This was a post I had done for Micechat and Doombuggies a while ago, but I thought I would post it here since it involves a lot of people who's work spanned into many classic Hollywood films and classic Disney films too.
I'm a huge fan of voice artist and studio singers in general, so this has always been a personal work of love for me. Many people who are fans of the mansion tend to all know Paul Frees (the Ghost Host), Eleanor Audley (Madame Leota), and Thurl Ravenscroft (the lead 'Uncle Theodore' singing bust) and their voice work for the mansion. But so many of the other great talents tend to go unnoticed, particularly my favorite are the graveyard singers. With the originals' replacement with new vocals at WDW last year (although thankfully they still have the originals at DL and Tokyo), I feel they never get the love they deserve, and I love that each vocal adds their own disctinction to the song. So here is my labor of love that I have been working for years, and years worth of information I've culled over and discovered to bring to you...
A TRIBUTE TO THE GRAVEYARD SINGERS
In the graveyard, after the singing busts, are the duke and duchess drinking wine at a small picnic table and singing in thick British accents. The duchess is voiced by Betty Wand, a long time Hollywood singing dubber. Not much I can find on Miss Wand, but from what I've found her credits includes a vocal dubber for Leslie Caron in Gigi, for South Pacific, and for Rita Moreno in West Side Story. She also worked as a steady chorus singer at MGM, and sung backup for Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Harry Belafonte. She also sings for one of the female birds in the Enchanted Tiki Room.
The duke is voiced by Bill Lee, a multi-talented, but seldom talked about, Disney singer and voice actor. For the group's entire formation from the 1940s to the 70s, Lee was the baritone singer for the Mello Men quartet, singing on the soundtracks for Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady And The Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book. The Mello Men also sang with many popular stars of the day, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney. Lee also had a career outside the Mello Men as a solo singer and dubber. He dubbed Christopher Plummer as the singing voice of Capt Von Trapp in The Sound Of Music, and Lt Cable in South Pacific. Lee also sang as various pirates in Pirates Of The Caribbean, and in the chorus for the Enchanted Tiki Room and Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. Besides the duke's voice, Lee's other solo moments for Disney include Roger's singing voice in 101 Dalmatians, the Bing Crosby impression during Let's All Sing Like The Birdies Sing for the Enchanted Tiki Room, the voice of Melvin The Moose in Country Bear Jamboree, and one of the geese quartet for America Sings. He can also be heard as Bert and Mr. Banks on the second cast recording Mary Poppins album from the 1960s, and numerous other singing and voice acting roles for the Disneyland Records label in the 1950s and 60s.
Next up is the hearse group, consisting of a coachman, duchess, corpse, and sea captain having a tea party and singing in hushed monotone voices. The voices are provided by Betty Wand once again, and Bill Days, Ernie Newton, and Allan Davies who we'll get to later.
The next group includes a mummy trying to mumble Grim Grinning Ghosts through a number of bandages, as an old man with a hearing horn shouts "Ehh! What's that?! LOUDER!"
The mummy is voiced by Allan Davies (second from the right). Davies was a singer for the well-known vocal group the Pied Pipers in the 1950s, making numerous appearances on television and movies, and backing up many popular recording artists. He also was a regular vocalist for The Johnny Mann Singers, and sang backup for Eartha Kitt and Fess Parker. In the 1960s, Davies worked as a choral arranger for Disney with Buddy Baker, his two most notable projects being the Mansion and Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, as well as singing in the chorus. In the 1980s, he contributed to Disney again, this time as a music contractor for the new soundtracks for the dark rides in the New Fantasyland. Davies can also be heard on the soundtracks for Mary Poppins and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.
