On this day in music history: July 12, 1963 – “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter From Camp)” by Allan Sherman is released. Written by Allan Sherman, Lou Busch and Amilcare Ponchielli, it is the biggest hit for the comedian, writer, producer and actor from Chicago, IL. Born Alan Copelon into a Jewish family, humor becomes a refuge for him in childhood, to cope with an unhappy home life. With his parents divorcing while he’s still in grade school, Alan adopts his mother’s maiden name “Sherman”. Entering the entertainment business in the early 50’s and known as Allan Sherman, he records a parody of the song “A Bushel And A Peck” (from the musical “Guys And Dolls”) as "A Satchel and a Seck". Though the record is not successful, the comedian finds greater success a decade later in the realm of song parody. In the meantime, Sherman becomes a television producer. Producer Mark Goodson (“The Price Is Right”, “Match Game”, “To Tell The Truth”, “What’s My Line?”), takes Sherman’s idea for a game show titled “I Know A Secret”, develops it into the highly successful and long running “I’ve Got A Secret”. Also working as a writer on the show, Sherman remains with the program until 1958, when he is fired. The comedian works on The Steve Allen Show until 1961, until he is also fired from that job. Suddenly on the unemployment line, Sherman’s next opportunity comes from an unlikely source. Next door neighbors with comic legend Harpo Marx, he invites Allan to perform his song parodies at parties, attended by Marx’s celebrity friends. At one party, comedian George Burns hears Sherman, who immediately recommends to an executive friend at Warner Bros. Records, sign the young comedian. Infused with his own unique sense of humor, often poking fun at his Jewish religious background, Allan Sherman’s first two albums, “My Son, The Folk Singer” and “My Son, The Celebrity” (released in mid 1962 and early 1963), both hit number one on the Billboard Pop album charts, selling over a million copies each. He finds his greatest success in the Summer of 1963, with his third album “My Son, The Nut”. Sherman would almost exclusively parody songs that were in the public domain, since songwriters like Rodgers & Hammerstein and Irving Berlin would not grant permission for their songs to be used for that purpose. The comedian writes a hilarous ode to Summer with “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter From Camp)”. Written and sung from the perspective of a young boy sent off to summer camp by his parents, he spins an outrageous tale of woe. He begs his parents to let him come home, after detailing incidents of heavy rain, food poisoning and missing fellow campers in his letter. The pay off comes at the end when conditions at the camp suddenly improve, the boy tells his parents to “kindly disregard this letter”. Performed in front of a live audience, and sung to Italian classical composer Ponchielli’s “Dance Of The Hours”, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!” quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #45 on August 3, 1963, it catapults up the chart, peaking three weeks later at #2 on August 24, 1963 (behind Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips Pt. 2” and The Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back”). The album “My Son, The Nut” spends eight weeks at the top of the Billboard Pop album chart. In spite of his enormous success as a parody artist, Allan Sherman’s run at the top is short lived. Releasing five more albums between 1964 and 1967, none match the sales of the first three, and the comedian is dropped by Warner Bros. Though in the interim, Sherman discovers comedian Bill Cosby, producing his first two albums, and frequently appearing on television. Sadly, his career goes into a decline by the late 60’s, as Sherman is hampered by divorce, health and financial problems. His final work is as the voice of Dr. Seuss character The Cat In The Hat in two animated specials. Allan Sherman dies of a heart attack on November 20, 1973, at the age of 48. In later years, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!” is adapted into a musical revue, with the song also being used in television commercials, for Downy fabric softener and K9 Advantix. The late comedian is also fondly remembered in episodes of “The Simpsons”, with one featuring parody artist “Weird Al” Yankovic.
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