Annette Funicello - The Music
Before there was Selena Gomez, before there was Hannah Montana, there was the original Disney actress who became a recording star - Annette.
She is known to some of us as a Mouseketeer. Some of us know her from the "Beach Party" movies. Some of us know her as the Skippy Peanut Butter woman. Regardless of where you know her from, Annette Funicello became a star of such caliber that, like Cher, her first name is all that is necessary in referring to her. This article is about the musical career of this Disney superstar.
In 1955 Annette was performing in a dance recital of Swan Lake. Walt Disney was in the audience and afterward signed her for "The Mickey Mouse Club." Annette quickly became the most popular Mouseketeer. She was given parts in several serials that were shown during the show including one called Walt Disney Presents: Annette. In this series, Annette performed a song "How Will I Know My Love." After that episode aired Disney studio was swamped with requests from people for that song. Walt Disney, who was always good at giving an audience what it wants, had an idea.
Annette was not happy when Walt told her that he was going to sign her to a recording contract. She insisted to Mr. Disney that she was NOT a singer. In the end, even though she did not trust her singing ability, she did have trust in Walt Disney. Disney hired Salvatore "Tutti" Amarata to form Disneyland Records and also to direct Annette's career and produce/arrange her records. The studio double tracked her voice and added echo to give it a fuller sound. Disney hired the Sherman Brothers to write Annette's songs, the first being "Tall Paul" which became the Sherman Brothers first top ten hit. The Shermans later referred to Annette as their "lucky star' because the work that they did for her resulted in Walt Disney signing them as staff songwriters. Later the Sherman Brothers won an Academy Award for their work on Mary Poppins. They composed quite a few songs for Disney studios including the soundtrack for The Jungle Book, The Aristocats and many other films.
The Song That Started It All
Tall Paul - A Top Ten Hit For Annette And The Sherman Brothers
Beach Blanket Bingo - Opening Credits
In the early '60s, Annette made a series of "Beach Party" movies for American International Pictures. Annette, wanting to please Walt Disney made sure that she always wore modest swimming suits in the movies. She also had Disney read and approve of the scripts. Often performing duets with Frankie Avalon, she furthered her music career through these films
Annette released thirteen studio albums between 1959 and 1964. In this time she had two top ten singles.
In 1984 Annette released an album of country songs called "Annette Funicello Country Album," this time without all the echo that was put on her earlier records. This was the kind of music Annette wanted to make - and she made it her way. In 1987, Annette and Frankie Avalon made a parody of their earlier beach movies called Back To The Beach. This star filled feature had appearances by Dick Dale, Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Tony Dow and Pee-wee Herman. It was enough of a success to make Frankie and Annette decide on touring with their music.
Annette Goes Country and Loses The Echo
Annette passed away in 2013 at age 70 due to complications from Multiple Sclerosis. Annette was never really considered a great singer or a great influence on music. She is no artist, but she never really claimed to be. In retrospect, her pop music was at least as good as much of the music of the period. It was fun, innocent and deserves a second listen.
In 2013 The Disney Channel movie Teen Beach Movie was dedicated to her memory.