Saturday, December 17, 2011

New Oldies - The Countryside by Jim Henson

Yeah, this is the same guy who created The Muppets, but he made this record many years earlier!

Aside from the history behind the artists, there's something very significant about this record for me, personally. Back when I was using last-minute "Sniper" bids on eBay to buy whatever records I wanted, something very strange happened. I put my usual $1777 bid on this record and expected to own it when the auction ended. I actually thought I'd win it for about ten dollars, since it's not listed as being that expensive in the record collecting price guides and nobody else seemed to be watching or bidding. When the auction was over, I was shocked to find that I had NOT won the record! It got sold to another bidder for $1778! Both of our bids came in within two seconds before the auction closed. That means that someone else was using the same Sniper strategy as me, and whoever it was used a higher bid than my "oh wow nobody will ever go this high" maximum. I was at first unhappy that I'd lost the auction, but then relieved that this other bidder didn't bid something just under me. I might have ended up buying this for well over a thousand dollars! I felt sorry for the guy who did win. But then something happened. The seller contacted me with a "Second Chance" offer. This can happen when the winning bidder backs out of the deal and the seller is allowed to offer it to the second-highest bidder, usually for the amount of that person's bid. He offered it to me for $1776, but I counter offered with $10 instead! We negotiated back and forth and I ended up getting it for under $100. Honestly, I don't really know how much it's worth. It's SO rare that it almost never appears for sale or auction anywhere.

Jim Henson was born on 24 September 1936 in Greenville, Mississippi. He was raised as a Christian Scientist in Leland, Mississippi. His family moved to the Washington DC area as a teenager. As a senior at Northwestern High School, Jim took a job with WTOP-TV creating puppets for the Junior Morning Show that aired every Saturday morning. He had thoughts of becoming a commercial artist, which was his major at the University of Maryland. In his freshman year, Jim was asked to create puppets for a five-minute show on WRC-TV called Sam And Friends. This was the beginning of The Muppets, even including an early prototype of Kermit The Frog! He asked classmate Jane Nebel to assist him. She would eventually become his wife! Jim made some good money from the work he'd done for television, so after graduation he took off for several months to travel around Europe and study the very artistic puppets created there. In 1959 he was back in America. He and Jane got married and had five children between 1960 and 1970. He developed The Muppets characters just AFTER making this strange novelty record. He was earning money making commercials for television. One such commercial, for Wilkins Coffee, featured a frog puppet named Wilkins, who evolved into Kermit. In 1963, Jim and his wife moved to New York City and Muppets Inc. was born.

Both sides of this record credit "With Frank Sinatra's Orchestra." But that's most likely a joke, since Frank didn't have his own orchestra and no orchestra is used on these tracks. Both sides were written by Jim Henson and published by B F Wood Music.

Here's Countryside by Jim Henson on Signature 12023 from 1960:

And here's the flip side, a song called Tick-Tock Sick. Toxic, get it?

And now you know a little bit more about the man behind The Muppets. Sadly, James Maury Henson died of a severe strep infection on the morning of 16 May 1990, just a week and a half after he began to experience symptoms. He was 53.

Thanks for the many requests, everyone! The ones you've suggested that I'm not already playing on MusicMaster Oldies are being tracked down right now. I'll get them on the air as soon as I can!

Here are some cool links with more information about Jim Henson and his Muppets:

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