About this Recording

Children’s Favourites
The Ugly Duckling • Thumbelina • The Lion and Albert


‘Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it,’ said Danny Kaye, and his love of life shines through his great recordings.

He was born David Daniel Kaminsky in Brooklyn, New York, on 18 January 1913 to Ukrainian immigrant parents. He was a natural entertainer from an early age, and though his family wanted him to become a doctor, he dropped out of high school to go on the road as an entertainer.

The strong charisma and remarkable ability with tongue-twisters showed itself early, but he came up the hard way in showbiz, working as a barman and doing other jobs before performance on stage started to earn him a real living. He toured the US with various vaudeville acts and, in the early 1930s, even toured the Far East, performing in China, Japan and Malaya!

In 1941, Danny Kaye made his first impact on Broadway, a year after he married Sylvia Fine who was to guide his career—and write some of the lyrics that helped make him famous.

In the late 1940s, he made his film breakthrough as his personality shone on big screen. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1949) was one of his first hits, but it was Hans Christian Andersen (1952) which endeared him to generations of children with its hugely popular songs.

The selection on this album are among the most well-known from his whole career. The original film album sold over a million copies.

When his film career waned, Danny Kaye transferred to television both as a performer and a presenter. And he took up the baton, conducting orchestras of classical music.

From 1957 until his death, he served as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s section, travelling the world (frequently flying himself as he was a skilled pilot), working for charities of all kinds and compering shows. On one trip, in 1975, he flew to 65 US and Canadian cities in five days which put him in the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s Fastest-Flying Entertainer.

He said, ‘I believe deeply that children are more powerful than oil, more beautiful than rivers, more precious than any other natural resource a country can have. I feel that the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life is to be associated with UNICEF.’

Danny Kaye’s remarkable talents as a performer, as heard on this disc in the medley from Hans Christian Andersen, and songs such as Tubby the Tuba, continue to touch the lives of successive generations of adults and children alike.

He died in Los Angeles, California on 3 March 1987.

The long career of Stanley Holloway enriched the English stage and screen for well over half a century. His strong personality filled the stage (1956) and the cinema screen (1964) in My Fair Lady with his performance of Alfred J. Doolittle, Eliza’s father. He had originally trained as an opera singer, but found that revue was more his forte.

He is also remembered for his recordings of numerous monologues, the most famous of which is The Lion and Albert, delivered in a broad northern voice. The adventures of the Ramsbottom family was originally written by Marriot Edgar, Holloway’s partner in the Co-Optimists, in the 1930s, but Holloway made it his own. His famous recording dates from 1932 but it lived on in the minds of countless would-be Holloways in the decades which followed, as they belted it out with varying degrees of success whenever called upon to make a public recitation.

Children’s stories with music were hugely popular in the mid-20th century and thousands of short-play recordings were released with entertaining covers. One of the most successful was the Sparky series, the endearing story of a young boy who wanted to play music and be a star but encountered all kinds of obstacles in the process. Entertaining they certainly were, and innovative, with all kinds of overdubbing and special effects which were quite revolutionary for the time. But they also had a (not very subtle) message which, curiously, make them all the more charming in the 21st century. Tom Reddy narrates Sparky’s Music Mix-Up, with Stan Kenton and his orchestra playing a gloriously inventive score where major concertos are abridged to spectacular effect!

The skilful combination of light-hearted words, unforgettable characterisations and some truly imaginative arrangements made these children’s favourites immensely popular and, remarkably in a world of computer games and hi-definition television, they still have not lost their effect.

Notes by Nicolas Soames

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