Jim Henson Records was a music label established by the Jim Henson Company in 1992, with a five-year licensing deal with record distributor Bertelsmann Music Group for worldwide distribution. BMG was established in 1987 by the multinational media company Bertelsmann AG; the Henson albums were distributed through the BMG Kidz line.
In 1993, Jim Henson Records released a set of seven albums, including several re-releases: the soundtracks for The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper, and Rock It to the Stars, a 1985 Muppet Babies soundtrack album. Jim Henson Records also released Muppet Hits, a compilation of Muppet Show songs previously released on LP in the late 70s.
Jim Henson Records also released Ol' Brown Ears is Back, a Rowlf the Dog album containing previously unreleased tracks recorded by Jim Henson and Derek Scott in 1984, and Music and Magic, a Fraggle Rock soundtrack album.
The first completely original album for Jim Henson Records was Muppet Beach Party, a collection of classic surf tunes sung by the Muppets. The final track on the album, an enthusiastic rendition of "Wipe Out" sung by Animal, was released as a single. A music video for "Wipe Out" aired on VH1, featuring Animal rocking out over footage from 60s beach movies. The single reached the #1 spot on the children's record charts during the summer of 1993.
As a special cross-promotion with Target department stores in spring 1993, Jim Henson Records produced a four-song cassette, Put Some Zing In Your Spring, which was packaged with stuffed toys of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. The cassette included "The Rhyming Song" (from Muppet Hits), "Rainbow Connection" (from The Muppet Movie), "Fraggle Rock Theme" (from Music and Magic) and an original song by Kermit and Piggy, "Zing Into Spring".
In 1994, Jim Henson Records released a second Muppet Show compilation, Muppet Hits Take 2.
The label's final album was the ambitious Kermit Unpigged, a concept album in which the Muppets are lost in a busy recording studio, where they join famous singers for duets. The celebrity lineup included Vince Gill, Linda Ronstadt, Don Henley, Jimmy Buffett and George Benson. On one track, Miss Piggy performed a raucous duet of "Born to Be Wild" with heavy metal performer Ozzy Osbourne.
To promote the album, Kermit and Miss Piggy recorded a music video for the first track, "She Drives Me Crazy". The Muppet footage was intercut with numerous celebrity cameos, in the style of Sesame Street's celebrity versions of "Monster in the Mirror" and "Put Down the Duckie". Filming for the cameos was done in September 1994 at studios in Los Angeles and New York City, and attracted press attention. The roster swelled to 23 celebrities, including Leslie Nielsen, Katie Couric, Fran Drescher, Conan O'Brien, Paul Reiser, Shari Belafonte, Dick Clark, Gilbert Gottfried, Ricki Lake and Paula Poundstone.
The producers were so eager to get celebrities to participate in "She Drives Me Crazy" that Phil Collins' cameo was taped in a hotel room, and Bruce Willis and Demi Moore were "invited to contribute segments on location." As it turned out, the footage of Willis and Moore appears to have been shot in the kitchen of their beach house, with the stars dancing around to the tune playing on a radio. The uncomfortable result is so star-studded that the mugging celebs threaten to crowd Kermit and Miss Piggy out of their own video.
The lackluster "She Drives Me Crazy" video is an appropriate end to the Jim Henson Records line, as the plug was pulled not long after. Just a month after the celebrities filmed their cameos for "She Drives Me Crazy", BMG informed Henson that they wanted to cancel their distribution agreement and close down BMG Kidz. In February 1995, Billboard printed a story, "Jim Henson Productions Sues BMG Over Poor Management":
- "Record-Breaking Label", Billboard. March 6, 1993.
- Heffley, Lynne. "Trouble on the Tot Charts: As more marketable 'toons and celebrities move in, established children's recording artists face shrinking musical prospects", Los Angeles Times. August 8, 1993.
- Thompson, Malissa. "A Frog in Their Throats: The Muppets' "She Drives Me Crazy" elicits some fine young cameos", Entertainment Weekly. September 16, 1994.
- Goldstein, Seth. "Jim Henson Productions Sues BMG Over Poor Management", Billboard. February 18, 1995.