The Genuine Canine Chorus
Back in 1955, a disgruntled recording engineer created a novelty sensation with The Singing Dogs.
Carl Weismann hated dogs. Or at least he hated their barking. An audio engineer for Danish State Radio in Copenhagen back in the ’50s, Weismann specialized in recording bird song. Finches, jays, swallows—he captured them all on tape. But whether he was in the field or a city park, there often seemed to be a dog around, waiting to ruin his recording.
An adept editor, Weismann snipped the offending mutts from his tapes using a pair of scissors (that’s how they did it back before computers). Eventually, Weismann had a pile of discarded dog voices. Rather than toss them, he decided to have some fun.
Pasting together barks of varying tones (then goosing them with a speed-control), he set them against simple musical tracks of five songs, including “Jingle Bells” and “Oh Susanna.” The resulting record, attributed to The Singing Dogs, sold 500,000 copies worldwide.
Fifteen years later, New York DJ Howard Smith rediscovered the record and played it as a gag. The phones lit up. Callers claimed their own dogs were singing along. The album became an even bigger hit. Now part of the yuletide canon, The Singing Dogs (reportedly led by two German Shepherds and a Poodle) are bona fide platinum-selling artists.
Bill DeMain is a freelance writer and muscian based in Nashville, Tenn. He's contributed to Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, MOJO and Eldr and is also one-half of the acclaimed pop duo Swan Dive. His favorite song is "Me and My Arrow" by Harry Nilsson. swandive.org