Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
Alvin and the Chipmunks have been part of American pop culture for almost 50 years.
Their body of work includes a beloved Christmas classic.
Their origin is a fascinating story of ingenuity and entrepreneurship.
Radio and TV reporter/anchor and blogger Michael Manning has the inside scoop on Alvin and the Chipmunks and their contribution to Christmas music history:
In 1958, the real live voice of "Dave Seville" (Ross Bagdasarian) was the father of 3 children; he was up to his ears in debt and down to his last $200. So he spent $190 to buy a tape recorder and experimented with children's songs and piano tracks slowed to half speed.
Recording label Liberty Records was on the brink of bankruptcy and refused his idea of a funny Alvin and the Chipmunks jingle. They relented when he told the executives: basically (I'm paraphrasing) 'Look, what do you have to lose? If you're going down the drain anyway you will go down with my song.' They agreed and the song, "The Witch Doctor" lit up switchboards at radio stations all over the country.
The names he created came from the top brass at Liberty. Al Bennet ("Alvin"), Si Waronker ("Simon") and Ted Keep ("Theodore"). Personality-wise Alvin was the spunky guy and the shortest. He had a tendency to "Jump before you think!". "Simon" (my favorite as a kid) wore eyeglasses like Buddy Holly and had an IQ "just north of Einstein" (I remember him playing an upright bass and that he tapped his foot--that made him "cool" in my eyes as a 5 year old cartoon fan). I'm told that privately, he worried that he came from the same gene pool as Alvin. Ha! "Theodore" was the simple brother of the three who often giggled, was sensitive, shy and an easy target for Alvin's schemes. "Dave Seville" (the last name came from Spain where creator Ross was stationed during World War II) played the single father who had to reign in the three with his screaming "AL-VIN!!!"
Truth be told, his son Ross Junior, says that his father couldn't see his long last name fitting on a 45 r.p.m. record label--so he chose "Dave Seville". Let's cut to the chase.
On November 7th 1958 the group's "Christmas Song" was released. Liberty was about to go under again even after the success of "The Witch Doctor" and no one wanted to play "The Christmas Song" so early in the season.
So, Ross ingeniously managed to get a small AM radio station in Minneapolis to try it. The result was unreal. Liberty soon had orders for 550,000 45 r.p.m. records! They printed the record labels in Green but ran out of that color. So, they switched to Blue until they ran out of that color. Then Black labels. Then White labels. Lingerie and flower shops sold the 45's like hotcakes. Liberty Records ran out of trucks and switched to vans, ran out of vans and used station wagons and resorted to everything except using Cub Scouts pulling Little Red Wagons!
Ross died suddenly in 1972 but his son, Ross Junior continues to run the Chipmunk empire--a cottage industry which included at one time or another: Chipmunk harmonicas (I love it!), lunchboxes, movies, cigarette lighters, a game board, singing greeting cards, charm links, bracelets, cuff links, comic books, a TV show, you name it! Now the lyrics--all parts were sung by Ross Sr. and the song included part-banter part-singing with the Chipmunks talking back to poor "Dave Seville".
So, gather all the kids around the computer for an animated Christmas treasure: Alvin and the Chipmunks from their TV series and the Chipmunk song: