September 26, 2011

Disneyland family

The Disneyland Cast was once a family. This fabulous 1979 video clip by a former character focuses on the old Zoo Crew, but these people could have been part of any work location back then. Attractions, Merchandise, Outdoor Vending, Custodial—whatever the department, it was as much group of dear friends as collection of co-workers.

I was part of it all too briefly in the early '80s until things began to change into what they are now. If you were around in those days, you'll recall how special we felt as Disneylanders. We reentered the world outside the berm after our shifts, but we didn't leave the place inside. We worked together, played together, dated, sometimes even married each other.

Our fellow Cast Members were like brothers and sisters, a family presenting family entertainment as if we had invited guests to our own home. It was an era that will never be again. If you never worked for Walt Disney Productions, take a look at the video for a glimpse of how it felt. If you did, watching will feel like a reunion.

Sometimes I miss you, Disneyland—and the friends who were you—so, so much.

September 4, 2011

Only high-class stuff

There were a lot of Country Bears, and each one's song has a story. But yesterday's Disneyland had a lot of stories that I want to remember and share. As Henry used to say, "We've got work to do."

So we'll mosey on out of Bear Country in just a spell. First, though, here's one of the best of the bear bunch. Wendell was a smart-alecky character who made a fine foil for Henry, the Jamboree's amiable host. The two wrestled a little, but then settled down to add a couple of short numbers that characterized the wonderful qualities that you used to be able to find in the backwoods corner of the Magic Kingdom. They were folksy, even corny at times—but so was Walt.

Wendell and Henry channelled Homer and Jethro, "the stage names of American country music duo Henry D. Haynes (1920–1971) and Kenneth C. Burns (1920–1989), popular from the 1940s through the 1960s on radio and television for their satirical versions of popular songs. Known as the Thinking Man's Hillbillies, they received a Grammy in 1959 and are members of the Country Music Hall of Fame."

"Mama, don't whup little Buford" was a song on the duo's 1964 LP, "Fractured Folk Songs." So was the title track. Listening to these old recordings will take you right back to setting on one of those long benches as part of the bears' audience. Even the back-and-forth banter between Henry and Wendell ("If ya can't cut it, just lay out") was part of the original song.

I hope you've enjoyed this series on the music behind the bears. The next time you're splashing down Disneyland's version of Magic Mountain's Log Jammer, listen for an echo of the songs that floated through the old Bear Country. And if you step in Pooh Corner, keep your eyes open for the "high-class stuff" that used to be part of the Show.