Animation + Rock = Fun: The Danny Hutton Interview
by Chris Davidson
Pal to big Brian Wilson, L.A. scenester of long-standing (and, oh yeah, one-third of Three Dog Night!), Danny Hutton will live forever in the collective bubblegum consciousness for one additional and amazing reason: he worked for the grandpappy of cartoon rock labels—Hanna Barbera Records. For a year beginning in 1965, Hutton acted as the label’s resident hip youngster and recorded three of the company’s best forays into the pure pop 45 market. He also lent vocals and studio know-how to the maddest cartoon rock album of all—Monster Shindig, a bizarre horror-rock conglomeration credited to “Super-Snooper and Blabber Mouse, the Gruesomes of the Flintstones, Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and the Wolf Man.” (What, no Morocco Mole?)
HBR hit with the Five Americans’ “I See the Light” during Hutton’s tenure with the label and went on to release a hefty amount of garage, light psych and pop over the next couple of years, including “Blue Theme” by the Hogs (AKA the Chocolate Watchband). While the majority of singles appear to have been one-off national distribution deals with bands experiencing regional chart noise, HBR long-players took the animated TV characters as a starting point and crafted dozens of mind-splitting vinyl adventures and hot session-man rock-and-roll.
Danny Hutton arrived at the start of HBR’s pop barnstorming.
Chris Davidson: How’d you get started with Hanna Barbera Records? Was that your first experience with a record label?
Danny Hutton: I was working in the warehouse for Disney/Buena Vista Records. I was basically a grunt during the day at work, but at night I hung around in the L.A. musician spots, like IHOP across from Hollywood High and Liberty Records, where I used to see Sonny & Cher, Jan & Dean, and those people. I had put out a couple of records already. My first was as the Chartermen on Invicta Records. It was called “Winken, Blinken and Nod.” This was done through Kim Fowley, who I was introduced to by Pat and Lolly Vegas. Kim actually lived up in my attic for awhile. I also had a single out on ALMO Records called “Home in Pasadena.” That was released as Daring Dan Hutton. Then I cut “Farmer’s Daughter” on Mercury as Basil Swift and the Seagrams. One day, a guy named Larry Goldberg contacted me. He was trying to get something happening at HBR. He was sort of an A&R guy, a hustler, not a musician. But he brought me into the deal as proof of his street credentials. I was a young musician, so HBR gave me a half-hour tryout. In that time, I wrote two songs, so they gave me a job!
CD: Did you cut the songs you wrote for the audition?
DH: Yes. The first song was called “Nothing at All.” I did all the vocal and instrumental parts on the record, and it was released as the Bats [HBR 445]. It was all me! The other song was “Big Bright Eyes,” which we recorded as the B-side. We did the whole session at Western Studios in six hours. I wrote “Big Bright Eyes” in the studio in ten minutes.
CD: That was one of the best singles on HBR. “Big Bright Eyes” was later a local hit for you in L.A.
DH: The version that later came out [HBR 453] under my name was the same version as the Bats, but with a different backing track. We took the original, which was more acoustic and made it more pop.
CD: What about “Roses and Rainbows,” your other L.A. hit before “Big Bright Eyes?” Wasn’t that the song they used for your appearance on The Flintstones?
DH: “Roses and Rainbows” was a big hit in town. I think it was helped along when Billboard featured it on a flexi disk in one of their issues. I really had no intention of performing live at the time. I considered myself a studio guy. But the label put the single out under my name [HBR447], set me up with a manager and started promoting me as a solo act. One day they asked if I wanted to be in The Flintstones, and right after that they showed me the finished product. I didn’t do anything. They just used the released version of “Roses and Rainbows” in the show. Funny story about The Flintstones. When I met my wife, Laurie, she told me she’d seen the episode I was in and fell in love with me on TV. She fell in love with me from the cartoon!
CD: Now, that’s a woman! Can you tell me about the flip to “Roses and Rainbows?”
DH: “Monster Shindig” was on the back.
CD: It’s a wild song and also the title track of a great HBR album [HLP2020]. Did you do the other songs on that record—“Super Snooper” and “The Monster Jerk?”
DH: That was me. I don’t remember the session too much, but I know I worked on that record. I contributed a lot to the albums being made at the time.
CD: What else do you recall about your time with the label? Did you run into any of the other acts?
DH: I was there from the very beginning, when they were just moving in the furniture. It was about a year all together. I always felt like it was more of an experiment than anything else, a cartoon company trying out the record business. The Guilloteens were being worked in L.A. [three singles on the label], but I never met the Five Americans. They never had a presence in L.A. It was a great time while it lasted, though, and definitely helped me get a leg up in the business.
Selected Discography of Hanna Barbera Records
SINGLE GROUP TITLE
HBR 445 The Bats Nothing At All / Big Bright Eyes
HBR 446 The Guilloteens I Don't Believe (Call On Me) / Hey You
HBR 447 Danny Hutton Roses and Rainbows / Monster Shindig
HBR 451 The Guilloteens For My Own / Don't Let The Rain Get You Down
HBR 453 Danny Hutton Big Bright Eyes/ Monster Shindig Part 2
HBR 454 Five Americans I See the Light / The Outcast
HBR 462 Art Grayson Be Ever Mine / When I Get Home
HBR 468 Five Americans EVOL Not Love / Don't Blame Me
HBR 472 Dale & Grace I'd Rather Be Free / Let Them Talk
HBR 473 Charles Christy In The Arms Of A Girl
HBR 476 Scat Man Crothers Golly Zonk! (It’s Scat Man) / What's A Nice Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This?"
