2003   JULY 30   #211

Leo Muller - Bobby & Betty go to the Moon: A Lunar Adventure in the Year 1985

Leo Muller was one of the all time great (and most successful) producers of the "cheesy listening" era, though for the most part people know nothing about him. His music is enjoying a new life as the records he released are being rediscovered by a new generation of techno DJ's and other musicians who use sampling. Through the years he employed countless nameless musicians and arrangers and always took full song-writing and production credit on everything, using the name Leo Muller.

Born as D. Kleiber in Germany, he moved to the USA in the 1930's and settled on the new American-sounding name of David Leonard Miller. During the 1950's artists like Mantovani and Semprini were very popular with the record buying public, and D. L. Miller realized he could sell tons of cheaply produced records and cash in on the ultra-cheesy orchestral brand of mood music that was popular at the time, so he created the "Somerset" record label. He hired European orchestras that were down on their luck, and gave them lush syrupy string-laden arrangements to current hits of the day and released it under the name "The 101 Strings." The public ate it up, and Miller sold the franchise to Alshire International in 1964 at a great profit.

Miller then invested his earnings in a new company, Damil, which spawned a new record label, "Gold Award," that offered even more syrupy strings and cocktail piano albums with "Carlini's World of Strings," and the "London Philharmonic Orchestra." Miller also tried to cash in on the popularity of country music at that time and released a series of forgettable hillbilly party albums. He also tried to appeal to fans of the Hammond organ by releasing LP's which featured cheesy organ covers of hits of the day by bands such as Big Jim 'H' & His Men Of Rhythm, and later, The Flashing Fingers & Pounding Pedals Of Duke Grant & His Trio. At this same time he also started the "Happy House" label, which specialized in records aimed at kiddies. Later in the 1970's he also released a series of Soul and Disco albums, as well as "tribute" albums which featured botched remakes of songs by popular artists, such as Jimi Hendrix, ABBA and Deep Purple, re-recorded with fledgling musicians who were paid less than scale. All told, D. L. Miller released around 150 albums on "Gold Award" and "Happy House" and various other labels, such as "Europa." Miller continued to collect royalties from those albums up until his death in 1985.

The "Bobby & Betty go to the Moon" LP originally appeared on the Pye-owned label "Marble Arch" in the late 60's. This "Happy House" record (Happy House HH506) was first released in the early 70's. I discovered this LP in a Goodwill store in Florida while I was traveling around the country. Our van was packed to the gills and we had absolutely no more room for anything, but after seeing this LP in the bin I decided I had to have it. I was glad I had bought it, though I was tortured by the fact that I couldn't listen to it for months, but when I finally heard it I was not disappointed. Side one is a strange 'kiddies go to the moon' space story for the tots, performed by incredibly bad actors. It is filled with loads of 60's/70's sexism and it even has a "spacey" version of the "Blue Danube." Side two is 'The Party After Landing at Lunar Central.' The Soul Symphony must have been the house band at the party, because we are treated to "space-tweaked" versions of 'CC Rider' and 'Papa's Got a Brand New Bag' from the 'Symphony of Soul Hits' (1970) LP, which was released on Leo Muller's own "Gold Award" label. There has been some added flute and out of synch vibes, but the strings has been turned down (though you can still hear the bleed through in the quieter moments).

So, step back in time to view the imagined future (that is actually the past that never was), and relive the era when everyone felt that space travel would be commonplace by 1985 and everyone would have their own personal robot, etc..

- Jef Stevens & Karl Hoffman

TT-14:51 / 17MB / 160kbps 44.1khz

(Image courtesy of Jef Stevens & Karl Hoffman)