Stan Freberg Biography

Stanley Victor Freberg, 7 August 1926, Los Angeles, California, USA. Freberg was a satirist who experienced great popularity during the early 50s in the USA. He pioneered the style of satire and parody later used on such television programmes as Saturday Night Live. He performed on radio and television acted, wrote books as well as his own comedy material, worked in advertising and was even an accomplished puppeteer. Freberg grew up the son of a Baptist minister in Pasadena, California. His first showbusiness experience was at the age of 11 as an assistant to his uncle, a magician. Freberg became enthralled with the radio during his youth. As well as performing, he wrote and produced student shows and became his high school’s speech champion, going on to win a national competition. He was awarded a drama scholarship but turned it down to work with Mel Blanc, who provided the voices of Warner Brothers cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig. Freberg provided voice-overs for other characters.

In the mid-40s he appeared on radio for the first time and soon became a regular on such programmes as the Jack Benny Show and on the Armed Forces Radio Network. He spent two years in the army and then joined a small orchestra, Red Fox And His Musical Hounds, as comedian, guitarist. He and actor Daws Butler (later the voice of Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound) then wrote and performed for the cartoon show Time For Beany, an Emmy-winning programme which served as inspiration to Muppets creator Jim Henson. In 1951 Freberg signed to Capitol Records and recorded ‘John And Marsha’, a spoof of soap operas in which the only lyrics were the two names of the title, repeated dramatically throughout the record. The record became a US hit, and was followed by parodies of Cole Porter’s ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’, Johnnie Ray’s ‘Cry’ and others. In 1953 Freberg scored a number 1 record with ‘St. George And The Dragonet’, a parody of the Dragnet television series.

As the rock ‘n’ roll era began in 1954 Freberg lampooned such hits as ‘Sh-Boom’ and ‘The Great Pretender’, with orchestration by Billy May, who remains Freberg’s arranger, conductor in the 90s. In 1956 Freberg took on Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and British skiffle artist Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Rock Island Line’, while the following year found him satirizing Harry Belafonte’s ‘Banana Boat Day-O’. Other Freberg targets were Lawrence Welk, Mitch Miller and the television medium itself. In 1957 Freberg was given his own 17-week radio programme, some of which was collected on the Grammy-winning album The Best Of The Stan Freberg Shows. Freberg’s 1958 single ‘Green Chri$tma$’ brilliantly attacked the commercialization of Christmas and was subsequently banned by many radio stations. His final chart hit, 1960’s ‘The Old Payola Roll Blues (Side 1)’ was another controversial release. Freberg continued to release albums throughout the 60s, his most successful being 1961’s Stan Freberg Presents The United States Of America.

Freberg is still active in the new millennium as an advertising writer, also he lends his voice to advertisement and voice-overs, and has his own radio show, Stan Freberg Here.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.