Alvin’s Swinging Cousins

In 1959, a furious race began between two sets of squeaky voiced woodland creatures. You’re surely familiar with Alvin and the Chipmunks, that trio of furry vocalists with sped-up voices who had a thing for pop music. Well, they also had company. There was a bebopping duo known as the Nutty Squirrels, created by Alexander “Sascha” Burland and Don Elliott on sped-up vocals. The result sounded like Lambert, Hendricks and Ross on helium, and there even was a hit—Uh-Oh (a YouTube clip appears below). Saxophonist Hal McKusick told me about them. He was in the studio band along with Cannonball Adderley on the record date.

Here’s info from Wikipedia:

“After the Chipmunks’ initial success in 1958, plans were almost immediately made to make them into an animated Nutty_Squirrels-debut cartoon series. Unfortunately, there were some initial art direction snags (specifically with the character designs) and the show was delayed. This gap resulted in a race between the Chipmunks and an imitative group created by jazz musicians Don Elliott and Alexander “Sascha” Burland, which they called the Nutty Squirrels.

“Both musical groups featured the defining sped-up voices, Images but the Chipmunks favored popular music while the Squirrels favored jazz, particularly of the bebop variety. Ultimately, the Squirrels made it to television first, in the animated series The Nutty Squirrels Present (appearing in September 1960), but they were not as popular as the originals.”

I hate to say it, but it’s pretty cool stuff. Who was in the studio band? Don Elliott, Sascha Burland (vcl) acc by Hal McKusick, Cannonball Adderley (as) Bobby Jaspar (fl) Sam Most (fl,ts) Romeo Penque (fl,woodwinds) Sol Schlinger (bar) Al Casamenti, Mundell Lowe (g) Trigger Alpert and (b) James Campbell (d) with strings.

You’ll find the Nutty Squirrels’ Bird Watching at iTunes and here.

Wall Street Journal alert! Pick up today’s Wall Street Journal for my article on architect Henry Cobb and Boston’s John Hancock Building [pictured]. The tower’s sheer simplicity and geometric humility make it my favorite office building in the world. The tower opened to the general public 35 years ago to the day. I love it so much I traveled with Henry to Boston just to admire it. What can I tell you? I’m crazy about beauty in all its forms. If you’re a subscriber to the Wall Street Journal, go here.

Almost forgot—want a taste of the Squirrels? Here’s Uh-Oh…