Stan Freberg a Little Slow on Update Comedy Album's Been Awaited for 35 Years

By Steve Metcalf 1996, The Hartford Courant | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 24, 1996 | Go to article overview

Stan Freberg a Little Slow on Update Comedy Album's Been Awaited for 35 Years


Steve Metcalf 1996, The Hartford Courant, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


STAN FREBERG has just released Vol. 2 of his classic comedy album "Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America."

Well, what are you sitting there gaping at?

In some circles, this is no less an occasion than the arrival of a fat new novel by Salinger or a chatty memoir by Pynchon. Indeed, for a significant number of Americans, this news will represent the fulfillment of a dream they had all but given up on.

The original album, which came out in 1961, was one of the central artifacts of post-Eisenhower popular culture.

A satiric musical comedy that traced, in song and sketch, the early days of the 13 colonies up through the Revolutionary War, the LP quickly took on - and has steadily retained - the status of classic. Its many publicly declared admirers have included Ray Bradbury, Steven Spielberg and the Beatles.

The album, written and composed by Freberg, was conceived as the first installment of a series, eventually running to three or four records that would take the history of the republic up to the present day.

But there ensued a brief delay - some 35 years.

The newly released Vol. 2, racing speedily across the 19th century and into the 20th, brings us up to World War I. It was commissioned by and is released on the Rhino Records label. Recorded over the course of the past year or so by Freberg, with a little help from such friends as John Goodman and Tyne Daly, it includes bits about Edison's invention of the light bulb, Stephen Foster's songwriting inspiration and President L incoln's secret desire to be in show business.

It is available as a two-disc (or cassette) set packaged with Vol. 1, or separately.

Why did we have to wait 3 1/2 decades?

"I don't know, I just got busy with other things," says Freberg, now 69, from his Beverly Hills, Calif., home.

One of the main things Freberg got busy with, for a scant quarter-century or so, was recasting himself from an entertainer to an advertising mogul. Freberg has made a fortune as an ad man and has earned a hallowed place within the industry, if there is a hallowed place within that industry.

Among his more recognizable campaigns have been spots for Sunsweet Prunes ("Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles") and Jeno's Pizza Rolls, in which the Lone Ranger and Tonto manfully search for a tasty and satisfying snack food. It's probably unnecessary to add that Freberg ads partake of the unexpected and, in many cases, the ridiculous.

Prosperous and comfortable, Freberg was not spoiling to return to his former life as a comedian. …

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