Update: Daily Discovery - Ho-Ho Rock and Roll by Sid Ramin

Posted by Robert Rodriguez on: July 14 2014

Ho Ho Rock and Roll 45 rpm picture
We originally posted "The Ho-Ho Rock and Roll" almost 4 years ago on November 11, 2010. We never could have imagined the story that would be shared with us by Bruce Baryla, on what turns out to be an almost 60 year old song. "I did not know Mr. Ramin. He died in 2012 and his personal belongings wound up in a dumpster in Manhattan, buried under construction debris. I saved it from becoming landfill." Thanks to Mr. Baryla coming to the rescue we now have this beautiful piece of Rock and Roll/music history.
Good evening.

I saw your post about "The Ho-Ho Rock And Roll" 45rpm and I can answer the
questions you had about it -- I own the remains of Jordan Ramin's
Thunderbird Records archives.

The first appearance of "The Ho-Ho Rock And Roll" was as the B-side to the
theme song of Mike Todd's blockbuster movie "Around the World In 80 Days"
("Around The World" by Jack Haskell") -- in an "Around The World In 80
Days" picture sleeve. These were sold at the theaters where the Todd movie
was being shown -- with Todd's blessings!

If there's been a more bizarre B-side choice for a mainstream show promo
release, I don't know what that might be.

Here's how it came about.

Peter Roberts' "The Ho-Ho Rock and Roll" and Jack Haskell's "Around The
World" were actually recorded at the same session and both were edited the
next day -- October 11, 1956 -- about a week before the movie premiered.

The reason these radically different songs were birthed together is
explained by understanding the ambitions of Jordan Ramin. The brother of
famed arranger/composer Sid Ramin (West Side Story, theme songs for Candid
Camera and The Patty Duke Show, Music to Watch Girls By, lots of Broadway
stage stuff), Jordan Ramin worked in Mike Todd's back office but was also a
talented musician, arranger and recording engineer -- his moonlighting
project was his fledgling independent record label, Thunderbird Records.

Jack Haskell was a regular singer on the Jack Paar TV show. Jordan Ramin
had Haskell under Thunderbird contract and had already released a flop 45
in January 1955 with two Haskell numbers ("I Remember Mambo" and "Who Can
Say") -- and another flop 45 in March 1955 with a third Haskell effort
("Tell It To My Heart").

Ramin's label was sinking fast and he was squabbling with his three
partners. One of the points of contention was that Ramin wanted to do a
rock and roll number but his partners were cool to the idea.

Ramin had two brainstorms designed to turn Thunderbird's fortunes around.

His first idea was to do a rock and roll novelty record that featured the
famous laugh of radio personality Peter Roberts. Roberts was a popular
veteran newscaster and had moved from WNBC to WINS along with comedians Bob
and Ray in March 1954.

Bob and Ray would frequently purposefully try to crack up Roberts during
his morning newscasts. Roberts' laugh was distinctive and unforgettable and
would seem to go on forever, punctuated by him sighing "Ho-ho!". It got to
the point where Robert's laughing fits were recorded by the show's
engineers and kept ready for use to be played spontaneously on-air for

Jordan Ramin sold Roberts on doing the record and melded previously
recorded laugh tracks made by WINS director/soundman Vic Cowan with new
instrumentals performed by Sid Ramin's orchestra. Jordan Ramin personally
executed the interesting and fairly innovative reverb effects that make the
song so memorable.

Ramin's other brainstorm was to take advantage of his insider knowledge
that his boss Mike Todd was producing a movie that was a sure bet to be a
smash. He had been planning for a year to ride the coming success of
"Around the World In 80 Days" by putting out a song related to the movie.

Mike Todd and his wife Elizabeth Taylor first heard Jack Haskell's version
of "Around The World" two days after it was edited and Todd loved it so
much that he instructed Ramin to make dub copies available before and for
the movie premiere and party on October 17, 1956, for record stores, TV
shows and deejays.

This led to Jordan's Thunderbird 45 being sold in every theatre the movie
was shown in across the country -- with "Ho-Ho Rock and Roll" tagging along
for the ride even though it couldn't have had less to do with the show!

