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Cartoon Culture

Popeye sings Looney Tunes theme

Speaking of Popeye (as we were here)… his voice croons one of the greatest cartoon theme songs of all time. No, not “I’m Popeye The Sailor Man” by Sammy Lerner – I’m talking about his cover of the Looney Tunes theme, The Merry Go Round Broke Down.

CLICK HERE for a download of the track, sung by the original voice of Popeye, Billy Costello.

(via Don Brockway, art above by Chogrin – and thanks to Alex Rannie)

  • As strange as hearing Helen Kane sing I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat.

  • Sounds like Popeye was doing Tuvan throat singing before Tuvan throat singing was cool.


  • Haha! Thanks for brightening my day, Jerry.

  • doug holverson

    Well blow me down! Mask-ups ain’ts new!

  • FP

    That Lawrence Welk clip made me crap with horror.

  • uncle wayne

    Yes, oh yes, oh YES! A true true day-brightener!! Down to the scat-adlibs. I love it!

  • Bob

    What’s next, Scrappy singing “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”

  • Thad

    Thuh-thuh-thask’s all folks! Arararararar!

  • Earl Kress

    The most interesting part of this to me is that in the middle, when he sings in his own voice, he sounds a lot like Jack Mercer’s real voice.

  • Dock Miles

    >Sounds like Popeye was doing Tuvan throat singing before Tuvan throat singing was cool.

    I thought the same thing. Billy Costello was obviously a gifted and unique scat-singer (he went to the vocalisms on the chorus even when singing in his crooner-style voice), but this snippet raises intriguing questions about vocalsims. Obviously, Costello isn’t doing two voices at the same time as the Tuvans do, but he shows the basic mode of tone-sliding occurs to folks doing non-verbal singing, probably from day one.


  • Robert Barker

    Did anyone ever ask Billy Costello about why he was fired from doing the Popeye voice? What did he do after being fired? He lived until 1971. Did this talented man, who had also been in Fred Waring’s band, just fall off the face of the earth?

  • Anthrocoon

    In one scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Roger starts to sing the song with alternate lyrics (“My buddy’s Eddie V/A Sourpuss you see…”)
    Judge Doom grabs Roger and pulls him by the ears, IIRC…and then
    looks down at the record. “The…Merry Go Round…Broke…Down.
    A rather loony selection, yes?”

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Thanks for the Lawrence Welk surprise! The only consolation out of that is noticing it was captured from my local PBS station (bugs don’t lie) so I’ll let you off the hook!

    Cool tune from the ol’ spinach-packin’ sailor.

  • Tim Hodge

    As a kid, I used to have a 45 of Popeye & Olive Oyl singing “I’m a Little Teapot”. Wish I knew where it was.

    • Steve

      I’m looking for the same 45! If I recall, it was Popeye & Olive singing a combination of “I’m a Little Teapot” and “Polly Put the Kettle On”. I vaguely remember parts of the other side of the 45, but not sure that the other side was actually Popeye-related. But, I certainly remember the Popeye side. If anyone has any information on this Popeye 45, please post here.

      • Steve

        Actually, I think I found some info about the 45… and, I believe it was also in a 78 format. According to what I found, it was from Gala Goldentone records, and it was orange vinyl. Jack Mercer (Popeye) and Mae Questel (Olive Oyl) sing. It looks like one side was “I’m a little teapot”, and the other side was “Polly Put the Kettle on”. Check out http://www.45cat.com/record/gg32 Wish I could find one of these! Mind you, I think the version of the 45 I had when I was growing up was actually on a different label; I don’t believe I had an orange vinyl version. I think Gala Goldentone was a UK-based company. There must have been a release, then, of the same song on a different label here in the US.

  • Mark McDermott

    Ah, was the crooner voice really Costello’s “natural” singing voice, or was he just imitating Rudy Vallee or the pervasive crooning style of the time?
    Any notes on when the record was recorded? Before it became the celebrated cartoon theme it is today?

    Can’t see YouTube at work, so I didn’t spot the Lawrence Welk spot. Have seen the one where they cover “One Toke Over the Line,” though. Trying to verify a claim on Wikipedia that Larry once covered a Frank Zappa song.

  • Andy Ice

    He does a better Popeye here, than in the cartoons he voiced.That was indeed a treat ! Nice find.

  • J Lee

    I’m trying to think of what the best Disney song would have been to hear Costello sing. Probably “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Bo” from “Cinderella”, but feel free to toss in your own suggestions.

  • predicted the AAP sale which would end up in Warner Bros.’ hands.

  • James E. Parten

    Billy Costello recorded “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down” (along with several other selections) for Rex records in London on August 12, 1937. This was only about three months after the song was being recorded in Nre York by the likes of Gene Kardos (Melotone) and Dick Robertson (Decca).
    After Costello left the employ of Max Fleischer, he appears to have gone over to Britain, where he cold trade on being “the original Popeye” without worrying about any cease-and-desist orders that might have popped up. He may have tored more extensively yet, as several of the sides he reocrded in London were only issued in South Africa, including a two-sied “Official Popeye Club Record”. (Wouldn’t we like to find that one in a thrift shop?!)

  • Thanks for using my image Jerry!

  • Maggie Simpson

    Wow, now Ren and Stimpy are gonna sing Daffy Duck Rhapsody? (Love that song…)