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Biography

Stanley Victor Freberg (born August 7, 1926 in Los Angeles-April 7, 2015) was a voice actor, comedian, and advertising creative.

In 1950, he scored a huge success with his first recording for Capitol Records, John and Marsha, a soap-opera parody that consisted of the title characters (both played by Freberg) repeating each other's names. In a follow-up he used pedal steel guitarist Speedy West to parody the 1953 country hit A Dear John Letter as A Dear John and Marsha Letter.

Throughout the 1950s he made a name for himself writing and performing both original songs (Tele-Vee-Shun) and parodies of popular tunes (The Yellow Rose of Texas, Day-O, Heartbreak Hotel). With fellow voice actors Daws Butler and June Foray he produced a medieval parody of Dragnet called St. George and the Dragon-Net. The latter recording was a #1 hit for four weeks in late 1953.

Freberg's brilliant, authentic-sounding musical parodies were a byproduct of his collaborations with Billy May and his Capitol Records producer Ken Nelson. His brilliant 1957 spoof of TV "champagne music" master Lawrence Welk, Wun'erful, Wun'erful was a true collaboration with May, a veteran big band musician and jazz arranger (known for his work with Frank Sinatra among others) who loathed Welk's corny style. To replicate that sound, May and some of Hollywood's finest studio musicians and vocalists worked to virtually clone Welk's sound. Billy Liebert, a first-rate accordionist copied Welk's own accordion playing. The humor was lost on Welk; Freberg later recalled the bandleader denying he ever used the term "Wunnerful! Wunnerful!" (later the title of Welk's autobiography).

Another hit song to get the Freberg treatment was the weepy Cry, which Freberg rendered as Try ("You too can be unhappy… if you try!") Ray was furious, until he realized the success of Freberg's parody was helping sales and airplay of his own record; Ray and Freberg actually became close friends.

Freberg continued to skewer the advertising industry after the demise of his radio show, producing Green Chri$tma$ in 1958 (again with Butler), a scathing indictment of the overcommercialization of the holiday. Freberg, the son of a church minister and very religious himself, made sure to point out on that novelty record "Whose birthday we're celebrating." Despite his Jewish-sounding last name, Freberg is actually a Baptist of Swedish heritage.

"Green Chri$tma$" also foreshadowed his musical review on LP Stan Freberg Presents: The United States Of America, Volume 1: The Early Years (1961) in that both combined dialog and song in a musical-like style. Stan Freberg Presents: The United States of America, Volume 2: The Middle Years was planned for a release during America's Bicentennial in 1976 but did not emerge until 1996.

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