This being Way Out Wednesday, you knew Iâ€™d eventually have to wander into teenybopper territory, but I promise I wonâ€™t go for the usual suspects.
Friends is a TV tie-in album by Johnny Whitaker, best known for playing Jody on the sitcomÂ Family Affair (1966-’71).Â After doing guest shots on other shows and a couple of Disney movies, including 1972’sÂ Napoleon and Samantha with Jodie Foster, he landed the role of Johnny (how convenient!) on Sid and Marty Krofft’s Saturday-morning children’s showÂ Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (1973-’75).Â I guess he became a preteen heartthrob, because here he is posing on the Friends album cover almost topless! Anyway, on to the songs …
The first track is one of the themes to Sigmund. If you have any recollection of the show, you can — and will — sing along to this one.
Next we have â€œAlley Oop.” No, wait, I’m sorry — we just have a song that starts off sounding an awful lot like it. “Monster Rock” is a pretty silly song, made even sillier by having Sigmund sound like Boris Karloff with a touch of helium in his voice.
Of course for any album of this type, youâ€™ve got to have tender love ballads. I picked the following one because I kind of like it, even though the background singers seem to be doing most of the work here.
I seem to remember the song â€œLovinâ€™ Ainâ€™t Easy” from somewhere other than Sigmund; Whitaker may have sung it on another show. Truth be told, I donâ€™t really remember any of these tracks fromÂ Sigmund except for the theme song(s). Hereâ€™s a side note: “Lovin’ Ain’t Easy,” like all the other songs on Friends, features Whitaker double-tracked. In other words, heâ€™s singing with himself on each song. I know this practice was often employed with marginal singers to give their voices a bit more depth, but when was it first done? Iâ€™m thinking Annette Funicello was the first, but Iâ€™m not sure.
Finally, we wrap up with another version of the Sigmund theme. I think they did a different theme song each season, unlike on other Sid and Marty Krofft shows. Maybe the producers really thought they had a singer on their hands, and letâ€™s face it — Whitakerâ€™s no worse than the lot of teen vocalists at that time, and unlike many of them, he even had a bit of a lower range.
If youâ€™d like to hear the rest of Friends, you can find it here.
And look! Here he is in a live performance at the Hollywood Bowl! You might not think Johnny Whitaker’s that great, but how many performances have you had at the Hollywood Bowl? Hmmmmm…?
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