Finished records were delivered and began to be distributed on November 1,

Meanwhile, "Ho-Ho" was getting airplay from Bob and Ray as well as other
deejays and made it to some high slots on certain regional top hits lists.

When the movie won the Academy Award for Best Musical Score on March 27,
1957, Ramin got the OK from Todd to have Jack Haskell record "Way Out West"
to replace "Ho-Ho" on a new pressing for theater sale. This is the yellow
label version which came in a newly designed red on yellow sleeve.

Eventually, Todd started to phase in selling Decca's "Around the World in
80 Days" recordings in movie theaters but all told Jordan claimed to have
sold 30,000 copies of his 45s.

Fun stuff, eh?


Bruce Baryla
Around The World in 80 Days picture
My response:
Thank you so much for filling me in on the history of this amazing tune! I wish you could have heard me, or seen my face as I read your email.
My first action after reading this was to call my friend, Steve Propes, who is a music historian.
He could hear the excitement in my voice and mentioned that he recently put a copy of the Ho Ho Rock & Roll 45 in his garage.
I am cordially invited to help him find the copy tomorrow morning, so he can put this in his collection right away...haha!
(Quick update: Steve found the sleeve and record. To add to the suspense of the monent, the B side had a label tear. We went to the turntable right away and with smiles on our faces and expectations of hearing the psychedelic tune we dropped the needle, which turned out to be the later pressing of the record with "Way Out West" on the flip)
You mentioned you own the rights to the Thunderbird archives.
What else was released on the Thunderbird label?
Where is the city is the Thunderbird label from? 
Do you have any copies of the 45 or picture sleeve?
Did you about the Cliff Dwellers version called "Ho Ho the Laughing Monster"? Is this a part of the Thunderbird archives? Do you know anything about this or the Liza label?
Mr. Baryla added:
Hi Robert,

I'm glad you got such a kick out of the "Ho-Ho" story. I have noted the widening interest in the song over the past few years. You may re-post to your Facebook groups, but I would like you to post BOTH of my emails to you, complete and unedited. Include my name and email address. And please let me know what groups you are posting it to.

Here we go...

Some comments on what I am calling the "Thunderbird Records Archives". As I wrote, I own the remains of the Thunderbird Records archives -- what I have is the personal archives of Jordan Ramin. I did not know Mr. Ramin. He died in 2012 and his personal belongings wound up in a dumpster in Manhattan, buried under construction debris. I saved it from becoming landfill.

It is really an archive of the musical and literary work of Jordan Ramin, of which Thunderbird is only one chapter -- and a very comprehensively and uniquely covered chapter. Jordan kept a chronological series of scrapbooks, in which are such things as Thunderbird promotional brochures, letters from deejays responding to the promo records he sent out, clippings from Billboard and other papers, original manuscript and "onion skin master" sheet music, detailed corporate meeting notes and correspondance between the Thunderbird partners, among other things.

As a side note, and to illustrate how rich and wide-ranging this material is, one of Jordan's partners and music collaborators was Ted Rosen, remembered today for his Halmark "song poem" vanity pressing record mill. If you look at the "blue label" version of "Ho-Ho" you'll see "Ted Rosen Co. BMI". So this archive is also the earliest chapter in Ted Rosen's career. Ramin and Rosen also collaborated on the song "Herkimer The Homely Doll" -- Decca released Sterling Hollaway's performance of it in 1954, but it is most remembered as an animated cartoon that appeared on the Captain Kangaroo TV show a few years later.

The archive also comprehensively covers a period in Sid Ramin's career that is not well represented in the Sid Ramin Papers archive at Columbia University. Sid is one of only 18 people who have won the "awards trifecta" of an Academy Award, a Grammy, and an Emmy.

Another Thunderbird partner and music collaborator was Robert Share, who was an important early guiding light and first provost of the famous Berklee School of Music in Boston. (Berklee has just put up a page for the school's "faculty pioneers" with a brief Bob Share bio: http://tinyurl.com/q2akm6s) Jordan and Share collaborated on the theme song of the only "Smell-O-Vision" movie ever made -- "Scent of Mystery" -- which was produced by Mike Todd, Jr. in 1960.

