Croaking Out A Tune:
    The Songs of One Froggy Evening

Michigan J. Frog And The Songs of One Froggy Evening

One Froggy Evening
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The star of the show: Michigan J. Frog

Released: 1955
Directed by Charles M. Jones
Written by Michael Maltese
Animated by: Abe Levitow, Ken Harris, Richard Thompson, Ben Washam
Voices: Bill Roberts
Layout artist: Robert Gribbroek
Backgrounds: Philip DeGuard
Wav clip from OFE

Throughout the over 1000 Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies films produced during the 20th century there were many classics. And in every fan poll, there is a certain film starring a singing frog which always ends up as one of the favorites. One unique aspect of the film is that there is no actual dialog - the only "speaking" in the film is the singing voice of the frog. So clearly the music is one extremely popular aspect of the film and is closely associated with the frog. For example, Looney Tunes message boards frequently see questions along the lines of "What is the name of that frog that sings "Hello My Baby, Hello my Darling"?" Fans - even casual ones - tend to remember some of the songs years after the experience.

But do they know anything about the songs themselves? I've had many pleasant conversations with fans who were curious about hearing more about these songs. They are eager to know whether they were "real" songs or if they written by the people who breathed life into the dancing frog. And what are those lyrics exactly? The songs are not familar to people today but it did seem rather distressing to hear one person ask about the misheard lyrics "Come back to wearin' my Barney my Barney" and another to wonder about whether "come over to my house and play like you're my little girl" was hinting at perversion and pedophilia (it is not).

I was overdue for creating another LT&MM webpage and so I decided to tackle this subject in detail. It is my sincere hope that fans of this film enjoy this little peek at some of the layers of musical trivia just beyond the frog and the people who brought it to life.

One Froggy Evening is available in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol 2.

Select the song you want to learn about from this list. There is an illustration from the film as well as the song name. Note that you can also pick a song to explore using the menu along the left side of each page.

One of the most beloved films in the history of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies features a green frog. Although at the time of the film he was given no name, his popularity forced the director, Chuck Jones, to create one. He first called him Michigan Frog but later added a middle initial of "J" when Time magazine writer Jay Cocks suggested it would sound better with a middle initial. So the most famous frog in the history of animation finally had a moniker: Michigan J. Frog.

The frog had such an enduring popularity that several years ago when Warner Bros. decided to launch a new network they turned to him as a corporate mascot.

Some believe that the story of this frog was at least partly inspired by a real critter. In Eastland, Texas they tell the story of one horned toad named Old Rip. He was placed in the cornerstone of the courthouse there in 1897. In 1928 the courthouse was demolished and the story is that they pulled Old Rip out and he was still alive. He did not get up and dance however. Eleven months later Old Rip finally croaked and the citizens made him a fancy velvet-lined casket and put him on permanent display - where you can still see him today.

click to read more about Old Rip

In 1973 an anonymous person claimed that he wanted to come clean about Old Rip. He claimed that it was all a hoax back then and they had switched the dead "original" toad with a live one. No one has ever come forward to verify this claim, but most think it is probably true that it was a prank. Whatever the real story, the legend of Old Rip has some interesting similarities to the frog in One Froggy Evening.

biography of Chuck Jones
The director:
Chuck Jones

Story writer:
Michael Maltese
Michael Maltese was a story writer who worked on many of Chuck Jones' most famous films. By all accounts the two of them worked extremely well together. Maltese was born in New York and wound up becoming involved in animator pretty much by accident.

Singing voice:
Bill Roberts
Bill Roberts was a popular nightclub singer in the Hollywood area. Many sources say that Terence Monck suppied the singing voice of the frog. This appears to be based on an interview with Chuck Jones identified him as such. But he was not the baritone heard in the film. I believe the confusion may be partly due to the fact that Chuck Jones did use Monck in The Cat Above and the Mouse Below where he sang Largo al factotum .

When you examine the music in One Froggy Evening it seems that Michigan J. Frog is a frog from the past. He starts singing ragtime tunes such as Hello Ma Baby leading some to say that he is singing tunes he remembers from before he was placed in the corner stone. In the Looney Tunes Golden Collection 2 DVD set, the various commentaries and special features make this point. But is this really the case? Are these songs from around the time when he was placed in the stone?

It's easy to check this. Note that according to the cornerstone and the documents placed within, he was sealed in April 16, 1892. Now let's make a list of the songs and the date when they were written:
Song Year published Before or after 1892?
Hello, Ma Baby 1899 After
Michigan Rag Who knows? It's a fake song
so we can say it is older than 1892.
Come Back to Erin 1866 Before
I'm Just Wild About Harry 1921 After
Throw Him Down, McCloskey 1890 Before
Won't You Come Over to My House 1906 After
Largo al factotum 1816 Before
Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone 1930 After

So what does this tell us? Only half of the songs were published when he went into the stone! But even though they may not literally be from before the dedication date, the songs all feel like they could have been from the right time period so it all seems OK.

I'll leave it as an exercise to the viewer to come up with how the frog learned these songs.

Some other webpages beyond this site with information you might want to visit...




Michael Maltese acting in You Ought To Be In Pictures
give your 2 cents at Blog the Frog
Hello, Ma Baby | Michigan Rag | Come Back to Erin | I'm Just Wild About Harry
Throw Him Down, McCloskey | Won't You Come Over to My House
Largo al factotum | Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

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trademarks of their respective owners, Warner Bros. Inc. This web page is not meant to infringe upon any copyrights held
by Warner Bros.