Thursday, February 22, 2007

What I Learned Today #1: Loulie Jean Norman

I want to try and start a little feature that I may be able to update more often than I am now (my Super Bowl rant is still coming, trust me). In the course of wandering the internet, I pick up lots of halfway interesting facts. Some are answers to questions that have been in the back of my mind for years. I call this
What I Learned Today

Back in 1959, the inestimable Spike Jones produced an album called Spike Jones in Stereo--of course there was a mono version titled "Spike Jones in Hi-Fi." Subtitled "A Spooktacular in Screaming Sound!", it was a cute riff on monster movies that had become popular on TV at the time. Of course voice artist Paul Frees is there, reprising his rendition of "My Old Flame," and employing his stock voice cast of monster characters and mad scientists. He's joined by others in Spike repertoire company, plus Thurl Ravenscroft and a female character referred to only as "Vampira." Long had I wondered, after first hearing the album back in 1980; could this have been the legendary Vampira, one of the first TV monster movie hosts back in 1955, and later a star of the cult classic "Plan 9 from Outer Space?"

I was finally moved to look it up. The album's listing on shows the only female vocals are by one Loulie Jean Norman. As I suspected: "Vampira" was just an easy and generic name for a monster-based comedy bit.

But who was Loulie Jean Norman? Of course, she had a Wikipedia entry, where we find she was a coloratura soprano who had dubbed the singing voice of Diahann Carroll in the movie version of "Porgy and Bess," including the song "Summertime."

But, and here's the payoff: she also sang the vocalese in the opening theme for the original series of "Star Trek" back in 1966. Yes, there are lyrics that Gene Roddenberry wrote to get in on the music publishing royalties, but for most of the world, the only words to that theme are Loulie's "Aaah-AAAAAH-ah-ah-ah-ah-ahh!"

Now you know. Go read a book.