Here are answers to your questions:


What else was released on the Thunderbird label?

There are 5 Thunderbird single releases:


45-19551 "Who Can Say?" b/w 45-19552 "I Remember Mambo" (blue label)
1-Jack Haskell + Sid Ramin Orchestra
2-Jack Haskell & Ray Charles Singers + Sid Ramin Orchestra
(also released as a 78 rpm: Thunderbird 19551/19552)


45-19552 "Goo-Ahm-Bah (The Head Hunter's Dance)"
b/w 45-19554 "Tell It To My Heart" (blue label)
(Both: Jack Haskell & Ray Charles Singers + Sid Ramin Orchestra)

("Goo-Ahm-Bah" b/w "I Remember Mambo" was released in Europe as Ronnex 1108)


45-1956 "Around The World" b/w "The Ho-Ho Rock And Roll" (blue label)
1-Jack Haskell + Sid Ramin Orchestra
2-Peter Roberts + Sid Ramin Orchestra

First Pressing FB-515 (Capitol Custom)
(Ho-Ho credit: Gloria Bright)
Later Pressings ZTSP 25776/ZTSP 25777 (Columbia Custom)
(Ho-Ho credit: Gloria Bright & Peter Roberts

Red on white Around The World In 80 Days picture sleeve
was probably not yet ready when the first Capitol Custom 45s
were distributed.


45-1956 "Around The World" b/w "Away Out West" (yellow label)
1- Jack Haskell + Sid Ramin Orchestra
2- Jack Haskell + Sid Ramin Orchestra

ZTSP 25776/ZTSP 26220 (Columbia Custom)

a) Away Out West label error: ZTSP 26213 instead of ZTSP 26220
b) Around The World label on both sides

New red on yellow Around The World in 80 Days
"Winner of Academy Award" picture sleeve

I've seen three picture sleeve variations,
probably produced in this order:
a) Balloon is not perfectly round and back of sleeve is blank.
b) Balloon is retouched to be perfectly round and picture sleeve
graphics appear both front and back.
c) Photographic balloon replaced with illustrated graphic
of balloon and picture sleeve graphics appear both front and back.

45-1957 "Be Sure, Make No Mistake" b/w "Tell It To My Heart" (purple label)
1-Jack Haskell + Orchestra Conducted By Marc Fredericks
2-Jack Haskell & Ray Charles Singers + Sid Ramin Orchestra

There was one Thunderbird LP.

Jordan was crazy about jazz music and put out two LP records parodying jazz.

The first was the only Thunderbird LP, "The Worst of Morris Garner" (Thunderbird 1958), released in 1958. It parodied jazz pianist Errol Garner and drew the wrath of Garner's spitfire agent Martha Glazer and Columbia Records executives. Jordan actually had the audacity to record it at Columbia studios! He got blackballed by Columbia and found that deejays wouldn't play it and Glazer threatened to sue him.

That didn't stop him -- in 1961 he put out another LP record parodying not just one prominent jazz musician but a whole bunch of them. "Morris Grants Presents J.U.N.K. (Jazz University's New-Fangled Kicks)" was put out on the Argo label (Argo LP 4006) with the blessing of Jack Tracy and was a spoof of Norman Granz's JATP concert records.

My archive contains a good deal of unique promotional material for both of these efforts, including a photo outake of the girl on the piano cover shot from "Morris Garner" (legendary pin-up girl Joyce Miles) and many letters from DJs and jazz publication journalists and critics around the country.

What city is the Thunderbird label from?

Thunderbird Records business was handled by Jordan in New York out of his Manhattan apartment and Mike Todd's office, and in Boston by his partners who lived in that region.

Do you have any copies of the Ho-Ho 45 or picture sleeve?

I have no records in the archive, but I do have audio cassette compilations made by Jordan of various songs and projects he was involved in over the years, most of which are not Thunderbird projects, and most of which were never released and must have been recorded from acetates that are probably ridiculously rare.

