Here’s an oddball 78rpm from the guy who defined Popeye for America. The cartoon strip was first, but when it was turned into an animated feature, the Fleischer Studio was looking around for somebody who could do the voice. They found a voice actor that they had used on other stuff, a guy named Billy Costello.
He came up with the raspy voice, the high-pitched laugh and all the other odd sounds that Popeye would be known for. His original invention of Popeye’s voice is the voice that all others would copy.
He debuted with Popeye on the very first short in 1933 and would appear in all of the first 24 short films. At the time, he never got onscreen credit for his voice work, and as Popeye became hugely successful, he wanted credit, and more money. Thinking that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, he squeaked, and found that sometimes the squeaky wheel gets replaced.
The new guy Jack Mercer took over the role and Billy Costello was left to find work elsewhere.
This record is the first of three that Costello made in the wake of being cut loose from the studio. It’s from April 27, 1935, about the time he was fired from the role for ‘bad behavior.’ You’ll hear him recreate his title song ‘I’m Popeye The Sailor Man’ just as it sounds at the start of the early cartoons. These were recorded in the UK where it was felt that they didn’t violate any copyrights, then two sides were quietly licensed to Melotone in the US before they were caught and shut down as well.