Bugs hits Buffalo and Arkansas

Every once in a while, a friend will post a YouTube video that makes me smile, not just because the song in the video harkens back to a time when musicals were king, but because the heyday of musicals had some hilariously funny songs that reflects the truths of the day.  And that’s what kicked off this blog article:  A song from 1938 by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

Listening to the song, it brought to mind the many songs that found their way into cartoons of the day, most especially the Bugs Bunny cartoons.  In fact, it was thanks to Bugs Bunny that I first heard this song.

Before the Bugs Bunny cartoons, other cartoons made good use of popular songs of the day including “A Cup Of Coffee, Sandwich And You.”

Now strangely enough, one song was actually written for a cartoon — a Merry Melodies cartoon from 1932 titled “Freddy the Freshman.”  It was so popular that Harry Roy and RKOlians recorded and released a copy the following year.

Of course, some songs have fallen into disrepute for short periods of time, mostly because they became associated with certain types in a negative way.  The “Arkansas Traveler” which was also known as “Baby Bumble Bee” was one such song that was used in the Bugs Bunny cartoons that showcased a bashful buzzard.

The music was written by American teller of tall tales, fiddle player, and composer of popular fiddle tunes, Colonel Sanford C. ‘Sandy’ Faulkner (1806–1874).  A former Kentuckian who settled in Chicot County, Arkansas where he operated a large cotton plantation.  His wealth (having inherited three moderate sized fortunes) and his business sense was such that in time he purchased another large cotton plantation near Little Rock.

But, the man was a spendthrift who squandered most of his money soon after moving to Little Rock, and after defaulting on bank loans, he surrendered to the banks all of his slaves — 37 in all — along with all of his plantation property.  He did so willingly because he was a man of honor and to do anything less would be to dishonor his family name.

A few short years after declaring bankruptcy, he entered politics and announced his candidacy for Pulaski County representative to the General Assembly.  That career choice ended abysmally, and the Colonel never ventured down the political road again.  That being said, when the Civil War broke out three years later, the Colonel, ever honorable, became the military storekeeper in Little Rock.

These days anime and manga rely on music written specifically for the story arc, with all the humor and pop culture references lacking.  But back in the days of Bugs Bunny and Betty Boop, Merry Melodies and Fleischer Studios, things were different.  Different and intriguing and, dare I say, fun.  Loads of fun.

Elyse Bruce

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