Ross Bagdasarian, a.k.a. David Seville

Ross Bagdasarian was born in Fresno, California on January 27, 1919. He started writing songs at an early age. In 1951, he and his cousin William Saroyan, wrote a number one hit for Rosemary Clooney titled "Come On-A My House". In 1955 he was signed to Liberty Records as an artist. His first record was "The Trouble With Harry" [55008], issued under the name "Alfi & Harry", in which the same few piano bars are repeated over and over with Alfi [Ross] talking over the music. This was the kind of "comedy" record that Ross came to perfect later on.

Next were two records by Patience and Prudence issued in 1956, "Tonight You Belong To Me", [55022] and "Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now", [55040]. I heard at the time that these little girls were Ross' daughters. After that he did a very square instrumental titled, "Armen's Theme" [55041], which was issued in November 1956 and signalled the first appearance of The Music Of David Seville. Next up was another "Alfi & Harry" song titled "Closing Time" [55066], another piano piece with a talk-over, which is one of the saddest songs I have ever heard. On the other side of the 45 was a song called "Safari", in which he sang in a fake Italian/calypso voice, "Safari, safari, man is always on safari. He like love, but he no like to marry, 'cause man is always on safari". In the background the chorus tried to sound like African natives, singing "Safari, Ooli-wang".

Of course, we all know what record was released between these last two, don't we? Yep, Eddie Cochran's first, "Sittin' In The Balcony" [55056]. Right after that came "So Young", by the movie actor Robert Wagner! [55069]. This is the same song that was recorded by Clyde Stacy, among others. The next issue by Ross was "Gotta Get To Your House", [55079] as David Seville, which was another instrumental with a talk-over, in which he repeats the lyrics, but keeps getting mixed up, "Pretty pink hair, big brown house". On the other side was a fairly square instrumental, "Camel Rock", with a couple really good, out-of-place guitar solos [Eddie the session man, maybe?]

His next release was "Witch Doctor" [55132], which was the first time he employed sped-up vocals. He would record his voice at 1/2 speed, and play it back at normal speed. By the way, when he sings " Walla Walla Bing Bang", it was to kid his uncle, who had just moved to Walla Walla, Washington. By this time he was writing, producing and singing on his records. Then he got the idea to use the sped-up voice as the voice of an animal, which he used in his next release, "The Bird On My Head" [55140].

One of the next records released on Liberty was Eddie's "Summertime Blues" [55144] and then Ross put out "Little Brass Band" [55153], which was kind of a mis-step in his march toward "the BIG ONE!" That record was, of course, one of the all-time great Christmas records, "The Chipmunk Song" [55168]. He based Alvin on his own son, Adam, who was always driving him crazy with conversations much the same as the one in the song. The chipmunks (Alvin, Simon and Theodore) were named after the two heads of Liberty Records, Al Bennett and Si Warnoker, and the engineer for the session, Ted Keep. "The Chipmunk Song received two Grammy Awards in 1958, "Best Comedy Performance" and "Best Recording for Children".

As David Seville, he had a few more releases in the late fifties and early sixties. "Judy/Maria From Madrid" [55193], "Witch Doctor/Swanee River" [55272] and "Freddy, Freddy/Oh Judge, Your Honor, Dear Sir, Sweethe" [55314]. After producing many Chipmunk albums, Ross died of a heart attack on January 16, 1972 and the company passed into the hands of his son, Ross, Jr., who was responsible for the Chipmunks TV show and everything since.

Story by Ron McClement, 2001
For BlackCat Rockabilly Europe
Additional research by The BlackCat
Used with permission

E-mail Ron:
The Chipmunks; David Seville (Dad)