Thursday, December 13, 2007

'Pee Wee The Pink Pine Tree', Rita Abrams, and my claim to fame (1976)

This was a little Xmas novelty tune that was recorded in San Francisco.

The 45 was produced and arranged by Rita Abrams, who'd had prior experience in the art of children's chorus wrangling. (Rita ➤)

She'd been an elementary school teacher before her plunge into the music industry.

Recording as Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point 4th Grade Class, her song 'Mill Valley' had been a nationally-charting hit single in 1970.

- Follow this link to the 'Mill Valley' promotional music video posted at YouTube.

The video was shot in conjunction with Mill Valley's 4th of July celebration, and was directed by Francis Ford Coppola (two years after he directed 'Finian's Rainbow', and two years prior to 'The Godfather').

As a kid growing up in Mill Valley at that time, it was hard not to be familiar with Rita.
My memories are of her making the rounds at local schools and leading various singing activities with the kids.

She also recruited local kids to work on various projects she had following the success of the hit single.

I wasn't a student at Strawberry Point, but I was 'drafted' along with some fellow Old Mill School students to add some post-production back-up vocals to a 1975 single recorded for the upcoming Bicentennial, 'America, Let's Get Started Again' (now included as a 'bonus track' on the 'Miss Abrams' CD reissue).

That first 'professional' gig of mine led to this next one; as a member of The Pee Wee Children's Chorus.

Even at the time I recall thinking that
'Pee Wee The Pink Pine Tree' was a bit of a - - shall we say 'overt homage'? - - of 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer', but I don't know if the success of an Xmas novelty 45 has ever been hindered by being too formulaic.
I can't say for sure if that contributed to the lack of success for this one...

Listen to: The Pee Wee Childrens Chorus -
Pee Wee The Pink Pine Tree

CCP 45, prod. & arr. by Rita Abrams, 1976

(click for audio)

I can still sort of hear my pre-pubescent voice in the mix.

I was involved with one or two other projects of Rita's after that, but that was it.
I suppose perhaps that not unlike the 'Menudo' system, I was cycled out as I got older and my voice changed.

Last year I reconnected with another former member of the PWCC.
We were considering a new reunion tour for the song, maybe take it to Scandinavia, maybe Japan...

...but then it turns out there was a glitzy NEW version of the song recorded in 2005. Go figure!

Rita Abrams is still on the go around Mill Valley, and still very busy from the looks of things...
Click here to link to Rita Abrams' website.


Anonymous said...

The "pee wee the pink pine tree" song reminds me of the "hanky the christmas poo" song from the south park movie..

Anonymous said...

Sorry to upset everyones apple cart but our fourth grade class at Harding Elementry recorded Pee Wee The Pink Pine Tree back in 1972. Our teacher Mrs Harvey had a friend in the record business and they put the whole thing together. We sang the song and a demo was cut but I don't think it went any fatther than that. There was a lack of funds at the time. Gosh....that was along time ago.

The In Crowd said...

Hi mthed 17!

That's fascinating! 1972?!?

How many lives has this song had?

The songwriting credit on this 45 goes to John Bachman.

My memory, which could easily be wrong, was that Bachman was also the engineer/co-producer at the recording session.

Memories are hazy...

Maybe Bachman was Mrs. Harvey's music-biz friend 4 years prior? Where was your Harding Elementary?


Anonymous said...

Harding Elementary was on Fairmont Ave in El Cerrito Ca. I am still in contact with a few of my friends that sang on that record. And It quite possibly could have been John Bachman, I didn't know his name. I just remember singing it. We sang the song in the christmas program in the second grade when Mrs. Harvey was Miss Hall, my mom still has my pink pine tree hat that we all had to wear. Mrs Harvey was then moved to 4th grade. Anyway when her friend decided to produce the record she gathered together everybody who sang it in the second grade for the record. All I know was when it didn't go any farther than the demo, she gave the only copy (it was a 45) to a kid named Lonnie. What he did with it I don't know. I wish I had it.

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