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Cold War Music from the Golden Age of Homeland Security

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I Dreamt I Saw Khrushchev (In A Pink Cadillac): Walker Edmiston as Barky [1962]

This hilarious novelty tune was inspired by Nikita Khrushchev's headline-making tour of the United States in 1959. The Soviet leader became something of a media sensation during his whirlwind visit, particularly when Disneyland refused to host him due to security concerns. This song, which is performed by man-of-a-thousand voices Walker Edmiston (half of the record is sung in the guise of Edmiston's TV kiddie show character Barky the Dog and the other half as the Russian Premier), uses a broad rock 'n' roll beat to convey the cartoonish caricature that Khrushchev had solidified in the press by the time he flew back to the Kremlin. This clever song imagines the ultimate Communist embracing decadent American treats like baseball, hotdogs and a certain pink luxury automobile.

Edmiston met the writer of I Dreamt I Saw Khrushchev, Mel Leven, when he decided he needed a proper theme song for his local Los Angeles TV program The Walker Edmiston Show. Leven, the composer for some of the music in Walt Disney's classic 'The Lady and the Tramp,' charged his new client $700 for the memorable theme (which appears as the flipside of Khrushchev). The actor recalled in an interview that he recorded both songs live in a small studio in Hollywood accompanied by some of Spike Jones' session people with some other musicians Leven brought in.

Walker Edmiston recognized from an early age that he could mimic the voices of well known personalities. One of the first voices he mastered as a child to amuse his family was Lionel Barrymore. Edmiston, who was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1926, decided to move to Los Angeles to study acting after World War II ended.

Dissatisfied by the course offerings at the Pasadena Playhouse where he was attending classes, Edmiston lucked into a stage role in a play in Hollywood. It was during this early theater stint that someone overheard one of Edmiston's voice impressions. This person was so impressed with the actor's mimicry that he introduced him to animation producer Walter Lantz. Lantz was in need of a replacement voice for his cartoon character Wally Walrus. It was while he was working for Lantz that Edmiston met producer Bob Clampett at a party. Clampett, who needed another character for his classic television kiddie show 'Time for Beany,' hired Edmiston for $75 a week. For four years, until the show folded, Edmiston worked a hand puppet and provided voices alongside Stan Freberg.

In 1953, after 'Beany' had ended its run, Edmiston was visiting a friend at Los Angeles station KTTV and he discovered kiddie show host 'Fireman Fred' had quit to move back east. Edmiston was asked if he was available to take over the afternoon show the following Monday. The unemployed Edmiston and his puppet character of Barky the dog (which Edmiston designed and molded himself) took the job without thinking twice. Soon Edmiston was adding other puppet characters of his own creation to the show such as Ravenswood the Buzzard, Kingsley the Lion and Calli the Cat. This kiddie show, which had been and was supposed to continue to be, a vehicle for showing old 'Our Gang' comedies, quickly evolved into 'The Walker Edmiston Show' (as it was officially known when the host switched stations to KTLA in early 1960s) because of the host's popularity. The creative and lively program transcended the kiddie show genre and could actually be considered a forerunner to 'The Muppet Show.'

When Edmiston wasn't entertaining with his puppets, he was appearing on Spike Jones' records and exploiting his uncanny Dennis Weaver-as-Chester impression on a famous 1959 'Gunsmoke' parody episode of 'Maverick' ('Gun-Shy') with James Garner.

In 1964 Barky, Ravenswood and the rest of Edmiston's menagerie (including Edmiston himself) were kicked to the curb when western icon Gene Autry bought KTLA and fired all the kids show hosts. According to Edmiston Autry soon regretted his decision when he discovered how much revenue the kiddie shows brought to the station. But by this time Edmiston and his former colleagues had found other work.

Edmiston went on to a long career of character and voice work on numerous television shows. 'Star Trek' fans will no doubt recall the Edmiston-provided voice of child-man Clint Howard in the 1966 episode 'The Corbomite Maneuver' ("This is tranya, I hope you relish it as much as I"). And aficionados of the Sid and Marty Krofft oeuvre will be delighted to know that in addition to playing lead Sleestak Enik on the original 'Land Of The Lost,' Edmiston did the voice of Sigmund the Sea Monster and the voices for various 'hats' on ‘Lidsville.’ Edmiston is now semi-retired, but always happy to discuss his remarkable career. When asked of the last time anyone inquired about his Khrushchev platter, Edmiston pauses for comic effect and says, "When did you call?"

LYRICS/TRANSCRIPTION:
I Dreamt I Saw Khrushchev (In A Pink Cadillac): Walker Edmiston as Barky [1962]

I dreamt I saw Khrushchev in a pink Cadillac
He drove down the freeway with two chicks in the back
I pulled up beside him and I heard him say
Is good fine country here in USA

Chorus: (La la la, la la la, USA!)

He munched on a hot dog and he sipped on a coke
The chicks rubbed his bald head while they told him a joke
He blushed and he chuckled as he rolled away
Is good fine country here in USA

Chorus

He turned off the freeway and was lost in the crowd
But somewhere in traffic boomed a voice clear and loud
He gone out to ball game he see Dodgers play
Is good fine country here in USA

Chorus

The TV awakened me I jumped from my chair
The scene was the Kremlin with mob standing there
The new Russian anthem introduced today
Is good fine country there in USA

Chorus

Walker Edmiston as Barky [1962]
I Dreamt I Saw Khrushchev (In A Pink Cadillac)
(Mel Leven)
Touche 6000

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