Stan Freberg (1926 - 2015) was a satirist, voice actor, puppeteer, and advertising man. Freberg began his career as a voice actor for Warner Bros., playing Baby Bear, Pete Puma, and other characters in Looney Tunes cartoons. In the early days of television, he puppeteered Cecil the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent and Dishonest John on Bob Clampett's Time for Beany (opposite frequent collaborator Daws Butler). Freberg hit his stride in the 1950s with a string of successful comedy records spoofing recent music trends, as well as the 1957 radio series The Stan Freberg Show.
Freberg has often been cited as an influence on Jim Henson's work, and Sam and Friends frequently used his recordings. Known sketches utilizing Freberg records include "Under My Skin," "C'est Si Bon," "The Yellow Rose of Texas," "That's My Boy," and from The Best of The Stan Freberg Shows, "Abominable Snowman," "Elderly Man River" (with Butler), and "Herman Horne on Hi-Fi" (with Peter Leeds). The voice of Kermit the Frog was originally inspired by one of Freberg's character voices.
Freberg, after having seen one of the Sam and Friends skits based on his recordings, sent Henson a telegram:
=JIM HENSON AND JANE NEBEL AND ALL MUPPETS:
=DON'T PHONE, DLR BY 10 PM NBC TV WASHDC=
=I TAKE IT ALL BACK AM OUTRAGED TIME RAN OUT AND DID NOT GET TO SAY THIS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST ACTS I HAVE EVER SEEN. AM HONORED TO LET YOU USE MY RECORDS FOR EVER AND LONGER. LOVE AND KISSES TO ALL. THOSE SUITS WILL COME BACK SAM, YOU?LL SEE=
Freberg even appeared in an episode of Sam and Friends. As Freberg recalled it, he popped into frame and criticized the Muppets for doing his records without giving him credit (according to Freberg's memory, it was in reference to skits on The Ed Sullivan Show, although in fact Henson had yet to perform there). Kermit says "here's a little credit" and proceeded to beat Freberg out of frame with a mallet. While in the studio, Freberg taught Jim Henson, Jane Henson and Frank Oz how to make Kermit smile.
As both Henson and Freberg went into advertising, they occasionally shared clients, most notably Esskay Meats. The comic song "Money," co-written by Freberg with Ruby Raskin, was later performed on The Mike Douglas Show and on The Muppet Show episode 106.
In a 2006 blog, Freberg's son Donavan recalled meeting Henson at an Emmy Award broadcast when he was 8 years old, where Freberg was performing his moon man character Orville and Henson puppeteering Kermit. According to Donavan Freberg, Henson "smelled like powdered donuts."
- Jim Henson, interviewed on The Entertainers, CBC Radio, 1979. Rebroadcast on Rewind, 11 May 2015.
- The original telegram is held at The Jim Henson Company Archives.
- The GrantCast EPISODE #001 – Stan Freberg Talks About Jim Henson!
- Donavan Freberg's blog