Number One Songs–The Witch Doctor–Ooo Eee Ooo Ah Ah!

You remember “The Witch Doctor” of course…who doesn’t? You probably learned it in summer camp.

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang…

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

But did you know that it’s not just a goofy childrens’ song and that it topped the pop charts in 1958? Did you know that the high-pitched voice of the Witch Doctor in the song is actually the same voice of the world-renown Alvin and the Chipmunks?

The artist who had a #1 hit in 1958 with “The Witch Doctor” was David Seville; the same David Seville that about a year later was all over the radio airwaves (and soon TV too) yelling “ALVIN!” (and winning a Grammy in 1959).

David Seville was the stage name of Ross Bagdasarian Sr., born in Fresno, CA in 1919 (and died in 1972).

“The Witch Doctor” was not Seville’s first #1, although it was the song that propelled his career to international fame and fortune. In 1951 a song he co-wrote with his cousin and successful playwright William Saroyan, “Come On-A My House” was a #1 hit for singer Rosemary Clooney (aunt of the famous actor George Clooney).

“In 1958, my family was down to our last $200. Being a gambler at heart, my dad did what any other prudent person would do. He took $190 of it and bought the latest state of the art tape recorder, one that allowed him to change tape speeds. As he tried to decide what to write about, he spotted a book on his desk, Duel with the Witch Doctor. In a burst of creative energy, fueled mostly by pure panic, he wote ‘Witch Doctor’ — a song about a guy who’s hopelesssly in love and goes to see a witch doctor for advice…” –Ross Bagdasarian, Jr.

But how was the Witch Doctor’s voice, and the Chipmunks’ voices actually created?

Since if you increase the speed of the tape, the TEMPO of the performance also speeds up, in order to get the desired result of correct tempo combined with the high-pitched voice, Seville had to record the songs singing them at about half speed — a laborious task especially for the Chimpmunks’ records which had multiple characters and harmony parts.

“Bagdasarian did all the voices himself, a tedious process that took three days and nine tape tracks in a recording studio. He named the Chipmunks after Al Bennett and Si Warnoker, the heads of his record company, Liberty, and Ted Keep, the recording engineer for the session.” –StraightDope.com

As for “The Witch Doctor,” upon its release by the financially strapped Liberty Records, it shot to #1 and sold more than a million copies. Alvin and the Chipmunks’ “The Chipmunk Song,” which debuted in November of 1958, did even better.

“When the dust settled in mid-January 1959, “The Chipmunk Song” had sold four and a half million records in seven weeks. An all time record in the music business…In 1964, the Beatles [“I Want to Hold Your Hand”] eclipsed “The Chipmunk Song” for fastest selling song of all time. Figuring if you can’t beat them, join them, Pop visited the Beatles in London. And, with their blessing, released The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles.” –Ross Bagdasarian, Jr.

The Witch Doctor Lyrics

(Words and Music by David Seville)

I told the witch doctor I was in love with you

I told the witch doctor you didn’t love me too

And then the witch doctor, he told me what to do

He said that…

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang…

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

I told the witch doctor you didn’t love me true

I told the witch doctor you didn’t love me nice

And then the witch doctor, he game me this advice

He said to…

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang…

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

Now, you’ve been keeping love from me

Just like you were a miser

And I’ll admit I wasn’t very smart

So I went out and found myself

A guy that’s so much wiser

And he taught me the way to win your heart

My friend the witch doctor, he taught me what to say

My friend the witch doctor, he taught me what to do

I know that you’ll be mine when I say this to you

Oh, Baby…

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang…

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang

Walla walla, bing bang

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