This Spells Fun

:: The Letter People, A-Z ::

[note from Tony: When I imported these into iTunes, the artist showed up as simply "People," so adjust your tags accordingly]

This record and I go back a ways. No, I wasn't brainwashed by it as a child because by the time this record came out I was busy buying Black Sabbath records. I have been aware of it though for about 15 years now, and the story of how I became aware of it goes a long way toward explaining my rather odd tastes in music.

Way back in the early 90s, my friend Alec was working in an art framing shop in Venice, CA. Some of his coworkers would bring in mixtapes, and according to Alec, working in that shop and listening to the wide and varied musical offerings brought in by these wacky artist types served to broaden Alec's musical tastes in a direction he never would have expected. Now I don't know much about exactly what all he was subjected to, but I do know that he became much more open minded and he gained an appreciation for musical "cheese" that is second to none.

Alec began scouring the .25 bins at local record stores and began making his own mixtapes filled with obscure genre hopping would be pop gems. His mixtapes helped inspire Robot Tony to make his now infamous "Scars on 45" series of mixtapes, and eventually inspired us to take the concept to the blogosphere, and here we are.

Back to the Venice framing shop though, one day one of Alec's coworkers brought in a tape with sort of a "best of" selection from The Letter People LP. Alec loved it, and was able to make a dub of the tape. The song Mr. S appeared on one of Alec's mixtapes, and the legend was born. About a decade later, our young friend Trags recognized the track as part of the soundtrack of his youth, so Alec supplied another dub of the tape to us. Lately I had been keeping an eye open for a copy of the album, but the ones I found on Ebay were going for $50.00 and up. I finally found this copy for under $20.00 and pounced on it. As most kids' records tend to be, it's not in the greatest shape, but it plays through for the most part without many skips (Mr. M being one unfortunate exception).

The Letter People was of course a television show on PBS during the 70s. Each letter of the alphabet was represented by a puppet character, and each character sang a song about themselves. Consonants were represented by male characters and vowels by females (I have no idea why this is the case, but as a result the Letter People were a male dominated society, to say the least). The show proved to be a wonderful teaching tool for preschoolers, and it survives today though the music undoubtedly lacks a certain element of 70s funkiness.

Speaking of the music, I couldn't find much information about the people who wrote, arranged and produced these songs, but whoever they were, they were monsters. We can thank the folks over at Sesame Street for not only revolutionizing children's television, but for changing the sound of children's music from the innocent and innocuous drivel of the 50s and 60s, to urbanized, street smart 70s funk performed by hipster jazz cat studio crawlers of the day. Of course each of these songs is in a different style, the better to give each letter it's own distinct personality, but when these musicians want to turn it on, as they do in Mr. S and a few others, any worries about a 3 year old's musical sophistication are thrown out the window. No wonder there are so many smart 30 year-olds running around.

One tip: Watch out for Mr. H. He's HORRIBLE!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008 6:52:00 PM

This post made my day! I've got the songs already but was just excited to see the Letter People on here. What a classic show!

(Great blog, by the way)    

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 12:04:00 AM

Man, I remember this record from kindergarten! Miss Underwood would play one song a week or so throughout the school year. (I still remember Mr.M and his munchy mouth) and then put an inflatable of that character on the classroom wall. But looking back, shouldn't Y&W have been hermaphrodites or something?    

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 6:42:00 PM

haha interesting... thanks for posting    

Thursday, May 22, 2008 4:15:00 PM

That's too classic, I actually have the card set that goes with the album..we are talkin old school!    

Friday, May 23, 2008 7:21:00 PM

My wife is a kindergarten school teacher and has used this very same compilation as a teaching tool, even with our daughter. She borrowed it from a colleague of hers, who has the original record, the inflatable figures, and the songs on cassettes.

These cassettes feature updated versions of the songs, with the genders distributed evenly among the alphabet. This was done in response to complaints by teachers and parents that the lack of female letter people was sexist.    

Monday, May 26, 2008 1:02:00 PM

my son is gonna love this!    

Thursday, May 29, 2008 11:24:00 PM

Crazy stuff. Mr. X. is seriously messed up.    

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 11:42:00 PM

I'm not sure whether to be naively amused or reflexively offended that Mr. J is totally Jewish.    

Thursday, June 19, 2008 6:41:00 AM

Thank you SO much! I was raised on these 25 years ago, and haven't been able to get a copy! This is the best Thursday present ever :)    

Monday, September 01, 2008 4:49:00 PM

Oh my god, you just made my DAY! No, my YEAR. I love the Letter People. I do have the 45s that have the individual letter songs - Mr. S has a song that rivals the passion of Blood Sweat and Tears...but I'm missing a lot of them. Great find. Love the Letter People!!!    

Friday, September 12, 2008 5:30:00 PM

Now this is amazing, thanks so much

Sunday, November 22, 2009 1:08:00 PM

I love you! Thanks for posting this!!!    

Wednesday, June 02, 2010 9:25:00 PM

Wow, this is great! I, too, had the weekly kindergarten inflatable Letter Person who would show up at the door, mysteriously knock, and then we'd listen to the corresponding song. For some reason, Mr. H has always stuck with me :-/


Friday, June 18, 2010 11:30:00 PM

Great Memories!!! Thanks for posting!

Friday, August 26, 2011 6:01:00 AM

Fantastic stuff - brought back a lot of memories. Thanks for sharing these!    

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