Elderly Man River by Stan Freberg (and Daws Butler)

Elderly Man River by Stan Freberg (and Daws Butler)Who on earth is Stan Freberg ?

Begin with voiceover talent for Warner’s and Disney; add comedian, writer, songwriter, radio star, TV pioneer and character actor, and, arguably, the first person to use actual humor – you know, genuinely funny stuff – in many wildly successful and memorable advertising campaigns ( twenty-one Clio awards, friends ).

I won’t even begin to reprise Freberg’s amazing career; the first link above takes you to Wikipedia, where you can learn the man’s impressive story.

I was lucky enough to find a 2 LP copy of The Best Of The Stan Freberg Show (radio, they were talking about) in my parent’s record collection as a kid; it’s had a permanent effect on me – mostly for the better. Freberg teamed with Peter Leeds, Daws Butler, and June Foray in the last-ever national network comedy program, which didn’t last long; CBS axed it after 15 weeks due to lack of sponsors, and because everyone was watching TV.

Before they disappeared, they recorded genius bit after genius bit; what I’m posting here today has been posted other places before, but there’s a good chance a lot of people will be hearing it here for the first time. It predates the political correctness movement and the religious Right’s repression by more than 30 years.

From Wikipedia:

Freberg frequently complained of radio network interference. Another sketch from the CBS show, “Elderly Man River”, anticipated the Political Correctness movement by decades. Daws Butler plays “Mr. Tweedly,” a representative of a fictional citizens’ radio review board, who constantly interrupts Freberg with a loud buzzer as Freberg attempts to sing “Old Man River”. Tweedly objects first to the word “old”, “which some of our more elderly citizens find distasteful.” As a result, the song’s lyrics are progressively and painfully distorted, as Freberg struggles to turn the classic song into a form which Tweedly will find acceptable “to the tiny tots” listening at home: “He don’t, er, doesn’t plant ‘taters, er, potatoes… he doesn’t pick cotton, er, cotting… and them-these-those that plants them are soon forgotting,” a lyric of which Freberg is particularly proud. Even when the censor finds Freberg’s machinations acceptable, the constant interruption ultimately brings the song to a grinding halt (just before Freberg would have had to edit the line “You gets a little drunk and you lands in jail”), furnishing the moral and the punchline of the sketch at once. The performance skewered political correctness about thirty years before the term even existed.

Elderly Man River by Stan Freberg (and Daws Butler)

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