed in the United States Supreme Court where arguments were presented on November 17, 1971.

During the entire legal battle, Disney steadfastly stood by their plans but suspended all investments until the case was settled. Eventually, the Sierra Club prevailed and the Mineral King project was scrapped. Disney was never a part of the legal battle. This was strictly between the Sierra Club and the U.S. Government.

From 1974 through 1977, Disney tried to resurrect their plans for a mountain resort at Independence Lake in Northern California. Once again, legal entanglements eventually doomed the project.


Independence Lake

Independence Lake Concept Drawing


While the Mineral King Project was mired in legal red tape, Disney was also hard at work planning and building Walt Disney World. Sensing the inevitable outcome, the Imagineers shifted gears and took a new look at the singing bears and felt that Frontierland would be the perfect home for these ursine stars. Imagineer X Atencio and musical director George Bruns were brought on board to pull together the score. Here we see star-of-the-show Henry receiving some last minute instructions from his acting coaches.


Henry and his Acting Coaches


Country Bear Jamboree was an opening day attraction at the Magic Kingdom (October 1, 1971). The presentation is housed in Grizzly Hall and the theater can hold approximately 350 guests. The show runs just shy of 16 minutes.


Grizzly Hall

Grizzly Hall


There are a few interesting details around the exterior of the theater. High about the “Country Bear Jamboree” sign, are two bearskin rugs hanging on the wall. If you think about it, this is rather ghoulish considering who performs inside.


Bear Skin Rug


If you look closely at the pendulum on the clock near the entrance, you’ll see the letters CBJ engraved in the metal.

Country Bear Clock

Pendulum with Engraving


Across the street from Grizzly Hall is Big Al’s cabin and former home. With the success of the show, Al decided to cash in on the tourist trade and his home now acts as a merchandise stall and sells frontier souvenirs.


Big Al's Cabin

Big Al Sign


Disney was extremely pleased with the popularity of the show in Florida. East Coast guests loved the wacky bears and would eagerly stomp their feet and clap their hands when instructed to do so.

Less than six months after Country Bear Jamboree premiered at the Magic Kingdom, an entirely new land opened at Disneyland. On March 24, 1972, Bear Country debuted, replacing the Indian Village located in the far northwest corner of Disneyland.


Indian Village

Country Bear Playhouse


Besides a recreation of Country Bear Jamboree, this new land featured Teddi Berra’s Swingin’ Arcade, Davey Crockett’s Explore Canoes (formerly the Indian War Canoes) and a new restaurant named Golden Bear Lodge. It’s interesting to note, Disney received so many requests from guests wishing to “lodge” at the Golden Bear Lodge that they renamed the facility Hungry Bear Restaurant to avoid confusion. With the opening of Splash Mountain in 1989, Bear Country was renamed Critter Country to accommodate all of its new inhabitants.

At Disneyland, the Imagineers built two identical theaters for the Country Bear Jamboree attraction, thus doubling the capacity. However, the West Coast reaction to the show never approached that of the Magic Kingdom’s. Overall, audiences were blasé about the presentation and there wasn’t a lot of foot stompin’ and hand clappin’. Bear Country was often deserted after sunset. Even the addition of Splash Mountain did little to boost the attendance. The Country Bear Playhouse closed at Disneyland on September 9, 2001 to make room for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Tokyo Disneyland also received a copy of the show and it was an opening day attraction (April 15, 1983). Like Disneyland, this park had two theaters, however it plays to large audiences throughout the day. It’s interesting to note, the spoken dialogue is in Japanese, but several of the songs are sung in English. Another subtle difference in the Tokyo version of this show is that the curtains behind the bears are black rather than red.

This attraction was not duplicated at Disneyland Paris or Hong Kong Disneyland.


Tokyo Country Bear Jamboree

Henry with Black Curtain


To give you an idea of what it’s like to see Country Bear Jamboree in Tokyo, I have created a two minute video. I have only included selections presented in Japanese since the English songs are the same recordings we hear in the States. It’s fun to pick out the English names and words that are sprinkled into the songs. This was filmed seven years ago with an inferior camera to what I use today.



On December 19, 1984, Disney introduced the Country Bear Christmas Special. Directed and animated by Dave Feiten and Mike Sprout, this show featured holiday songs, new outfits, and the replacement of Terrence (aka Shaker) with a lookalike polar bear. The show was presented each year from mid-November through early January. After a short rehab, the original Country Bear Jamboree show would return and play for the rest of the year. Country Bear Christmas Special was the first “interchangeable” Disney attraction. This show enjoyed holiday runs through 2005. Disney never made any official acknowledgment as to why this show did not return in 2006, but budget cuts were probably the culprit.


Christmas Show & Polar Bear


In the spring of 1986, the Vacation Hoedown show debuted at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. This variation on the original production featured the bears enjoying nature and the joys of summer travel. Most of the cast was given a new outfit and/or prop that in some way represented outdoor activities. The one variation to the cast was the elimination of Sammy, Henry’s raccoon pal, to be replaced by Randy the skunk.

Although the show was well received, it failed to maintain the numbers of its predecessor at the Magic Kingdom. So on February 1, 1992, Vacation Hoedown was retired after just five years and the original Country Bear Jamboree returned. At Disneyland, Vacation Hoedown played until the attraction was closed. At Tokyo Disneyland, all three shows, Country Bear Jamboree, Vacation Hoedown, and Country Bear Christmas Special cycle through the year.

Except for the busiest days, Country Bear Jamboree does not open until 10am at the Magic Kingdom. Most people are running for Dumbo, Peter Pan, and the thrill rides during the first hour of operation.

That’s it for Part One of Country Bear Jamboree. Check back tomorrow when I discuss the stars of the show.



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About Country Bear Jamboree

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the Country Bear Jamboree category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Diamond Horseshoe is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.