“I’m paying for 16 musicians! I want to hear them all playing!”
Phil Scheib at 62 was the oldest member of the Terrytoons staff when I arrived there in1956, when I was just 31. To me, he seemed the most miserably mis-used talent in the place. Phil was born in 1894, and as I heard had a classical music education, but to earn a living he played piano or Wurlitzer organ in silent movie houses. Paul Terry hired him when he was forced to add sound to his cartoons. He saw that it would be cheaper to have original music than to pay for music rights to any popular song hits. Thus Terrytoons was the only cartoon studio never to use even bits of popular tunes on their soundtracks. Phil eventually created nearly 800 original scores for Terrytoons!
Terry was often quoted as saying “Walt Disney is the Tiffany of movie cartoons. I am the Woolworths.” He was so cheap that after being forced by his distributors to use a full orchestra in his films, he ordered Phil to write scores in which all the musicians played all the time. Phil told me that Terry shouted at him during an early recording session, “How come those trumpet players are just sitting on their asses while the saxes are playing? If I have to pay for 18 musicians, I want to hear them all playing all the time!”
That explains muddled music tracks on the old Terrytoons!
Paul’s early experience, improvising to silent movies, helped him develop a great facility to create melodies. I realized that he was a real professional with a greater potential than he was ever allowed to develop.
The first thing I asked him to do was to create a theme melody and song for my new character, Clint Clobber, “DeWitt Clinton Clobber, Superintendent & Sanitary Engineer of the Flamboyant Arms Apartments,” the grumpy but dedicated Brooklyn-voiced janitor of a faded apartment house. As the fat and forty guy was actually in love with this downmarket building full of weirdo tenants, I wanted a pseudo romantic melody as his theme song. Phil created just the right tune, “It must be love I’m thinkin’ of, it must be looooove!” featuring a bassoon based quintet. Even though this faded after my departure, I continue to believe that Phil’s music alone could have boosted Clobber into a star character… I had great faith in the character, but perhaps I’m the only one left on the planet who did!
Phil’s real triumph was the lovely medieval church music score he created for the R.O. Blechman story, “The Juggler Of Our Lady.” These and other great music tracks had nothing whatever in common the hundreds of Terrytoons scores of the past, and yet they were created by the same person!