The Lady In Red

Growing up, we didn’t have non-stop anime to keep us entertained.  Instead we had to wait for Saturday morning cartoons, and most especially, we had to wait for the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner Show.

Back then, we didn’t realize that most of the songs used in those cartoons were from other movies and revues that dated back to when our grandparents were young adults.  We had no idea who the songwriters were or the recording artists and movie stars who were famous for these songs.  But we knew the songs, for better or worse.

When Bugs hit our TV screens in “Windblown Hare” he sang about being the rabbit in red.

The song was from the movie, “In Caliente” from 1935 and was a popular Busby Berkeley (29 November 1895 – 14 March 1976) number.  Busby was a Hollywood movie director and choreographer known for his elaborate musical production numbers the incorporated complex geometric patterns.  Interestingly enough, Busby never had a dance lesson a day in his life, and he was afraid that someone might find out and leak the information to the studios.  All that being said, he did a fine job with this song.

That same year, American singer, actor, songwriter, and trumpeter Louis Prima (7 December 1910 – 24 August 1978) and His New Orleans Gang recorded a version of the song which became a hit for him as well.  Louis was also an interesting character who grew up in New Orleans’ French Quarter and studied violin even though he longed to learn trumpet like his older brother, Leon.

Not to be outdone, American jazz bandleader and arranger Joe Haymes (10 February 1907 – 10 July 1964) and his orchestra recorded the song as a fox trot with Clifford Weston on vocals, and scored a hit with his version as well.  He had been an arranger for Ted Weems in 1928, but when 1930 hit, he struck out on his own.  Five years later, he enjoyed a modicum of success with recording like this one keeping his name in the limelight.

In 1940, Big Band Leader Xavier Cugat (1 January 1900 – 27 October 1990) and his orchestra recorded this catchy rumba for the RCA Victor label with vocals by Don Reld. Xavier Cugat was born in Spain, and grew up in Cuba, but as soon as he could, he moved to Los Angeles and worked at the Los Angeles Times newspaper as a cartoonist as he worked hard to assemble a band.  He began to make waves as the 1940s hit (he was nicknamed “The Rumba King”) and part of his success was due to this recording.

It was later recorded by Cuban-born American musician, actor and television producer Desi Arnaz (2 March 1917 — 2 December 1986).  The song was performed by Desi on the “I Love Lucy” show.  He had cut his teeth on the music business as a member of Xavier Cugat’s orchestra, and after leaving Xavier, his music launched the conga craze that swept America.

And this is yet another example of how a well-loved song made its way into Saturday morning cartoons decades ago.  Now aren’t you happy you took the time to listen to all those videos?

Elyse Bruce


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