In my earlier post, The Mysteries Five, I speculated about the possible influence of a song on the choice of name for the popular cartoon character Scooby Doo. I was recently contacted by one of the contributors to a part of the Scooby Doo page on Wikipedia (see update and comment to the original post for details). An interesting piece of information to come out of our communication was the fact that a well known writer on many animation series, including Scooby Doo, Mark Evanier, has also expressed an opinion that a song may have inspired the name Scooby Doo.
In an item on his own news website, POVONLINE – NEWS from ME, on June 10th 2002, he suggested that the song Denise by Randy and the Rainbows (1963), which has a repeated phrase, “scooby doo”, rather than the more common doobee-doo, may have been the inspiration for the name of the well known and much loved cartoon character! I think that the idea has good reason to be taken seriously, as Denise is from six years before The Archies song I suggested. Also Mark Evanier is an experienced and knowledgeable writer, with a great deal of insider insight of the the animation world. His website has a wealth of background information on a whole range of people and events that he had direct contact with – for more details see his about m.e.
Anyway, before I become distracted with the wonderful and fascinating details on Mark Evanier’s website, back to the song he mentioned, Denise, by Randy and the Rainbows. I looked it up on YouTube and found several copies. It is a traditional doo-wop song and it was one of the last big hits of the doo-wop era, which died soon after the arrival of The Beatles in America, when music tastes changed dramatically. For a few more details of the song and Randy and the Rainbows see the post on Joe Troiano’s blog which has a great collection of almost forgotten music information, including a recent interview with Randy Safuto from the related JoeT’s Soda Shop radio show on Oldiesplus.net
Amazingly some of the original Randy and the Rainbows are still singing – here are two websites dedicated to keeping their fans updated of their news: http://www.randyandtherainbows.com/index.html and http://www.randyandtherainbowssafuto.com/
I used to listen to a lot of songs from this era from the mid- 1970s until the early 1980s, when radio shows dedicated to playing songs like this became popular on the BBC and local commercial stations too. For many years I also collected original singles from that era too. I enjoyed listening to much of the music from that generation just before my own, from simpler times and more innocent days.
Listening to the original version of Denise I immediate recognised the tune and lyrics, but the first time I had heard that song it was in an adapted and updated form. The version I heard in 1978, when it was released as a single in the UK, had the title Denis (pronounced Denee), and the singer was a woman. Debbie Harry, the lead singer of the pop/punk band Blondie, burst onto the UK pop scene with her unique raunchy, slightly aggressive style, that soon become very popular.
This version of the song, with her improvised lyrics in pidgin-French were excitingly different at the time. Blondie performing this on Top of the Pops certainly got a lot of attention, and the even more raunchy video wasn’t shown on UK TV screens until much later. They were prevented from having a blockbuster no.1 record with their first European single, by the equally sensational Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush and then the massively popular Matchstalkmen and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs by Brian & Michael.
Denis topped out at no.2 in the charts for four weeks, before falling back down, but it had successfully launched Blondie onto the UK music scene, where they enjoyed much success in the following years. The contrast between the two versions of essentially the same song is a great example of how much music and attitudes changed between 1963 and 1977, when the two songs were recorded, and yet I enjoy both versions, which I suppose says something about the quality of the original songwriting by Neil Levenson, as well as my eclectic taste in music.