I do have a trimmed picture sleeve of the "The Ho-Ho Laughing Monster" 45 (possible a die-cut sample proof) glued to the back of a typed promo sheet aimed at record dealers. The scrapbook page before it has an original letter from The White House signed by President Kennedy's personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, acknowleging receipt of "the first two copies of the recording of 'Midnight In Canaveral' that you sent the President", and the envelope from the White House it came in complete with a Project Mercury postage stamp.

There's also a carbon of Jordan's letter to Walter Cronkite in response to Cronkite objecting to having his name used on "Canaveral", assuring him that it would be removed if the record ever went back to press, and including the letter he got back from the White House to demonstrate that even the President liked the song.

Did you know about the Cliff Dwellers version called "Ho Ho the Laughing Monster"? Is this a part of the Thunderbird archives? Do you know anything about this or the Liza label?

The "Cliff Dwellers" release of "Ho-Ho" on Liza Records is identical to the original Peter Roberts Thunderbird release -- in fact, because the original master tape could not be located, it was made from an actual Thunderbird 45rpm record.

There was no "Cliff Dwellers" group, strictly speaking. "Midnight In Canaveral" was written by Jordan in collaboration with two of his closest friends, Bill Boal and Avery Lagios, who worked at Time-Life. Bill Boal was the father of Mark Boal, the Oscar-winning producer and screenwriter for "The Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty".

Why "Cliff Dwellers"? It was sort of an inside joke -- The Cliff Dwellers' Deviltry and Diversion Society (or Cliff Dwellers for short) was a briefly successful organization that ran parties and events for young hip urbanites who subscribed to their newsletters. Bill Boal and documentary film maker Ted Steeg ("Coffee House Rendezvous" among other things) were two of the founders of Cliff Dwellers, and all of these men were involved in its party scene.

Liza Records was a music publishing business started by Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Todd, Jr., the son of her husband Mike Todd, who was killed in a tragic airplane crash in 1958. Jordan continued to work for Mike Todd, Jr. after the tragedy and was essentially a vice president in charge of Liza business as well as having significant creative music input and recording
production duties.

One of the projects Todd and Ramin worked on was an album of songs by Al "The Wild Man" Ferrari. This name may ring a bell with New York Mets fans because Liza Records did release a 45 of "When The Mets Begin To Win" -- which made fun of the losing ways of the new baseball franchise, to the tune of "When The Saints Go Marching In". That song and its B-side "Bed Bug Bossa Nova" were the only songs from the "Wild Man" LP project that were ever released. The most interesting "Wild Man" song is probably "Won't You Come Home, Liz Taylor?" -- imagine the song "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey?" done by someone who sounds like a demented Louis Armstrong, including manic scatting...except that he's singing "Won't you come home, Liz Taylor, won't you come home..." And, it was recorded during Liz's, um, shall we say, transition period between Eddie Fisher and Richard Burton!

Jordan developed a number of other projects during the Liza years and the line between his own projects and Todd's is very blurry -- one of these was "Crato's Original Stone Age Jazz Band". It was written by Ramin as a concept for either a music recording for jazz enthusiasts or an animated television program for children -- the story of the birth of jazz music told through the adventures of a cast of Stone Age characters and their musical personalities.

At one point, Quincy Jones (who was an A&R man at Mercury at the time) was considering taking on the project, and Jordan also pitched famous Woody Woodpecker animator Walter Lantz, who was well-known for work in this vein -- his "Swing Symphony" musical cartoons often featuring top boogie-woogie musicians. Lantz turned it down because it was too complex to animate economically.

Jordan recorded an interesting series of takes on his theme song for "Crato" featuring the legendary Toots Thielemans, who is considered to be one of the greatest harmonica players of the 20th century and whose soulful whistling is one of the touchstone musical sounds of 1960s and 70s films.


I could point out interesting stuff from this archive for days -- it's a fascinating window into what it was like to launch an independent record label and live the creative life in Manhattan in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

It also salvages the legacy of a unique and quirky talented musical and literary personality who never stopped trying to achieve a smash hit, even as he alternately agonized and revelled in being a self-described master of "smash flop" musical and literary projects.

Bruce Baryla