Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!”—Larry Marks, theme song singer, season 1

Introduction to series “Super ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Introduction to subseries “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” (including list of interviewees).
What’s your professional background?

I started out as a musician, a working musician. When I left college I was on the road about a year and a half with a band. Got married, played nightclubs in California, transitioned to studio work. Then I started getting hired. That was in the late 1960s. I came to California from New York in 1966.

What were you doing in 1969 before the Scooby call came?

I was hired by Lee Hazlewood, a record producer in those days. I was doing background dates (meaning I was a background singer) and producing records for him. When I left his company, I went to A. Schroeder, a music publishing company. Randy Newman, Barry White were some of our writers. One of the music catalogs we administered was Hanna-Barbera. In that capacity we also provided theme music for their shows. We put our writers to work on their shows. One of the shows that we did was Scooby-Doo.

How did you get involved with Scooby?

I had a three-and-a-half octave range so I could do girls’ parts. I was handy to have around the studio. When the theme was written for Scooby-Doo, my boss said I want you to do the vocals.

Larry Marks late 1960s

Before singing the theme, what were you told or shown about the show?

Nothing actually. That was the interesting thing about it. We knew the premise essentially but that’s it.

So you hadn’t even seen what the characters looked like?

No, never saw anything. We cut the tracks on Wednesday and the show was on the air on Saturday.

Was that a typical turnaround in those days?

That was pretty quick. (laughs) We knew it was going to be okay but you don’t want to cut it that close if you can avoid it.

How did the recording go?

It went great. I did all the parts. I sang the lead and the backgrounds, one at a time.

Is it true that it was you who suggested adding the words “Scooby Dooby Doo” to the lyrics? Those weren’t in the version David Mook and Ben Raleigh wrote?

Actually the only line that I added was “Scooby Dooby Doo, here are you.” It was grammatically twisted but it rhymed.

What was the original line?

I don’t remember.

So you didn’t suggest adding “Scooby Dooby Doo”?

No, the song was written by Ben Raleigh, co-written by the guy I worked for at the time, David Mook. We had a pretty impressive stable of writers to go to. We would go to guys who’d had hit records before.

Was there ever talk of releasing the song as single?

No. A couple of guys approached me when they did the [first live action] movie version. Someone had the bright idea of me, the guy who did the original, updating the theme. I recorded a version of it but it was more on spec than anything else.

Was it ever used?

No.

Was anything changed?

We updated the arrangement so it sounded a little more contemporary.

I thought the original theme sounded sophisticated for a cartoon at that time.

I think because it was written by a [hit] songwriter. It had a different attraction to it. It was a little bit hipper.

What was David Mook like?

An interesting guy. He worked for Schroeder along with me. He was a nice guy. He was not a music guy per se, not a musician. It’s been a long time.

Did you ever meet Ben Raleigh?

Yes. He was old school. When I met him he was [already] an older guy. I didn’t have a lot of contact.

What about Austin Roberts, who sang the theme after you?

I don’t know why they rerecorded it. Maybe because at the time Roberts had a hit record out called “Keep On Singing.”

Did that bother you at the time?

No, I couldn’t care less. It was an arbitrary decision [to have me sing the original]. [Roberts performed] the same song and essentially the same arrangement, if I remember correctly.

Were you paid a flat fee or royalty?

I was paid scale. The thing was on film. It was a SAG thing. (AFTRA is on tape.) Then you get residuals and they last for several years.

That doesn’t continue to this day?

It’s a convoluted thing. [In the contracts] they talked about all future technology. Maybe 10-12 years ago, a friend said, “You ought to see if there’s any money [for you] in Scooby-Doo.” It’s on the air 1,000 times a day. Not just the show, but my version of the song. There was a phrase that [Hanna-Barbera/Warners] used to talk specifically about the first year of Scooby—classic”? They were selling it that way. I thought maybe I’ll start calling up. In 1969, there were no computers, no way of keeping information [electronically]. I had to go SAG thirty years after the fact and say, “I think you owe me money.” They finally did the accounting and after all those years they gave me a check…are you ready for this…for $400-something dollars—not $400,000—and they took taxes out. The money comes from cable, DVD, [and so on], and those [DVDs] had to sell I think 100,000 copies before you participate in the sales [and they didn’t]. They did have a favored nations clause—meaning that everyone involved with the recording , including the voice talent [on the show], makes as much as the highest paid [among them].

Was that $400 all you’re expecting to see?

No, I was expecting to buy a home. (laughs) I didn’t have any real expectations but I had to admit I was little taken aback [that it was so little].

Do you think there’s more Scooby money to come for you?

I got another check recently…for $100 and change.

Do you remember if you watched the first episode? What was your reaction? Who did you watch with?

Yes, I did with watch, with my kids.

What did you think?