HBR 477 The Dimensions (Five) She's Boss / Penny
HBR 482 The Tidal Waves Farmer John / She Left Me Alone
HBR 483 Five Americans Good Times / The Losing Game
HBR 485 Riot Squad I Take It We’re Through
HBR 486 The Guilloteens I Sit And Cry / Crying All Over My Time
HBR 488 Ron Gray Hold Back The Sunrise
HBR 489 Ronnie & Robyn Cradle Of Love / Dreamin'
HBR 492 13th Floor Elevators You’re Gonna Miss Me / Tried To Hide
HBR 494 Dynatones The Fife Piper / I Always Will
HBR 495 Scotty McKay Waikiki Beach / I'm Gonna Love You
HBR 500 Positively Thirteen O'Clock
Psychotic Reaction / 13 O' Clock Theme
HBR 501 The Tidal Waves Big Boy Pete / I Don't Need Love
HBR 506 Dewayne & the Beldettas Hurtin’
HBR 507 W.C. Fields Memorial Electric String Band
Hippy Elevator Operator /Don't Lose The Girl
HBR 508 The New Breed Want Ad Reader / One More For The Good Guys
HBR 509 The Four Gents Soul Sister / I've Been Trying
HBR 511 The Hogs Blue Theme / Loose Lip Sync Ship
HBR 513 Sunny Lane Tell It Like It Was / Trollin'
HBR 514 The Unrelated Segments
Story Of My Life / It's Unfair
HBR 515 The Tidal Waves Action (Speaks Louder Than Words) / Hot Stuff
HBR 516 The Timestoppers I Need Love / Fickle Frog
HBR ? The Countdowns Hold Back The Sunrise / The Shake
ALBUM GROUP TITLE
HLP 2020 Super-Snooper & Blabber Mouse Monster Shindig
HLP 2021 Flintstones Goldilocks
HLP 2023 Yogi Bear & Boo Boo Red Riding Hood & Jack and the Beanstalk
HLP 2024 Magilla Gorilla Alice in Wonderland
HLP 2025 Pixie & Dixie Cinderella
HLP 2026 Snagglepuss Tells The Story Of The Wizard Of Oz
HLP 2027 Wilma Flintstone Tells The Story Of Bambi
HLP 2028 Doggie Daddy Pinocchio
HLP 2029 Touche Turtle & Dum Dum The Reluctant Dragon
HLP 2030 Johnny Quest 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
HLP 2031 Top Cat Robin Hood
HLP 2037 Jetsons First Family on the Moon
HLP 2041 Atom Ant Muscle Magic
HLP 2043 Squiddly Diddly Surfin’ Surfari
HLP 8503 Five Americans I See The Light
HLP 8504 Renaissance Society Baroque ‘N Stones
HLP? Gene Kelly Jack and the Beanstalk TV Soundtrack
HLP ? Hillbilly Bears Hillbilly Shindig
HLP ? Winsome Witch It's Magic
HLP ? Flintstones & Jose Jiminez The Time Machine
HLP ? Yogi Bear Mad Mad Dr No No
HLP ? The Flintstones S.A.S.F.A.T.P.O.G.O.B.S.O.A.L.T.
HLP ? Precious Pupp Hot Rod Granny
HLP ? Secret Squirrel & Morocco Mole Super Spy
HLP ? Fred & Barney Mary Poppins
HLP ? Super-Snooper & Blabber Mouse James Bomb
HLP ? Jetsons First Family on the Moon
HLP ? Sinbad Jr. Treasure Island
HLP ? Pebbles & Bamm Bamm Good Ship Lollipop
Not to be confused with the similarly-titled BMG collection for which I wrote the notes in 2001 (see below). If you're seeking the most of this splendid bubblegum band you'll need to pick up both discs, as there are six songs on the earlier release not on this mainly singles selection, among them the essential "1910 Cotton Candy Castle." But if only one Fruitgum comp is in your future, it'd be hard to compete with this 28-track behemoth. I wish BMG had been as ambitious with their own vault artists as Germany's Repertoire label! You'd have to dig through a lot of scuffy vinyl to assemble a comparable analog collection spanning the short, delicious career of this most infantile of semi-imaginary Buddah combos. Kicking off with the schoolyard earworm hits (including "Simon Says," "Indian Giver" and "1-2-3 Red Light"), the disc also spotlights the band (or its studio doppelgangers) in its jazzy, psychedelic and garagey manifestations. The b-sides are highlights (and a rare chance to enjoy band-penned compositions), like the growling bad girl raver "No Good Annie," and the Chinese psych-out "Reflections from the Looking Glass." Equally great are the retarded (in a good way) "Sticky Sticky" and the Link-Wray-in-orbit stylings of "Baby Bret." The comp closes with several scarce Italian-language tracks, from the Fruitgums' late, barely-noticed Continental phase, including the exquisitely spooky "C'e Qualcosa Che Non Picardo Piu." The booklet includes notes from John Tracy and a selection of colorful 45 sleeves, sheet music covers and oddities.
Read Kim Cooper's notes from The Best of the 1910 Fruitgum Company.