Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1955 Singing Dogs – Oh! Susanna

You may think songs featuring barking dogs were a recent idea invented for Christmas, but to find out how that started we have to set the Wayback Machine to 1955.

When Danish recording engineer Carl Weismann was recording bird sounds, his recordings kept getting interrupted by the sounds of four dogs barking in the background. We can blame Pearl, Dolly, King, and Caesar for what happened next.

Rather than discard the messed up recordings, Carl sought out Don Charles, a record producer working in Copenhagen. They spliced up pieces of recording tape that contained the barking and matched the pitches to make the result sound like the song, Oh! Susanna.  RCA Records released the resulting recording as a novelty record. The single sold over a million copies and peaked at #22 on the Hot 100 in December 1955.

Part of the record’s success may well have been hiding on the B-side of the single. That was a medley of three songs: Pat-A-Cake, Three Blind Mice, and Jingle Bells. Remember, record sales peaked in December. You know, that month where we celebrate Christmas. There’s no sign of that version of Jingle Bells getting any airplay at that time.

Carl added a fifth dog (the misnamed Pussy) into the vocal mix and released a second single the next year. Radio listeners had already had their fill of barking dogs and the single Hot Dog Rock ‘n Roll and the flip side Hot Dog Boogie vanished without a trace.

Fast forward to 1971. Somebody at RCA remembered or found the Barking Dogs songs and realized they could easily re-release the single with Jingle Bells on the A-side and Oh! Susanna on the B-side. The result was a new Christmas standard that hit number 1 on the Billboard Christmas chart in 1972 and still sees airplay every year.

Cat lovers probably don’t fully appreciate the dogs, so producer Mike Spalla recorded literally thousands of cat sounds and put together a series of four albums full of cat songs beginning in 1993. None of his creations seem to have found a home on the charts, but the single of Jingle Cats and some guest dogs singing Here Comes Santa Claws somehow won an award of some sort in 1994.


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