Doodletown Pipers

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The group appeared on That's Life with Leslie Uggams in 1968.

The Doodletown Pipers (also known as the New Doodletown Pipers) were a 1960s and 1970s easy listening vocal group founded by Ward Ellis, George Wilkins, Bernie Brillstein and Jerry Weintraub.

The Doodletown Pipers made numerous appearances on network television (including The Ed Sullivan Show), and worked with such luminaries as Count Basie, The Carpenters, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Gorshin, Alan King, Mike Post, Sarah Vaughan, John Wayne, and Rowan and Martin. Members of the group included "Mic" Bell, Mike Campbell, Jim Gilstrap, Teresa Graves, Augie Johnson, Rod Anderson, Tom McKenzie and Oren Waters.

The Doodletown Pipers are considered by some to be the epitome of bland, squeaky-clean, "white-bread" popular music. One critic describes their music paradoxically as "dull-as-lint" yet at the same time "weirdly but undeniably charming." [1] On his television program, Roger Miller referred to them as the "Poodletown Diapers".

Development[edit]

The Doodletown Pipers' first appearance was on The Red Skelton Show with 30 members in the group. The group was then cut down to 20 members when they opened for George Burns and Lainie Kazan at the Nugget in Reno, Nevada in June, 1966. The original members were Holly Mershon, Teresa Graves, Helen (Aiken) Maxwell, Joy Jolley, Helen Sexton, Natalie Cirello, Jill McDonald, Kathy Cahill, Lynn Dolin, Pat Henderson, Karen Warren, and Linda A., Mike Campbell, "Little Ricky" Richard Doran, "Big Bob" Anderson, Gene Meyer, Tommy Webb, Russell Carson, Bill Lively, Marshall Ramirez, Emmitt Cash, and Bob Kenny. Some of the first replacements were Rod Anderson, Steve Sweetland, Jim Gilstrap, Augie Johnson, Ellie Mandel, Elaine Blakely, Lorna Wright, Pam Feener, Sharry Dore, Larry Puma, Kathy Wright, Jan Bunch, Patty "Chocolate" Banks, Samantha "Sammie" Williams, and Taffy Jones.

The group worked non-stop from 1966 through the late 1970s. They toured with Nancy Wilson, who was an early supporter of the group. They also opened for, among others, Perry Como, Jane Morgan (whose husband, Jerry Weintraub, was one of the group's managers), Eddie Fisher, Shelley Berman, Phil Harris, and Henry Mancini. The Pipers also worked such venues as The Greek Theater, Madison Square Garden, Avery Fisher Hall, The Sands, Sahara, Flamingo and Frontier Hotels in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada.

The DTPs had two television shows. The Smothers Brothers' 1967 Summer replacement show called Our Place co-starring Jack Burns, Avery Schreiber and Rowlf the Dog (puppetered by Jim Henson). It was produced by Ed Sullivan. The second show was six (6) one-hour specials starring the DTPs with guest-stars such as Norm Crosby. They were also semi-regulars on The Roger Miller Show on NBC. They were also regulars on The Carpenters TV show Make Your Own Kind of Music. They did a tremendous amount of television appearing on The Jerry Lewis Show, The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show, (6 times, once following a promotional video for The Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye"). They appeared on specials including "Rodgers & Hart Today," the Emmy-award winning Sing Out Sweet Land with John Wayne, and numerous shows with Bing Crosby and Perry Como, among others.

While their early records had reasonable success, after they were signed by Bell Records as "The New Doodletown Pipers" by TV composer and record producer Mike Post in 1971, their new records met with little success.

Post-Pipers[edit]

Some of the members continued their careers after they left the DTPs. Teresa Graves became a regular on Laugh-In and later starred on Get Christie Love!. Helen Maxwell fell victim to a stalker and became a nationally recognized public safety/criminal justice journalist (ABC 20/20, CBS This Morning, Home Show) appearing on more network television shows for that, than for singing and dancing. Taffy Jones later became a regular on The Dean Martin Show as one of the four Ding-a-ling Sisters touring with Engelbert Humperdinck and Bob Hope, and made numerous appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and of course, appeared with Dean Martin at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. Taffy also worked with Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Phyllis Diller, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Wayne Newton, Joey Bishop, Petula Clark, Don Ho, Juliet Prowse, Ginger Rogers, Bill Cosby, and Red Skelton, to name a few. Steve Sweetland became a very well known European and New York voice teacher. Tommy Webb spent years touring with Mac Davis and Connie Stevens. Lynn Dolin worked on "The Johhny Mann Show" and had a solo career in the Christian music field. Jim Gilstrap became a legendary studio singer/contractor and worked with Stevie Wonder for years (his is the first voice you hear on "You Are the Sunshine of My Life." "Little Ricky" Richard Doran toured with the National company of the Tony Award winning show George M! and co-starred in the movie "Harrad Summer." Patty "Chocolate" Banks was an original member of Graham Central Station as well as Rose Royce. Holly Mershon has continued to work as an actress, background singer, model and of all things, a professional clown, appearing recently in a festival in Barcelona, Spain with her partner. Mike Campbell is a well known jazz singer and voice teacher with CDs on Palo Alto, I.T.I., Audiophile and Celeste Records. He has opened for Sarah Vaughan among others, and has appeared in Japan, Australia, Sweden, and all over the United States in jazz festivals, concerts and clinics. He heads the Vocal Department at the world renowned Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA. Mic Bell was nominated for a Tony Award for his performed as "Joe" in the Broadway revival of Showboat. Tom McKenzie later became a studio singer, as well as the lead singer of The Archies singing group on the U.S. of Archie Show, and certain episodes of the Groovie Goolies cartoon series. Oren Waters has sung background vocals on numerous singles, albums and CDs, including those recorded by Michael Jackson and Neil Diamond. In 1970, Rod Anderson began directing the shows and entertainment at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii and then the Owner/Director of Universal Artists Management booking mainland and local groups in Hawaii and producing concerts and convention shows.

Music directors included Ed Lojeski, who is now the music director at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Westlake Village, CA, George Wilkins, who became a staff composer for Disney theme parks and music composer for the famous Teddy Ruxpin toys, and Richard Bellis and John Beal, who became successful TV and film composers.

Popular culture[edit]

The group received a publicity boost when they were mentioned in a 1997 episode of The Simpsons entitled "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)":

Homer: "We don't have anything in common. Look at these records: Jim Nabors, Glen Campbell, the Doodletown Pipers. Now look at her records! They stink!"

The group were also mentioned in season 6 of the movie-lampooning TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, the episode (episode #620) in which Mike and the bots watch the 1967 Italian spy film Danger!! Death Ray. Shortly after the opening credits end, the wordless-vocal theme song (that plays periodically throughout the film) continues over the action. As the song ends, robot Crow affects the voice a radio DJ, saying: "That was Bop-ba-dop-a-da-da by the Doodletown Pipers!"

Discography[edit]

  • Singalong '67 (Epic Records, 1967)
  • Here Come the Doodletown Pipers (Epic Records, 1968)
  • Love Themes: Hit Songs for Those in Love (1968)

References[edit]

External links[edit]