Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.
By now, you’ve probably heard that Annette Funicello died this week, though perhaps the news was eclipsed by the death of Margaret Thatcher. Obviously, the passing of Britain’s first female Prime Minister should get more press than that of our most successful Mouseketeer. Still, Annette Funicello (or Annette Funny Jello, as she was affectionately known in the pages of Mad Magazine) was, in her time, a cultural force to be reckoned with. As a Mouseketeer, she received 6,000 letters a week and was the only star of that beloved show to continue on to further stardom, as a cinematic ambassador of surf culture. The six “Beach” movies she made with Frankie Avalon were frothy delights—innocent and flirtatious idealizations of southern California life that made the rest of the country’s teenagers want to live there. Annette’s mix of feminine pulchritude and girl next door sensibility was a huge part of the equation; she was one of the few starlets that both teenage boys and their protective mothers could heartily agree upon.
This single finds her in the years between the Mickey Mouse Club and the “Beach” films. Still on contract with Disney, she continued to star in movies like Babes in Toyland and record albums for Disney’s Buena Vista Records. Released in 1961, Annette (note the lack of a last name on the sleeve, probably meant to maintain the first name basis rapport fans felt with her) had already recorded five LPs by the time this single was released. “Strummin’ Song” would appear on the sixth: The Story of My Teens…And the Sixteen Songs That Tell It! and was featured in the 1961 movie The Horsemasters.
All well and good, but kind of “It’s a Small World” in its need to please. Continue reading