An Early Influence: Children’s Music and Entertainment

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by children’s entertainment. I can still recall the first time I played and heard certain records and the wonderful feelings they brought me.

I grew up in a large house with a big family, and I don’t remember when I was not in love with vinyl records. I loved watching them spin on the turntable, the graphics on the labels, and the sounds blasting from the speakers.

The music belonged to the grown-ups (mother, aunts, uncles and grandmother). They filled the house with jazz, pop, R&B, gospel, and soul — even on the radio. Aside from what played on the television, I hadn’t heard anything else.

Until the day I started kindergarten.

I didn’t know what to expect: so many kids, books, toys, and games — and only a few supervisors. My eyes soon caught sight of records, but of a kind I had never seen.
There were Peter Pan, The Adventures of Pinocchio (both by United Artists’ Tale Spinners), Songs from Sesame Street (Golden Records), Hansel and Gretel (Peter Pan Records), and more. On these albums, the graphics were beautifully inviting and bright with colours. It was like entering a whole new world.

It was in that classroom where I first heard (and read along with) the 7” LP read-along version of Peter and the Wolf (Disneyland Records). I became enthralled by the narrator and the background music while looking through the pictures and the text. I still remember the sounds of several albums, which I listened to alongside the other kids talking, laughing, and playing.

I remember going into my brother’s classroom and seeing more records there. I played some of those, then looked at the back cover of one particular album. It had a picture of various animals with a list of “other available albums” in the centre. Pouring through the list, I envisioned what they might look like, these “other songs” and stories, and how they sounded.

A couple of years later, my brother and I started grade school (I attended several remedial schools due to my learning disabilities). I remember going to the store with my mother and discovering another type of entertainment. There was a display of books and cassettes in various matching colours. One title that caught my eye was Pinocchio (by this time, it had become my all-time favourite story, alongside Jack and the Beanstalk) with a dark-blue book cover and cassette shell. When I first heard it, I was amazed by the quality of the production, a dramatization with a classical music soundtrack.

Other sets followed: Jack and the Beanstalk (a light-green cover), Little Red Riding Hood (red, naturally), Snow White (white, of course), Rumplestiltskin (brown), Aladdin (purple), and so on. I appreciated everything about the series and each story each time it was read and played; it was like being on a fun adventure. I couldn’t wait to get home from school and play them again.

Around that time, walking through the shopping mall in the area, I stopped dead in my tracks while passing the record store. I could see a 12-inch book and record album on display through the glass door. It was yet another version of Pinocchio (Peter Pan Records), but what was remarkable about it was the artwork. It was as if Pinocchio was alive in the picture: streak lines followed his every move, his face full of expression, the bright colours jumping out at me. This would be my introduction to that particular style of record book and would shape my own technique as a young artist and further my interest in children’s records.

Over the years, listening to these records and cassettes has given me a sense of joy, purpose, and (to be perfectly honest) a reason to live. If I ever had a terrible day, the music instantly takes that feeling away – it is a healing process, if you will. Now and then, I would sing (or speak) along with the performers as if I were at the recording studio with them.

In essence, children’s records still make me feel like a kid again — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I look forward to regularly sharing closer looks at items from my personal collection of children’s vinyl records with Toy Tales readers.