The old man is voiced by Dallas McKennon (pictured with Fess Parker), a prolific voice actor for both Disney and other studios. McKennon appeared on screen in dozens of films and television shows. He's perhaps best known for his voice work, including his long career as the voice of Gumby. For Disney, McKennon's credits include one of the pound dogs in Lady And The Tramp, the owl hooting in Sleeping Beauty, and the fox in Mary Poppins. For the theme parks, McKennon can be heard as the voice of the narrator on the old Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland, Zeke in Country Bear Jamboree, Ben Franklin for Epcot's The American Adventure, and perhaps his best known "This here is the wildest ride in the wilderness!" for Big Thunder Mountain. McKennon was also a prolific voice actor for the Disneyland records label from the 1950s to the 80s.
Next, is a pair of Wagernian opera singers, with a fat soprano prima donna, and her skinny tenor Siegried.
Loulie Jean Norman provided the wailing crazy soprano for the opera singer. More than any other singer, Loulie has probably had the greatest brush with fame. Her credits include as a backup singer for Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Randy Newman, Dean Martin, and many, many others. Her other contributions in the industry include a chorus singer on many Hollywood musicals, and as a regular vocalist for the Ray Conniff Singers. Perhaps her best known work however remains as the singer of the Flipper theme song, the background soprano for The Tokens' famous hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight, and as the soprano who warbles out the theme to the Star Trek television series. For Disney, Loulie sang with the chorus for Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan, and for Great Moments With Mr Lincoln and the Carousel of Progress. She can be also heard as one of the voices for Bunny, Bubbles, and Beulah in Country Bear Jamboree. Coincidentally, before the Mansion, Loulie worked with Paul Frees on a Spike Jones horror-comedy themed album A Spooktacular In Screaming Sound. Frees voices Dracula, while Loulie provided the voice and vocals for Vampira.
Longtime Hollywood singer Bill Reeve sang as the tenor singer in the graveyard. Not much I've managed to uncover for Reeve other than the mansion, except for him as a chorus singer for the Enchanted Tiki Room, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, and America Sings. Reeve also work for MGM as a chorus singer on numerous movie musicals, and backed up Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Harry Belafonte, Dean Martin, and Fess Parker in the 1950s and 60s.
After them is the medieval trio, consisting of a decapitated German knight who holds his singing head in his hand, a fat and burly hooded executioner with an axe, and a short scruffy bearded prisoner with a ball and chain.
Ernie Newton provided the thick German accent for the decapitated knight. Newton's work includes as a Hollywood studio singer also for MGM for many musicals in the 1940s and 50s, and as a backup singer for Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Judy Garland. Newton also provided the singing voice of Boo-Boo for the special Hey There, It's Yogi Bear. His other vocal work for Disney includes Great Moments With Mr Lincoln, and as the voice of Pierre in the Enchanted Tiki Room, and several singing pirates with Thurl and Frees in the burning city for Pirates Of The Caribbean.
The great Candy Candido provides the voice of the gravelly executioner. Candy was a bass player in the 1930s and 40s, and a well-known personality himself on Jimmy Durante's radio show, and as an actor in films. Candido later became a voice actor, mostly for Disney. Some of his best-known parts include the angry apple tree in Wizard Of Oz, the Indian Chief in Peter Pan, one of Maleficent's goons in Sleeping Beauty, the Captain of the Guards in Robin Hood, and Fidget in The Great Mouse Detective.
The prisoner is voiced by Bill Days (pictured at far left, with a very young Thurl there too at far right). Days' high pitched voice is the one many mistake as the "voice of Mickey." Days worked with Thurl starting back in the 1930s, when both of them were vocalists for The Sportsmen quartet. The Sportsmen appeared in movies and on many popular radio shows at the time, including on the soundtrack of Pinocchio. While Thurl left the group for service in WWII, Days continued to stay with the quartet all the way into the 50s, where he backed up Bing Crosby on many songs, and appeared as regulars on The Jack Benny Show. I haven't been able to find if he's done other things for Disney other than the Mansion.
So there's my tribute to the graveyard singers. While many of them aren't well-known as some of their fellow Disney voice actors, I think their work and prolific careers alone speak for the tremendeous talent these people had.
If you have any feedback or questions about my tribute or the people, I would love to hear them here and what you think.