I’d heard myself sing before. I’d had record deals as an artist. I’d heard myself on the radio before. But I’d never heard my voice on TV before. I thought it was kind of fun.

What did you think of the show itself?

I thought it was interesting. I heard a theory why this show was so popular; someone did an analysis some years ago. [The study determined that] it was the only show at the time that really had a plot with a real whodunit where kids had to think and pay attention. There was no other show like that.

And that struck you at the beginning?

We were used to The Flintstones, The Jetsons, benign shows with no plot. So when you’re looking at something like this, I thought it was [different and] interesting.

Do you have children?

My son was born in 1966 and daughter in 1968.

You remember watching it with both of them? Your daughter was very young in 1969.

Oh yeah.

Do you remember what they thought?

I think they dug it but they were young. I don’t know if [they liked it on its own or if it was] the novelty of me singing on it that attracted them.

What do your children think of your connection to pop culture history?

I don’t know if they looked at it in those terms. I think they put it in the back of their minds and kept it with them. I wanted to have kids young on purpose so I could relate to them. Being in music I could connect with them directly. They came to some of my [recording] sessions. I sang on The Banana Splits and they came. It was normal for them to be around musicians.

Any stories about your kids growing up and friends learning their dad sang the Scooby theme?

That happened later on, when they were older. When they said my dad sang the Scooby-Doo theme, people would go into how they loved that show.

Do you have grandchildren?

I have a grandson. He’s six.

Does he know about your Scooby contribution?

He does. I think he’s impressed but I’m not really sure. (laughs) Then, TV was the most compelling medium we had. There was no multimedia. A person in TV was something of a player. But now with the Internet anyone can make albums. But for some reason whenever Scooby-Doo is mentioned, there’s an [exuberant] reaction.

Did singing the Scooby theme have an impact on your career?

No. It was a part of things that I did. I sang on a lot of people’s records. To me it was just another gig. I don’t want to appear cavalier or ungrateful but some people [like me] worked on everybody’s records and they all ran together.

What did you do after the Scooby gig?

When I left the music biz, I met my second wife and she had a marketing PR firm. We did media relations, strategizing.

When did you leave the music biz?

I left in 1984.

Was it hard to leave?

The reason the break occurred was not the music but the business. A lot of people were disenchanted.

Did you have training in marketing, etc.?

I didn’t have any formal training but I was a quick study. We had a good run. But I still have a passion for music and always will.

What are you doing these days?

I’m semi-retired. My wife passed away a year and a half ago. I’m too old to go back to work but too young to not do something. I’m in a hovering phase.

Larry Marks 2011

What was your reaction when you heard why I was contacting you?

I was flattered, number one. I don’t want this to sound wrong, but in a way it’s not super surprising. Several years ago my wife went online and was attempting to see where my name popped up and even if it popped up. I was surprised that anybody cared or anybody knew [about me and Scooby]. Of all the shows on the air in those days, I’m really surprised at the longevity.

Yes, the Flintstones and the Jetsons are long gone, but Scooby goes on and is reinvented in small ways every few years.

That’s my point!

So no else ever contacted you for an interview about Scooby?

No.

Have you heard from Scooby fans?

No.

Would you appear at pop culture conventions to sign autographs?

I would be amazed and flattered. If somebody wants to meet me, I’d be delighted to meet them. I’ve always been a fan and student of pop culture, since I was a kid. It should be repaid in kind.

Do you have any Scooby memorabilia?

No.

Do you have any personal notes, letters, contract, etc. related to your Scooby work?

I can give you a copy of my last royalty check if you want to see something really pathetic. (laughs) It was just a session that I did and then that swirl about Scooby-Doo came up around me after. I was fascinated but felt like I was looking at like an [outside] observer.

Do you have an iPod? If so, is your Scooby theme on it?

Yes. But it’s not on there.

I can e-mail it to you.

I would love that.

Next: Austin Roberts, theme song and “chase songs” singer, season 2.

6 comments:

Dex1138 said...

Thank you both for this interview! It's rare when someone not an "in the spotlight" as the main voice actors gets to talk about their contribution to a pop culture icon. It was a fun read.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks Dex1138. This is one of my favorites out of the whole 100-interview series. He was not only candid but had good recall and anecdotes.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, the Flintstones and the Jetsons are long gone..."

Actually, Fox and Seth MacFarlane are going to make a new Flintstones series.

hobbyfan said...

Marc:

I actually had the Scooby Snacks CD at one time, which had Mr. Marks' rendition of the theme song. The guy wasn't given credit then, and neither was his successor, Austin Roberts, whom we'll get to later. It's nice to know the man is finally getting his just due after 42 years.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks hobbyfan! I agree!

furrball said...

I knew who Larry Marks is from his days at A&M Records (producer, and also from his [I think!] classic single "L.A. Break Down (And Take Me In)" b/w "Country Woman"), but I was surprised to learn about this! Great interview!

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